When you hear about a haunted castle, your mind likely goes to the towering structures on the other side of the Atlantic. This castle, however, is a lot closer to home. Today we’re discussing the breathtaking castle and winery in Seneca Lake in New York, and how some of the guests still wander the halls in the afterlife. But, if you had to be stuck haunting someplace, this wouldn’t be a bad one to choose. Plus, there’s wine!
The Belhurst Castle began life in 1855, built with supplies specifically shipped overseas from Europe. The sprawling estate is made up of three separate hotels, Vinifera Inn, Chambers in the Castle, and White Springs Manor. All three are purported to be haunted, so choose carefully. The estate also includes a spa, a fine dining restaurant, winery tasting rooms, and stunning romanesque styled rooms and buildings.
The story of the castle and its construction starts off with a wild story about a man with a double life and a desire for solitude. The first resident of the first structure built on the land was William Henry Bucke, who craved isolation and thus lived in the building called the “Hermitage.” In 1826, Mr. Bucke fell on the property and broke his leg. Due to his resistance to seek medical care, the wound gave him blood poisoning and he passed away alone in the Hermitage. After his death, it came out that he had been a treasurer of a theatre company back in Europe, embezzled funds, married his stepmother and fled to the States, where he changed his name to Henry Hall to avoid capture.
The land saw several new owners over the years before the Hermitage house was destroyed, having already fallen into disrepair. In 1885, Mrs. Carrie M. Young Harron was the owner and needed room for the four-story mansion she planned to build on the property. It took workers over 4 years, but finally the private residence was finished. Two men are said to have died during construction, a stone mason who fell from the top of the structure and another man who went insane during the construction of the roof, also falling to his death.
The mistress of the house would pass in 1924 and the property passed to her grandson, who would turn the dining rooms into restaurants and, some say, speakeasies to get around prohibition. In the 1950s, more buildings would be built on the property by the next owners, Duane and Deb Reeder. The Reeders added more out buildings and converted part of the castle to accommodate guests, the first inklings of the resort and hotel it would one day become.
The hauntings of the land began all the way back with William Henrey Bucke and his unfortunate demise from a broken leg and blood poisoning. Mr. Bucke is said to haunt all of the buildings on his formerly secluded property. Another spirit is said to be that of an actress who met an untimely death when she was washed away by water in an underground tunnel below the winery. The namesake of the spa on location, Isabella, is said to be an opera singer who passed away on the property and now wanders the grounds and halls, sometimes with ghostly singing reverberating off the walls.
Many signs of paranormal activity are apparent in the castle. Showers in guest rooms seemingly turn on by themselves, light flicker and go on and off, drinks clatter to the floor as if pushed by unseen hands. One particular morning, the employees came into the ballroom to see tablecloths tied to the chandeliers. Reports of loud sound sof furniture moving wakes guests up, as does the ghostly laughter and screams from children seeming to play in the afterlife. Sometimes, the ghost of a lullaby can be heard, especially by pregnant women in the hotels. Apparitions have been seen wandering aimlessly of Isabella, Mr. Bucke, and even an old caretaker from the 1970s who prefers to sit in his favorite chair in the lobby.
If you visit, you won’t just enjoy the on-demand taps of beer and wine, the gorgeous scenery on the finger lakes, and fine dining establishments. You might also enjoy your own visit from another kind of spirit, maybe you’ll come face to face with former residents of the hotels, still causing mayhem in the afterlife as they may have in real life.
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Born in Death Valley and raised on the prairie, Deborah is a Wyoming-based paranormal researcher and a senior at the University of Wyoming, studying Communication. Her interests lie in folklore, history, rhetorical analysis and research. With an obvious love for ghost stories, frequently those interests combine with her work on Ghostlandia.