Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Ghost Ship Palantine and its Mad Dutch Woman Specter Continue to Haunt Waters Off Pelham


All Hallows' Eve is upon us.  Today Historic Pelham presents the last in this annual series of Pelham ghost stories.  Today's is particularly horrific. . . .

The shrieks are undeniably horrifying.  They begin in the distance, difficult to hear over the rumbling surf crashing onto the shores of Pelham and Pelham Bay Park and pounding the rocks around Shore Park in Pelham Manor.  As the shrieks and screams intensify, usually there is a glow in the distance -- many say a greenish glow.  Those willing to remain at waters edge despite the unearthly shrieks and the terrifying, constantly-growing glow typically must strain to focus into the distance until, eventually, they can make out the profile of a large 18th century ship sailing on Long Island Sound enveloped in flames.  As the burning ship nears, the unearthly screams become louder until it is clear they are the demoniac screams of a mad woman in hellish agony.

Those who have seen the apparition report that the luminous, green, glowing ship is entirely afire, with flames even climbing the masts of the vessel.  In the midst of the flames can be seen the specter of a woman screaming and writhing in agony as the flames envelope her until the  burning deck seems to collapse beneath her and she disappears into the flames below, screaming preternaturally as she falls, while the burning ship sails into the distance and disappears.

Those who have witnessed the horrifying spectacle have witnessed "The Ghost Ship Palantine and its Mad Dutch Woman Specter" that plies the waters of Long Island Sound.  It can be seen from Hell Gate to Block Island and beyond.  Indeed, mariners and coastal dwellers have seen the apparition as far north as Boston and even beyond there.  The specter is so widely known and has been seen in our region for so many centuries that even famed American poet John Greenleaf Whittier wrote a poem about the terrible 18th century tragedy involving the Palatine and its apparition that sails Long Island Sound (quoted in full below).  

A simple search on the Web for Palatine ghost ship will turn up hundreds of fascinating resources that detail the well-founded history of the actual shipwreck on Block Island at the northeast entrance to Long Island Sound that led to the terrifying apparition that has been seen -- and reported -- by thousands since the mid-18th century.  The shipwreck of The Palatine led to investigations and even depositions intended to get to the bottom of the matter.  Nevertheless, several versions of the story since have evolved.

The most widely-told legend of The Palatine involves pirate "wreckers" on the shores of Block Island.  Eighteenth century "wreckers" used "false lights" to lure ships to rocky shores where the ships wrecked and, then, were plundered.  

In the mid-eighteenth century, so the story goes, The Palatine was carrying a shipload of Dutch immigrants from Holland to Philadelphia but was blown wildly off-course by a terrible gale.  As the gale intensified, the captain of the ship saw onshore lights on a small island indicating safe harbor shelter.  The captain sailed toward the lights only to sail into the trap set by pirate wreckers on Block Island.

The ship wrecked and many, many of the hopeful immigrants were drowned.  The wreckers climbed onto the wreckage and killed others as they plundered the wreckage.  One of the Dutch women witnessed the carnage from the hold and lost her mind from the butchery she witnessed and the fear that she would be next.  She secreted herself in a wrecked niche below and listened to the screams of her fellow immigrants until, finally, all grew silent.

As the storm intensified, the wreckers looted all they could from the wounded vessel.  Once the dastardly slaughter and thievery was completed, they set fire to the ship to destroy as much evidence as possible and slithered off the burning wreckage back to shore with their booty.

To the surprise of all, however, the rising torrents of tide and the massive waves raised by the gale lifted the burning wreckage from the rocks and washed it offshore, burning all the way.  As the wreckers watched the sight they began to hear in the distance, quite difficult to hear over the waves crashing onto the shores, undeniably horrifying shrieks.  Those shrieks and screams intensified and the glow of the burning ship shimmered on the frothing waters and lit the demonic faces of the wreckers straining to focus into the distance to watch the burning ship.  As the deck burned and the flames climbed the masts of the ships, the wreckers could see a single Dutch woman standing on the burning deck screaming demoniacally, in hellish agony, as she burned with the ship.  As the burning ship rolled into the distance on the massive waves, the burning deck collapsed and the mad Dutch woman disappeared into the flames below, her screams soon ending.

Tonight, as Trick-or-Treaters scurry about the dark streets of Pelham, those near Long Island Sound should pause a moment and stare across the distant waters.  Search for a greenish glow.  If you see it, watch closely.  You may join the ranks of thousands  of coastal-dwellers along the shores, and mariners sailing, Long Island Sound who have witnessed the ghost ship Palatine and its mad Dutch woman specter. . . . . 


