It was a dark, cold and stormy night on Friday, Oct. 23, as ghost-tour guide John Gearing walked through the Schenectady Stockade with optimistic adventurers looking for ghosts in the century old residences.
The Schenectady Heritage Foundation has been holding ghost tours of the stockade every Friday in October in celebration of Halloween and the historic significance of the area. The tours are about an hour long and cover both historical and paranormal activity in the Stockade area of the city of Schenectady.
We like the history of it, said ghost tour guide John Gearing, "It's a way to promote Schenectady in a healthy and productive way." Gearing, dressed in a black cowl and holding a lantern, spoke about the different haunts that are a part of the history of the Stockade, be they the ghosts of brothel goers haunting the Van Dyke, witch burnings or the ghosts of a young servant boy at the Ellis Mansion, the tour covers paranormal experiences in the area from pre-Dutch Colonial settlers up to the Victorian era.
Gearing informs the group of not only ghostly haunts and gruesome attacks on the fledgling city, such as the events that led up to the 1690 Schenectady Massacre, but of hidden passageways and urban myths in the town. At 14 N. Church St., there was once a tunnel that led to the river, hypothesized to be either a means to escape the city or to smuggling goods in. The building at 216 Union St. was once a part of the Underground Railroad, and in one apartment near the river, a Civil War-era soldier haunts his flat by pacing 16 steps across the floor and back again.
"Maureen [Gebert, of the Schenectady Heritage Area] asked if I'd be interested," said ghost-tour guide Kathy Fitzmaurice, who is in her second year as a part of the ghost tours of the stockade. "It's a great way to hear about the ghost stories and the history of Schenectady."