A look at some supposed ghosts and haunted cemeteries in Beacon, NY, as well as some haunting aspects of the area’s recent history.
A feeling of uneasiness permeates the beautiful town of Beacon, NY. It’s a city of industrial ruins, cemeteries (including a terrifying abandoned one), and the memories of a sanatorium for the ultra wealthy and an old asylum for mentally ill criminals. Deep woods surround the city, and mountains loom, adding to a sense of natural beauty, or, possibly, of claustrophobia and a feeling of being watched.
• A figure that my wife saw in my footage from an abandoned cemetery
• Supposed cemetery hauntings
• Zelda Fitzgerald’s stay in a sanatorium in Beacon
Bail fund to get vulnerable people out of Rikers Island: https://emergencyreleasefund.com/
More information about what’s happening on Rikers Island: https://theintercept.com/2021/09/16/rikers-jail-crisis-de-blasio-reforms/
Script for Haunted Cemeteries in Beacon
DISCLAIMER: I’m providing this version of the script for accessibility purposes. It hasn’t been proofread, so please excuse typos. There are also some things that may differ between the final episode and this draft script. Please treat the episode audio as the final product.
- I did a few newspaper searches and didn’t find that much about Beacon Hauntings. But on ghostsofamerica.com, a website where people can submit their stories of hauntings, there are multiple mentions of the graveyards in Beacon being supposedly haunted.
- Obviously this is not the most reputable source, and the accounts don’t say which graveyard these experiences occurred in, but here they are:
- § “. . . The grave yards were very haunted and when you went in them you immediately felt spirits watching and following you and it was confirmed by the sounds in the woods walking with you as you were walking and you couldn’t get out of them fast enough. Beacon NY is a place of many haunting’s in many places.”
- ” Okay my friends and I go walking throughout a graveyard every once in a while. We help take care of things and just goof off. So one time one of my friends was walking through and she noticed the grave of a little girl.
- It was dusk and getting dark so she was going to go home. On her way out she heard giggling and walking behind her. She turned around and followed it and it led her back to the little girls grave. The other day it was her, my boyfriend, two other guys and I.
- We were walking and being nonchalant and I noticed a little girl. I could only see from the middle of the bridge of her nose to the middle of her shins. She laughed. I’d seen her before but this time I wigged.
- I ran out so fast that I almost passed out. My friends house is on the corner a few blocks away so I just hi-tailed it there. My boyfriend, his friends, and my girlfriend were all puzzled. Whilst running away I heard the little girl laughing.”
- Obviously this is not the most reputable source, and the accounts don’t say which graveyard these experiences occurred in, but here they are:
- The Abandoned Dutch Reform Church Cemetery
- First off, if you visit this cemetery, you’re trespassing. Don’t want to encourage anyone to trespass, the whole place is covered in no trespassing signs and stuff, and I’m not totally convinced that it’s completely safe. I was very careful where I was walking, and at all times, I have an easy way to broadcast my location to my emergency contact if I ever get in trouble, but I found at least one place where it looked like a grave had partially collapsed or something–there was just a hole that looked like it went way down into darkness.
- In addition to the safety concerns here, this cemetery is off a busy road, near the train station, and it’s in between two different police departments. The train cops are about a block away, near the station, and the regular cops have a huge station about a block in the other direction. Also, while three sides of the cemetery are very wooded and you can’t see much through the trees and grass, at least in the summer, one side is pretty open and leads to a fancy apartment complex that I’m completely sure has surveillance cameras. So I don’t know how much people care about folks trespassing in the cemetery, but I do know that if someone wanted to prove that you had trespassed, it would be pretty easy. While I was there, I didn’t geotag any of my instagram stories or anything, just to be safe.
- Since, as you have probably already guessed, I’m an extremely cautious person, I woke up really early and left the airbnb before dawn, so that way not too many people would be around, since it was still dark. And in fact, aside from running into two deer that scared me half to death, and vice versa, the only other individual I ran into on the way to the cemetery was a middle aged man wearing a NYPD baseball cap who looked at me very suspiciously. So again–there’s a big police presence in town, and it is a small town so people know you’re a hiker from out of town.
- So the cemetery is located at the bottom of a hill, behind the oldest church in Beacon. It used to be called the Dutch Reform Church, though it has a new name now, and it’s a beautiful Victorian Gothic church from 1859. The Dutch Reform Church was originally built in 1813 in what was known then as Fishkill Landing, but it was demolished and replaced with the 1859 structure.
