It's goosebump season in the LCR
As fall comes to its end and the last of the leaves drop in the Lake Champlain Region, you might notice a goosebump-inducing chill in the air. Is it the change of seasons or something more mysterious? It's that time of year when legends and ghost stories come alive, swirling through the crisp air like phantoms of the past. As the skeletons of the trees stretch their bony branches to the sky, the landscape dons a cloak of skin-tingling chill, and the very atmosphere becomes thick with spooky anticipation. What better place could there be to embrace the spookiest time of year than the Lake Champlain Region? With its expansive waters, hidden shipwrecks, a centuries-old lake monster, some of the best, most spine-chilling ghost stories around, and, believe it or not, even extraterrestrial encounters, it's a place where the supernatural feels right at home. Even if you're not actively pursuing the ghost stories of the region, or following the Haunted Adirodack Trail hunting for spirits through the Lake Placid Region and beyond, beware – you might notice something lurking around every shadowy corner, just waiting to ensnare your curiosity.
What lies beneath
When you're enjoying the lake from its surface, it's unlikely that you're thinking of what might be in the darkness below. You may be surprised to know that there are over 300 known shipwrecks located in the depths of Lake Champlain, and some of them include dramatic tales of souls lost on the lake. Among the most well preserved shipwrecks that lie on the bottom of Lake Champlain is Benedict Arnold's Revolutionary War gunboat, the Spitfire, which still rests where it was was sunk in October of 1776. Made possible by the dark, cold waters of the lake, the shipwreck is in pristine condition, with the ship's mast still standing upright and the bow gun still in place. Another disturbingly well preserved shipwreck beneath the surface is that of the "Mule Wreck", a canal boat with large piles of animal bones still resting on the ship's deck, appearing to be the remains of either horses or mules. Another dramatic tale is the wreck of The Sarah Ellen, a schooner that left Willsboro during the winter of 1860, headed for Burlington, Vermont. The schooner was caught in a surprise storm that resulted in a catastrophic failure to the structure of the ship. Although the small crew was able to deploy a lifeboat, and a nearby ship attempted a rescue, the lake's icy conditions ultimately won two souls as the ship's occupants were thrown into the water, and both Henry Clay and his bride, Lucy, succumbed to the icy waters. Many believe that some of the shipwrecks on the lake have been caused by the Champlain Witch, who is known to sailors and fishermen and reputed to be a vengeful spirit that roams the lake. A list of many of the shipwrecks of Lake Champlain and other interesting historical information is kept by Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.
And then there's Champ - the creature, the myth, the legend! Any mention of Lake Champlain harbors a centuries-old mystery in the form of Champ, a mysterious inhabitant of the lake that has ignited the human imagination throughout local history. Tales of this elusive lake monster are among the oldest stories of the region – indigenous Haudenosaunee and Abenaki people who lived and hunted here told of a great serpent who resided in the lake, warning European explorers to be cautious to not disturbing the lake, or risk enraging the creature. Since these early tales of a frightening and dangerous lake monster, Champ has been sighted many times (most frequently in Bulwagga Bay) and has become one of the most famous figures interwoven into the local culture of the region. Today, Champ, real or not, is a celebrated and much adored resident of the Lake Champlain Region, and is even protected by law on both sides of the lake. However – lake farers should still be warned to be careful of disturbing the lake monster.
A tapestry of chilling tales of ghosts and hauntings has been woven through the long history of the Lake Champlain Region. Considering the tumultuous history of Fort Ticonderoga, it's no wonder that lingering spirits have found their home within its storied walls. The spirits of ghostly soldiers, jilted lovers, and fort medics and caretakers are rumored to remain in and around the remains of the structure. Among the oldest and most famous of these stories is an international ghostly saga that spans the moors of Scotland to the shadowy walls of Fort Ticonderoga. The story begins in Scotland, where a Highlander named Duncan Campbell offered sanctuary to a man who had accidentally killed another. Unbeknownst to him, the victim was Campbell's own cousin. In the dead of night, the ghost of Campbell's cousin materialized in a dream to exclaim "Blood has been shed. Shield not the murderer!"
