From mansion and hotel ruins throughout the Hudson River Valley, Catskills and Adirondacks to myriad former foundries, schools, hospitals, airfields and other abandonments state-wide, New York abounds in vestiges of its empire-building days. Intriguing, too, are the state’s enduring imprints on the imagination, from the New Yorker’s Addams Family cartoon and Long Island’s Amityville Horror house to The Twilight Zone, created by Binghamton native Rod Serling.
With Halloween just ahead, here are some captivating suggestions, most available year-round, for discovering “the other side” of meetings and events in New York.
Heads of State
Albany, originally Fort Orange (1624) and New York’s capital since 1797, has group “energy” to spare.
“The New York State Capitol is haunted with more stories that I can begin to tell,” says Schuyler Bull, director of marketing for the Albany CVB. “Intrigues include the death of a night watchman in the 1911 Capitol Fire, and a secret demon carved into the stone,” Bull says. “These stories are featured during October’s special Capitol Hauntings Tours, and sprinkled on regular tours offered year-round.”
Built in 1787, Cherry Hill was the scene of a nationally publicized 1827 murder that led to the city’s last public hanging. Opened as a museum in 1964, this local landmark showcases rare items from its 70,000-piece collection and offers programs such as behind-the-scenes restoration tours.
In nearby Scotia, Glen Sanders Mansion was built as a trading port in 1658 along the Mohawk River. With spiritual energy reported in the original cellar, the stone mansion became an inn in 1961. Offering 22 newly renovated guest rooms, the venue also has a main ballroom accommodating up to 400 people for functions, with space for 26 to 120 guests in three additional private rooms.
Fresh blood on the group scene includes the long-anticipated Albany Capital Center convention facility, now under construction and on schedule for an early 2017 debut. Restoration of the historic 204-room Renaissance Albany, located across from the Capitol complex, is slated for completion this fall.
Established in 1791, Saratoga Springs is another Capital Region draw with tales to tell. With a legacy that includes the decisive American victory in the 1777 Battle of Saratoga, this compelling group destination is active on New York’s official Haunted History Trail, a statewide, multi-county collaboration highlighting haunted locations.
These include Yaddo Gardens, offering docent-led ghost tours; the nine-room Victorian-era Batcheller Mansion Inn, offering haunted history tours by appointment; and the Saratoga Springs History Museum, housed within the landmark Canfield Casino.
According to museum Director Jamie Parillo, unusual events at the institution accelerated after the opening of an exhibition of antique clothing once owned and worn by members of some of Saratoga Springs’ most prominent first families, now all deceased.
Other local venues with a haunted reputation include the Olde Bryan Inn, Crandall House in Ballston Spa and Saratoga National Historical Park in Stillwater, commemorating the 1777 battlefield.
This spring saw the opening of a new 149-suite Embassy Suites in the heart of downtown Saratoga Springs, while groundbreaking took place in May for a long-planned hotel at the Saratoga Casino and Raceway. In July, the venue unveiled its newly renovated historic lodge as a year-round private event option, accommodating 100 guests inside and up to 200 for tented gatherings.
Groups of up to 350 will find supernatural reanimation at The Otesaga Resort Hotel (1909) in Cooperstown. Following last year’s renovation of all 132 guest rooms and the lobby, this Federal-style treasure on the shore of Lake Otsego celebrates its 106th season with the opening of the Hawkeye Spa. Guests now also have recreational use of stand-up paddleboards and bikes. For meetings and functions, the Otesaga (Iroquois for “a place of meetings”) offers a 2,600-square-foot ballroom, equal-size main dining room and 10 versatile conference rooms.
With some possible repeat customers of its own, the hotel can arrange private tours of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, where paranormal activities have reportedly included the voice of baseball legend Ted Williams.
The nightly Cooperstown Candlelight Ghost Tour includes locations reportedly haunted by Cooperstown’s founding family, the Coopers. More spooks await on The Farmers’ Museum guided-lantern lit “Things that Go Bump in the Night” tour.