- So I went to this church, and walked around to the back. First thing I saw was a folding chair set up behind the church, facing the woods and cemetery behind it. No one was there, but that was really chilling, to just see that chair in the dark, as if as soon as I went down into the cemetery someone would sit there and watch me.
- The cemetery has yellow crime-scene-type tape around it on that side, but there was a clear gap in the trees for a path where people might go down the steep path.
- I didn’t have my headlamp with me, because that had vanished on me right before the trip (I’ve since ordered a new one), and I just had my mini maglite flashlight, so there was no way I was walking down a steep decline in the woods in the dark without being able to see where I was walking, especially because I was just wearing running shoes. (Since this trip, I’ve ordered hiking boots that work in warm weather–I learned my lesson.)
- So I figured I’d walk around the block and look at the cemetery from the other side, where the major road was.
- By the time I’d walked around, the sun had risen, but luckily there still weren’t any cars on the road. I found a place that looked a little easier to scramble up from the sidewalk, and ended up in the cemetery.
- Then when I got into the cemetery I saw that there was an easy way in and out, near the apartment complex I mentioned, so that’s how I ended up in the cemetery.
- The whole time I was in the cemetery, I had a really strong feeling of being watched. At the time, I thought it was just a combination of seeing the chair facing the cemetery (which I couldn’t see from inside the cemetery), the apartment complex where people could see me from their windows if they looked out of them, and just the knowledge that I was trespassing. And maybe that’s all it was, but I felt . . . Extremely uncomfortable in the cemetery. I didn’t attempt any paranormal investigation type stuff, and mostly just walked around, took some pics and video, and then left as soon as I could.
- Also, it was summer, and was extremely hot and humid, and it was extremely buggy in there. That’s when I realized that I’d forgotten to bring bugspray. So the whole time I was fighting off mosquitos and flies that were just swarming me, even though my only exposed skin was my lower arms, hands, and neck and face.
- Anyway, the Atlas Obscura article mentioned that there were human remains visible around the collapsed family vaults on the side of the hill, but I didn’t see any human remains there. I will say, though, the Atlas Obscura pictures looked like they’d been taken on a bright winter afternoon, and it was an overcast summer day right at dawn, so the vaults, which are arched brick structures built into the hill, looked totally dark, even when I shined my flashlight into them. I didn’t see any bones, but I also didn’t go inside, because of 1) the dark, and 2) I really don’t think it’s safe at all to go into them, because they were I the process of collapsing. Like the arched entryways were collapsing, it was very creepy and very obviously dangerous.
- I actually think some of the human remains I saw in pics online have been removed since; I read later on elsewhere that the remains from the vaults were relocated, including the remains of a Colonel William Few, who signed the US constitution on behalf of the state of Georgia. It sounds like his remains have been re-interred in Georgia, though there’s still a historical marker in front of the church announcing that he was buried there. Few’s remains were moved in the 1970s, but I get the sense that the other re-interments happened in the last decade or so, though I could be wrong.
- The burials in the cemetery range from 1813 to the early 20th century; I think the last burials were from the 1920s.
- All around the cemetery, there were tons of fallen tombstones and monuments. There was also a stone wall on the far side of the cemetery, that led to a part of the cemetery that wasn’t in the woods. It was a clearing, but because the cemetery is abandoned and it was late summer in NY, there was tall grass and other underbrush type stuff that was taller than I was. I could see some monuments through the grass, but there was no way I was venturing into the tall grass where I couldn’t see anything. Bugs, particularly ticks, were my main concern, but also it seemed unsafe and creepy. But looking over at that part of the cemetery, you could see a view of the Hudson river, which was really beautiful. I would have said that it was peaceful, but like I mentioned I was extremely on edge and uncomfortable there the entire time.
- So once I felt like I’d seen everything I safely could, I left.
- Later, that night, I made my wife watch the gopro footage I took of the cemetery. I think I’ve mentioned this before but she’s very sensitive, a lot more sensitive to paranormal things than I am, and the whole time she was watching the footage she was just like, “turn it off, I don’t want to watch this, there’s something off about that place.” And I was like, it’s just a few minutes more, I just want to show you where I went and hear what you think. Near the end, when I filmed a bit of the cemetery that’s closest to a thick stand of trees that are near the road, she was watching the video and was like, “who’s that?” And I was like, ” what do you mean who’s that, I was alone, it was really early on a weekend morning, there was definitely no one else there.” And she was like, “no, I saw someone.”