This was a terrible dilemma for Campbell, as he had already extended sanctuary to the man, an unbreakable oath in the Highlander's code. To him, the duty of hospitality couldn't be forsaken. Despite an attempt to get out of the tricky situation he was in, the ghost of his vengeful cousin wasn't having it and visited Campbell in another terrifying dream, this time to tell him "Farewell – 'til we meet at Ticonderoga", a name Campbell had never heard before, but hauntingly predicted his death at the fort. The real twist of the story is that at the time of Campbell's death, the French-named fort was known as "Fort Carillon" and wouldn't be known as "Fort Ticonderoga" until a year after Campbell's death when it was renamed by the British. Throughout history, this otherworldly prediction has been seen as one of the area's most haunting stories.
Something strange in the sky
While one of the most breathtaking spectacles in our skies is undoubtedly the northern lights, there's an otherworldly element to the Lake Champlain Region that extends beyond the natural wonders. UFO sightings here are surprisingly more frequent than you might imagine and have been being tracked and documented for decades. In fact, an early UFO sighting was documented on the Vermont side of the lake in Burlington as early as 1907. It's no wonder that the skies above Lake Champlain have been noted as a hot spot for UFO sightings! These accounts of extraterrestrial encounters don't stop at mere sightings of strange craft in the skies; they encompass chilling tales of alien encounters. A relatively recent story describes a UFO encounter, where a couple was chased by a flying craft on a desolate stretch of road near Westport. Terrified that they may be abducted onto the ship, the couple was relieved when they drove into a more populated area in town and the UFO disappeared. Years previous to this incident, an alleged alien abduction did occur on a northern Lake Champlain boat dock during a summer's afternoon in 1967, painting a portrait of an eerie connection between our world and the unknown.
Even if you're not quite ready to embark on a quest for shipwrecks, lake monsters, extra-terrestrials, or spine-tingling stories, fear not, because the Lake Champlain Region has an exciting lineup of Halloween events waiting for you! The season may be filled with goosebumps, but it's also brimming with laughter, joy, and countless opportunities to make great memories. So, chase the chill away by wrapping up in your coziest sweater and get ready for some spooktacular fun! To celebrate this ghoulishly grand time of year, be sure to mark your calendars for these fun events going on in our area:
Ticonderoga Halloween Fest
Get ready for some spooktacular Halloween fun during the Ticonderoga Halloween Fest 2023! From October 20 - 31, the Ticonderoga Area Chamber of Commerce (TACC) and the Ticonderoga Montcalm Street Partnership (TMSP) have planned a thrilling lineup of events. Festival goers can enjoy a free Halloween movie screening of "Hocus Pocus", explore a haunted house at Silver Bay YMCA, or join live music events at Ledge Hill Brewing and War Cannon Spirits. The fest also features pumpkin decorating at North Country Community College, a delicious chicken BBQ hosted by TMSP, haunted history tours, paranormal investigations, Halloween parties, puppet shows, trunk-or-treat events, and more!
Hunter Way Farm
Get ready for a spooky adventure at Hunter Way Farm's Fright Nights at the Farm! The theme, "Gone Mad," promises a world of bizarre adventures where reality blurs with fantasy. This event takes place on October 27 - 29. During the kid-friendly daytime hours from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., children can meet popular movie characters, collect prizes, enjoy games and activities, and even go on a hayride. There's a bouncy house, games and activities and treats, too! As the sun sets, the trail turns terrifying for adults from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., guiding them through fields, wooded areas, and an eerie 1880s barn. Food trucks are available for both kids and adults. (Psst - check the event listing for details - you'll need a ticket to get in!)
A Haunted Hamlet in Essex
Get ready for a spooky transformation in Essex as The Haunted Hamlet takes over on October 28, 2023. The Town Hall transforms into a terrifying haunted house, and a thrilling street carnival engulfs Main Street with tasty options served up by food trucks, refreshments available at local restaurants, street treats like campfire s'mores, dance tunes that will set your bones a-rattling, and more spine-tingling fun than you can imagine! Mark your calendar for a Halloween experience like no other in the Adirondacks!