A look at the ghosts of Mount Beacon, a mountain named for its role in the Revolutionary War, which once housed a hotel and tourist attractions, and now is a beautiful, ruin-filled place to hike.
The town of Beacon lies about an hour and a half from Manhattan by commuter train. The area, which once brimmed with factories, is now a quiet, small town, full of crumbling ruins of its past, spooky cemeteries, and deep woods.
This episode focused on Mount Beacon: its history, the reminders it holds of the past, and a experiment to test out a solo version of the Estes method, a popular paranormal investigation technique, on the mountain’s peak.
• The remains of a mountaintop train, hotel, and casino
• Wild speculation about some Estes session results
• Some of Beacon’s history
Note: the Estes session contains some brief expletives.
Script for Ghosts of Mount Beacon
- Atlas Obscura has a page with things to do in Beacon, and out of the 6 attractions they list in Beacon, I did 5 of them over the course of 2 pretty strenuous days. I managed to go on three hikes to ruins, a boat ride to ruins, three cemeteries (and I tried to visit a fourth but couldn’t find it), and went to the art museum there–in 2 days. I was very tired.
- Both days, I woke up around 4:30 am so I could go out around sunrise, or a little before. On Day 1, I went to an extremely spooky cemetery, and on Day 2, I went to the top of Mount Beacon, where the ruins of an old casino, hotel, and railroad, are, and I did a solo Estes session.
- I want to talk about Mount Beacon today, and my Estes session up there, but first, a little history about Beacon, NY.
- Today, Beacon is where (wealthy-ish) residents of NYC go for vacation. It’s an hour and a half train ride from GCT, on a commuter train, not Amtrak. So it’s really easy to get there.
- It’s a very popular destination, and is rapidly gentrifying, and has a real Brooklyn vibe. There’s literally a bakery there where everything is gluten free, and either vegan or vegetarian. Which since I eat plant-based, that was good news for me, but that really belies some of the town’s history.
- That being said, there’s also a large population of veterans there, and plenty of folks who seem like they’ve been there a long time. People in Beacon seem pretty friendly–it was pretty normal for locals to say hello to me when I was walking around town.
- There was also a fairly sizable population of homeless people, at least on our most recent trip in August 2021. I was a little surprised by that, though maybe I shouldn’t have been, since it’s such a rapidly gentrifying area. For reference, I looked in at the windows of real estate offices in the area, out of curiosity, and 1-bedrooms cost more than they do in my area of Queens at least–I saw 1-bedroom apts that cost as much as our 2-br here in Queens. And houses for purchase look like they start around half a million dollars. So it seems like it’s as expensive, if not more expensive, to live there as it does to live in NYC itself.
- So let’s get into Beacon’s history.
- We know that, back in the 1600s, the Wappinger tribe lived on the land where Beacon is now. Land was purchased from them by fur traders from NYC in the 1680s, and I’ll give my usual land deal caveat here. I don’t know the details of the land deal, but many of the deals that colonizers did with indigenous people were suspect at the very best, and I expect that’s the case here.
- Before Beacon existed, there were two towns called Matteawan and Fishkill Landing. Later on, in 1913, the towns were incorporated into a single town called Beacon. The name came from the beacon fires that patriots lit on top of Mount Beacon during the Revolutionary War.
- Historically, Beacon had lots of mills and factories.
- Early on, flour mills were a big thing there. During the Revolutionary War, arms were manufactured there.
- In the early 19th century, hat production became huge there. It was known as “The Hat Making Capital of the US,” though I believe it was technically the #2 hat making town in the US. But at one point, there were 50 different hat companies in the area.
- I actually visited the ruins of an old hat mill, which is right near some nice hiking trails, one of which leads to the ruins of a brick factory out on a peninusla called Denning’s Point. Brick manufacturing was big in the area, in part because they could build factories on the water, and then boats could pull up and load up on bricks, and then carry their cargo down the Hudson to NYC, where they always needed more brick for building new construction.
- There was also plenty of tourism in the area. Atop Mount Beacon, at different times, there was a hotel called the Beaconcrest, a casino, and restaurant, and an incline railroad to take people up to the mountain. People could take the train or a boat from the city or elsewhere, take a trolley to the mountain, and then take the train up the mountain. (Nowadays, if you want to go there, you have to walk 45 mins or so from the station, and then hike up the very steep mountain yourself.) There was also a ski area nearby, which closed in the late 1970s.
- The incline railway opened in 1902, and was designed by the Otis Elevator Company; it was half a mile long, rose more than 1,500 feet, and had an average grade of 64%, which made it the steepest railroad in existence, at the time.