"A WOMAN APPEARED ON DECK AMID THE CRACKLING
BLAZE."  An Artist's Depiction of the Mad Dutch Woman Specter
of the Ghost Ship Palatine.  Source:  Bridges, T. C., "Ghosts of the Sea"
in The Strand Magazine, Vol. XXXV, No. 205, pp. 62, 66 (Jan., 1908).
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

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Today's story of The Ghost Ship Palatine and its Mad Dutch Woman Specter is one of at least three ghost ship stories that form part of Pelham's rich legends and lore.  The other two such ghost stories previously have been published as Historic Pelham articles.  See:

Bell, Blake A., Pelham's Ghosts, Goblins and LegendsThe Pelham Weekly, Oct. 25, 2002, p. 1, col. 1 (article includes the story of "The Fire Ship of Long Island Sound").

Fri., Oct. 26, 2018:  The Ghostly Gunship that Sails Off the Shores of Pelham.

Tue., Oct. 30, 2018:  The Ghost Ship Palantine and its Mad Dutch Woman Specter Continue to Haunt Waters Off Pelham.

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"Lights Of Ghost Ship Reported Seen Again Off New England

BOSTON -- The lights of the ghost ship Palatine are being sighted again off the eastern seaboard. 

Harbor police at Boston received more than 100 calls in the last year from waterfront residents who insisted they had sighted a mysterious green glow out to sea. 

Patrol boats failed to find any trace of the eerie lights or what may have caused them, however.

The phenomenon is nothing new.  For two centuries seamen and landlubbers alike have been spotting the 'Palatine lights,' named for the lost vessel from which they are said to emanate.  Some even claim they have sighted the ship, sailing in flaming majesty on the horizon.

The legend started in 1752 when the Palatine was making a voyage from Holland to Philadelphia, carrying a cargo of immigrants.  Winter gales lashed the little ship and drove it far to the north off its course.

CREW MUTINIED

The crew mutinied.  They killed the captain, stole the possessions of the passengers, took all the food and water on board and left the ship in small boats. 

Winds blew the Palatine landward, into a cove of Block Island on Long Island Sound.  The island was the headquarters of a ruthless band of wreckers who had terrorized settlements along the entire coast in their quest for salvage.

The hardened wreckers softened at the sight of the starving immigrants.  They took them into their homes, fed them and cared for the sick.

According to tradition, a pretty Dutch girl. driven insane by the horrors of the shipboard ordeal, refused to leave the Palatine.

SHIP SET AFIRE

The Block Islanders grew impatient.  Another storm sprang up, and rather than have their prize carried out to sea by the gale, the wreckers set the ship afire.  The sea nevertheless still claimed the Palatine.

The wreckers and immigrants stood on the shore, watching the burning ship move out to sea while back across the water came the unearthly screams of the mad woman left aboard to burn. 

Legend has it that the Palatine, like the storied Flying Dutchman, is doomed to sail the seas forever, her masts blazing above the screams of the Dutch immigrant girl who went out with her on that last flaming voyage."

Source:  Lights Of Ghost Ship Reported Seen Again Off New EnglandOleanTimes Herald, May 5, 1951, p. 7, cols. 4-5

"GHOSTS of the SEA

HAS the reader ever heard the voice of the night-shrouded sea?  Has he heard the wild wail of the raging hurricane and the weird whispers of the ambrosial calm?  Has he seen ships creep out of the night when they blot out the stars with their darling silhouettes, or when the sea and sky are one save for the gray patches of froth left trailing in the wake of breaking seas; has he seen great gray sails ooze out of the fog, or ships stealing across the 'moon glade' athwart the glitter of silver cast upon the waters by the imperial votaress when the rays pierce the sails so that they become gauzy films?

If he knows these things, who shall blame him for not scoffing at the superstitions of those who go down to the sea in ships?  Will he not rather give an ear to the tales of strange things seen and believed by sailor-folk?

It is the writer's pleasure to waste time sailing the sea in a sound craft usually alone.  Upon one of these voyages having anchored upon the edge of Nore Sands, he awoke in the middle of the night to find himself enshrouded by a thick fog -- eerie enough the uninitiated reader will doubtless think.  Upon looking out at the black woolly wall of fog that surrounded him, he distinctly heard his own name hailed across the water.  No other craft was near.  This struck him as being so peculiar that he mentioned it to a friend when he arrived at one of the little anchorages, and the skipper of a barge, chancing to overhear, said:  'That's the ol' gentleman of the Nore!  Often on foggy nights ye may 'ear 'im a-yelling aht in a kind o' 'elpless way, but sometimes 'is language is something horful.  They say as 'e was a first mate wot dropped overboard and swam to the sands, where 'e walked about until the tide rose an' drownded 'im.'

