Haunted Bannerman Castle (Part 1)

a halftone image of the ruins of a castle

About 50 miles away from Manhattan, the ruins of a castle lie on a small island in the Hudson River. Travelers pass the ruins on the train, and the only clue to the history of the destroyed castle are the words “Bannerman’s Island Arsenal,” emblazoned on the side of the structure. The island, and the area, has a long history of hauntings, from its pre-colonial times, to the superstitions of Dutch sailors and stories of a legendary goblin king.

I did an episode of the podcast about this Bannerman Castle back in 2021, after visiting it, but those episode show notes are a mess, so I wanted to turn 'em into a few more readable blog posts.

I first learned about the mysterious ruins of Bannerman Castle a couple years ago. While on the train up to Albany for a friend's engagement party, I looked out the window just in time for me to glimpse an island with an honest-to-goodness castle. I just knew it had to have a wild story, so a couple months later, while on a trip to Beacon, New York, I paid it a visit.

I'll share what it's like to visit the island, as well as the urban legends that cling to the place. But for now, I wanted to leave you with a bit of scene-setting from a 1999 New York Times article published when the long-abandoned island was preparing to reopen:

Ever since it was abandoned in the 1950’s, this island, one of the Hudson River’s most incongruous and inaccessible ruins, has fascinated history buffs. Once the private warehouse of Frank Bannerman VI, an eccentric Scottish immigrant in the military supplies business, the castle has deteriorated so badly that the island has been declared hazardous and off limits by its current owner, New York State.
. . .Mr. Bannerman designed seven buildings for the island — three warehouses, two workers’ houses, a family residence and the signature six-story tower — in homage to his Scottish roots, complete with turrets, crenelated towers, a drawbridge and a moat.
. . .  On a recent tour of the island, Jim Logan and Thom Johnson, two members of the Bannerman Castle Trust, noted how Mr. Bannerman had used recycled bedsprings, bamboo spears and bayonets as building materials. The tower, they explained, was actually designed to create an optical illusion, with top floors wider than the lower ones to make the building look imposing. And none of the buildings contained right angles.
Unfortunately, vandals have sullied the place in recent years, security cameras and No Trespassing signs notwithstanding. There is fresh graffiti, done in tribute to Limp Bizkit, Kid Rock and teenage romance. Nature has asserted itself, too, as evidenced by the spread of poison ivy and sumac.

(That article makes me laugh every time I read it. The idea that people would take the time to emblazon stately ruins with Limp Bizkit lyrics is just . . . quite funny.)

Anyway, I'll return to this topic next week!

This post doesn’t link to sources as comprehensively as usual, because it's based on an old episode of Buried Secrets Podcast. I wrote this based on the original episode notes, which I penned when I was worse at adding specific in-line citations. But all of the sources I used are linked at the bottom of the episode shownotes page.