Thursday, September 9, 2010

Spirits and Spooks: Haunted Places in the Finger Lakes

There are more than a few haunted spots within New York’s Finger Lakes region. Luckily for amateur and serious ghost hunters alike, there is a long list of places where curious visitors can investigate otherworldly tales for themselves.
Those wishing to catch a glimpse of the supernatural can start by choosing a haunted place to stay. The Belhurst Castle, built in the 1880s, has a long and dramatic history. One of its many tales is the story of an Italian opera singer who fled Spain with her illicit lover. When her angry husband came to find her, the couple escaped to an underground tunnel. However, their plan backfired when the tunnel collapsed around them and they were killed. Today, guests have reported seeing an apparition of a woman standing in the front lawn and around the grounds who is believed to be the opera singer.
Another mysterious lady in white can be seen at Esperanza Mansion, located right on scenic Keuka Lake. While nobody is quite sure who she is or why she haunts the mansion, Esperanza’s long history is impressive. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was once a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Since the Finger Lakes is home to over 100 wineries, it is no surprise that there are rumors of winery hauntings, as well. Miles Wine Cellar is located in a Greek revival mansion that overlooks Seneca Lake. The home was originally built in 1802, and there is little doubt that today it is inhabited by more than the Rieslings that the Finger Lakes is known for. Strange happenings such as slamming doors, footsteps, and unexplained sounds have manifested on the property for years. To celebrate these otherworldly residents, Miles Wine Cellar now produces a “Ghost” wine, a Chardonnay and Cayuga blend.
There are also many museums and historic sites said to contain spirit life. In Seneca Falls, the birthplace of women’s rights, the Seneca Falls Historical Society is believed to be haunted by no fewer than three ghosts. Three different families lived in the mansion between 1855 and 1961, when it was purchased by the historical society. The first ghost is believed to be the spirit of Edward Mynderse, who began haunting the home he built after its next owner made major changes to its exterior. In 1890, the newly-renovated house was sold to the Becker family, who raised six children there. The second ghost is said to be the spirit of an Irish girl who died while staying with the Beckers. To this day, she can be heard crying on the back staircase, wishing to return home to her native Ireland. The third ghost, Mary Merrigan, was the children’s nanny. Her presence can still be felt in her old third-floor quarters.
Valentown Museum, a historic museum in Victor, has thousands of artifacts- and at least a few ghosts. Valentown’s original structure has remained virtually unchanged since the 1870s, and staff members have reported strange occurrences throughout the museum. Visitors hoping to spot some paranormal activity are invited to take one of several specialized ghost tours of the property. From children’s birthday parties to ghost walks to seminars on paranormal investigation, Valentown offers an array of ghostly experiences for almost every age group.
A few hours away, in the charming city of Cortland, the 1890 House Museum also preserves life in the Victorian era. This architecturally significant property was the home of industrialist Chester F. Wickwire, and today is open as a museum commemorating the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Over the years, visitors and Cortland residents have claimed feeling strange vibes and seeing mysterious figures in and around the property.
Though most tourists don’t stay as long as these ghostly visitors, the Finger Lakes is a popular place to visit thanks to its rich history, nature, and world-class wineries. 
For more information on the Finger Lakes visit Family Travel Forum and read our attractions and rental guides.

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