Do you believe in ghosts?

I live on Long Island, which seems to be an area that attracts ghosts – or at least, folks who tell tales of having seen them. While tooling around the net, I discovered a wonderful blog that I found absolutely fascinating:

http://longislandgothic.com/

It’s written by Todd Atteberry and I spent the better part of an hour enjoying the author’s whimsical style and absolutely gorgeous photos. (Besides having a very unique voice, Todd is also a talented photographer; his photos are evocative and very much suit the ‘feeling’ of the LongIslandGothic.com blog.) The Long Island ghost stories  are certainly eerie, but there is something very unexpectedly playful about the way he tells them — please don’t take my word for all this, go and have a look!

I was elated to find a post about Winfield Hall, which is the old Woolworth mansion out in Glen Cove, NY. On my refrigerator, a magnet holds a faded newspaper clipping. It’s a story about Winfield Hall. I keep it there to remind me of a journey I once made there (as if I could ever forget!) and possibly to goad me into making a return trip sometime.

Winfield is a 30,000 square foot Italian Renaissance mansion which sits on a 16 plus acre property. The grounds surrounding the mansion, now overgrown and wild,  once featured lush gardens fashioned after those of the Villa Borghese in Rome. A 15,000 square foot clock ktower and a carriage house also sit on the property. The main house has 11 bedrooms, 10.5 bathrooms and 16 fireplaces.

F.W. Woolworth is said to have been a strange man. He made a fortune inventing the ‘5 and Dime’ of yesteryear and was supposedly obsessed by Napoleon, as I learned from “The Magic of Believing” (a  book which deeply influenced me and which is discussed in an earlier post here). While that book did mention some  of Woolworth’s rather ‘mystical’ interests, it did not deeply examine aspects of his personal life.

I have read (in “Winfield: Living in the Shadow of the Woolworths”, by Monica Randall) that one of his daughters committed suicide in the house while a party went on downstairs. She was distressed about her father’s refusal to allow her to mary as she wished, so the story goes. There are rumors that Woolworth’s remains are hidden in an enormous sarcophagus in the basement of the mansion. I doubt that old Woolworth’s body is anywhere on the premises (not so sure about his spirit, however!) , but I am certainly more than convinced that it’s a sad house.

About two years ago, I decided to go and take a look at this property. I knew I wouldn’t be content to drive around it and peer through the fences either. I wanted to really see the house — up close and personal. Here’s the story of that visit, which I posted in the “Comments” section of LongIslandGothic.com:

I have walked the grounds of Winfield late at night. I made it up to the front veranda of the mansion with a companion and we used the flashlight we’d brought along to illuminate the entry foyer and also the beautiful room with the golden ceilings (concealing the hidden chamber above).

The marble staircase was incredibly beautiful; it literally seemed to glow. At the risk of sounding like a lunatic, I have to confess that I thought I saw something. I sensed movement and felt as if my hair were trying to stand on end, because what I was seeing was a figure in a long dress slowly coming down the stairs. At the same time, I felt as if someone was advancing on us from behind as we peered into the house. We both gasped when we saw the figure, I clicked off the light, and we got out of there as fast as our feet would carry us. Later on, we found that we’d both seen the same apparition. VERY creepy. End of story.

Do you believe in ghosts?

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Do you believe in ghosts?

  1. graveyardglamour

    yes and no

  2. Drove by Winfield yesterday and thought of your story. It’s amazing what we’re brave enough to do when we’re young. I couldn’t even muster the courage to wander in for photos, though the fear is of something more statute than spectral. Cheerio!

    • 2dreamit

      Thanks for posting, Todd. I think it’s key to pick an ‘off’ time. When I go wandering about (i.e. trespassing!), it’s often on the eve of a holiday. The theory is that there’s a higher likelihood of a reduced staff.

      Of course, I might be wrong about that one of these days!

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