Monday, May 18, 2009

Hunting Season is Open… for Ghosts!

Laurie and her husband Dave posed at the Fort and captured this friendly apparition!

Some people hunt for deer, some people hunt for turkey, and some people hunt for… ghosts! This is the case with my co-worker Laurie, who attended a ghost hunting event at Fort Ontario, in Oswego. Since I have never gone hunting for ghosts, I decided to interview the new ghost hunter to gain a little insight on the sport.

Beginning their tour of Fort Ontario.

Me: As a beginner, where is a good place to start ghost hunting?
Laurie: Older buildings and historic sites, such as the Fort Ontario State Historic Site.

Me: What is the best time of day to hunt for ghosts?
Laurie: Usually after dark.

Me: What kinds of weapons and ammunition do you use for hunting ghosts?
Laurie: Some things to use for hunting ghosts are: K-II meters (electromagnetic field sensors), digital recording devices for sound, cameras or video cameras and witching rods.

Me: Do you need a license to ghost hunt?
Laurie: Only if you’re a ghost buster. Other than that anyone can hunt for ghosts without a license.

Me: Are there any calls, grunts or hunting tactics used for hunting ghosts?
Laurie: You can call out to the ghosts if you know their names.
  • For example: We were at Fort Ontario ghost hunting and we knew the name of the Captain’s wife who haunts the Officers’ Quarters. We spoke to her and told her how lovely her home was. Immediately we felt the presence of extreme cold air. Another tactic is just being very quiet and listening. We heard a baby crying in the same room where the psychic felt the presence of sick children from the late 1890’s.
Me: What is the proper attire for ghost hunting?
Laurie: You can wear anything you’d like, as long as you wear quiet shoes. The other important thing to do while ghost hunting is avoid anything with scents such as perfume or hair spray. The ghosts use scents to communicate.
  • For example, in the Officers’ Quarters of Fort Ontario, you can frequently smell lilacs when no lilacs or lilac scented things are present. Lilacs were the captain’s wife’s favorite flower.
Me: What are the typical species of ghosts found in Oswego County that you are allowed to hunt for?
Laurie: You can hunt for any specie of ghost you want. You can typically find soldiers from different war periods, their families, victims of epidemics of the past and victims of unusual deaths.

Me: Can you get a ghost mounted or stuffed once you get it?
Laurie: You can not “catch” a ghost so therefore you can not get one stuffed or mounted. When you hunt for a ghost you simply find evidence that the ghost exists. If you get lucky you can capture a picture of a ghost and frame it and hang it on your wall, next to your deer mounts.

Me: Are there any DEC regulations on ghost hunting?
Laurie: No. You can hunt for ghosts year round at any time of day you like. It’s always ghost season!

*Check out pictures from Laurie's hunting trip at the end of this blog!

If you’re interested in ghost hunting on your own, check out the list below. With the help of Oswego City Historian Rosemary Nesbitt, various websites and books by David J. Pitkin, I have compiled a list of some well-known ghost haunts.

Fort Ontario: There are many stories of different ghosts haunting the fort such as the Lt. Basil Dunbar, who was killed in a duel in 1755. There is also the story of Pvt. George Fykes, who will haunt anyone you ask him to if you perform a ritual above his marked gravestone. Of course there are the stories of wives of soldiers who still housekeep in the quarters, and children who died in an epidemic who can still be heard crying throughout the fort.

The main sally port of Fort Ontario

Oswego Harbor Lighthouse: Lights can be seen at the Lighthouse at night – supposedly caused by the ghosts of several seamen who lost their lives during a crew change in 1942. Click here for more information.

Selkirk Lighthouse: Many employees and visitors of this Port Ontario lighthouse claim to have had ghostly experiences such as footsteps on the stairs when nobody is around. Some say the ghost is that of a woman who spent years looking for her father’s ship which never returned, others say it’s a young girl who fell down to the stairs to her death. Regardless of who the ghost is, many believe that something is haunting the lighthouse. Click here for more information.

Battle Island Inn Bed & Breakfast: The owner of this historical B&B across from Battle Island tells many stories involving her ghostly tenants; stories of voices, footsteps, things being moved around, alarm clocks going off by themselves in rooms where no one has stayed for days, and tombstones on her property line. David J. Pitkin writes about it in his book, “New York State Ghosts.”

Happy Valley in Parish: Happy Valley is a Wildlife Management Area now, but long ago it was a farming settlement between Parish and Williamstown. Rumor has it, a plague wiped out the entire town, leaving only a cemetery and a schoolhouse as evidence of the town’s existence. Many people claim the entire area is haunted by the old town’s unfortunate residents. People have claimed to see orbs, faces and other frightening things at night. Other rumors suggest cult activities have taken place. Click here and here for more information.

One entrance to Happy Valley

Seneca Hill Ghost: Drive down Route 57 in Minetto, just outside of Fulton, on a night around the 5th or 6th of November and you might see a woman dressed in an old fashioned white gown, with or without a child in tow – running frantically down the road. Many residents have claimed to see this apparition. If it sounds like a typical “back roads” story to you, wait until you hear about the history. Historian Rosemary Nesbitt says that in 1844 a cult called the Millerites inhabited the Seneca Hill area. When they thought the world was going to end on October 22, 1844, a woman locked herself along with her child in her barn. When the world continued she was distraught so she plunged to her death out the barn window. The state police even have records of numerous calls made about a woman running down Rte. 57 at night, wearing an old-fashioned white gown. Click here for more information.

“Glass Coffin” House: The Tonkin House, as it was called, is a brick house in Oswego. It is the setting for the infamous Oswego legend about young Virginia Tonkin. When she died of Scarlet Fever in the early 1900s, her mother refused to let her go. She placed her in a glass coffin in the big window in her library from November until springtime. She was giving her deceased daughter a chance to see her friends walk to school everyday. Legend has it you can still see the little girl looking out the window. Her grave is in Riverside Cemetery off old Rte. 57. You can visit the Tonkin stone tomb, which has a window on the backside. UPDATE: Check out this awesome site with a lot more details regarding this story!

The Gray Road Ghost in Minetto: I don’t know much about this ghost story, but a writer mentions it in his blog.

The following haunted places are taken from this website:
  • Fulton Junior High School
  • Granby Center
  • Hannibal Graveyard
  • 19th century mansion used for off-campus housing for SUNY Oswego – no address given, just description
  • SUNY Oswego College Theater
  • Oswego Players Theater
  • Railroad tracks between the Fort and Lake Ontario
  • Riverside Cemetery
  • Rte. 104 & Klocks Corners Intersection in Scriba
Photos from ghost hunting at Fort Ontario:

Two Fort Soldiers lead everyone into the Barracks, while telling the story of a murder that took place on that floor many years ago.

The group, waiting to go into the next building

The bedroom of the Officers' Quaters

Another view of the bedroom

A Fort soldier tells more haunted tales while the group waits to enter the ramparts.

A view of a building overlooking Lake Ontario.

Another apparition appears in this photo taken in the casemate, which was used as a morgue during a flu epidemic in the early 1900s.

Yet another apparition appears flying up a stairwell

Dave trying out the witching rods, which crossed when he entered the empty parlor, suggesting a ghostly presence

The stairwell to the third floor, where the psychic John Michael felt the presence of sick children from the late 1890's. This is where Laurie and two other's heard a baby cry.

A young Fort soldier leads the group to the Post Cemetery for further investigation, which turned up this photographic evidence.

The group goes back to the barracks to listen quietly for any signs of spirits.

Laurie and Dave receive an autograph from psychic, medium and spiritual Counselor, Chip Coffey, of the hit show, Paranormal State.