By Maureen Mancini Amaturo
When you scan the hundreds of lists naming the most haunted cities in America, you will see Gettysburg, Savannah, Salem, Charleston, and New Orleans on every list. You probably won’t see Tarrytown, Bronxville, Purchase, Yonkers, Irvington, or Rye. But maybe you should. Our neck of the woods seems to be in-demand real estate even in the spirit world…according to paranormal investigators and those who have experienced unexplainable activity.
The haunted lore in Westchester goes back centuries. I asked paranormal investigator Barry Pirro what makes Westchester a hotbed for hauntings. “Off the top of my head, the big answer is that cities and towns that are near large bodies of water seem to have the most amount of activity. The Hudson towns/cities of Tarrytown, Dobbs Ferry, and Yonkers are all active. On the other side of the County, places like White Plains, Harrison, and Rye that border or are near the Sound are also active.” Pirro added, “Likewise, places near large lakes or reservoirs, like Katonah and Pound Ridge, seem to have more activity than the surrounding 'drier' areas.” Even ghosts prefer waterfront property.
Hauntings were so imbedded in Westchester’s culture that Washington Irving actually satirized local lore in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Speaking of Irving, the town named for him, Irvington, is home to one of Westchester’s reputedly haunted sites, Church of St. Barnabas, located at 15 N. Broadway. This church just happened to have been owned and built by Irving’s dear friend, Rev. John McVickar. Irving spent much time there, and he ended his time there. This church hosted his funeral. Occupants today say they’ve seen the ghost of both a woman, who sits in a rocking chair, and of William McVickar, a family descendent.
Staying in the area, when you visit Washington Irving’s home, Sunnyside in Tarrytown, ladies beware. According to reports, Irving’s ghost likes to pinch women. Some have seen the spirits of his nieces, also, who linger after the museum closes.
If tuition costs weren’t enough to scare you, the fact that so many Westchester colleges are reputedly haunted might – Manhattanville and SUNY in Purchase, Marymount in Tarrytown, and Concordia in Bronxville, to name a few. While we’re talking schools, Port Chester High School has a story: Supposedly, its tower is haunted by a freshman boy who fell to his death from the tower in the late 1940s after what might have been a hazing incident by seniors.
So what are the most haunted Westchester towns? “I’ve done quite a few investigations in Harrison and White Plains, but it would be hard to pinpoint a single town or city as being more active than others,” said Pirro. If you haven’t heard about Buckout Road in White Plains, forget I mentioned it.
In Bronxville, the library seems to be home to the spirit of a young man, maybe in his 20s, and that of an older woman. Pirro did investigate this one, and you can read the case file on his website, www.connecticutghosthunter.com/case-files.html#library.
Not all haunted locations are old. Witnesses have documented a less-than-50-year-old house in the Nutley Circle development in Yorktown Heights as being haunted. Since the early 1970s, the kitchen furniture has been moving on its own.
Begs the question, when buying a house, how do you know if it’s haunted? The inspection doesn’t cover that. Well, there is such a thing as “seller’s disclosure,” but really, who’s going to voluntarily warn a potential buyer about spirit activity? Believe it or not, there is also a service you can hire to investigate a property for you, www.diedinhouse.com.
As for Rye…if you find a copy of “America’s Haunted Houses” by Hans Holzer (Longmeadow Press, 1991), turn to page 126. There is a haunted Rye home featured, and you can read all about it. Clue: it’s walking distance to CVS.
Do respect private property and no-trespassing rules when scouting out haunted locations. If you want to check out local haunting investigations, go to http://www.connecticutghosthunter.com/case-files.html.
Page 126 of “America’s Haunted Houses” by Hans Holzer
Church of St. Barnabas in Irvington