Originally the ancestral home of Native Americans and later settled by Europeans during the 1600s, Long Island is rich in history and is absolutely loaded with folklore, myths and urban legends. But as the saying goes, where there is smoke, there is almost always fire, and many of these stories have facts and truths behind them. Our island is full of Native American burial grounds and defunct Gatsby-esque mansion estates and was the stage for various historical events and happenings-some good, others bad. After centuries of deaths, births, tragedies, and religious gatherings, there’s no doubt that Long Island can be considered extremely hallowed ground. But is the island a hotbed of paranormal occurrences and supernatural entities? Decide for yourself. Here’s a Halloween guide to some of the major LI haunts:
1. Amityville Horror House: Ocean Avenue, Amityville
Was it madness or evil spirits that led Ronald DeFeo to murder his family here in 1974? George and Kathy Lutz, who bought the place a year later, believed the latter. They literally left screaming, wrote a book about the house’s possession, signed a movie deal and solidified the place as a virtual gateway to hell. Hoax or truth? The world-renowned ghost hunters and psychic mediums, the Warrens, back up the claims. That’s enough proof for me.
2. Massapequa Hell House: Ask the townies for directions
High school and college kids have been driving by this place for decades to get a peek. Surrounded by wrought-iron gates and architecturally unique from any other house on its block, this red-bricked, fortress-like residence looks more like a castle out of Transylvania than a suburban dwelling, and sticks out like a sore thumb. But is it haunted? Are there supernatural forces at work behind these walls? Evil goings-on? Stories fly either way, from my brother’s ex-girlfriend’s father, who said the owners are completely normal, to a kid I knew in high school, who swore he saw dead, skinned cats hanging from the trees, to reports of candlelit pentagrams on the living room floor beside a coffin. I have still not received a response from the letter I left in their mailbox last year.
3. Don’t Come Here Alone: Mount Misery, Off Sweet Hollow Road, Huntington
Various tales of horror and woe surround this narrow, winding incline through the woods and up alongside the hilly precipice: Legend has it there was a hospital here the burnt down sometime during the 1800s- with some patients and staff still trapped inside- only to be rebuilt on the same site to tragically burn down again. One story says a deranged nurse set the blaze and can be seen from time to time in the area, with or without a number of faceless children. Some claim to have seen burning spirits fleeing from the grounds, accompanied by screams.
There’s also the rumor of the mass suicide—in which several teenagers hung themselves beneath the overpass on the Northern State Parkway—and if you honk your car’s horn three times before the scene, you will see the kids. There have been reports of a shadow figure lurking in the area, also able to be summoned by the car horn, as well a glowing ghost-woman, completely dressed in white, who can be seen walking Sweet Hollow Road. Called the Lady in White, some believe her to be a depressed patient who set the hospital fire, and in doing so, killed herself. Others claim she is a woman named Mary, who was killed by a car or murdered on the road. There’s a graveyard in the vicinity said to be haunted by her, as well as sightings of a mysterious gypsy woman dressed in red, allegedly appearing out of thing air. There’s also the story about an escaped mental patient who used a prosthetic hook to kill high school kids who were using the stretch as a make-out spot.
According to a Suffolk County homicide detective, Sweet Hollow Road was also the site of a gruesome slaying in 1976. A 12-year old girl named Kathy Woods was found murdered there—beaten and strangled to death. The case remains unsolved.
4. Maniacal Laughter: Kings Park Psychiatric Center, Kings Park
Established in 1885 on more than 800 acres of land, this place is a virtual city of restless, anguished souls who have not found peace in the afterlife. Once home to more than 9,000 patients, housed in some 150 different buildings, the complex essentially became a self-sufficient farm community. There was a library, firehouse, morgue and cemetery. Electric shock therapy, insulin shock therapy and prefrontal lobotomies were preformed regularly. Most of the buildings have been closed for many years and have fallen into disrepair—but the screaming, moaning, banging, clanging and pain lives on. It is rumored that there is also a network of undergrounds tunnels and rooms here that were the site of countless inhuman atrocities of abuse and torture.
5. Haunted Waters: Lake Ronkonkoma
LI’s largest freshwater lake is flooded with legends. The kettle hold is rumored to be bottomless, some say, connected to LI sound and/or a river in Connecticut through underwater tunnels. One story speaks of a Native American maiden who was sacrificed here to appease a god. Another tells of the Lady of the Lake, a Native American princess who was deeply in love with and betrothed a member of her tribe, who was murdered by a settler on the eve of their wedding. As the story goes, the princess, devastated, weeping constantly and consumed by sadness, tied rocks to her ankles and committed suicide in the middle of the lake. Her body was never found. According to legend, she vowed to return each year to take a male with her in revenge for her lover’s slaying. She can be seen annually, sadly walking along the shore dressed in a gown, beckoning young men to their watery graves. It is also said that at least one male dies in the imprisoning waters of the lake each year. (Suffolk County Police verified a drowning here in 1995.) Strange, unnatural lights and sounds emitting from the water are said to be the princess’ undying grieving. Another story claims that after the princess threw herself in to the lake to commit suicide, her lover dived in after her but to no avail. Her body was eventually discovered floating in a Connecticut river. There have also been reports of whirlpools in the lake.