Upon another occasion I was sailing along the coast of France, under the cliffs upon which stands Gris Nez lighthouse, which is about the most powerful light in the world.  It was a very dark night, and the revolving rays of the lighthouse kept flashing upon the sails of my boat, lighting them like a powerful searchlight, until proceeding along the course I got out of their range.  The strange effect had been forgotten only to be remembered in time to prevent me from becoming a firm believer in ghosts.  There out at sea a ghostly ship was sailing; she was rather too modern, perhaps, to be a real ghost, for every sail set like a glove; ghost ships were never particular in this respect -- indeed, she was one of those fine ships out of Glasgow which are the last words in sailing craft.

From apparently nowhere a ship had come -- a ship uncannily glowing with an unnatural light.  Her sails were surely cobwebs and her ropes were spider strongs.

Strange sights and sounds frequently come the way of seafarers.

The grovelling hissing sea, breaking through the night.  Its appearance is ghastly gray.  It comes from nowhere, it fades away soon after.  What could not the imagination weave it into?  Shape or sound of [illegible] chased by the Evil One, the dying wife with arms outstretched, or sound of mother's voice.  Moreover, such messages as sea sounds give have frequently come from the dead; the howl of the raging gale, or the murmur of the gentle breeze through the halyards have borne the departing message in words that were exactly those the lost one whispered last.

To the mind of one who knows the sea, it would seem strange that sailors are not more superstitious than they are, and there are certainly many reasonable excuses for their belief in such stories as that of the Flying Dutchman.  A patch of swirling vapor through the rigging of his ship upon a dark night.  Imagination does the rest; he has seen the Flying Dutchman.

Cornelius Vanderdecken, a Dutch navigator of long ago, was making a passage from Batavia.  For days and days he encountered heavy gales and baffling head winds while trying to round the Cape of Good Hope.  Struggle against the winds as he would, he lost as much on one tack as he gained upon the other.  Struggling vainly for nine hopeless weeks, he ultimately found himself in the same position as he was in at first, the ship having made no progress.  Vanderdecken in a fit of wrath, threw himself on his knees upon the deck and cursed the Deity, swearing that he would round the cape if it took him till the day of judgment.  Thereupon came a fair wind, he squared his yards and set off, but although his ship plowed through the seas he made no headway, for the Deity had taken him at his word and doomed him to sail the seas for ever.  Superstition has it that the appearance of the phantom ship leads to certain and swift misfortune.

Old sailors will tell of the ship of the Flying Dutchman bowling along in the very teeth of the wind, and of her overtaking their own ship which was beating to windward.  Some of them say they have seen her sail clean through their ship, the swirling films of her sails and rigging leaving a cold clammy feeling like the touch of death.

Cornwall in the old days was remarkable for its wreckers and its rock-bound coast was the scene of many evil deeds.  The Priest's Cove wrecker during his evil life lured many vessels to their doom upon the cruel shore by means of a false light hung round the neck of a hobbled horse.  To this day the good Cornish folk will tell you of the phantom of the wrecker seen when the winds howl and the seas rage high, carried clinging to a log of wood upon the crests of the breaking seas, and how it is sent crashing upon the rocks, where in the seething foam it disappears from sight.

The wide stretching sand-choked estuary of the Solway has many a ghost story and more than one phantom ship, ran into the Solway 

The 'Spectral Shallop' is the ghost of a ferry-boat which was wrecked by a rival ferryman while carrying a bridal party across the bay.  The ghostly boat is rowed by the skeleton of the cruel ferryman, and such ships as are so unlucky as to encounter this ghastly pilot are usually doomed to be wrecked upon the sands.

No money would tempt the Solway fishermen to go out to meet the two Danish sea-rovers whose ships, upon clear nights, are seen gliding up one of the narrow channels which thread the dried-out sands, the high-curved prows and rows of shields along the gunwale glittering in the moonlight.  These two piratical ships, it seems, ran into the Solway and dropped anchor there, when a sudden furious storm came up and the ships, which were heavily laden with plunder, sank at their moorings with all the villains which composed their crews.

