No one truly knows how many haunted places exist in New York. Talk to a hundred, even a thousand different people, and you might get as many answers.
The Empire State boasts a plethora of ghostly activity. Ghost lovers have more than a handful of otherworldly experiences to choose from – between centuries-old cemeteries, haunted houses, spooky attractions, possessed theatres, and historical forts where soldiers lived, fought and died, to name a few.
There are hundreds of haunted places in New York State. I’ve been to many but ran out of space to write about them all here. Below you’ll find a few of my favorites.
- 20 Most Haunted Places in New York State
- Canfield Casino
- Lady in the Lake
- Naples Hotel
- Rolling Hills Asylum
- Dunkirk Lighthouse
- Fort Ontario
- Van Horn Mansion
- Captain Visger House
- Lockport Caves
- Ohana’s Restaurant
- Sylvan Beach Amusement Park
- Casey’s Cottage
- Red Coach Inn
- Three Sisters – Lily Dale
- New York State House
- Oneida Community Mansion House
- William Phelps Provisions
- Dr. Best House & Medical Museum
- Lady in Granite
- Olde Bryan Inn
- Are These Spooky Settings Worth a Visit?
20 Most Haunted Places in New York State
When Syfy’s paranormal show Ghost Hunters came to investigate Saratoga’s Canfield Casino in 2010, several people had reported strange occurrences in the building, and the group wanted to check it out on their own.
A woman dressed in a Victorian costume vanishing into thin air, the smell of cigar smoke drifting through empty rooms, objects moving on their own accord, and sudden temperatures that drop from warm to frigid in a moment’s notice are only a few instances documented.
The unexplained phenomena happened to spike after the museum’s personnel opened a new exhibit showcasing a collection of clothing worn by well-known and respected families in the area.
Most of the spirit visits seem to center on the museum’s 3rd floor, where several rooms hold the rich stories of bygone eras. However, even the High Stakes gaming room sees its fair share of action – long after the sun goes down.
The Canfield Casino isn’t the only haunted attraction in Saratoga, visitors can tour the city’s most haunted parts on foot to witness activity from beyond the grave.
Lady in the Lake
If you ever have the chance, be sure to enjoy a leisurely boat ride with Lake Placid Boat Tours. One of the highlights the crew stops to talk about is Pulpit Rock and the mystery surrounding Lady in the Lake. Mabel Smith Douglass went out for a short rowing trip before her family closed Camp Onondaga for the Winter season. They were planning to return home to New Jersey the next day. She was 56 years old.
It was September 21st, 1933 when she vanished. Scuba divers found her body just shy of 30 years later, on September 15th, 1963, with a heavy rope tied around her neck, attached to an anchor. The questions of how she got there – whether it was murder or suicide, have never been answered and are still debated today. Some say she still roams the area, and locals warn folks to stay away – especially around Halloween.
One of the scariest places to stay overnight is The Naples Hotel, located in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State. It was first known as Lyon Tavern, and today, the hotel’s ambiance carries the feel and look of yesteryear.
There have been sightings of many ghosts, none shy in making themselves known to visitors. People often report whispers, lights flickering on and off, the scent of lilac drifting through one of the front rooms, and a Civil War soldier walking down the cellar steps.
Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to see the video of something captured from the downstairs bar when no one was present. Talk about the hairs on the back of your neck standing up! Or, dare to book the scariest room, where two men are known to play around with flashlights while you try to sleep.
Rolling Hills Asylum
The Genesee County Poor House became a refuge for people looked down upon in society for one reason or another. Parents dropped off children who were a bit ‘odd’ and never picked them up again. Widows and orphans lived alongside the mentally ill. Officials even buried bodies of the unclaimed on the property.
Inside the Rolling Hills Asylum, along the darkened hallways, chalkboards document patient intakes and treatments. Rooms are in disuse now, perhaps, but many still hold children’s toys, wheelchairs, metal bed frames, the remnants of archaic experiments, and spirits from the past.
There are a variety of ghost hunts visitors can choose from – and you’ll more than likely come away with a story or two from your experience; I sure did!
