Earlier this month, Leah and I continued our exploration of the former Jewish Alps (part 1 is here). We spent the weekend with a great group of hosts (who fast became new pals) in the town of Rosendale, which I found positively charming (and just now realized I'd read about before in the Times).
Leah and I began on Saturday with the still-in-business Mohonk Mountain House, which is often cited as the inspiration for The Shining. It was also seen in No Reservations, in the episode when Tony went up the Hudson. The enormous lodge's hodgepodge of structural styles made a much more dramatic impression in person than it did on the show.
It costs $25 just for a day pass to hike on their grounds for the day and then "not be permitted inside the hotel." (You can totally go inside the hotel.) Inside it has a very old-school feel with dark wood paneling, fireplaces and old fixtures galore.
After hiking up to the high point for panoramic views of the New Paltz region, then grabbing coffee and hiking the trails back down to the car it was already a full day, but we still had a night of ghost hunting ahead.
We made a resolution to return for a stay at the Mountain House.
Back in Rosendale, we wanted to nap but there was no time. Eddie, pictured below center, had arranged for us to tour the Tamarack Lodge at night with a clairvoyant Native American woman who lived on the property, who he met when he was last exploring there. This story was a little too much to take. We couldn't believe the night's plan, which was certain to be a horror movie in the making.
We arrived at the Tamarack at dusk, as the wind kicked up and we each donned as many layers as we had with us. We met our hostess, who was the most blue-eyed Native American I'd ever seen. Her father has a Native American museum on the property in a new building. Our party already numbered 10 when we arrived and were 16 by the time our hostess' kids and their friends joined the gang.
After entering through the main entrance (above), we started in the pool room, which is seen from the exterior in the dusk shot above. Here's the ceiling:
Per abandoned resort tradition, all lounges had been tossed into the pool.
Our hostess decided we would all go in the pool as well and use the Ouija board to contact the unsettled spirits of the hotel.
As someone who feels Ouija boards are not to be messed with, particularly in dark abandoned buildings that we're being told are haunted, I was pretty solidly not on board with this plan. But we were here for a ghost hunt, so everybody into the pool.
We stood in the pool in the complete darkness and tried contacting the two spirits just by asking them to appear. Blessedly, none did.
"Is anybody with us tonight?"
[giant gust of wind]
And so on.
Once the Ouija came out (they glow in the dark now once you juice them up with a flashlight), everyone sat cross legged around it. Everyone, that is, except Leah and I, and the one gal who stood apart from everyone the whole night not saying anything and staring into the darkness. This was the only time I have ever actually stood still embracing a friend in utter terror. You know someone's a good friend when you can do that. We both suspected the solitary woman of being posessed. Hey, anything seems possible when you are standing in the pitch black in an abandoned resort that someone told you is haunted and you have also consumed a lot of horror stories throughout life.
I wondered for the first time that weekend but not for the last: Why I do this to myself?
Possible paranormal event no. 1: Myself and three other women all standing in the same area of the pool got cold--Chilled to the bone. It was a cold night to begin with, true enough, and there was a hole in the zig-zagged roof. But we'd all bundled up. I had on a wool turtleneck with a heavy duty wool Pendleton button- down shirt. I'm not sure the deep chill the four of us felt then was from the weather.
After approximately one eternity of no response from the Great Beyond other than a few far-off taps that could be anything--long enough that I relaxed enough to start joking about the no-show ghosts a bit with Leah--we were allowed to leave the pool room.
On the way out of the pool room we examined the rubble with our camera flashes.
What's the creepiest thing about the above photo? The sign or the nearby smooshed baby shoe? No, it is obviously the zombie toe-footed footgear. Anyone who wears these will automatically be the creepiest in their area.
Also found in my photos in the rubble are a yellow plastic souvenir drink bottle imprinted in green with "Everything You Expect from a Premiere Catskill Resort," a record player, graffiti stencils, a white artificial Christmas tree, a wooden stretcher, and possibly a small bloodstain.
I believe the above used to be hot tubs but were filled with dirt and woodchips to be used as planters in later years.
We moved on to a large performance space with a stage on one end and a teepee in the center. A pow-wow had been held here recently, we were told.
The room also had a DJ booth.
My favorite part of the evening took place here when one of our group gave a haunting solo concert on the musical saw in the dark. Then it became saw-playing lessons for the kids.
Elsewhere, up in one of the hotel rooms, we found a stash of Muscle and Fitness magazines and posters, CDs (Crash Test Dummies and some nu-metal band), and a crossbow training video VHS tape (sealed). Mounted on the wall was a large mirror for flexing. Because where do you go for your secret cultivation of and admiration of muscles and fitness? You go to the abandoned Tamarack Lodge, which at one time was "Everything You Expect from a Premiere Catskill Resort."
And then we went to the attic, which felt like the opposite of something we should be doing.
The lights went out, with the solitary girl situated at the far end of the attic by herself (again: why do I do this to myself?!). Soon our party was joined by yet another member, a guy we were told normally has all the EVP (elecronic voice phenomenon) and other ghost-hunting equipment, though he didn't have it with him tonight. He did come bearing his divining pendulum that he takes with him wherever he goes.
It was a pointed crystal on a chain that in conjunction with unknown disembodied entities can answer yes or no questions.
"Is someone here?" Yes, swung the pendulum.
"Do you want us to leave?" Yes.
"OK! Let's go!" I said, but we still had to stay.
Later he handed the pendulum to me to try.
Possible paranormal event no. 2: As alluded earlier, I believe in Ouija boards. I'm sure that they're often used for fakery, but I'm also just as sure that back in my preteen occult experimentation stage, I felt the planchette move when I was touching it as lightly as I possibly can and that the other person wasn't moving it either. Using that pendulum for divination felt like the same effect as the Ouija. It moved, and I was not the force moving it. It moved in front-back or side-side arcs or roundabout spiral identical to the way it did with the other guy.
We went outside to the area behind the main building, and the moon cooperated in setting the mood.
First stop, a decrepit building called The Westchester.
We didn't go far in.
Below is the only photo from the night I consider odd. I took plenty of pictures containing orbs, and numerous photos with so many orbs they looked like snow flurries. That was just dust being kicked up by all the people walking around. But why the below photo (the same view as the shot above) turned out blue, that I cannot explain.
There could be an easy explanation, but I don't know it.
Below is a view inside one of the breezeway shelters between the buildings that enabled guests and staff to travel between the buildings without getting rained on.
Finally, we arrived at The Essex, the building haunted by a demon, our hostess warned.
I was pretty good on the scares by that point and did not need to go in. However, everybody else was doing it, which is always a good reason to go along with a plan you don't like. Inside it felt extremely oppressive and just looked like another trashed lodging building. I would say the demon was more of the rotting materials/ damaging airborne particles variety than anything paranormal. It didn't feel haunted, it felt like "lets get out of here before we destroy our lungs." I was glad when we all made a quick exit.
But not without noticing this steel cart and thinking how much it would go for at the industrial antiques shoppe in my neighborhood in Brooklyn.
In all, we were on the grounds for five hours and were extremely grateful to our gracious hostess for the rare and dangerous opportunity: free reign to explore condemned buildings in the dark. It was exhausting. We still planned a daytime visit to another abandoned resort the next day, but that will be detailed in the next post, coming soon.
GO TO PART 3 OF ABANDONED BORSCHT BELT