This was it. The part of the trip that we were most worried about: our overnight stay at the Naples Hotel.
I believe my exact words as we approached the Historic Naples Hotel were: “I’m going to throw up. I’m going to throw up. I can’t do this. OMG is that it?! No?! Then what is THAT?! Nope; let’s go home. NOPE.”
The overnight at the Historic Naples Hotel was (obviously) what we were most worried about for the trip. If we were spooked in the daylight, how were we going to survive the night? Of COURSE it had started raining by the time we got there.
We began the night with a delicious Italian dinner (gluten-free pasta!) in the beautiful dining room, joined by AJ and David from Finger Lakes Visitors Connection, who set up this portion of the trip. Our waitress, Tabitha, told us of her experiences and others that she’s heard of while working at the restaurant for the past six years. She has had napkins and plates moved or lost, felt like she was being watched, and tried to push a chair in, only to discover she was not able to, because it felt like someone was sitting in it.
The ghost tours are given by Domonick Gallo, the head chef at the restaurant in the hotel. The most activity (Domonick says 70% of the time he can get something) is in the front dining room, attached to the larger dining room. This was our first attempt to contact the spirits. He set two flashlights at two different tables. He then pulled out a chair for Alice, one of the more “popular” ghosts; (her favorite chair, he said). He asked Alice to turn on and/or roll the flashlight if she was there. Alice also had several children who are very active spirits, so Domonick tried to interact with them, too.
Before we began our ghost tour, Domonick said if you’re a skeptic or you’re very scared, the ghosts would not show themselves. “Good!” I thought. But then, wait … Isn’t that what I’m here for? I had to calm myself down—my heart was beating out of my chest. Domonick asked several times for Alice to give us a sign she or her children were there, but no luck. We decided to go upstairs and try again later. (Hopefully when I was calmer.)
Up the five of us went to the most haunted hotel room—Saki. Oh, did I mention that’s where Maureen and I were sleeping that night? Yeah. Awesome.
It ended up being the spot for the most activity that night. It is separated into two rooms—a sort of living room area and then a bedroom and bathroom. We stayed in the living room and Domonick placed a flashlight on the couch in the bedroom (visible from the other room) and one on a small table in the living room. None of us sat in the rocking chair in the corner. An old man in Civil War uniform has been seen rocking in the chair. Maureen and I both decided if that happened, we’d be out of there faster than you could blink!
(Watch part of our investigation here.)
It didn’t take too many tries from Domonick to get the flashlights to turn on. For a while, just the one would turn on, but then we got both of them going! (I say “we,” but I barely uttered a peep the whole time.) Obviously, “yes” or “no” answers are pretty much the extent of the flashlights. Through those, we discovered the spirit in the bedroom was a female. “I bet you guys are relieved,” laughed Domonick.
We never did find out if it was one or two spirits working the flashlights. And they don’t just turn off and on like you’re flipping the switch, for those of you who haven’t experienced this. They turn on quick and then ever so slowly fade off or abruptly turn off, OR get extremely bright—brighter than you’d think it could get. Domonick kept saying that it takes a lot of energy from the spirit to get as much action as we were seeing.
Once we had exhausted our fun with the flashlights, Domonick turned to the TV—Maureen’s greatest fear. We were both hoping, in true historic fashion, there wouldn’t be TVs in the room. No such luck! Much to our dismay, there was one in the living room and a smaller one in the bedroom. Domonick asked David to turn the TV on. It was an older TV, not a flatscreen, and it was turned to ESPN. The picture was fine, not HD, but not fuzzy … at least until Domonick asked the spirit to change the channel.
The channel didn’t change, but the picture became verrrrrry fuzzy. After repeatedly asking the spirit to change the channel or shut the TV off, it went crazy with weird static across the screen, and then it went pitch black. Domonick asked the spirit to turn the TV back on and after more static, the picture was restored. Domonick even called downstairs to see if the other TVs were working fine (we thought maybe it was just a strange coincidence because of the storm) and everything there was normal. Maureen and I tried to get the best video we could, and the only real way to describe it is to see it! View it here.