Visiting a lighthouse during a road trip is a must-do on many people’s travel itineraries. And when it’s filled with historical artifacts from WWI, WWII, and the Korean War like Dunkirk Lighthouse is, there’s a good chance you might spot a spirit or two at the same time.
First established on Point Gratiot in 1827, this gorgeous lighthouse guided passing ships into Dunkirk Harbor. And because of its Fresnel lens light’s 27-mile range, the 61-foot lighthouse tower remains one of the most notable on Lake Erie.
Some people report the sound of footsteps climbing the tower or wandering around the lightkeeper’s house. Others hear people talking or humming from a distance. Several say someone – or something touched them during their visit, while others claim a spirit playfully interacted with them.
Known as “Guardian of the North” and built sometime during the early 1840s, this star-shaped fortress sits on the remnants of three earlier fortifications dating back to the French and Indian War. No wonder ghost stories and spirit hauntings abound here!
Hundreds of soldiers and innocent people died on the grounds of Fort Ontario. Today, visitors can view the graves of 77 officers, soldiers, women, and children in a small cemetery tucked under shady trees there.
Reports of strange lights, melodic music, and a woman who randomly appears in an upstairs window in one of the historical buildings are common sightings. Other folks claim they hear a spirit child calling out for his lost cat.
Van Horn Mansion
If you happen to be a history buff or are interested in the architectural design of a 200-year-old home, The Van Horn Mansion offers up plenty of both.
In 1836, 28-year-old James Van Horn Jr. fell in love and married 20-year-old Malinda Niles. Tragically, within the first year of their union, the young beauty would die. Some say it was due to difficult labor; others say she committed suicide. Others claim she was poisoned by her father-in-law or murdered by her husband.
Whatever the reason, the family kept it quiet and buried her somewhere on the property, where cadaver dogs found what remained of her in 1992. After workers carefully moved her to the rose garden and her gravestone marked her resting place, reported sightings of her roaming the grounds and appearing throughout the mansion ceased.
Captain Visger House
This farm-to-table restaurant and B&B welcomes visitors from all over the country, even from across the world. Located in the heart of picturesque Alexandria Bay, Captain Visger House offers all the charm of the St. Lawrence Seaway and makes a great home base when exploring the 1000 islands.
Boasting two castles, wineries, distilleries, fishing tours, state parks, classic performances at the Clayton Opera House, antique boat museums, and pirate days in the bay, there are sure to be a few ghost stories making the rounds at the same time.
After dark, take a walking tour of haunted businesses and hotels, even the cemetery just a few blocks away from the B&B. When calling to reserve a room, ask to sleep in the ‘Harmonious’ – named after the captain’s son and supposedly the most haunted overnight stay in the house.
There’s something spooky about being underground in a dark cave, embarking on a walking and boat tour through the half-mile tunnel built in the 1800s – its purpose was to provide waterpower to mills in the area. If you’re into being frightened, a guided tour through Lockport Caves is sure to do the trick.
The feeling is one of total isolation – and learning tragic stories of the men and boys who worked and sometimes died there haunts you long after you’re back above ground, feeling sunshine on your face again.
People shudder, stating they’ve seen disfigured faces in the water, a ghostly mist that appears out of nowhere, moaning voices, and heavy footsteps in the distance during the informative adventure.
The Ohana 1950’s Diner has to be the cutest restaurant ever – and comes with a serving of ghosts on the side. You’ll see walls covered with old-time records, blinking neon signs, an extended area with bar stools for seating, and another dining area off in the back.
Once a repair shop, then a restaurant, now a diner, the ghost stories seem to occur more when the owners are working to improve the business. Voices in the attic, objects moving about the building on their own, the volume on the jukebox changing, a popcorn maker turning itself on, and male workers appearing – dressed in the 1920s era are just a few of the strange occurrences happening here.
Sylvan Beach Amusement Park
Here, you become a ‘Casper Cop’ after dark while touring this old-fashioned, beach-side amusement park, its rides, and some of its buildings, where tales of death and hauntings abound.
