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In 1959 Louis C. Jones, a celebrated folklorist who was at the time director of the New York State Historical Association in Cooperstown, published “Things That Go Bump in the Night,” a compendium of stories about ghosts who roamed New York State and beyond. “It is a great privilege to live in a town which the dead have not deserted,” he writes. “Walk the streets of Cooperstown…on a moonlight night and [you will see] a village where the enchantment of death is a warm and friendly quality.”

River Street is a pretty good start. At its juncture with Main, under a giant pine tree, stands Pomeroy Place, where Ann Cooper Pomeroy came back long after her death in 1870. Just up the hill is Greencrest, where the portrait of Jane Storrs Cooper Worthington (1843-1863) has once again been removed from the main staircase. While its occasional removal in the past has scared up a great deal of physical commotion in the house, now at last the house is quiet.

Above Greencrest, a stone wall holds an unhappy Native American who, for many years, keeps pushing the wall out onto the sidewalk.

Across the street in Byberry Cottage, Susan Fenimore Cooper, daughter of the author, spent her final years. It is said that immediately after she died, in 1894, she set forth in her wheelchair, crossed River Street, entered Christ Church and rolled down the aisle and disappeared through the altar. There are a number of other houses and businesses in the Village and beyond that swear to having a ghost or two.

At the 19th-century Village at The Farmers’ Museum there is a young ghost who roams the rooms of Bump Tavern and makes mysterious early-morning strikes on the anvil in the Blacksmith Shop.

At the other end of the Lake, Hyde Hall has many ghosts, among them Phillip Sherwood, George Clarke, who built the house, died in it and never truly left, and an unidentified young girl with a long braid who has been seen recently descending the staircase. People have reported hearing Ann Cary Cooper Clarke (d. 1850) play the piano late at night and hearing whispers, knocking, and footsteps.

According to Jones, “the great majority of the dead are totally indifferent to our values, but they do have something on their minds that needs to be taken care of, or they have some sort of compulsion which makes it necessary for them to come back to old scenes.” Some are malicious, and while occasions of violence are rare over all a clear conscience keeps these guys away. A great many ghosts, on the other hand, are just a nuisance, making noises, moving furniture, letting the cat in, scaring the dogs, opening doors, but these are more often than not attention-getting antics.

They make plenty of noises too; they moan and screech, speak in muffled voices, rap on tables, roll things around in the cellar, knock on doors, thump and hammer, play the piano, wind clocks and now and then let off a terrific blast, like a rifle shot. Of course, these aren’t the only noises the dead make, but these are the ones that occupants of really haunted houses may express.

Happy Hallowe’en.


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