Read Part One here.
Read Part Two here.
Read Part Three here.
Read Part Four here.
Read Part Five here.
After our harrowing experience at the Hulbert House, we ended up staying at an Econo Lodge in Syracuse and crashed for the night (with the lights on, of course).
Needing some good endorphins to last me through our final day, I took class at Pure Barre Syracuse (I teach at Pure Barre Buffalo and it’s our sister studio!). Seeing some familiar faces and a familiar routine was just what I needed after the rough night before.
I grabbed Lauren and I some breakfast, picked her up from the hotel, and made our way to the first (official) stop for the day—the Erie Canal Museum (now soon to be added to the trail!).
We met Diana Goodsight, executive director of the museum, who (again) refreshed our NYS history, while spicing it up with some spooky happenings!
Located in the only remaining weighlock building in the United States, the museum presents the Canal in an interesting yet educational way—whether you grew up in New York and know the infamous song, or not. (Bet if you know the song you’ll have it stuck in your head the rest of the day! My bad.)
To give you some background, the Erie Canal was established in 1817 (four feet deep and 40 feet wide) to connect the Hudson River to the Great Lakes. 363 miles long, it had 18 aqueducts, 300 bridges, 83 locks, and 568 feet of elevation difference from beginning to end (Buffalo to NYC). It changed the face of New York and trade in the U.S. (It had to be enlarged in 1836.)
The Weighlock building in Syracuse was built in 1850 and was used to weigh boats as they passed through on the Erie Canal; charged according to their cargo. To get this number, the boat would pull into the lock, gates would close, and the water would drain out. The boat would be on top of a cradle, suspended from above, and weighed again. The difference would be the weight of the cargo and would determine how much was to be paid to the weighmaster. This operation ran 24/7, seeing on-average four boats an hour.
This system was done away with in 1883. Later, the scales were removed and the building used by the New York State Department of Public Works until 1954. It reopened as the Erie Canal Museum in 1962 and is accredited by the American Association of Museums. A replica of what a boat would have looked like as it passed through sits in the very same spot in the weighlock, open to visitors to walk through and explore.
Back then, many boats were owned by families, Diana explained. The father would run the boat and handle the cargo and the mother would do the cooking and cleaning and raise their children on the boat. If you’ve ever heard the expression of a mother tying her children to her apron strings, that is where the saying came from. Many children died on the canal, whether through boating accidents or falling off and drowning before they could be rescued.
Diana also sadly informed us that immigrant and orphaned children were expendable during the building of the canal. Oftentimes, livestock and horses were better taken care of.
So, it comes as no surprise to hear that Diana and her staff believe the building to be haunted. Diana told us she’s heard footsteps when no one else was around (even above her, although there isn’t a third floor), voices, and feels a presence in her office. She said she doesn’t like to be alone in the building and will take her work home rather than stay late!
An old music box started playing by itself one day, which is quite a feat, considering it’s in a glass case and now powered electronically. Diana and another staff member came out and actually saw the handle turning …
People especially hear voices on the second floor in the library where they hold their board meetings (also where I-87 was designed!) and think it could be the weighmaster.
Although we didn’t see or hear anything, there were definitely goosebumps all over my body!
From the museum, we met Justin Lynch and Nikita Jankowski from the Syracuse Convention & Visitors Bureau at the insanely busy Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, a favorite of mine and a first for Lauren. While I’ve been to the one in Rochester many times (and we now have one in Buffalo, too!), THIS Dino is the original—where it all started.
Being my indecisive self, I always get pulled pork and beef brisket, with double coleslaw. Dinosaur is one of my go-to places where I know my food will be handled correctly and I won’t get sick! Delicious, as always, and it was fun to tell Nikita and Justin about our runaway status the night before.
Justin drove us all to our next haunted location—the Landmark Theatre.
The extravagance once inside the theatre is almost indescribable. The ornate gold decor is old-fashioned, in a fabulous, night-on-the-town, glamorous way.
The Landmark, originally called Loew’s State Theatre, opened in 1928. Designed by Thomas Lamb, he said it was “the most beautifully designed theatre” he ever created. After much success and grandeur of entertaining the people of Syracuse, economic difficulties hit. The 1960s and 1970s saw many threats to close the theatre (and talks of demolition). Finally, with the work of many volunteers and grants, the theatre was saved from ruin and became the Landmark Theatre in 1979-1980.
