Capital Region haunts

washington park fog


By Maeve McEneny

If you believe in ghosts and goblins (or, you know, if you just think it's fun to get spooked), this is a great time of year. The Capital Region is filled with all kinds of creepy ghost stories.

Maeve McEneny, author of the Albany Trolley Capital Region Ghost Hunting Tour, gathered up a few tales of the haunted Capital Region to share with AOA.

Check them out after the jump.

If you dare....

NYS Dept of Education - "Keep Pouring"
State Ed Building.jpg

Jason, the ghost of the NYS Education Building, is arguably one of the most famous ghosts in Albany. The story goes that Jason was an Italian stone mason. He was working in the construction area which would become the basement of the NYS Education building, now known by employees as "The Dungeon." While at work, Jason stumbled and fell into the space where the other stone workers were pouring the concrete. The Foreman, allegedly an Irishman, displeased with Jason's carelessness, uttered the now famous phrase: "Keep pouring."

It's difficult to know whether Jason is a good ghost or a bad ghost. Interns are often sent to find documents in "The Dungeon" and they report feeling a cold, unwelcoming chill as they enter. However, others report that Jason has been quite helpful and will take out difficult to find books for them, even opening them to the page they need.

Cohoes Music Hall - In the Wings...
Music Hall.jpg
The Cohoes Music Hall is the fourth oldest surviving music hall in the county.
Built in 1847, hundreds of famous figures graced its stage, including Jimmy Durante and Buffalo Bill Cody. But one performer has been reluctant to take her final bow. Eva Tanguay is said to haunt the music hall.

Terrified of obscurity, the Vaudeville star spent "twice her salary" making up stories to keep herself in the public eye, including faking her own kidnapping. In 1910 she was the highest paid entertainer in the country, pulling in $3500 a week. Like so many others, Eva lost most of her riches in the stock market crash. She died in 1947 impoverished with few fans left alive to remember her.

Actors at the Cohoes Music Hall often complain of not finding their props where they left them only to return and find a prop from the 1900s, often associated with one of Eva's shows. At night, the staff sometimes reports seeing a lavishly dressed woman in the wings, standing anxiously on top toe, staring longingly at the stage.

NYS Capitol Building - The Devil's in the Details
million dollar staircase.jpg
The Million Dollar Staircase is a favorite attraction for tourists and state workers alike.
By the end of its construction in 1898, the staircase cost 1.5. million dollars and had employed 600 stone carvers primarily from Scotland, Ireland and Wales. In the more obscure areas, the carvers were told to carve whatever they wanted, so long as it looked beautiful. More often than not, they carved what they were familiar with: friends, family and sometimes the faces of people who slipped them a bit of money for a chance to be immortalized. By the end, there were over 1,000 faces carved in the three stories staircase, each with their own story, most lost to history.

But one story has endured. According to legend, there was a Scottish Stone Carver who was fired. He felt that was unfair, so on his last day, before he was sent home, he carved a small face, no bigger than my thumb print, of the Devil. He can only be seen if you use a light source to illuminate him, and people have been telling this story for so long that the Devil's nose is toasted from all the matches and lighters the the storytellers used. The stone carver is said to have cursed the building with the Devil's face. Some folks claim this may explain much of the, umm, unusual -- goings on in New York State politics.

Washington Park - What Lies Beneath
washington park fog

Obvious jokes aside, this Park is actually spookier than you may know. Washington Park was designed by two landscape architects who worked in Fredrick Law Olmstead's office and were famous in helping design Prospect Park in New York City. Olmstead's philosophy was that, when the world became overwhelming, human beings instinctively seek out nature to calm their senses. This is likely why so many of us find ourselves wandering Washington Park on those clear summer days, taking in a book, walking our dogs, picnicking with our friends. But I bet it never crossed your mind that you were walking on a former cemetery.

Beneath your feet once rested the sleeping souls of Albany's citizens. 40,000 of them to be exact. Downtown was growing at a rapid rate, and was filled with saloons and 5,000 pigs that the locals left to run wild. Naturally, those with money were beginning to move away from the noise and the stench to uptown Albany. Those who moved to State and Willet Street were not happy to have a cemetery for a lawn. So, up the bodies went, all 40,000 of them (we hope) and all were moved to various cemeteries around the city.

Historic Cherry Hill - The Murder at Cherry Hill

Cherry Hill house

Historic Cherry Hill on South Pearl Street is one of the greatest treasures Albany
has to offer. If you have not made the time to visit the house, I encourage you to schedule a tour and look at their on going restoration progress. If nothing else, add them on Facebook and see how many Cherry Hill points you can rack up.

The year is 1826. Having deserted his wife and children, Jesse Strang eventually finds himself in Albany, NY. One evening, at a local bar, Jesse meets Elise Whipple, a Van Rensselaer by pedigree but married to Mr. Whipple. Elise was famous for her wild temper and was prone to hysterics. In spite of, or perhaps because of her unpredictable outbursts, Jesse falls in love with Elise. Elise secured her lover a position as Handyman in Cherry Hill. They decided their best hope of being together would be to kill Mr. Whipple.