Among the rocks upon the rugged coast of Kerry was found one winter morning, early in the eighteenth century, a large galleon, mastless and deserted.  The Kerry wreckers crowded aboard, and wild was their joy, for the ship was laden with ingots of silver from the Spanish Main.  They gradually filled their boats until the gunwales were almost down to the water's edge, and hastily they pulled to the shore in order that they might return for further ingots before the tide rose and floated the ship away.  Nearing the shore a huge tidal wave broke over the boats and ship, and when the wave had passed, the horrified women watching on shore saw no sign remaining of boats, men or ship.

Wild horses would not get a Kerry fisherman to visit the scene of the disaster upon the anniversary of the day the grim tragedy took place, for only bad luck has come to those who have seen the re-enactment of the affair, which Kerry folk believe takes place upon that day.

The Newhaven [sic] ghost ship signified her own doom.  A ship built at Newhaven in January, 1647, having sailed away upon her maiden voyage, was thought to have been lost at sea, when one evening in June, during a furious thunderstorm, the well-known ship was sighted sailing into the river mouth -- but straight into the eye of the wind -- until she neared the town, when slowly she faded from the sight of the people who crowded on shore to watch her.  The apparition was significant -- the ship was never heard of again.

The rocky coasts of New England are haunted by many ghost ships.  The Palatine is the best-known specter.  The coasters and fishermen of Long Island Sound will tell you that when a sight of her is gotten, disastrous and long-lasting storms will follow.  The Palatine, a Dutch trader, misled by false lights shown by wreckers, ran ashore upon Block Island in the year 1752.  The wreckers, when they had stripped the vessel, set her on fire in order to conceal their crime.  As the tide lifted her and carried her flaming out to sea, agonizing shrieks came from the blaze, and the figure of a woman who had hidden herself in the hold in fear of the wreckers stood out black amid the roaring blaze.  Then the deck fell in and ship and woman vanished.

The whaling in Nantucket, as you will remember, was in its palmy days carried on almost entirely by Quakers.  One Sunday evening a meeting was in progress, the simple service seemed as though it might pass, and the spirit moved none of the company.  The elder Friend was just about to offer his hand to his neighbor in the closing of the meeting, when a stranger rose and declared that the Lord's wrath was upon a certain whaling ship, and that he had seen her in a vision descending a huge wave from the hollow of which she never rose.  The meeting closed hurriedly, but the speaker could not be found, and the ship was never heard of.

Some of the best ghost stories are those which the writer has heard from the simple folk of the salt marshes.  It is hardly possible to describe these dreary districts, for when one has said they are flat, stretching for miles, and rather subject to mists, one has said pretty well all that is to be said -- the rest must be felt.  However, just as there is a call of the sea, so there is a call of the marshland.  You shall go into the saltern and feel its moist breath upon your cheek and the breath of its salty winds and the ozone of its calms.  You shall be lost in its vastness, and, threading its innumerable twisted narrow waterways, which lead to nowhere, ye shall tread its carpet of scentless flowers.  You shall go to its very edge where the sea comes oftenmost, and where the flowers decaying leave their rust-colored remains.  There you shall meet mud, and the cry of the curlew shall mock as you flounder it its filth.  The moon shall come up refracted by the mist into unrecognizable shape, which shall be blood color.  You shall be a gray shape, differing little from the common things that are there, for you shall be enshrouded by fog; nay, it shall sink into your very soul, until you are not flesh and bones, but a particle of fog yourself.  You shall listen to its silences; you shall be told things by them, and, strong man that you are, you shall be afraid.

Is it to be wondered at, then, that these simple Essex marsh-dwellers remember such tales as that of the young skipper, home from a long voyage, whose haste to embrace his wife, and the babe he had not yet seen, bid him to go the nearer way of the marshes?  The tale has it that in crossing a narrow gutway, near Pitsea, he sank in the mud.  So deeply did he sink that he could not extricate himself; the more he struggled the deeper he sank, and with the horror of knowing that the tide was rising and would come stealing up the creek, he shouted.  As the tide rose higher the louder were his screams.  The salterns near the Pitsea are lonely; the cries were heard only by a half-witted peat-cutter, who often in his less sane moments heard such screams and thought no more of the matter.  So the shrieks became gurgles, and by the time the tide had lifted the peat-cutter's punt they had ceased.

The older folk at this stage of the story assume a mysterious air, and with large-eyed glancings athwart their shoulders, will tell you that the skipper's shrieks are heard on starlit nights as the tide glides up that creek.  

So here are my ghost stories, and if I sometimes believe in them when I sail all alone on the midnight deep, you will not laugh at me."