After we had tired out the spirits in our room, we went down to the basement (where Tabitha had said she never goes by herself). The basement is nicely furnished (thank goodness) and has a bar, a pool table, a few cafe tables, and several arcade games. Domonick told us that he’s seen a woman run across the room and the man in Civil War uniform come down the steps.
He placed a flashlight on the pool table and one on a bar stool, which was pulled away from the bar a bit. We went through the motions of asking if anyone was there; if they could turn on a flashlight or roll it. We weren’t getting anything until Domonick started telling us some of his other experiences in the hotel—then the flashlight on the pool table turned on without any questions!
Domonick had been telling us how, when he used to work super long shifts, he would take a nap on the couch in the Saki room with his hat over his face, and sometimes the spirits would move his hat. He’s also felt his hair being brushed back. He asked if the spirit was the one that did those things but we didn’t get a clear response.
The only other activity we had in the basement was whenever Domonick said, “Okay, if you’re not going to talk to us, we’re going to leave …” Then the flashlight would turn on, like the spirit was enjoying our company!
We returned to the small dining room to attempt to talk to Alice and her children again, but no one was there. We ended the night in the large dining room, where Domonick took apart both of his flashlights and showed us that there was nothing out of the ordinary in there, no remote controls, etc. He said he does loosen the screw-on top a little bit, so it’s easier for the ghosts to turn it off and on with a tap, instead of actually flipping the switch back and forth. (Watch a video of that here.)
After thanking Domonick for his time and saying good night to AJ and David, Maureen and I headed back to our room. We turned all the lights on, stayed in the same room at all times, and announced what we were doing so the other person didn’t think it was a ghost. (We’re a little ridiculous … but if not with your best friend, then who?) We hoped we were tired enough to sleep through the night.
Well. Would YOU be able to sleep in a haunted hotel while it’s thundering and lightning outside your window and you can hear the heavy rain on the air conditioner in the window? Maureen and I made a pact that if we woke up in the night, we would wake the other one up.
We finally fell asleep, but I woke up at 5:30 a.m. It was so hot and humid in our room. I walked over to the air conditioner to turn it down—just two degrees, from 71 to 69. I pressed the button twice, and then turned around to go back to my side of the bed. As soon as I turned my back, I heard two clicks, turned back around, and it was back at 71! I asked Maureen if she heard it and she said she did. I guess the ghosts like it at 71. After watching the air conditioner for a while, I was eventually able to fall back to sleep.
When I woke up in the morning, I realized I didn’t think about the fact that I was showering in a haunted hotel while Maureen was still sleeping. But I was still groggy enough to just go through the motions. After we were ready for the day, we went downstairs, took pictures in the daylight, and checked out. It was still raining, so we drove by the front of the hotel to snap a few pictures, and then off to Canandaigua we went! With all of the haunted locations completed for the trip, we had a nice day planned to see more of Ontario County.
Who KNEW the deliciousness that we would encounter?! Honestly, that was the best day of food I think I’ve ever had. I may have to move to Canandaigua.
We started by meeting AJ at Simply Crêpes on Main Street. Now, I had heard of Simply Crepes when I worked in Rochester (they have another location in Pittsford—and Raleigh, NC, if you’re ever in the area!), but had never eaten there, so I was super excited to try it! Gluten-free AND dairy-free deliciousness?! Eating out?! Unheard of.
We were greeted by Nicole, whom AJ introduced to us as the owners’ daughter. She was SO nice and even though she said it might be a little longer because she had an unexpected large party, I didn’t notice a long wait at all. And even if there had been … it wouldn’t have mattered. The food was absolutely out of this world. Maureen and I were literally speechless. While in the midst of our glory, we were able to meet Karen and Pierre Heroux, the co-founders of Simply Crêpes. Absolutely wonderful people who were so genuinely interested in the project, I just wanted to hug them. And ask for more crêpes.
Still in a state of shock from the experience that was Simply Crêpes, AJ asked us if we liked oil and vinegar. I think I looked at him funny and asked him to clarify. Like … is that a band I should know? A book? Or ACTUAL oil and vinegar?