- The Beaconcrest hotel could hold 100 guests, and the casino wasn’t for gabling, but it had a balcony that ran all the way around it, as well as a rooftop observatory with telescopes and a powerful searchlight.
- An article published last year in a local paper, the Times Herald-Record, describes the top of the mountain:
“The top of Mt. Beacon was laid out like a park with fountains, walkways and summer houses, a large casino and hotel (in place by 1926), a roof observatory which housed powerful telescopes and one of the largest search flights manufactured, to light up the Hudson River at night. The 75-mile panoramic views from the summit and its natural setting would be the lures to get tourists.”
- The most popular time for the destinations atop Mt. Beacon was the 1920s. However, on October 16, 1927, a fire destroyed the Beaconcrest Hotel and the Casino, atop Mt. Beacon. The powerhouse for the railroad was luckily spared, and the casino was rebuilt in 1928. However, before the hotel could be rebuilt, the great depression hit, stopping progress.
- The tourism trade was hit by the great depression in the 1930s, the war in the 40s, and, according to the Mount Beacon Incline Railroad Historical Society, as more and more people got cars, tourist attractions took a hit. The idea was that when people relied on trains and trolleys, they ended up getting funneled into major tourist attractions. But once people had cars, popular destinations started to decline. I’d never read that before, but it makes sense. Also, meanwhile, since the 1930s, there’d been a number of fires on the railroad, destroying parts of the track, and it sounds like maintenance was getting more expensive. The railroad was sold in the 1960s, and while there’d been plans to redevelop, those plans fell through, and the railroad got older and more decrepit. When a fire broke out in 1967, the lower power station for the railroad, as well as one of the two railroad cars, was destroyed. In the 1970s, the railroad, which had had more and more sporadic service, finally closed. They parked the two cars in the middle of the track, hoping to avoid vandalism, and, as the historical society put it, it “awaited better times.”
- In 1982, the railroad and powerhouse were put on the national register of historic places, which was a promising development. But, unfortunately, in September 1983, a huge forest fire broke out, destroying every part of the railroad. The fire was suspicious, probably the work of vandals. Today, if you hike around the area, you can see some bent, twisted parts of the track, some of the heavy metal cords, and the very picturesque ruins of the powerhouse at the top of the mountain.
- This story reminds me a bit of the tales of Coney Island in Brooklyn–there was this cool vacation destination that included some cutting edge technology, but was destroyed by fire and allowed to decay.
- So that’s the history of the spot. I visited a few weeks ago, for the second time.
- I woke up really early, so I reached the peak at 7something am. It was an extremely foggy day–the mountaintop was in the clouds, and mist was literally swirling across the paths. It was also extremely hot and humid; I struggled a lot during the hike, because it was literally hard to breath the air.
- The reason why I got out so early was that I wanted to be alone and to have the mountaintop for myself to try out an estes session. I saw very few other people, and no one else on the peak for the first 45 mins or so that I was up there, and even after that it was pretty empty. So my strategy of getting up there really early during terrible weather worked. Lol.
- So I found a trail leading down the main part of the casino and hotel ruins, and that led to a bunch of boulders going down the side of the mountain, and so I climbed down until I got to a somewhat flat boulder that I could sit/lay down on. The view from the top of the mountain was generally obscured by the clouds and fog, but I could see part of the other peak of the mountain, so it was basically just trees as far as I could see.
- As I set up my stuff, I heard something chewing loudly in the trees below me. I think it must have moved on when I started my session, but I was a little freaked out by it initially because I had no idea if it was a deer, or bird, or something like a bear. I remembered belatedly that bears were a thing. I don’t get out of the city much.
- Also, there were tons of bugs on all the hikes I went on in Beacon, and I’d originally forgotten bugspray so I had to buy some on my first day there. So I unpacked my stuff, coated myself in some more of my DEET-free essential oil bugspray, and then, because there were still too many bugs, I sprayed some on the rock around me until I realized I was maybe being too high maintenance, and stopped.
- I’m hoping to do a whole episode on the solo estes session method I’ve been trying out, but since I’ve only done it a couple times, I’m not ready for that yet. The mountaintop time was the second time I did it, and I’d gotten some really intense and troubling responses during the first time, which was just an initial test in the apartment. The session on mountain Beacon felt pretty chill, and relaxed, and peaceful. I was certain I wasn’t getting anything, but then when I listened back, there were some interesting parts which I’ll share. Nothing too conclusive or dramatic, but still there were moments when its responses made sense and it felt like there was a conversation.