Source:  GHOSTS of the SEA, The Mancelona Herald [Mancelona, MI], Dec. 19, 1912, Vol. 34, No. 18, p. 6, cols. 1-3.  

"Lights Of Ghost Ship Reported Seen Again Off New England

BOSTON -- The lights of the ghost ship Palatine are being sighted again off the eastern seaboard.

Harbor police at Boston received more than 100 calls in the last year from waterfront residents who insisted they had sighted a mysterious green glow out to sea.

Patrol boats failed to find any trace of the eerie lights or what may have caused them, however.

The phenomenon is nothing new.  For two centuries seamen and landlubbers alike have been spotting the 'Palatine lights' named for the lost vessel from which they are said to emanate.  Some even claim they have sighted the ship, sailing in flaming majesty on the horizon.

The legend started in 1752 when the Palatine was making a voyage from Holland to Philadelphia, carrying a cargo of immigrants.  Winter gales lashed the little ship and drove it far to the north off its course.

CREW MUTINIED

The crew mutinied.  They killed the captain, stole the possessions of the passengers, took all the food and water on board and left the ship in small boats.

Winds blew that Palatine landward, into a cove of Block Island on Long Island Sound.  The island was the headquarters of a ruthless band of wreckers who had terrorized settlements along the entire coast in their quest for salvage.  

The hardened wreckers softened at the sight of the starving immigrants.  They took them into their homes, fed them and cared for the sick.

According to tradition, a pretty Dutch girl, driven insane by the horrors of the shipboard ordeal, refused to leave the Palatine.

SHIP SET AFIRE

The Block Islanders grew impatient.  Another storm sprang up, and rather than have their prize carried out to sea by the gale, the wreckers set the ship afire.  The sea nevertheless still claimed the Palatine.

the wreckers and immigrants stood on the shore, watching the burning ship move out to sea while back across the water came the unearthly screams of the mad woman left aboard to burn.

Legend has it that the Palatine, like the storied Flying Dutchman, is doomed to sail the seas forever, her masts blazing above the screams of the Dutch immigrant girl who went out with her on that last flaming voyage."

Source:  Lights Of Ghost Ship Reported Seen Again Off New England, Olean Times Herald, May 5, 1951, p. 7, cols. 4-5.  

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Famed American poet John Greenleaf Whittier wrote a poem about the terrible incident in 1867.  It is quoted in full immediately below:

"The Palatine 

by John Greenleaf Whittier 

Leagues north, as fly the gull and auk, 
Point Judith watches with eye of hawk; 
Leagues south, thy beacon flames, Montauk! 

Lonely and wind-shorn, wood-forsaken, 
With never a tree for Spring to waken, 
For tryst of lovers or farewells taken, 

Circled by waters that never freeze, 
Beaten by billow and swept by breeze, 
Lieth the island of Manisees, 

Set at the mouth of the Sound to hold 
The coast lights up on its turret old, 
Yellow with moss and sea-fog mould. 

Dreary the land when gust and sleet 
At its doors and windows howl and beat, 
And Winter laughs at its fires of peat! 

But in summer time, when pool and pond, 
Held in the laps of valleys fond, 
Are blue as the glimpses of sea beyond; 

When the hills are sweet with the brier-rose, 
And, hid in the warm, soft dells, unclose 
Flowers the mainland rarely knows; 

When boats to their morning fishing go, 
And, held to the wind and slanting low, 
Whitening and darkening the small sails show,-- 

Then is that lonely island fair; 
And the pale health-seeker findeth there 
The wine of life in its pleasant air. 

No greener valleys the sun invite, 
On smoother beaches no sea-birds light, 
No blue waves shatter to foam more white! 

There, circling ever their narrow range, 
Quaint tradition and legend strange 
Live on unchallenged, and know no change. 

Old wives spinning their webs of tow, 
Or rocking weirdly to and fro 
In and out of the peat's dull glow, 

And old men mending their nets of twine, 
Talk together of dream and sign, 
Talk of the lost ship Palatine,-- 

The ship that, a hundred years before, 
Freighted deep with its goodly store, 
In the gales of the equinox went ashore. 

The eager islanders one by one 
Counted the shots of her signal gun, 
And heard the crash when she drove right on! 

Into the teeth of death she sped 
(May God forgive the hands that fed 
The false lights over the rocky Head!) 

O men and brothers! what sights were there! 
White upturned faces, hands stretched in prayer! 
Where waves had pity, could ye not spare? 

