October is spooky season. Halloween is near. Ghost stories fill the air. Even the trees in the forests participate, appearing as leafless skeletons. Don’t get me wrong. I love the Lake Champlain Region, with its endless adventures and abundant sunshine, but the eerie, mysterious stories woven into the history are some of my favorites.
Here are a few stories perfect for October. Some are true; some are just legend. But one thing is certain: there is no shortage of stories here.
No, it’s not a fog machine
This spooky phenomenon baffles visitors and intrigues locals. On a short section of road in Witherbee, there’s a spot where the fog is always present, mostly in summer when the air temperature is warmer. If you drive through you might not notice, but those who run or bike by notice a very sharp decline in temperature.
Oddly, this phenomenon isn’t macabre or sinister; it’s actually more scientific and explainable. Near the road here is the now-closed Roe Mine shaft. The Roe Mine was constructed so that air goes in one entrance, warm, and out another, cooling underground in the process. The cold air exiting the mine shift reduces the dew-point and forms the fog. (I promise, no more geothermal lessons today.) Pretty wild, huh?
Fort Ticonderoga’s storied walls hide many secrets. European military history at this site dates back to at least 1755; many soldiers have lost their lives here due to war and disease. Needless to say, there are a few ghosts. Period soldiers are seen in barracks and many others are seen drifting around the property.
One ghost is a Scot named Duncan Campbell, who was a soldier at the fort. Campbell died as a result of wounds received in an unsuccessful frontal attack against French forces at Fort Carillon (the French name of the fort until the British took it a year later and renamed it Fort Ticonderoga). Years prior to the battle, when Campbell was still living in Scotland, he gave shelter to a man. Unbeknownst to Campbell at the moment, this stranger had murdered Campbell’s cousin. As the legend goes, Campbell’s cousin’s ghost appeared and said he’d meet Campbell at a place called Ticonderoga. (Remember, Ticonderoga did not exist yet.) An eerie death prediction for sure.
Another ghost at Fort Ticonderoga is Nancy Coates, who is said to have drowned herself after she suspected her lover was leaving her for another woman. Her ghost can still be seen roaming the fort’s grounds and crying, searching for her partner, American Revolution General "Mad" Anthony Wayne.
Below the surface
Summer may be all fun and games on the water here in the Lake Champlain Region, but below the surface, there is some interesting, and some creepy, stuff going on.
Of course, there’s always Champ, the elusive lake monster. There have been many, many sightings, spanning hundreds of years. Whether or not Champ is real, the lake monster is celebrated. Scan the waters near Bulwagga Bay for your best chance to see Champ; this is where the mysterious beast is said to reside.
Under the water with Champ is a myriad of shipwrecks - in fact, there are over 300 known wrecks here. One force that might be behind some of the wrecks is the Champlain Witch. Tales among sailors and fishermen over the years attest that the Champlain Witch is responsible for the unfortunate fate of the Sarah Ellen. In 1860, the Sarah Ellen left Willsboro for Burlington, Vermont with three people onboard: Henry Clay and his new bride, Lucy, and Joseph LaPlante. When the ship wrecked, Henry and Lucy were lost under the waves, and some say that is because the Champlain Witch was jealous.
Ghosts in E-town
On April 27, 1883, Henry De Bosnys was hanged at the courthouse in Elizabethtown. He was convicted of murdering his wife. The woman’s body was found on the side of the road, covered in leaves. She was shot, and De Bosnys was found with the same caliber gun. Despite his claims of innocence, the jury was only out 10 minutes before returning with the conviction of De Bosnys. To add fuel to the fire, there was even speculation around town that De Bosnys traveled to the country (he immigrated here at 50 years old) to start a new life after he escaped imprisonment.
Henry De Bosnys’s skull is preserved at the Adirondack History Museum — and it’s said that his spirit haunts the place, too.
Murder and a manhunt
Scary stories are sometimes just that, stories, but the story of Robert Garrow is very real for many who lived in the Adirondacks during 1973. Garrow was born in Dannemora, Clinton County, New York, in 1936, but grew up in Mineville. After serving time in prison until 1968, Garrow was released on parole; he was said to be a model inmate who had been successfully rehabilitated. That was not the case.
In the summer of 1973, Garrow went on a crime spree that began in Syracuse and traveled north to the Adirondack county of Hamilton. He molested young women, kidnapped others, and eventually murdered multiple men and women. And so began the largest manhunt in New York State to date. Garrow was eventually caught in Witherbee and sentenced to 25-years to life at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora.
His story doesn’t end there, though. Garrow was transferred to Fishkill Facility, where he escaped. Another manhunt ensued. He was shot and killed three days later, ultimately ending the story of the man who sparked one of the largest manhunts in the state.
Keep your eyes on the road
There is no shortage of unexplainable stories in this region. Mysterious things happen on land and below the surface of the cold lake waters. But what about in the sky?
While driving along a remote stretch of road one evening near Westport, not that long ago actually, a couple claims to have been victims of an aggressive flying saucer attack. For miles the couple was chased down the road. They feared they would be sucked up into the ship. Once they made it into town, though, the UFO disappeared and was not seen again by the couple. However, a young boy, living a few towns away, allegedly saw the UFO that weekend as well. True or not, this story is not singular. There have been alien ship sightings on both the New York and Vermont sides of the lake over the years.
This is not a trick
Aliens haven’t been the only surprise visitors to this region. There have also been many bigfoot sightings and even reports of werewolves. (Seriously. I am not lying. The French - Canadian Loup-Garou has caught the eye of travelers in these woods.) Who knows what visitors we’ll have next?! Maybe you? If you find yourself in need of a spooky getaway, have no fear: the Lake Champlain Region has haunted and not-haunted hotel rooms, restaurants that serve more than candy, and plenty of outdoor activities to keep you busy before an evening of telling bone chilling stories around a fire.