During daylight hours, the park seems like any old-time 50s park, where families come to spend a few hours eating greasy burgers, slurping root beer floats, licking the sides of ice cream cones before they melt under the hot sun, in between all of the fun rides and games provided.
Once the sun goes down, the mood changes and spooky things occur. It’s as if the ghosts have the run of the place. A man named Bill used to collect coins in the arcade – one of the oldest buildings in the park when he was alive. Now, people report finding quarters or hearing them fall from overhead, landing at their feet.
Folks capture photos of a figure peeking out from a darkened room at the end of the hall in another building. The spirits seem playful, and guests leave with a badge. It makes for a pretty fun date night if you ask me.
I’m not sure what Orville Hungerford thought when he envisioned plans to convert an unused 1900s carriage house into the 11th-century medieval manor house now tucked in the corner of Mexico State Park. Whatever he was imagining, he sure hit it out of the ballpark.
Casey’s Cottage, overgrown with ivy and moss, boasts natural light streaming through the beautiful detail of stained glass windows. It also appears haunted – from the moment visitors set eyes on the building. A complete ensemble of jousting armor stands at the entrance. Stone walls and long wooden benches offer seating inside, where everything feels as if it’s somehow stuck in a time warp.
Is it any wonder that people visiting say they hear the tinkling sounds of organ keys being played by hands unseen? Or cries for help detected from a distance when standing on the property? Visitors often refer to loud scraping sounds of heavy furniture moved about by mysterious figures and the dreaded sense of being watched. Sightings of a young woman begging for help near a tree by the lake are sure to send shivers down the spine – mine included.
Red Coach Inn
On August 30th, 1923, The Red Coach Inn opened up for business. After the daughter of future U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr honeymooned there, Niagra Falls was known as the ‘Honeymoon capital of the world,’ and now they had a charming English Tudor-style hotel befitting the title.
But, honeymoons didn’t go that well for everyone. When another couple arrived around midnight on their wedding day, they seemed in high spirits. They’d chosen to spend time together touring the majestic falls. The staff settled the couple in the Victoria Suite. It was on the third floor and had fantastic views of the surrounding area.
Their maid knocked on the door and entered in the morning, only to find the young bride bludgeoned to death on the bed. Her husband had taken a candlestick, hitting his wife about the head repeatedly, crushing her face on one side.
People now report eyes from the couple’s wedding portrait following them around the room, someone moving jewelry across bureaus, music playing in the wee hours of the morning, and people walking or dancing overhead – even though vacationers are already on the top floor. Yikes.
Looking for a less sppoky experience of Niagara Falls? Check out these tours below.
Three Sisters – Lily Dale
Lily Dale is the most prominent spiritual center in the world. And Fox sisters Kate, Leah, and Maggie played a crucial role in the creation of such spiritualism. One night at bedtime, they heard some rapping noises in the cottage where they’d recently moved.
There were already reports of strange noises and ghostly phenomena – scary enough to force previous families to move. The sisters were curious about the rapping noises, and one called out in the darkness, “Do as I do!” Every time the two clapped, the rapping sounds would mimic them.
The belief that the living can talk to the dead captivated the interest of thousands during the mid-19th century. And, even though Leah later admitted stories told by the Fox Sisters began as a prank, the interest in spiritualism remains today – and is practiced at The Lily Dale Assembly.
New York State House
On March 25th, 1911, a horrific fire broke out on the third floor of the Assembly Library. It swept the long corridor to the State Library of the Capitol Building. Books and wood shelving fueled the flames, which raced up the ‘Million Dollar Staircase’ to the fourth floor and two towers.
Capitol night watchman Samuel Abbott was the only fatality that night. He was a 78-year-old Civil War Veteran who loved his job and tried to save some of the precious books by throwing them out the window. Workers found his body in the rubble after firefighters had doused the flames, and they could take stock of the damage.
Visitors to the Capitol Building often hear the sound of rattling keys, which makes sense – Samuel had the master keys and part of his job was to secure the building each night on his rounds.
Tour guides speak of his haunting and many other spooky occurrences while walking the corridors, staircases, and several rooms with guests.
