With Long Island having such a rich history, claims of encounters with ghosts — call them phantoms, wraiths, apparitions, what have you — are a common thread shared between generations.
There are homes and businesses where the living claim to have crossed paths with specters, but there’s no need to wander through a graveyard to try to spot a spirit. Here’s a list of places you can visit that locals have claimed to be haunted.
HAUNTED HISTORY There are many who in the past have said they witnessed Abigail Olsen, who died as a teen in the 19th century, continue to cling to the living world. Long Island was famously battered by a ferocious storm that struck during the Christmas holiday in 1811. According to current lighthouse keeper Joe Gaviola, Abigail was newly married to the captain of a ship that wrecked near the lighthouse during the storm, and while she managed to survive and make her way into the tower, she was unable to locate her husband. Legend states that's why her spirit never left the area. She waits and watches for his return.
Gaviola adds that he has had "unexplainable" experiences since he became lighthouse keeper, such as hearing "a clear voice in an absolutely, completely locked and secured Keeper’s dwelling." He says objects have gone missing and he's heard unaccountable "noises and felt sweeps of chilled air."
FOR THE LIVING 2000 Montauk Hwy., Montauk; 631-668-2544, montauklighthouse.com
Fire Island Lighthouse
HAUNTED HISTORY This iconic South Shore lighthouse has its own haunted tale. Tony Femminella, executive director of The Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society, says that while his organization has never been able to verify either the legend or the lighthouse keeper involved, it enjoys keeping the story alive.
He says the version the society sticks to takes place back when the current lighthouse was under construction, relegating the keeper and his family to live in a shack next to the original lighthouse. The keeper’s daughter reportedly fell ill, and it took him three days to return with help for his daughter. When he arrived, she had already died, and due to his overwhelming grief, he hanged himself in the current lighthouse that wasn’t yet completed.
As Femminella explained, his organization has never been able to confirm who now allegedly haunts the lighthouse, but there are several candidates. Records show a man named Benjamin Smith was the keeper while the second version of the lighthouse was constructed in the 1850s, but the same documents show he lived at least long enough to retire in 1861. However, there is the tragic and widely documented tale of a former keeper named Hugh Walsh, who reportedly hanged himself after being placed in prison for assaulting his wife in 1878. Then there was keeper John T. Doxsee, who the U.S. Coast Guard reports "died from asphyxiation by inhaling gas" in 1913.
FOR THE LIVING 1 Burma Rd., Fire Island National Seashore; 631-583-5901, fireislandlighthouse.com
1648 Thomas Halsey Homestead
HAUNTED HISTORY A genealogy of the Halsey family history alleges that Elizabeth Phoebe (Wheeler) Halsey, wife of Thomas Halsey, was murdered here in 1649. Ghost hunters claim to have heard voices and found "cold spots" (sudden chilled pockets within a space) inside the 17th-century farmhouse.
FOR THE LIVING 249 S. Main St., Southampton; 631-283-2494, southamptonhistory.org
HAUNTED HISTORY If ghosts are haunting anywhere on Long Island, it might just be this estate. It's a 17th-century plantation once worked on by enslaved people and laborers. Several slaves and others are said to be buried on the grounds. An apparition has been reported in the woods near the 1735 manor house, while an 18th-century mirror in the house is said to reveal the image of a woman in a long dress when the light reaches a certain angle; reports of unexplained noises in the house also have been circulated.
FOR THE LIVING 80 N. Ferry Rd., Shelter Island; 631-749-0626, sylvestermanor.org
HAUNTED HISTORY George Washington famously slept here in 1790, and it was reported that when David Gardner — the owner of the manor between 1907 and 1927 — died in November 1927, his body was laid in the same bed used by the first U.S. president. There have been reports of people seeing turning doorknobs, strange figures standing on the porch and, most notably, the ghost of a woman in the loft of the historic building. Wispy moving mists also have been reported in the family cemetery located on the grounds.
FOR THE LIVING 677 Montauk Hwy., Bay Shore; 631-854-0939, sagtikosmanor.org
HAUNTED HISTORY Once the home to the Townsend family — a lineage whose local history dates to the 17th century and includes Robert Townsend, who spied on the British during the Revolutionary War when Long Island was occupied by the redcoats. The British also occupied Raynham Hall, quartering in the house and placing hundreds of troops on its grounds. Paranormal experts have long considered the structure to be haunted, especially a chimney that allegedly focuses so much ethereal energy, it’s been called a "ghost vortex." Among the spirits said to roam the rooms and halls of the Hall is Sarah Townsend, who lived in the home during its seizure and was the romantic target of the British lieutenant colonel who was stationed here. Other ghosts are said to include an unknown child, unidentified servants and even a phantom cat.
FOR THE LIVING 20 W. Main St., Oyster Bay; 516-922-6808, raynhamhallmuseum.org
BODIES OF WATER
HAUNTED HISTORY A quiet kettle hole lake where people can fish, there have been claims that the spirit of an angry, elderly man who once lived at a long-gone campground haunts the nearby woods. The ghost reportedly makes noises, steps loudly and even chases after those who dare to enter the area at night.
FOR THE LIVING 4600 Main Rd., Mattituck; 631-444-0280, dec.ny.gov
HAUNTED HISTORY The legend connected to Long Island's largest freshwater lake is that a Native American princess named Tuskawanta fatally stabbed herself after rowing out to the middle of the lake — an act committed because her father forbade her from seeing English settler Hugh Birdsall, who was equally attracted to her but failed to respond to love letters she tried to float to him. Locals say she now waits in the lake, grabbing young men and drowning them. Some say that when the lake unexpectedly rises, it is weeping for the disrupted love affair between Tuskawanta and Birdsall.
FOR THE LIVING Bordered by Smithtown Boulevard (Smithtown), Lake Shore Road (Lake Ronkonkoma) and Rosevale Avenue (Ronkonkoma); 631-444-0280, dec.ny.gov
Mount Misery and Sweet Hollow roads; Mount Misery Nature Preserve
HAUNTED HISTORY Few places on Long Island have as many aspects related to the paranormal as do these hilly, winding, tree-lined, narrow roadways. Aside from the long-running local tales that say the area is cursed, ghosts of a couple who crashed here are said to haunt the roads, as does a police officer who was gunned down (and whose specter is said to have a horrific head wound). There’s also a Northern State Parkway underpass where some say, should you put your car in neutral, a spirit will move your vehicle.
Further lore includes that a children’s asylum that was built here in the 18th century burned down, and the wails of the unfortunate souls who lived and worked there can still be heard. Then there is "Hatchet Mary," whose house was located somewhere within what is now the Mount Misery Nature Preserve, where she purportedly axed her family to death before killing herself — and Mary’s ghost has been said to haunt the area woods ever since. A ghostly horse and a demonic dog also are said to move around the woods, among many other tales of misery shared between generations of Long Islanders.
FOR THE LIVING Sweet Hollow Road runs between Jericho Turnpike in Huntington and Route 110 in Melville. Mount Misery Road runs from Chichester Road in Huntington to West Hills County Park, then starts again south of the Northern State Parkway in Melville and finally ends at Old Country Road. Mount Misery Nature Preserve is located within West Hills County Park, with an entrance on Sweet Hollow Road, 500 feet south of the Northern State Parkway overpass.