- She didn’t want to watch the footage again, and I don’t blame her. I’ve watched it a handful of times now and haven’t seen anyone, though there’s a possibility that she saw movement from the wind blowing in the trees, or a car passing beyond the trees. We were watching it on the small screen of my gopro, after all. But even though I don’t see anything, I still think it’s notable and worth mentioning and worth me thinking about, just because my wife is more sensitive than I am and even if there wasn’t anyone there that I can see on the footage, she may have been sensing something non-visual or something. I don’t totally know how this stuff works, but I do think that two people can look at someone and see two different things, and I don’t think that means that one of them is wrong, especially when you’re talking paranormal stuff?
- Methodist Cemetery + Afro American Union Burial Ground
- So that same morning, I went to another cemetery afterwards. I was so relieved to leave that abandoned cemetery, it felt awful there.
- Next I went to the Methodist Cemetery, which wasn’t too far away. Findagrave said it was well-maintained, though I’d debate that. A lot of tombstones were basically just stacked on top of each other, etc. There was also another hole that I thought might have been part of a grave having collapsed.
- Notable thing about Black interees
- Info from beaconcemeterytrail:
- In 1851, James F. Brown along with Samuel Sampson, Edward Bush, Christian Reynolds, and Samuel Gomer purchased from John DeWindt, a portion of the land adjacent to the Methodist Cemetery to create a cemetery for the black community. The first burial was of J. Henry Roose on October 31, 1851.
- There are a few surviving stones: for Warren Gomer, who may have been related to Samuel Gomer and for two Civil War soldiers, one is for Jno Jones and the other, which is not legible, may be for Henry Sayles.
- The stone for Civil War veteran Spencer DeFreese, who was buried on July 18, 1875, must have fallen and moved at some point. It is now in the Methodist section.
- St. Luke Episcopal Cemetery-near the hiking path to Mt. Beacon
- Other strange stuff in Beacon
- I also visited the ruins of the old Beacon Hat Mill and Dennings Points Ruins (an old brick factory), both reminders of Beacon’s industrial past. I was bricks stamped with ____ at both our airbnb and at the ruins of the Mount Beacon Incline Railway, which were made at the brick factory.
- In 1859, a mansion was built on 60 acres of land in Beacon. Though the building was originally a home for a Civil War officer, it was purchased by Scottish doctor named Clarence Slocum. He renamed the mansion Craig House and turned it into basically a private sanatorium for the very weathy. To read a bit from the Atlas Obscura article about it, Slocum “believed that his patients could be cured by intensive talk therapy, coupled with fine dining and recreational pursuits like golf, skiing, and painting. For decades it was America’s most prestigious rehabilitation home, the perfect haven for patients to be cured.”
- But a lot of really tragic stuff happened at Craig House. I did a couple episodes about Asheville, NC, last year, and one thing I talked about was how F. Scott Fitzgerald moved his wife Zelda to a sanatorium in Asheville because the hospital she was at in NY was too expensive. Craig House was where she was at in NY. At the time, 1934, Craig House cost $750/month, which is $15,311 today. So needless to say, it was extremely expensive, and as I talk about in the Asheville episodes, F. Scott Fitzgerald was’t exactly at the peak of his affluence in the 1930s. I go into more detail about the ends of both Scott and Zelda’s lives in the Asheville episode.
- Another dark thing about Craig House is that Rosemary Kennedy was sent there after her lobotomy, which is a completely horrific story in and of itself that I won’t go into here. But needless to say, if there’s a Kennedy curse, it’s my belief that it came about because of what they did to Rosemary.
- TW for suicide:
- I found articles from April 15, 1950, about Frances Seymour Brokaw Fonda, Henry Fonda’s estranged wife and Jane Fonda’s mother, who killed herself at the Craig Sanitorium in Beacon. She was apparently depressed because Henry Fonda was marrying a 21-year-old woman. Francis Fonda was 42 years old when she died. One article I found mentioned that Henry Fonda was starring in a play, and he showed up for work to perform 12 hours after his wife’s death.
- I did not visit Craig House, because it’s closed to the public and it sounds like the property is plastered with No Trespassing signs. Atlas Obscura said that someone new purchased the house in 2018, and apparently there are tons of cops around there.