- So here’s the solo estes method I used:
- I pre-recorded over 150 questions, which have pauses of varying lengths built into the end of them. Those are each in their own track, and there are also tracks of different lengths of silence. I used an excel formula to randomly assign each track a unique number, which is the only way to identify it. Then I loaded the tracks onto the music player on my phone and hit shuffle so they play at random. I set the recorder down next to the phone so it can pick up the questions as well as the answers I get. Meanwhile, I’ve put on my Vic Firth headphones, plugged into the spirit box, and do the Estes session as usual, as if another person is asking the questions.
- Since I have the headphones on, I can’t hear the questions. In a traditional Estes session, the receiver would wear an eye mask to block their vision, but since that isn’t safe when you’re in public and alone, I didn’t do that. At any rate, there were no lips for me to read (not that I can read lips anyways), and if for some reason I saw the track name on my phone, all I’d see was a random number, so there’s no way for me to know what question’s being asked. And there are so many questions that it’s not like I’m going to guess which question’s being played.
- One important caveat here is that if you’ve listened to the episode I did on the Hawthorne Hotel, you’ll have noticed that I alluded to having some hearing problems. I have auditory processing issues, which means that often I have trouble distinguishing words–like I can hear a word, but I may think it’s either X or Y, or I may hear the wrong thing initially and then understand it a few seconds late. It means that at loud bars and restaurants, I can’t follow conversations at all, and even in regular conversation, I sometimes have to ask someone to repeat themselves, and then suddenly I realize what they said right after I finish asking them to say it again. A lot of my verbal understanding comes from context clues.
- That presents some interesting challenges in an Estes session.
- Many times, I heard voices, but couldn’t tell what they were saying. In those cases, I said nothing.
- At other times, I heard something, said what I thought I heard, and then realized it could have been a different phrase. Typically, in regular conversation, when there are two different possibilities to what I may have heard, I try to use context clues. But often, my second understanding of what someone said is the correct one, bc that’s when my brain has had a chance to catch up to what was said.
- So when I heard two possibilities, I said them both. On listening to the audio back later on, I allowed both as possible answers, but tried to think of which would make the most sense in context, because that’s how I would usually operate in a regular conversational setting.
- I know that’s a little weird, but I’m not neurotypical, so welcome to my world! I’m sure a neurotypical person with no auditory or sensory processing issues would have an easier time doing this, but I’m still pleased with myself and happy with the results I’ve been getting doing this method. I feel like it’s really opened up new possibilities for me for doing solo investigations.
- One interesting thing was that there was a moment where I thought I heard either augment or mountain, and I said I wasn’t sure, and it clarified by saying “mountain” again.
- So that’s how I did the Estes session. I’m not aware of other people doing solo estes sessions like this, but if you’ve heard of folks doing that, please lmk. I’d love to talk to other ppl attempting this.
- I’ll put a bit of the audio in here, and maybe I’ll post the full session as a bonus episode or something in this feed. A couple notes before we get into the edited session audio:
- You can hear a lot of train noise in here, because Beacon has a train station, which is far below the mountain, on the Hudson, but really it’s only a few miles away from the mountain.
- If you hear clicking noises, that’s me adjusting the spirit box.
- If you hear mechanical whirring noises, that’s my camera, which is a little loud. I took a few pics during the session.
- You might also hear my phone vibrate once or twice bc I forgot to put it into DND.
- I cut out the long silences but didn’t delete any questions or answers, or reorder anything. But cutting out the silences between answers brought it from 28 to 13 mins long.
- My questions are pretty quiet. I’ll put a transcript of the session on my website.
- The question that came up was do you have a message for me, and I got back “you’re under Beacon” (or possibly “you’re under again”). I think it meant “you’re under Beacon” as in under the peak of Mt. Beacon, tho maybe it could be referrring to being “under” as in in the Estes session. Like a lot of the answers, this one started off feeling on track and making sense and then seemed to veer off an make less sense.
- The second question, you can’t really hear, but it’s “where do you work?” I don’t really think I got much of an answer to that.
- Also worth nothing, I forgot to do the table setting before the session and address whatever spirits I might be speaking to etc, so you’ll hear me do that in the middle of the session.
- When the question “did you ever live through a pandemic?” came up, I thought the answer was interesting. I got the answer: “many happening yeah”–I couldn’t tell if it was someone talking about past pandemics and living through them, or for some reason I can’t get the interpretation out of my head that maybe it was a hint at the future, and more pandemics? That may just be me being morbid tho?
- When the question “do you want to hurt anyone?” came up, I got a few interesting responses:
- “morning temperature”–funny bc it was so hot. I almost to the sense that the entity was joking around with me.
- Then it said “I do” which would be slightly chilling if the vibe wasn’t so generally positive.