Oneida Community Mansion House
For one thing, the Oneida Community Mansion House is humongous, constructed in four phases and 93,000 square feet; it’s easy to take a wrong turn down a corridor and find yourself lost for a while.
Preacher John Humphrey Noyes led The 300-person commune that once lived and worked on the property as one family. The Perfectionist community challenged views on everything – from gender roles to property ownership, monogamous marriages to work ethic, making those with more current views uncomfortable.
When we stayed overnight, fire alarms went off for no reason, forcing all of us to gather downstairs in the meeting room. Strange lights appeared in the windows, even though no cars were driving by at the time.
Others speak of figures passing through rooms dressed in white. Even ghost hunters have left the property in the middle of their search, stating there is too much spooky activity to remain.
William Phelps Provisions
Often referred to as the ‘Most haunted place in New York’s Finger Lakes Region,’ this destination embraces five historical museums filled with artifacts of yesteryear – making it easy to understand why.
Items from the early 1800s help tell rich stories of Erie Canal businesses and the families that lived and died here. There’s a particular focus on Sibyl Phelps, who called the Phelp’s General Store home her entire life – even when other members of the family locked up shop and walked away.
In 1964, just before Christmas, a fire took the lives of a young mother and her six children in Historic Palmyra. The father was out of town at the time. The cause of the tragedy remains a mystery, but folks say the children’s spirits playfully hide things, make noises, and move stuff around inside Palmyra’s Historical Museum, which stands in the same spot today.
Many people who travel through this area say they hear voices talking, the slight touch of a hand on their shoulder or back, items moving, lights turning on and off, photos lying face-down on the floor, children’s voices, and much more.
Dr. Best House & Medical Museum
Visitors will find hundreds of death certificates, original medical equipment – including Dr. Best’s amputation set, a human skull, and examples of antique Daguerreotype photographs within its walls, to name a few of the bizarre.
The house witnessed the death of the doctor’s son, who begged for help with his last breath, the end of his young wife, and the demise of the beloved Dr. himself. No wonder people report sightings of the family wandering through the rooms or sounds of tinkling piano keys and disembodied voices when they dare to spend some time here.
Lady in Granite
Many stories surround the gravestone of Matilda Gillette. The one I love the most is about a promise the married couple made to one another. The story goes like this; Francis and Matilda were crazy about each other – even after 46 years of marriage. The couple vowed to remain unmarried should the other die.
Supposedly, shortly after Matilda passed away, Francis broke his promise, wasting no time getting married to a beautiful younger woman. Soon afterward, a white spot formed on the granite tombstone and looked like Matilda, lying down on a pillow. People swore she was showing her husband how upset she was that he’d moved on so quickly.
Francis was unnerved when he saw this change, and when nothing seemed to work on removing the image, he had the tombstone replaced. In the same spot, the exact likeness of Matilda reappeared. Some folks believe that her whole body will soon appear, releasing her to wander the town forever.
Olde Bryan Inn
When a building’s history dates back – before the Revolutionary War, it’s common for local folks to believe it’s haunted. The Olde Bryan Inn happens to be considered one of the most haunted properties in Saratoga.
Built as a crude cabin in 1773 overlooking High Rock Springs, the building changed hands more than a few times before becoming known as the inn and popular restaurant it is today.
People have seen the mysterious “lady in green,” a man dressed in clothes from the Colonial era, as well as experiencing supernatural occurrences.
Workers sitting in the main dining room, chatting and joking about ghost stories, suddenly observed the chandelier overhead swinging in circles on its own. Another time, a patron looked up from her meal. A woman dressed in green peered down from the second floor. The diner had no idea others had spotted the figure, as she’d just recently moved into the area. She asked if a re-enactment was happening that evening, and her waiter shook his head no.
Are These Spooky Settings Worth a Visit?
There are hundreds of haunted places in New York State. I’ve been to many but ran out of space to write about them all here. And there are so many more to explore in the future. If you’re into ghost stories and hauntings, you’re sure to find some spirits right up your alley. I Promise.
Last Updated on January 19, 2023