- But I’ll close this bit on Craig House with another quote from the Atlas Obscura article:
- “Visiting today, it is a silent and haunting place. The inside remains perfectly preserved, as though the good doctor and his glamorous patients had suddenly just left the room. As Zelda at her most troubled wrote to her beloved husband, “The sense of sadness and of finality in leaving a place is a good emotion; I love that the story can’t be changed again and one more place is haunted – old sorrows and a half-forgotten happiness are stored where they can be recaptured.””
- I found some articles from July 1961, about 5 escaped inmates from the Matteawan State Hospital in Beacon. Two of the inmates were murderers. The cops ended up finding them hiding out in the woods a few miles away from the institution.
- There was also a case in June 1953 where some inmates escaped, and there were others around that time.
- The Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane was founded opened in 1892; technically another institution called the Asylum for Insane Criminals, was relocated there, and then renamed in 1893.
- In 1899, another mental hospital for prisoners was opened at Clinton Correctional Facility, which was called the Dannemora State Hospital for the Criminally insane. Wikipedia describes it as “a massive insane asylum.” Apparently people call Dannemora “New York’s Little Siberia” because of how cold it gets, and how islated upstate NY is. BTW, I looked it up and Dannemora isn’t anywhere near Beacon; it’s a 4-5 hour drive away, pretty close to Canada. But anyway, Dannemora held male prisoners who went insane while serving their prison sentence, whereas Matteawan State Hospital held male prisoners who weren’t convicted yet, and both convicted and unconvicted female prisoners.
- While Matteawan closed in 1977, its cemetery, where 1,000 patients are buried, is apparently just south of Beacon High School. And some of the buildings of the old Matteawan State Hospital are now part of the Fishkill Correctional Facility, which is a prison that is now in Beacon, which has both minimum and maximum security sections. One thing that seems worth mentioning is that in 1998, they built a maximum security S-Block Special Housing Unit (SHU) to hold 200 inmates. I usually think of the SHU as meaning solitary confinement, but I’m not totally sure if this is 100% solitary or not. But solitary confinement is torturous, and if you want to hear more about that, check out the recent Lunatics Radio Hour podcast episode about isolation–they have a whole episode basically about what happens to the human psyche when isolated. The Fishkill Correctional facility is less than a 10 min drive from the train station at Beacon, so like less than 3 miles.
Sources consulted RE: Haunted Cemeteries in Beacon
- Lake Charles American-Press. LAKE CHARLES, LOUISIANA. Saturday, July 29, 1961
- The Indiana Gazette (Indiana, Pennsylvania). 29 Jul 1961, Sat. Page 2La Grande Observer (La Grande, Oregon). 15 Apr 1950, Sat. Page 1″
- LAST FUGITIVE CAUGHT: MATTEAWAN INMATE SEIZED AS HE TRIES TO ESCAPE POLICE TRAP.” New York Times (1923-), Jun 13, 1953, pp. 6. ProQuest, http://ezproxy.nypl.org/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.i.ezproxy.nypl.org/historical-newspapers/last-fugitive-caught/docview/112803508/se-2?accountid=35635.
- “MATTEAWAN SAFETY IS DOUBTED BY JURY.” New York Times (1923-), Sep 13, 1952, pp. 32. ProQuest, http://ezproxy.nypl.org/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.i.ezproxy.nypl.org/historical-newspapers/matteawan-safety-is-doubted-jury/docview/112487124/se-2?accountid=35635.
- “Plea on Hospital Guards Studied.” New York Times (1923-), Sep 16, 1952, pp. 22. ProQuest, http://ezproxy.nypl.org/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.i.ezproxy.nypl.org/historical-newspapers/plea-on-hospital-guards-studied/docview/112458348/se-2?accountid=35635
- .”MATTEAWAN PLAN URGED: MODERN SECURITY STEPS PROPOSED AT CRIMINAL HOSPITAL BY JURY.” New York Times (1923-), Sep 12, 1953, pp. 19. ProQuest, http://ezproxy.nypl.org/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.i.ezproxy.nypl.org/historical-newspapers/matteawan-plan-urged/docview/112559566/se-2?accountid=35635.
- “3 FLEE MATTEAWAN; ROAD BLOCKS SET UP.” New York Times (1923-), Jun 08, 1953, pp. 18. ProQuest, http://ezproxy.nypl.org/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.i.ezproxy.nypl.org/historical-newspapers/3-flee-matteawan-road-blocks-set-up/docview/112573580/se-2?accountid=35635