Down swooped the wreckers, like birds of prey 
Tearing the heart of the ship away, 
And the dead had never a word to say. 

And then, with ghastly shimmer and shine 
Over the rocks and the seething brine, 
They burned the wreck of the Palatine. 

In their cruel hearts, as they homeward sped, 
"The sea and the rocks are dumb," they said 
"There 'll be no reckoning with the dead." 

But the year went round, and when once more 
Along their foam-white curves of shore 
They heard the line-storm rave and roar, 

Behold! again, with shimmer and shine, 
Over the rocks and the seething brine, 
The flaming wreck of the Palatine! 

So, haply in fitter words than these, 
Mending their nets on their patient knees 
They tell the legend of Manisees. 

Nor looks nor tones a doubt betray; 
"It is known to us all," they quietly say; 
"We too have seen it in our day." 

Is there, then, no death for a word once spoken? 
Was never a deed but left its token 
Written on tables never broken? 

Do the elements subtle reflections give? 
Do pictures of all the ages live 
On Nature's infinite negative, 

Which, half in sport, in malice half, 
She shows at times, with shudder or laugh, 
Phantom and shadow in photograph? 

For still, on many a moonless night, 
From Kingston Head and from Montauk light 
The spectre kindles and burns in sight. 

Now low and dim, now clear and higher, 
Leaps up the terrible Ghost of Fire, 
Then, slowly sinking, the flames expire. 

And the wise Sound skippers, though skies be fine, 
Reef their sails when they see the sign 
Of the blazing wreck of the Palatine!"



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The Melancholy Apparition of the Old Pelham Farmhouse on Shore Road


She was a terrifying floating apparition!  She seemed pitiable, dejected, and melancholy.  Twenty years old or so, with dark black hair streaming across her shoulders and seeming to blow in a non-existent breeze, she appeared to float into the room through one wall, drift across the room and through the opposite wall.  The terrified gardener who rented the little Pelham farmhouse on Shore Road where she appeared, had only lived in the home for a day or so. 

The melancholy apparition that the gardener observed is referred to as “The Mystery of a Pelham Farm House”. The story of her “haunting” recounts events that occurred in the 1840s or earlier and appears in a small book by Charles Pryer published in 1897 entitled REMINISCENCES OF AN OLD WESTCHESTER HOMESTEAD. 

In the 19th century there was a farmhouse on what we know today as Shore Road. It was impossible to get anyone from Pelham to rent the house because everyone believed it was haunted. The owner finally found a gardener from New York City who knew nothing about the house. The owner convinced the gardener to rent it. 

The gardener, his wife and family moved in early one March when snow still lay thickly on the ground. Little did they known what awaited them. The first night, everyone was tired from moving. They heard a few strange noises, but ascribed them to rats. In the morning, the gardener left for his work, some distance from his new home. 

When the gardener returned from work at the end of the day, his wife assailed him with a frantic story about how, about noon, every door in the little farmhouse suddenly was “thrown open, and fearful noises were heard to resound through all quarters of the house.” 

Dismissing the events as the result of “a March wind”, the gardener drew his chair to the fire to relax before supper. As he gazed at the hickory fire, every door in the house slammed shut, startling him. Thinking that a storm must be brewing, he stepped to the door and looked outside. All he saw was a serene evening. Closing the door and remembering his wife’s words, he “thoroughly resolved to give the spirits full possession of the house on the following day”. Then, according to Pryer, he saw the melancholy apparition: 

“While thus thinking, the wall of the room opposite to him slowly opened, and a shadowy something seemed to fill the aperture. This vapory mass gradually took the form of a female figure, at first ill-defined, but slowly assuming the proper proportions, and at length stood out in bold relief, as perfect as any living being. It appeared to be a beautiful lady of not more than twenty, with long black hair streaming over her shoulders, but with an air so melancholy and dejected that even the most terrified man pitied her. After surveying for a few moments the mortal seated by the fire, she glided slowly across the room and passed through the opposite wall, without giving utterance to a single sound. Our friend was not troubled more that night by his spiritual visitors, but so terrified was he that the next day he took his departure.”

The haunted farmhouse of Shore Road since has been torn down.  Some say, however, that on particularly-dark nights with no moon, a melancholy apparition of a young woman with dark hair blowing even when there is no wind can be seen along Shore Road floating pitiably looking for the farmhouse.

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Below is a transcription of the pages from Charles Pryer's "Reminiscences of an Old Westchester Homestead" published in 1897.  It is followed by a citation and link to its source.

