Read Part One here.
Read Part Two here.
Read Part Three here.
Lunch at Eddie’s Restaurant was the first order of business when we got to Sylvan Beach! We were met by Leslie Stewart, whose husband’s family has owned the restaurant since 1934.
Unbeknownst to us, Eddie’s is believed to be haunted! Leslie said that Eddie Sr. and Fifi, who started the restaurant, are still felt by employees who knew them. In the older dining room, lights turn off and on when no one is near them (several electricians have been unable to find a technical problem).
An adorable diner steps from Oneida Lake, Eddie’s is famous for their “Original Hot Ham Sandwich.” The diner has been visited by greats such as Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Desi Arnez, Liza Minnelli, and George Foreman.
Leslie asked one of the chefs, Michelle, to come out for a quick second. Michelle had worked with Fifi and said she hears humming, whispers, boxes being moved, and fingers tapping on the counter. When she goes upstairs to do inventory, she says “hello!” to Fifi, because that is where many of her experiences have occurred.
Leslie noticed Jack Henke, Oneida County historian and author, a few tables over. Mr. Henke has done extensive research on Oneida Lake and County, so Leslie asked if he knew any ghost stories. He said he’d think about it and a few minutes later, told us about the ghost of a man seen at Buoy #107. Boat traffic was heavy in the 1920s, and deaths of workers were not unheard of. The townspeople called him the Flying Dutchman (as are most ghost/water stories). The ghost was even written about in Syracuse newspapers in the 1920s!
He also told us the story of a woman seen walking down Poppleton Road, just a few minutes away from Eddie’s. During Prohibition, all the good whiskey came from Canada. On Route 31 in the early 1930s, several booze runners (one of which was a woman) were killed because of some payment “issues.” Many believe the wandering ghost to be that woman, still looking for either money or whiskey.
Just a few steps down from Eddie’s is Sylvan Beach Amusement Park. Built in the 1870s, the family-owned amusement park has a vintage but also eerie sense to it. Sylvan Beach Amusement Park is a glimpse at theme parks before they were commercialized and mainstreamed. They still have a wooden carousel from the 1890s, the gift shop used to be a two-story hotel, and the building now known as Laffland was once a bathhouse that jutted into the lake. (Watch a short video on the history of the park here.)
Laffland, which you would think would be fun, actually has a scary-clown theme to it; a “dark ride” as ride-goers would categorize it. It is worth noting that it is one of only two remaining “pretzel” rides in the United States. It says it’s the “world’s craziest ride” and a glimpse inside shows it might also be one of the scariest!
As we were running late, we didn’t get to speak to anyone about the hauntings. BUT “Ghost Hunters” investigated the amusement park overnight and shared their findings in an early 2013 episode titled “Scream Park.” Unfortunately, Yesterday’s Royal, the restaurant (and former hotel) that has a lot of activity in it, was not open when we were there.
Not too far from Sylvan Beach is Rome—home to the Rome Capitol Theatre and Fort Stanwix National Monument.
Jack Theakston, assistant manager at the Rome Capitol Theatre, was kind enough to give us a history of the building, as well as share some paranormal experiences people have had in the theatre. (We also met Art Pierce, executive director.)
With most of the lights off, the theatre was very dim and spooky. Jack took us down into the basement as well as up into the projector room. Being a movie buff, Lauren was loving the behind-the-scenes look at such classic equipment and I’ve always been fond of old theaters.
The site of the theatre itself has gone through many changes and the building is now “pretty much all that’s left of old downtown,” according to Jack. Before the site was cleared in 1928 by the Kallet Brothers to build a theatre, the building was a plumbing store, cigar store, grocery store, and a sporting goods store.
From there, it was transformed into a beautiful 2,000-seat first-run movie house, originally with a Spanish-Moroccan theme. 11 years later, a more modern redesign was completed, changing the colors and lighting to what it is today. The bright colors mixed with gold adornments give the theatre an elegant air, though the staff is tirelessly trying to find funds to restore it to its true former glory.
It closed as a movie house in 1974 and reopened in 1985 as the “Capitol Civic Center”—a hopeful performing arts center. Now called the Capitol Theatre, they hold 135 performances a year, plus show classic films and more recent classic movies. They still run 35-mm and 75-mm films (on original projectors!), as well as silent films.
The Capitol has had no shortage of tragedy and spookiness. On his first day working on the construction of the building in 1928, Charles Callahan was thrown off a piece of steel and died. In 1947, Sirius Carpenter was at the movies with his wife when he turned to her and said he felt very hot. His wife dismissed it, watched the rest of the movie, and when the lights came up, her husband had passed away.
The original Moller organ from the 1920s is still at the theatre. Many people have heard it play when no one is near it—Jack told us the police have even stopped to check the premises when they heard it playing late at night!
The organist was playing before a show and thought he saw a woman wearing a big hat out of the corner of his eye—he thought it was someone playing with the costumes. When he turned, no one was there. Another spooky occurrence is the ghostly figure in a white shirt and an old-fashioned sport coat. A patron caught an image on camera (the picture that we have on our website) and people from businesses nearby swear they’ve seen the man at the theater.
The last movie that was shown before the theatre closed in 1974 was “The Exorcist.”
… I’ll just leave that one there.
Right around the corner from the Capitol is Fort Stanwix National Monument. Val Morgan took us around the museum (we were too late to tour the Fort) and refreshed my fourth grade history! (I’ll admit, it was a little embarrassing.)
Rome, situated between two major bodies of water (the Atlantic Ocean and Lake Ontario), was important for trading. Native Americans used it as a trade route before the Europeans used it during the French and Indian War. 11,000 soldiers built the British fort in under 90 days—it was used as a staging area to attack Canadians and protect the trade route, then abandoned in 1774.
It was renamed Fort Schuyler in 1776 and was only called that for the American Revolution. The Fort was instrumental in throwing off the invasion of New York State and was the ONLY American fort that never surrendered! Unfortunately, in the spring of 1781, fire destroyed the fort and it was again abandoned.
1935 was another pivotal year for the Fort. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the National Historic Sites Act and Fort Stanwix was the very first national monument recognized!
Throughout the 1950s and 60s, Rome residents pushed for reconstruction with the help of Robert Kennedy and the National Parks Service. An archaeological investigation (which dug up a third of the original site) was conducted from 1969 to 1972 and then the Fort was rebuilt with the original British plans and opened in 1976. The beautiful new Visitors Center opened in 2005 with a wonderful exhibit detailing the Fort’s history.
The next stop … Ohh, the next stop. We were told at Fort Stanwix that Boonville was “beautiful; about 15 minutes away.”
Well, it took us about 45 minutes and we didn’t end up staying long enough to explore …