The last one. And boy, was I glad we said yes!
We walked into F. Oliver’s, just a few steps away from Simply Crêpes on Main Street, out of the dreary day and into this fabulously decorated shop, full of—you guessed it—oil, vinegar, and spices. We were warmly greeted by the staff, who then took us around to taste everything. We just let them feed us whatever they wanted! It’s not every day you drink oil and vinegar, and by the fourth combo, my stomach wasn’t sure what was going on. But my taste buds were happy!
The combinations were endless and delicious. Apricot vinegar and basil oil were my favorite and I had to buy them—perfect marinade/salad dressing for summer. Maureen bought her sister-in-law a different combination and a spice to go along with it. Fantastic, knowledgeable staff, who were so kind and welcoming to us!
The New York Wine & Culinary Center was our last stop with AJ. What a beautiful facility! AJ said it was created as a single location to showcase ALL of New York’s wine and culinary offerings—not just in the Finger Lakes, but throughout the entire state. Fitting for a statewide trail, no?
They have state-of-the-art cooking rooms (just like on TV!) for classes and demonstrations, as well as a restaurant upstairs called the “Upstairs Bistro,” perfect for tasting all New York has to offer.
We parted ways with AJ and drove down a tiny bit to a pier to really look at the lake in all its gloominess and fog. Still a magnificent sight. It was a little after one o’clock and the rain had slowed. We were trying to decide if we just wanted to get lunch and go home, or attempt to visit the beautiful Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion, which we had planned on, but canceled because of the rain. We decided since we were out here, we weren’t going to let a little rain stop us! Off to Sonnenberg Gardens we went. And again, a great decision.
Sonnenberg Gardens is an absolutely amazing property. It is a New York State Historic Park with a Queen Anne-style mansion and formal gardens. The estate is massive—40 rooms in the mansion and 50 acres of property, most of which is covered in beautiful, themed gardens. The estate was the summer home of Frederick Ferris and Mary Clark Thompson, who came from wealthy families. Frederick was the son of a wealthy New York banker, and Mary, the daughter of the governor of New York at the time. Both philanthropists, Canandaigua and New York City benefited greatly from their generosity.
The docents we met on the way in were very interested in the Haunted History Trail and their eyes became HUGE when we told them we had just stayed at the Naples Hotel! They wanted to know all the details and we were more than happy to oblige. We asked if the gardens were haunted and they said several docents had seen and heard some strange things. Mrs. Thompson and one other person died on the veranda and they do a haunted walk through the gardens in October!
We decided to walk around the gardens while the rain was still light. It ended up working out very nicely and we weren’t caught in too much of a downpour! The gardens are incredible, as is the mansion. I absolutely LOVE going through historic mansions like Sonnenberg. You could actually walk into and around the rooms—very few of them were roped off. It’s just amazing to see such wealth from over 100 years ago. The docents had told us it usually takes people one and a half to two hours to see the grounds and the house …. we left three hours later.
Both craving pizza, we went to a deli we had visited about a year earlier that we knew had gluten-free rolls, called Macri’s Deli. Little did I know, they also offered gluten-free pizza and were very careful about cross-contamination! A huge concern for me with pizza ovens. I wish I could put into words how insanely good my Margherita pizza was. I’m actually drooling a little bit, thinking of it now. The dough was perfect (not dry, like other GF pizza), the sauce homemade, and the mozzarella perfectly melty. Maureen ordered a normal version and said it was just as amazing.
We left Canandaigua tired and happy, with full bellies. We both agreed that the day before almost felt like a dream … did we ACTUALLY stay in a haunted hotel? Eat in a jail cell? Touch a cursed grave? That we did. We were quite proud of ourselves. One of the things we had decided to do, along with our other best friend, Jessica, was to try things we’ve never done before. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would include ghosts; but here I am, planning another exciting and challenging trip!
Before I know it, I’ll be packing up my bags again, ready to meet new people in new parts of the state. Bring on New York State’s spirits.
More pictures from our trip: