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By Douglas Sciorra

Haunted Histories: Exploring the Enigmatic Ghosts of Western NY

grayscale photo of a woman facing the wall

Learn about spooky Hornell homes and some of Buffalo’s scariest spots

By: Johanna Elattar

As October descends upon Western New York, the anticipation of Halloween fills the air, bringing with it tales of haunted sites and ghostly encounters. From the historic streets of Hornell to the eerie depths of the Iron Island Museum, and the iconic Buffalo Central Terminal, the region is steeped in a rich tapestry of supernatural legends.

Hornell’s Haunted Residences

Hornell, a quiet town nestled in the heart of Western New York, has a surprising number of haunted houses that have long captured the imaginations of its residents. On River Street, several houses and apartments have gained a spooky reputation, believed to be inhabited by several restless spirits and even malevolent entities. One couple moving into a home on River Street shared their unnerving experiences, from phantom footsteps upstairs to the sight of a mysterious girl from the waist down with chunky legs who plays an eerie game of chase with their dog. Voices and shadows have also been reported, painting a vivid portrait of paranormal activity in the area.

Hill Street, another Hornell neighborhood, hosts residents with their own share of eerie encounters. One homeowner recalls their first experiences after moving into their house in 2009, recounting sightings of a little girl with chubby legs darting around their dining table. To confront these supernatural mysteries, they invested in EVP players and EMF detectors, which registered intense activity around a friend’s child, possibly attesting to the presence of a child’s spirit.

On Canisteo Street, a house harbors a menacing presence in its attic. Despite attempts to bless the house, inexplicable growls emanate from the attic, evoking a sinister atmosphere. Nearby on Howard Street, the spirit of Henry, who is said to have taken his own life in one of the house’s closets, roams with an air of melancholy rather than malice.

Olive Place, another haunted location in Hornell, hosts a variety of ghosts, including a calming little girl, a malevolent male presence, and a female spirit who tragically hanged herself. Activity on the 16th of each month surges, with eerie apparitions such as a man’s face in the attic window and lights that turn on by themselves when no one is present.

In a house on Ravine Street, a shadowy figure haunts the basement, accompanied by voices and unexplained music playing. Even the alarms in this 150-year-old house act up randomly, indicating the presence of a woman and possibly a child. Yet, the basement presents an entirely different, unsettling ambiance.

The Enigmatic Iron Island Museum in Buffalo NY

The Iron Island Museum, a former Methodist church dating back to 1885, has a history filled with unusual occurrences. When Anthony Amigone donated the building to The Iron Island Preservation Society of Lovejoy, Inc., they soon discovered its haunted reputation. The basement, in particular, is rumored to be a hotspot for paranormal activity. Vandals, arsonists, and transients once sought refuge within its dark confines. Their stories tell of individuals who entered the basement and never emerged again.

The museum houses various spirits, including Edgar Zernicke, a former U.S. Marine whose presence is felt in the attic. Elmira native and psychic medium Chip Coffey once visited the museum and, during a reading, mentioned Zernicke’s name. Research later revealed that one of the unclaimed containers stored his remains, possibly explaining his attachment to the building.

A poignant tale surrounds the spirit of Tommy Philangelo, a seven-year-old boy who passed away from Leukemia in 1958. He was waked at the museum when it served as a funeral home, and his presence is still felt in the “children’s room.” Witnesses have experienced his playful spirit interacting with toys.

The museum also boasts a military room, where heavy footsteps and eerie EVPs resembling mortar and gunfire have been recorded, lending an air of historical authenticity to the paranormal encounters.


Buffalo Central Terminal: Echoes of the Past

The Buffalo Central Terminal, a grand edifice that once bustled with life, has since fallen into disuse and gained a reputation for being a haven of paranormal activity. It was originally opened in 1929 as a railroad station, serving as a pivotal hub during the early 20th century, especially during World War II.

When the terminal was abandoned and neglected, it became a shelter for vandals, arsonists, and transients, particularly during harsh winters. Eerie stories tell of individuals who entered the terminal’s basement and were never seen again.

The terminal’s paranormal stories include the spirit of Anthony Fedele, the last owner, who is believed to linger on the third floor. Visitors using a Spirit Box investigation device once received a cryptic exclamation of “Buffalo!” that many believe may have come from Fedele himself. Ghostly apparitions and unexplained phenomena have been reported, adding to the terminal’s eerie allure.

Buffalo Naval Park: A Tribute to the Past

The Buffalo Naval Park, featuring the USS The Sullivans, USS Little Rock, and USS Croaker, offers more than just a glimpse into naval history; it presents visitors with tales of the supernatural. The USS The Sullivans is named in honor of the five Sullivan brothers who tragically perished during World War II. It is said that the spirit of George Sullivan, one of the brothers, roams the ship in search of his siblings. Ghostly occurrences include unexplained footsteps and an aversion to George appearing in photographs.

Additionally, an account from an elderly couple who encountered a naval officer on the ship during a tour, only to discover there was no officer present that day, adds to the mystique of the Naval Park. The museum’s extensive collection of personal possessions from naval history may account for some of these uncanny incidents.

Dunkirk Lighthouse: A Beacon of the Supernatural

Dunkirk Lighthouse, established in 1827, boasts a long history intertwined with ghostly tales. In addition to its maritime significance, the lighthouse has witnessed shipwrecks and the firing of the first shot in the War of 1812 near its shores. Witnesses have reported shadowy figures, apparitions of lighthouse keepers, and even a playful young boy dressed in mid-1800s attire.

Rolling Hills Asylum: A Haunting Legacy

Rolling Hills Asylum, formerly the Genesee County Poor House in East Bethany, New York, has a history steeped in tragedy and hardship. As a former poorhouse, it housed a wide range of individuals, from orphans to the mentally unstable. Reports of voices, squeaking shoes, and the eerie laughter of children have turned this location into a hotbed of paranormal activity.

UB South Campus – Hayes Hall: A History of Mystery

UB South Campus is home to Hayes Hall, which has a checkered past. Built in 1874, it served as an insane department of the Erie County Almshouse and later as a county hospital. Some claim to have seen an old woman wandering the halls, while others point to the burial grounds for hospital patients as potential sources of strange happenings.

Alfred University, with its Civil War soldier, playful young boy, and a woman’s apparition, is yet another location in Western New York with a haunted reputation. The ghosts of the past continue to captivate the present, leaving residents and visitors intrigued by the supernatural history that lingers in Western New York. As Halloween draws near, the allure of these haunted sites only

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