- Then a bit later, it said “I don’t kick” which was kinda funny
- “if you once lived, did you die from illness”
- “there’s no coffin” was an interesting answer, and then I heard “yeah” and “standard”–a lot of ppl used to die from illness
- “how many of us are there” <–can’t really hear this question
- “you are only one”<–pretty clear initial answer
- And then a few responses later, I got “and then I lead”
- Then I got the very funny “I want it your hat”
- I wasn’t wearing a hat, but my baseball cap was attached to my backpack which was sitting right next to me
- “do you ever feel trapped, or confused, or lost?”
- While the question was playing, I got “hey”
- And then “find me” which seemed pretty relevant
- And then “air down follow maybe ow” and remember I was sitting on the side of the mountain looking down
- “how many entities are speaking to me right now?”
- I pretty quickly got “hive mind” (while that’s being said you can faintly hear flies or some other kind of bug buzzing in the background, and then it intensifies a bit over the next few responses)
- The question “are you lost” came up, and I part of the response I got was:
- “no fuck that”
- Then it almost seemed to be having a conversation, because then it said “is it the same I know”
- And the “schadenfreude” (which I can never pronounce right, but I mean the german word for feeling pleasure at someone else’s pain)
- Then it said “home phone” and during the session when I said that all I could think of was ET phone home, which ties in with the idea of being lost. If there were multiple entities, maybe one was lost and the other wasn’t, and the non-lost one was somewhat rudely gloating?
- Then I got “check this out” “wild” and “you’re gonna miss me”
- “why are you here”
- This q gets spoken over
Transcript of solo Estes session
For the full context of the session, listen to the episode.
Do you have a message for me?
Again [or “Beacon”]
Where do you work?
They [or “they are”]
Do you ever have dreams in which you die?
[wasn’t hearing much, switched the headphone from being plugged into the spout to the headphone jack, clarified that I wanted to speak to nearby spirits or entities]
Are my [or “oh my”]
Did you ever live through a pandemic? What was that like?
DO you wish I would try to communicate with you another way? If so, how?
Is there anything you want to tell me?
Am [or “and”]
I [or “hi”]
Valiant [or maybe “valley”]
And [or “Annie”]
Is there something you think I should do, or that you want me to do?
Do you usually go here
10 in the morning
[changed sweep rate to 150 ms]
Augment [or “mountain”]
Where were you born?
What [or “I”]
Crash [or “trash” or “craft”]
More to come [or “motorcycle”]
Eats [or “Keats”]
How you doin’
What is your location?
How are you
Need [or “wanted”]
How do you feel at this moment?
Yeah [or “Yeats”]
Federal Hall [or “alcohol”]
Snake [or “think”]
If you are dead, how did you die? And who was responsible for your death?
Out back all day
Do you have a favorite possession?
Where [or “wear’]
Water [or “at water”]
What do you think of me?
It’s here [or maybe “Jen’s here”]
Cruel [or “cruel lake”]
It’s just [or “at dusk”]
If you were once human, what was your occupation?
So [or “someone”]
Do you want to hurt anyone?
David [that was whispered]
Enjoy [or “join us”]
I don’t kick
If you once lived, did you die from illness?
There’s no conference [or “there’s no coffin” or “there’s no coffee”]
Trio [or “freedom”]
You need this
How many of us are there?
You missed it
A leaf [or “I lead”]
I want it
Your hat [I wasn’t wearing my hat, but it was sitting next to me]
Do you ever feel trapped, or confused, or lost?
Hey [spoken while q was being asked]
Driftwood [or “stretch goal”]
How many entities are speaking to me right now?
Need a break
Are you lost?
Is it the same I know
Check this out
You’re gonna miss me
Why are you here?
Why [or “choir”]
[started to end session, then got one more response:]
Sources consulted RE: Ghosts of Mount Beacon
Videos consulted RE: Ghosts of Mount Beacon
- 1957 home video of the Mount Beacon Incline Railway: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmnqR7SEzoM
- 1902 video of Mt Beacon Incline Railway: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QLYS838WTAs
- 1946 video of Mt Beacon Incline Railway: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muPQze1x6kE
- 1974 video of Mt Beacon Incline Railway: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cLmMl1DG0I
Websites consulted RE: Ghosts of Mount Beacon
Don’t miss past episodes:
- Sunken Treasure at Hell Gate, New York City
- The General Slocum Disaster, Hell Gate, New York City
- The Haunted Hell Gate, New York City
- Calvary Cemetery, Queens, New York (Part 1)
- Hidden Cemeteries in Astoria, Queens, NYC
- Tombstones Around Socrates Sculpture Park, Astoria, NYC
- Lent-Riker-Smith Homestead and Cemetery: Part 1 (Hidden Cemeteries)
- Moore-Jackson Cemetery (Hidden Cemeteries)