6. Restless Souls: Raynham Hall Museum, 20 West Main St., Oyster Bay, 516-922-6808
Named after Raynham Hall in Norfolk, England, this house served as a British headquarters during the Revolution and is believed to be haunted by up to five different ghosts. Voices, apparitions… this place has it all. But the most prominent spirits are said to be those of British Major John Andrew, who was hung for treason, British Commander John Simcoe’s rumored lover, Sally Townsend, and a small child. Sally’s bedroom is said to always be cold, no matter what the time of year. It is currently a museum , and visitors can tour the possessed house year round.
7. Freakiest Part of Town: Tiny Town, North Merrick
To locate this enigmatic section of the neighborhood, simply glance at any atlas of the area. The series of narrow, circular streets that comprise Tiny Town, as locals call it, looks like a giant bull’s-eye on the map. But the streets’ patterns aren’t the weirdest thing in these parts, it’s the size of the homes: they’re unnaturally small. Miniature. Historically, the place was once the yearly congregational meeting site of thousands upon thousands of Methodists, who converged here beginning in the 1860s for multiple days of prayer. The worshippers formed a campground, arranging their horses and buggies into two circles around the site, which eventually led to the construction of small cottages in the same formation.
8. Undead Spirit: Morgan Hall, Route 107, Glen Cove
The former estate of financial tycoon J.P. Morgan is reportedly haunted by the ghost of his daughter, Alice, who succumbed to typhoid fever in the mansion at an early age. The place was used by the Russian Embassy for years and was turned into a convent and school in the 19602 by the Catholic Church, Young Alice’s spirit is said to appear wearing a long black dress, and can be heard walking in the attic and corridors.
9. Wicked History Lesson: Wickham Farmhouse, Route 25, Cutchogue, 631-734-6441
The farmhouse is one of the oldest English-style houses in New York state, built in 1740. On June 2, 1854, James and Francis Wickham were murdered in their bedroom by an insane Irish farmhand by way of an axe. A servant boy met the same fate. After a heated search by a posse, Nicholas Behan was found and hung in Riverhead for the crimes. The fruit market is open here for most of the year, with apple and pumpkin picking throughout October. On past Halloweens, the farm was hose to retellings of the story, along with hayrides and a corn maze.
10. Do Not Disturb: Normandy Inn, 1500 Smithtown Ave., Bohemia. 631-589-9898
As the story goes, a woman named Maria is said to have been strangled to death in the upstairs back bedroom when the place was a speakeasy, and has haunted the place ever since. She was reportedly heard walking through the hallways and knocking on visitors’ doors when this location was a hotel, many years ago. There have also been reports of apparitions and cold spots. The Inn is currently a restaurant.
11. Haunted House:
Auburn Road, Wantagh
The four current occupants of this typical-looking split-level house believe at least two to three spirits haunt the place, from that of a little girl to the ghost of a deceased soldier. The child had appeared seated, with her legs crossed, giggling, with pigtails and wearing a ‘50s-style dress. The late soldier is believed to be the original owner of the house, who died there. The American flag that once draped his coffin is currently stored in the front hall closet, and the residents refuse to disturb it, fearing retaliation from the spirit if they do. Voices, footsteps, the slamming of doors and ominous knocking sounds have been heard.
12. Check Please: Country House Restaurant, Route 25A, Stony Brook, 631-751-3332
Originally built as a farmhouse in 1710 by Obadiah Davis, the place was renamed the Hadaway House Restaurant in 1838 by the actor and comedian, Thomas Hadaway. Many séances were conducted here by Hadaway, with those in attendance including the LI artist William Sidney Mount. Mount believed that he was able to contact Rembrandt through the séances, and that the 17th century painter helped him with his art. The restaurant is said to be haunted by the spirit of a woman named Annette, who was hung for treason by the British during the Revolutionary War. She is rumored to be buried on the property, perhaps in the cemetery north of the house, where several Revolutionary War patriots have been laid to rest.
13. Follow the Light: Fire Island Lighthouse, Fire Island, 631-661-4876
The original stone lighthouse was constructed in 1827 and served as a beacon to distressed whaling and merchant ships for 30 years. It was torn down in 1858 and the present brick tower built on its site. The place is said to be haunted by a curator who committed suicide before the lighthouse was reconstructed again. Heavy does open and close with ease by themselves, and voices and knocking can be heard.
14. Possessed Mansion: Windfall Hall, Crescent Beach Road, Glen Cove
Frank W. Woolworth died a strange death just two years after this 56-room mansion-estate was built. He allegedly had a phobia about dentists and fell victim to infected teeth. He also suffered from a Napoleon complex and believed he would return as a reincarnation of the French ruler. A number of strange occurrences have been reported here, from the sounds of organ music to apparitions of his daughter Edna, who committed suicide in the house. There is also a debate over Woolworth’s final resting place—one rumor is that he’s buried in a bricked-over extension of the basement.
15. Chilling: Reid’s Ice Cream Factory, Blue Point
As the story goes, in the 1950s, this now abandoned building was allegedly the site of a brutal rape and slaying of a female dancer. She is said to still haunt the place, supposedly along with the spirit of a young child. There have been reports of her roaming the grounds, crying and screaming.
16. Haunted Windmill:
Southampton College, Stony Brook University
Built in 1712, the three-story windmill at Southampton College stands as one of LI’s oldest. It was moved to its present location in 1890 and served as a cottage for a short time, having included playwright Tennessee Williams as a guest. As the story goes, the owners’ daughter had a playroom inside the thing, and one day she fell down the steep set of stairs leading to it, broke her neck and died. The 8- or-9-year old girl is still there, according to students, and her face can be seen peering from the windows of her little room.
Originally published Oct. 23, 2003.