They now host dozens of events every year—stage plays, national and local music concerts, speakers, as well as private events and fundraising events.
Tom Kazmierczak, executive director at the Landmark, was more than willing to regale us with the hauntings of the theatre. (He said his family owns funeral homes and no one has ever run out of them screaming like they do here. Good first impression!)
“There are so many people in the audience during a performance and actors have so much energy,” Tom said. “It makes sense for spirits to like theaters; they’re drawn to energy.”
The most “famous” spirit is Clarissa. Tom told us that her boyfriend, Oscar, was a stagehand who was electrocuted and died on stage in front of her. Stricken with grief, Clarissa jumped from the balcony to her death. Another version says she fainted and fell over. Regardless, Clarissa apparently makes her presence known with the aroma of lilacs and appears in a white dress.
One night, when a paranormal society was supposed to investigate, a group began hosting a vigil out front for a murder that happened several years before. It started to downpour so Tom invited them inside, where he took a picture. All of a sudden, his phone went dead, cameras wouldn’t work, and the TV went off. He thinks it was Clarissa and she didn’t like all those people there.
Tom had another experience standing in the aisle toward the first row. He was talking with a group of people when he felt his shoulder being shoved. He turned to the person next to him and said, “What?!” The girl next to him had stepped back and was just staring at his arm. No one had touched him, but everyone saw his body move.
Tom took us all around the theater—into the basement and up to the second floor. Lauren started feeling very dizzy and nauseous in the basement; Justin kept getting waves of hot and cold. While we were on the second floor looking down at the lobby, Justin’s phone kept focusing on two things—one of which was moving. Tom said that’s where they catch a lot of orbs and activity.
The basement lends itself as the perfect spot for events. One can easily see cute cocktail tables and guests dressed to the nines. Tom said they plan to start holding ghost dinners—so keep your eyes on the lookout!
In awe from the glitz, glamour, and ghosts, we headed to Split Rock Quarry—our last haunted stop on the trip!
Split Rock Quarry was originally a limestone quarry owned by Solvay Process Company. During World War I, in 1918, it was converted into a munitions factory. In July 1918, a malfunction in the machinery caused a fire that spread to flammable chemicals. The massive explosion destroyed the factory and killed nearly 50 men. Surprisingly, the plant still operated through the rest of the war. It became a maintenance station for the New York State Department of Transportation, and then abandoned in the 1980s. (Thanks to NY Shadow Chasers for the history!)
Evidently a very spooky place, it’s a short hike up an unmarked trail. Obviously used as a secluded hangout for youths (lots of graffiti and empty Monster cans), time and nature have certainly taken their toll on the ruins.
The NY Shadow Chasers say people have seen “strange green and blue lights, as well as apparitions of those killed during the explosion.” Justin also heard that sometimes you can hear the machine called the “bone crusher” in the distance.
It is NOT easy terrain to explore; lots of rusted metal, empty shotgun shells, and uneven earth to navigate. Although Lauren, Nikita, and I all went into the tunnel, we didn’t go back very far for fear of what we’d see (spiritual or alive-creepy-crawly).
Aside from some spooky feelings, none of us saw anything. But Justin (who we were quickly learning was sensitive to these things) said he heard a motor (the bone crusher?) in the distance.
It was smooth sailing after that! Justin and Nikita dropped us off at our car at Destiny USA, where we met Sara Wallace, director of marketing. Lauren had walked quite a distance that day, so Sara gave us a shortened tour of the mall and told us of their $1.3 million expansion and rebranding in 2012.
Lauren and I planned to hit a few select stores, but never made it past Forever 21 … our Achilles heel. A few hundred bucks and two hours later, we decided it would be best to make the two hour drive home. Tired but happy, we talked about the day and the trip in general.
Laur is already making plans to return to Saratoga while I’m looking ahead to the next trip—the Hudson Valley!
Have you visited any of these haunted places? Ever been scared out of your hotel? Should I have stuck it out and tried to meet Wayne?