After a botched poisoning attempt, Elise convinces Jesse to shoot Whipple with his own gun. On the night of May 27th, 1827, Strang "climbed to the top of the shed adjacent to the house. Whipple, who was eating dinner, was visible through a window. Strang raised his rifle and fired, killing Whipple with one shot."

Jesse Strang was eventually arrested for the shooting. He was tried and convicted and was sentenced to be hanged. That was the last public execution in Albany, NY. Strang's father sold his testimony during the hanging. Meanwhile, Elise, who was arguably the mastermind behind the whole murder, stood trail for aiding and abetting but was found not guilty.

The spirits of the Cherry Hill have yet to settle. There is a ghost who dwells on the bottom floor of Cherry Hill and there is suspicion that it is the slain Mr. Whipple. The ghost is not hostile and does not seem to mind the company in the old mansion, but those who have encountered him do say they sense an anger surrounding the spirit.

Jesse Strang's ghost can be seen around the Eagle Street ravine, where the gallows stood. He wears a robe and a hat trimmed with black, the same clothes he wore during the execution. There have never been reports of Mrs. Whipple's spirit in or around the home.

The Stockade - The Schenectady Massacre

stockade stone.jpg

Walking in the Stockade can be like walking in a time capsule. It is one of the oldest and best preserved neighborhoods in our nation, with homes going back to the early 1700s. The National Park Service claims it has "the highest concentration of historic period homes in the country." There are many reports of spirits still wandering these ancient homes, but none so unsettling as the victims of The Schenectady Massacre.

It was a cold, February evening in 1690. The Dutch families in the Schenectady Stockade had been living in relative peace for some time and, as such, had fallen into a false sense of security. No one willing to submit themselves to the bitter Northern winds, most of the men had decided to stay home in their warm beds with their wives and family. Little did they know, the Stockade was being watched. French commandos and members of the Sault and Algonquin tribes were watching the Stockade and were delighted to find it defenseless. The French and the Natives were eager for revenge because the English forts were supplying weapons to the Iroquois who, in turn, would use the weapons against the Sault and Algonquins.

The raid began at midnight, burning homes to the ground and killing fleeing men, women and children. Many of those murdered were still in their night clothes, unable to get to their weapons in time. Surviving families were turned out to the cold in nothing but their bed clothes. In the end, 60 people were murdered, including 38 men, 10 women and 12 children. On top of that, the raiders left with 27 prisoners and 50 horses as their trophies. It took many years for the Stockade to recover.

Traumatic events such as these often stain an area and the traumatized spirits often return to revisit the horrors upon the living. Some of the living residents of the Stockade have awakened to screaming in the night. When they look out their window, they see the fleeing figures of Colonial men, women and children still in their bed clothes. There is often the sound of scared horses, their whinny's echoing in the cold midnight air. You can hear their frantic hooves hitting hard against the cobblestone pavement, just outside your door. But when you try to find the source of the sounds, you see only the trees, stirring unsettled in the air.

Washington Park Bridge: Sebastien B.

NYS Ed Building: Flickr user albany_tim

Million Dollar Staircase: Flickr user roytsaplinjr

Schenectady Stockade Marker: flickr user dougtone


Don't forget West Hall at RPI!

Not exactly in the capital region, but not too far away, is Beardslee Castle. Great food, great atmosphere, interesting history, and ghosts!

what a great idea to offer ghost tours on the trolley. i've done the haunted tour of the stockade on foot, which was a lot of fun. i wonder if any of the buildings on the st. rose campus will be featured, i'm always hearing about a couple of their houses being haunted.

Whee! I love this stuff. The D&H building is also supposed to be haunted, and I also heard that the top floor at Jillian's is too(?).

There was another massacre in the area: the Dietz massacre (my ancestors). Not as devastating as the Stockade massacre, but an entire extended family was nearly wiped out (thankfully it wasn't or I wouldn't be here).

I was an usher at the music hall when it first re-opened many years ago. there are more than just one ghost there to be sure. I still remember one time being downstairs in the offices when my friend and I heard the drum set playing upstairs. Thinking it was the janitor we snuck up the back stairs to catch him. The drums kept playing until we opened the door to the theater and watched as the drumsticks fell to floor.....true story.

Has anyone ever heard anything about Maria College being haunted?? The one building used to be a nun's cloister and it is extremely creepy, especially in the basement and the bathroom...... feels like someone is watching me.... Some of my classmates feel the same way. I go down in the basement of the main building and I don't feel anything..... any info???

I found the Albany ghost stories very interesting. There was one story that wasn't mentioned and that's the one of the ghost of the night watchman who died in the great capitol building fire of 1911.

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