Saratoga Springs' spooky side

Like all American kids, Mason Winfield said, he was interested in spooks growing up.

That interest stayed with him, and in recent years, Winfield turned it into a business. He offers "haunted history ghost walks" across Upstate New York, including in Saratoga Springs.

He stresses that he's not a ghost hunter. In fact, suggest it, and he can't help but laugh.

"It's ridiculous, isn't it?" Winfield said. "Somehow you sneak up to this building with 80 pounds of equipment, and the ghosts don't hear you. No one knows you're there but you."

At the outset of every walk, he makes clear that he's not a psychic. He doesn't take photos and look for flashes of light. He doesn't instruct people on the tours to be quiet so they can hear creaking floorboards or other ghostly sounds.

"I'm not going to take you to a building and tell you the building has a message just for you," he said, laughing again.

So what exactly does Winfield do? In his own words: "I'm a paranormal probe."

In simpler terms, Winfield takes people around to sites that are reputed to be haunted. He likes to tell them the history of the area and what kind of ghost stories have cropped up over the years.

In Saratoga, for example, his tours stop at Congress Park, where Winfield will talk about the Native Americans who once inhabited the area and the legends surrounding the park.

Based in Buffalo, Winfield said Saratoga, where he once lived, is a great setting for the ghost walks because a lot of the architecture has been preserved.

"When you've got that, you've got a good core," he said, citing the Canfield Casino as well as mansions and "terrific brownstones."

Adding to Saratoga's appeal is the fact it's a tourist draw.

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