Words from the Departed

New York’s Haunted History Trail comes alive through its resident ghosts
By Will Siss

Ghost hunters and skeptics alike can explore the Haunted History Trail of New York State, a collection of sites throughout New York with reported paranormal activity. From time to time, the spirits that occupy the trail find ways to make themselves known with bumps and thumps, slamming doors and creaking floorboards. If they could speak, we imagine these words reflect what it is like to inhabit the spaces from which their souls cannot depart. These ghosts have much to tell us—about themselves, the history of where they stay and the living who dare to pass from the safety of the light into the disquieting unknown.

The Bride of 13 Curves Road

Onondaga Hill, Syracuse, NY

Just west of Syracuse, there’s a lovely stretch of road known as 13 Curves that winds its way through tragedy. For it was along this road that a car accident tore me from the side of my newly wedded husband. But I am more than the lonely bride cursed to wander Cedarvale Road like an empty shell of a woman.

I remain here to search for the man with whom I was meant to share life. But when I make myself visible to the living—with the blood on my dress as fresh as the moment I shed it—I do so out of insatiable curiosity. I know that people slow down, especially at night, hoping to catch a glimpse of me. When I stand on the side of the road, I want to remember what it’s like to be alive. When I appear in the back seat of a car, I want to look into the eyes of the driver and witness that jolt of surprise. It is only in seeing death that one understands life.

When you next find yourself in Syracuse, make sure you travel this road upon which I roam. I will wait for you.

Brae Loch Inn - Amity Photos

Brae Loch Inn

The Chambermaid of Brae Loch Inn

Cazenovia, NY

When you look at this building, you see an inviting Scottish inn, with pleasant guest rooms and a pub for the thirsty.

But I remember this site when it was the Burr Family estate, built in the early 19th century. I was there when it was a home, loved as much 100 years ago as it is today. My heart still leaps when someone enters it. You see, I have never stopped being an attendant here. Death does not take one away from one’s calling.

I check up on the guests in each of the 12 rooms, still wearing my pressed blue dress. I try to reach out to the guests and serve as a guide when I can. It is true that I can get into trouble now and then, just as I did in life. But how can one resist the urge to tug gently on a little girl’s ponytail or give a bare foot a tickle?

Please enjoy the Scottish decorations, food and drink. It brings this old spirit great joy being a part of such merriment. If you do see me, know that I am forever here to serve, which is a gift certain souls adore.

I look forward to checking in on you. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to make your stay more comfortable at The Brae Loch Inn.

Sweet dreams!

The Minister of the Iron Island Museum

Buffalo, NY

Museums are vessels for history, but they contain more than mere objects. At the Iron Island Museum, you can see artifacts that reflect how this area was an important railroad hub. But this red brick site has done more than rescue the past.

This museum sits on the foundation of a church, where I preached to the righteous and sinful alike, but my work in this world is not yet done. I still stand here, peering through the centuries with eyes reddened with sadness beneath my broad black hat. My only solace is that I am not alone. I keep company and protect my little congregation: the souls of children whose early deaths seem to paint these rooms with equal shades of grief and playfulness.

I have seen much death pass through these doors: after this house of worship shuttered its doors, it became a funeral home, and I saw brave soldier and innocent child alike laid to rest. Many of those souls find reasons to stay, such as the one I call Grace, who in her plaid skirt and knee-length socks seems always ready to head off for school, but never can. She joins twin sandy-haired boys who scurry about, looking for—and causing—mischief.

I wander the halls that connect the neat yet crowded rooms—that now are filled with train memorabilia, but were once meant for mourning—watching as living souls pass through. I see them clutch at each other in fear, smiling out of pure nervousness. They look through the museum’s doorways and even the basement to sometimes gasp at what they see and hear. But what they see should not scare them. We are simply watching as history continues to unfold. When I reach out to the living, it is to save souls, not alarm them.

Don’t be afraid to visit me. I take pride in providing hospitality for those who take the tours by day or night.

Wings Castle Exterior - Amity Photos

Wings Castle

Wing’s Castle, Officer Henderson

Millbrook, NY

As Peter and Toni Wing built this ornate and fanciful medieval-style home in the 1970s, they filled it with objects that beautify and intrigue. Now a bed and breakfast for travelers seeking a novel way to enjoy the countryside, the home’s objects carry lives of their own. Mine is one of them.

A soldier’s life never ends in battle, for the glory of defending one’s nation makes him immortal. I take it as a mark of pride that I have been chosen to remain dutiful even in death; though, not to what you might think. I walk the halls of Wing’s Castle, not because I was stationed here in life. Indeed, the walls of this home are not nearly as old as I. It was my dress sword, placed here as decoration, within which my soul retained constancy.

It was through this sword that I have come to walk these halls in an endless display of vigilance. I take pride in the echo of my footsteps, which sound from the tower room to the dungeon. The living who hear me should not be frightened. I am sworn to protect, and I never meddle in the affairs of the living.

Of all the spirits that inhabit this home, mine is by far the most respectful. Particularly as compared to those who have taken up residency in the cottage. These restless ones have been known to awaken the living with their noise—some have heard the distant notes of a pipe organ.

Regardless of what is heard, visitors who take the grounds tour or guests who stay the night can be sure they are being guarded carefully.

A spirit of investigation

Throughout the Haunted History Trail across the state of New York, casual observers, curious kids and passionate investigators stretch the bounds of their assumptions. It’s because of the documentation. Because of the testimonials. Because of the whispers. Some visitors come away from their exploration with hints of the paranormal. Others exit with unbelievable tales. No one, however, leaves without a story.

Find your path along the Haunted History Trail.

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