Haunts and Legends of Eastern Long Island

The sun has set and it is cool. A blood orange sliver of light can barely be seen on the horizon. You make you way back toward Montauk Manor as shadows play on your imagination. There is a breeze, but it has been an unusually warm day for late October. Despite the days warmth that coolness has set in and every few moments on your walk you get the distinct feeling you aren’t alone.

Your senses heighten, you are now very much aware of every sound and possible movement. You don’t dare look behind you although the temptation is overwhelming. You aren’t sure, but you think you feel a cold wisp of air on the back of your neck, almost like a chilled breath. You shiver a little and try to shake off the uneasiness that settles and surrounds you. It’s just your imagination, isn’t it?

I appreciate a good ghost story and I would be willing to bet that many of you reading this share in that appreciation. Chilling accounts of paranormal circumstances have a certain allure that try as we might, we can’t keep from being intrigued. It’s the unknown, like the can of worms no one really wants to open, or Pandora’s box. We will gladly be the spectator if someone else has the will to investigate.

Many of you may be familiar with Montauk and its beautiful lighthouse on the point. If you aren’t, I would encourage you to look it up. It is rich in history. Some of you may also be familiar with the equally beautiful Montauk Manor, an elegant and charming Tudor style hotel situated on a very nice piece of Long Island real estate. There are also others who are even more familiar with the Manor.

PHOTO CREDIT- Alexandra Charitan via roadtrippers.com

According to legend and eyewitness accounts, many guests have reported experiencing some unexplainable occurances. Montauk Manor was constructed on land that was previously inhabited by Native Americans, largely the Montauketts. Fierce battles were fought for control of the valuable land and many warriors were killed as a result. The Fort Hill Cemetery located downhill and near the Manor was a meeting place for the Montauketts and other tribes. There is a large quartz stone in the center of the town graveyard where tribesmen discussed various issues ranging from daily functions of tribal life and politics. This entire area including the land where the Manor was built was considered holy land by the Native Americans.

There are stories of people seeing figures dressed in Native American clothing in the shadows and corners of the Manor hallways. Other stories speak of guests waking in the middle of the night only to see an Indian Chief standing over their bed. Some sightings include Native Americans peering from the windows of the Manor. Still others have heard the very distinct sound of beating drums and chanting coming from the cemetery and have reported feeling cold spots in otherwise warm rooms.

A friend of the family, who stayed at the Manor, told me that late one night she was walking down the stairwell to get ice and saw as well felt a hand brush by her cheek. She said it was late, but she is positive of what she had seen and felt. She had no prior knowledge of the rumored haunts at the Manor. Could these accounts be true, or could these stories be the result of hypersensative and over-active imaginations?

Montauk is also home to another type of mystery. A former military base decommissioned in the 1980’s. Camp Hero is known for its alleged involvement in the Montauk Project as well as The Philadelphia Experiment. These two conspiracy theories, regarded as urban legends by many, haunt Camp Hero.

PHOTO CREDIT- Alexandra Charitan via roadtrippers.com

Chronologically, the Philadelphia Experiment made its rounds in the conspiracy circuit starting in the 50’s. Supposedly it was a top secret government experiment aiming to make the USS Eldridge optically invisible. The conspirators claim that this was achieved using various scientific theories calculated by Albert Einstein and applied by one Dr. Franklin Rinehart. The experiment was a complete disaster. Not only did the USS Eldridge purportedly disappear, so did some of its crew. “Witnesses” stated that the ship went mostly invisible and in a bright blue flash physically disappeared. Interestingly, reports from a U.S. naval base in Virginia claim to have seen the USS Eldridge offshore at the same time. That is roughly 200 miles from Philadelphia. Accidental teleportation is believed to have occurred. The theory also states crew members suffered from nausea and dizziness. Some go as far as saying crew members, five of them specifically, were fused into the metal decks and walls of the Eldridge when she reappeared. Supposedly most of her crew were discharged from duty and many sufferred mental illness as a result of the experiment. Teleportation? Invisibility? Secret military tests? I suppose stranger things have happened.

Stranger indeed. How does this tie into Montauk and Camp Hero? The Montauk Project is believed to be the continuation of the Philadelphia Experiment. Supposedly surviving researchers from the experiment met in the 50’s and decided to go further with the testing of “electromagnetic shielding.”

Their research focused on the possible military applications of magnetic field manipulation and the potential for psychological warfare devices, a weapon that could induce the symptoms of psychotic disorders or schizophrenia at the whim of the attacker. Even skeptics must admit, the notion is very frightening regardless of whether or not it is actually possible. Camp Hero ended up being the prime site for experiments largely because of its massive radar. The work supposedly originated at the Brookhaven National Laboratory but they needed a stronger and more advanced radar dish. So as not to compromise the security of the project by trying to install one at BNL, the project was moved to Montauk. Fortunately for the researchers, the radar functioned on the same frequency that was supposed to have an influence on the human mind. Camp Hero when established as a military base was made to look like a typical New England fishing village. Underground bunkers and a network of base operations were and continue to be fodder for conspiracy buffs. I’ve heard rumors that certain bunkers were completely filled in with cement to forever hide the much more sinister happenings that many think took place in Montauk. I have personally visited Camp Hero and have seen the entrances to some abandoned bunkers that most certainly fit that description. Fact or Fiction?


