The ghost of Harold Harwood haunts the Hamlet of Ironville in Essex County, New York, 

The hamlet is just a neighborhood, really: the Congregational Church with large windows flanking its entrance, facial like; the gable fronted Parsonage; the 1828 Penfield Homestead; the Greek revival Harwood House and, even earlier than these, the 1827 rooming house that boarded the workers in the iron industry that gave the hamlet its name, like Harold Harwood.

Then, there is the cemetery. 

The cemetery is the problem. Harold Harwood, the archetypical ironworker, isn’t buried there. 

Of course we didn’t know that when we booked our neighborhood AirB&B. It might have been just a B&B, but there was no proprietor, and no breakfast was provided. Instead, it was a small two bedroom dwelling with a kitchen, a bath with a clawfoot tub, and a sitting area with a woodstove, but no firewood. 

Roughing it. I told the kids, that’s what you do in the Adirondacks. They thought that we were going camping. Well, when you’re from Manhattan, a two bedroom, single bath hovel for a family of five is roughing it. They didn’t appreciate the humor, or the hovel either, especially after the ghost of Harold Harwood stopped by for a visit.

A ghostly visitation makes an Adirondack vacation just a little bit more special, in an eerie kind of way. I mean, the Adirondacks are fine with the mountains, lakes, rivers and streams. But the Adirondack ghosts are a real treat, if you like scares. And there are several hauntings around the park to thrill vacationers like us. Harold Harwood isn’t the only one, although I’d say he is one of the better ones.

First, there is his howling in the middle of the night, enough to make you quake and light the candles. Then there is his floating shade, all the spookier if it is still there when you take your head out from under your bed covers. Plus, there isn’t anything that you can do or say to a ghost like Harold Harwood. 

Some ghosts, like the giggling phantoms of children in the hallways of the Sagamore Hotel in Bolton Landing, will vanish if you toss them some candy or other consumables. Other spirits, like Montcalm’s massacred innocents at Fort William Henry in Lake George just want some expressions of sympathy, like, “Oh, dear me. How sad.” Other military ghosts, like those at Ticonderoga, or Fort Covington, or Cooks Corner, just expect a salute.

Then there are the ghosts of the undead of tragedies or dasterdly deeds, such as Mabel Douglas, the suspected suicide whose ghost haunts Pulpit Rock in Lake Placid where her drowned body was found well preserved some thirty years after first being reported missing. Or, the spirit of the jilted and murdered paramour, Grace Brown, whose bloodied ghost haunts the shores of Moose Lake. Or, the headless victims of the Faust Lumberjack that shade the railway by their incinerated cabin.

There is no known tragedy, or any foul play involving Harold Harwood, or military history involving Ironville. But Harwood’s ghost will not rest in peace until he is buried in the Ironville Cemetery. And that’s the problem. There isn’t a corpse to bury, and you can’t inter a ghost. They are just too immaterial to capture and confine. 

Unable to be rid of him, we insisted that he tone down the volume of his howl, especially because the little ones needed their sleep. To no avail. After three nights, the kids were exhausted and irritable, and me and the missus had had enough. So, we packed up the backpacks that I had bought as part of the “we’re going camping” ruse, wrote a small thank you note to our hosts without mentioning Harold Harwood, and we took our leave.

Now, I won’t say that this was the worst Adirondack vacation that we ever had as a family. Not even close, really. Haunted houses can’t hold a candle to black flies in May and June. But ghosts are not the best bedmates, either.  So, if you’re inclined to vacation in the Adirondacks, I’d suggest camping in September, and staying away from the haunted hamlets at other times.

One thought on “A GHOSTLY VACATION IN THE ADIRONDACKS by Edward Pontacoloni

  1. I did not realize that there are so many ghosts in the Adirondacks.
    I would like to meet Mabel Douglas. Her story could turn in to a great mystery.

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