"THE MYSTERY OF A PELHAM FARM-HOUSE

ABOUT a mile above Pelham Bridge, and directly on the road leading to it, is situated a small farm-house of apparently great antiquity ; at all events, it was not built within the memory of the oldest inhabitant. The interior is fitted up after the good old Dutch style of the close of the seventeenth century. The hearth and chimney-jambs in the parlor are in tiles, illumined with many a scriptural illustration, in the manner so much in vogue among our worthy Dutch ancestors. The house seems to have been the resort of disembodied spirits for a very long time, but why they frequented it I have always wondered, as I have never heard that any murder or other dark deed was perpetrated in the vicinity. Whether the sights and noises were caused by the spirits of "Anhook" and his Indian followers returning to visit their former hunting-grounds, or whether it was the soul of Anne Hutchinson on a visit from the spirit-land to bewail her murdered family, is a mystery that will probably never be solved at this late date. 

These conjectures, however, have no foundation in fact, or even in tradition, for, as the dwelling of this noted woman was burned by the Indians at the time of the murder, this house could not have been hers. It may be, however, that the farm-house stood near where once smoked the embers of her desolated cabin, and not caring to bewail her loss without some roof over her head, she sought the nearest shelter for her ghostly person under this habitation, and by her spectral pranks terrified all the old women in the neighborhood. Be this as it may, it is certain that it was impossible to get a tenant for the house from the residents of the town, and even those who came from a distance were never wont to stay under its roof for more than one or two nights when they would leave, filling the neighborhood with tales of the strange sights and sounds that they saw and heard during their short stay in the haunted cottage. Many are the frightful stories told by the teamsters that passed there on their way to town, late at night or before daylight in the morning. Some said that lights flickered from room to room, and that the whole house shook as though convulsed by an earthquake; others that the house was illuminated as though the owner was giving an entertainment, and that they plainly heard the sound of voices and the rattle of crockery, as though the spirits were having a supper. Others again stated that only one room was lighted up, and at the window of this apartment sat a beautiful lady, with her head resting on her hands and her long dark hair streaming over her shoulders, while her whole attitude indicated dejection. The only thing, however, that these teamsters agreed upon was that they all saw something strange and mysterious. It is therefore not to be wondered at that a place with such a reputation should be vacant during a great portion of the year, although the owner tried every means to keep it occupied. 

It was early one March that a gardener from the city was prevailed upon to take up his abode in the cottage with his wife and family. Being strangers in the place, none of them had heard of its reputation, and consequently could not have been frightened beforehand. The spring that year was very late, and at the time the family took up their abode in the house the snow still lay thickly on the ground. 

The first night passed off quietly, as all were too tired from moving to lie awake much. There were some strange noises heard in the early part of the evening, but as they were attributed to rats nobody paid much attention to them. In the morning the gardener went to his work, and as the scene of his labors was some distance from the house, he took his dinner with him and did not return till evening. On arriving home about sunset he was met at the door by his wife, who proceeded to tell him, in a frightened incoherent way, how, about noon, all the doors were suddenly thrown open, and fearful noises were heard to resound through all quarters of the house. Thinking this, however, to be only a woman's version of the freaks of a March wind in his too well-ventilated apartments, he only smiled incredulously and drew a chair to the fire to await supper, the preparations for which were already far advanced. Scarcely had the blazing hickory fire commenced to make him comfortable, when he was startled by hearing a terrific crash in one of the unoccupied rooms upstairs, followed by the violent slamming of every door in the house. Thinking some fearful storm must suddenly have come up, he stepped to the door and looked out, but the evening was serene and beautiful. The boisterous wind that had been blowing all day, had gone down with the sun, and the stars shone brightly in the frosty air. Shutting the door he resumed his seat by the fire, not daring to go up stairs to see from whence the noise proceeded, but thoroughly resolved to give the spirits full possession of the house on the following day. 

While thus thinking, the wall of the room opposite to him slowly opened, and a shadowy something seemed to fill the aperture. This vapory mass gradually took the form of a female figure, at first ill-defined, but slowly assuming the proper proportions, and at length stood out in bold relief, as perfect as any living being. It appeared to be a beautiful lady of not more than twenty, with long black hair streaming over her shoulders, but with an air so melancholy and dejected that even the terrified man pitied her. After surveying for a few moments the mortal seated by the fire, she glided slowly across the room and passed through the opposite wall, without giving utterance to a single sound. Our friend was not troubled more that night by his spiritual visitors, but so terrified was he that the next day he took his departure. Although this happened some fifty years ago, the house has been empty ever since, and even to this day the benighted traveller will hasten his steps while passing the desolate cottage. 