There is no shortage of haunted eateries on Long Island. The Old Mill Inn in Mattituck is supposedly revisited by the former owner, Jan Holmes. The basement was a meeting place for fisherman in the 1700’s. Employees of the restaurant have stated that while sitting in the dining room area, they will hear a knock on the door and the doorknob will move. Of course, when the door is opened, no one is there.

Another supernatural entree on our menu of of creepy delights would be the Jamesport Manor Inn. Claims of doors opening and closing and people walking around when no one else is in the building are just a few of the complaints. The staff will even go so far as to make sure everyone leaves together at night, so that no co-worker has to be in the building alone.

Long Island is dotted with many lighthouses, and it should come as no surprise that some of them are rumored to have ghostly residents. The Fire Island Lighthouse falls into this category. The original lighthouse was constructed in 1826. It was 74 feet high, and because of its lack of height, it was torn down and the stones repurposed for the terrace surrounding the current beacon. This new light stands 168 feet tall and was a major improvement. Electricity finally reached the island on September 20, 1938. On September 21st of the same year, the Long Island Express or Great Hurricane of ’38 struck and severed the new power lines. It would seem good fortune would not befall this barrier island tower. One must wonder if other worldly forces are at work. It is believed that the caretaker of the original lighthouse, Nathaniel Smith, hung himself in grief.

While the constuction of the new light was underway, he and his family resided in a wooden shack near the original structure. The elements proved to be deadly for his daughter. She became ill after exposure to the elements and the caretaker waited three days for a doctor to come and care for his sick child. Unfortunately, by the time the doctor had arrived, his daughter had passed. Struck with grief and not able to go on, the mourning keeper hung himself. Even though this took place in the original lighthouse and the foundation can still be seen, the haunting takes place in the new lighthouse. People have reported hearing moaning and footsteps on the stairs. Some claim to see the man walking the grounds of the former lighthouse and others say they have heard strange laughing, knocking and cold spots on warm days. Heavy doors that are not moved by wind have slammed shut by no apparent means. Windows that need a long pole to open have opened on their own accord. A shadowy figure has been seen in the area of the old caretaker’s house and eerie feelings in general have been experienced by many. Is the old keeper lingering on in death? Is he still grieving his daughter’s death? Is he keeping vigil, trapped in a nightmarish moment in time, waiting for help to arrive?

The final account I am going to share is a true historical fact. Please note there are many versions of this story and you can follow the link to read a slightly different account. James and Frances Wickham of Cutchogue were brutally murdered in bed on a June summer night in 1854. Apparently a 21 year old man by the name Nicholas Behan attacked a servant girl that resided on the property of the Wickhams. His intentions were less than gentlemanly. Upon finding this situation, James Wickham and other men in the hamlet banished Behan with nothing more than the clothes on his back and a small parcel of belongings. He was put on a train headed toward New York and it was assumed he would do as he was told. Nicholas was outraged by this and about ten miles west, promptly got off the train and walked the entire way back to the farmhouse.

(Steve Wick photo)

When he reached the house it was very late in the evening and everyone had retired. Taking an axe from a wood pile, he made his way upstairs and according to the newspaper reports from that time, hacked both Mr. Wickham and his wife into pieces. He fled the scene only to be caught a few days later. Within a few months he was tried, convicted of murder and hanged. It should be noted that he made a full confession of the killings. The Wickham farmhouse had remained in the famly and I believe the original house may still be, but the farm and other properties as I understand are now maintained by The Cutchogue-New Suffolk Historical Council.

This is where the facts turn a bit murky and a bit unnerving. In 1988, Anne and John Wickham, then residents, woke up to see the ghost of a man hovering over their bed. The next day they moved out of the master bedroom and into another room. Cold spots and odd noises are said to be heard and felt throughout the house. No one enters the master bedroom and it is rumored that late at night the murderous footsteps of Nicholas Behan can still be heard. (please note that these accounts cannot be corroborated and I have had one heck of a time figuring out whether or not this is true, so take the story as it is…a story.)

Whether you are a skeptic or a believer, the stories of the supernatural and otherwise unexplainable are entertaining. So when Halloween night rolls around in a little more than a week, and the veil that separates the living from the dead becomes the thinnest, while you are relaxing after a long day at work, ponder for a moment just how thin that veil between here and thereafter may be. You might feel a breeze, or catch a glimpse of something strange in the corner of your eye, or feel like you’re being watched. Whatever the experience, on that particular day of the year, perhaps your senses will be heightened and perhaps you will have a story of your own to tell.


For information on other haunts to explore on Long Island please follow the link here. Remember to please be respectful to private property on any adventures.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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