By this time the pipe of mine host was out and our glasses needed replenishing; so we resolved to have an intermission, to draw another jug of cider and allow the hunter to fill his pipe before continuing his tales."

Source:  Pryer, Charles, Reminiscences of an Old Westchester Homestead, pp. 6-12 (G.P. Putnam's Sons NY and London, The Knickerbocker Press, 1897).



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I have collected ghost stories and legends relating to the Town of Pelham for more than fifteen years.  To read more examples that now total in the several dozens, see

Bell, Blake A., Pelham's Ghosts, Goblins and Legends, The Pelham Weekly, Oct. 25, 2002, p. 1, col. 1. 

Bell, Blake A., More Ghosts, Goblins of Pelham, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 43, Oct. 29, 2004, p. 12, col. 1. 

Bell, Blake A., More Ghosts & Goblins of Pelham, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XV, Issue 40, Oct. 13, 2006, p. 10, col. 1.

Bell, Blake A., Archive of HistoricPelham.com Web Site:  Pelham's Ghosts, Goblins and Legends (Oct. 2002). 

Bell, Blake A., Bibliography of Pelham's Ghost Stories and Legends (Oct. 2002).

Tue., Oct. 30, 2018:  The Melancholy Apparition of the Old Pelham Farmhouse on Shore Road.





Tue., Oct. 31, 2017:  An Eyewitness Account of the Headless Apparitions of the Haunted Cedar Knoll in Pelham.

Mon., Oct. 30, 2017:  The Ghost of Captain Kidd Guards His Treasure on an Island Off Pelham.

Fri., Oct. 27, 2017:  An Unusual Account of the Dark Spirit of the Devil and His Stepping Stones: A Pelham Legend.  

Thu., Oct. 26, 2017:  The Cow Rustler Ghosts of Pelham Road.

Mon., Oct. 31, 2016:  Pelham Was Overrun by Ghosts for a Few Months in the Winter of 1887-1888.

Fri., Oct. 28, 2016:  The Old Stone House Has At Least One More Ghost -- The Ghost of Mrs. Parrish is Not Alone.

Thu., Oct. 27, 2016:  Did Google Maps Camera Capture the Ghost of the Elegant Lady of the Old Stone House at 463 First Avenue?

Wed., Oct. 26, 2016:  The Ghost of the Murdered Traveler Who Wanders the Bartow-Pell Grounds.

Tue., Oct. 25, 2016:  The Suicidal Specter of Manger Circle.

Mon., Oct. 24, 2016:  The Fiery-Eyed Phantom of Pelham Heights.

Mon., Sep. 19, 2016:  The Dark Spirit of the Devil and His Stepping Stones: A Pelham Legend.

Fri., Oct. 30, 2015:  The Shrieking Ghosts of Execution Rocks: Yet Another Pelham Ghost Story.

Thu., Oct. 29, 2015:  The Apparition of Wolfs Lane:  Another Pelham Ghost Story.

Wed., Oct. 28, 2015:  The Shadowy Specter of James Street:  A Pelham Manor Ghost Story.

Tue., Oct. 27, 2015:  The Ghostly Gardener of Bolton Priory:  A Pelham Apparition.

Mon., Oct. 26, 2015:  The Ghostly Matron of the Manor Club:  Even a Ghost Whisperer's Nightmare!

Fri., Oct. 31, 2014:  Ghosts in Pelham! Yet Another of Many Accounts of the Haunted Cedar Knoll.

Mon., Sep. 08, 2014:  In 1888, The "Ghost of City Island" Upset the Town of Pelham.

Fri., Jan. 17, 2014: The Phantom Bell Ringer of Christ Church in Pelham Manor.

Wed., Oct. 14, 2009:  1879 News Account Provides Additional Basis for Some Facts Underlying Ghost Story of Old Stone House in Pelhamville.

Fri., Jan. 30, 2009:  Article Published in 1901 Detailed Ghost Stories and Legends of Pelham.

Mon., Feb. 19, 2007:  Another Manor of Pelham Ghost Story: The Whispering Bell.

Fri., Aug. 18, 2006:  The Ghost Gunship of Pelham: A Revolutionary War Ghost Story.

Wed., May 03, 2006:  Another Pelham, New York Ghost Story.

Thu., Oct. 13, 2005:  Two More Pelham Ghost Stories.  

Fri., Sep. 16, 2005:  The Legend of the Spy Oak on Pelham Road.


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