Top: In The Attic of the Kirby House.
Any town or village has its haunted house. Old Bethpage Village Restoration has its share, and like most villages, most are urban legends which sprang up over the years. Nearly all the buildings in the village were once located elsewhere, and some, like the Noon Inn, brought their legends with them.
And of course the restoration village has plenty of ghost stories of its own, dating from the years the buildings have existing in their current location.
A family spending the night in Lewis Ritch’s 19th century farmhouse reported hearing heavy boots walking about the porch during the night, which they presumed to be the former master of the house, who died in 1835 coming back to his home, which he once shared on Middle Island with his wife Charity and their six children.
In the Conklin house, a fisherman’s cottage which once stood in Village of the Branch and now lives again at Old Bethpage, a woman has been reportedly seen upstairs in period dress, and who was decidedly not a 20th century interpreter. Another interpreter who has worked at the village for over 20 years refuses to set foot in the house. Still another I spoke to talked of being alone in the house reading, when over the top of his book saw a dark shape rushing towards him, only to look up and see nothing there. On another occasion he heard a loud bang, as though a shelf had fallen in the other room, only to find nothing amiss.
The Conklin house once set next to the inn owned by Thomas Hallock, and is one of the newer structures on the site. Walt Whitman is rumored to be one of the earliest tenants, and the house is typical of an English derivative style, with Greek Revival touches. Joseph H. Conklin, married to Thankful Hallock, Thomas’ niece bought the place in 1853. According to Long Island Oddities, the place is reputed to also be haunted by a small boy, afflicted by disability or deformity, who showed up in a census for one year and never again, and was supposed to have been shut away in the house.
The Hewlett House, now restored to 1840, was built during the 1890s in Woodbury, an example of Federal Period architecture. The house displays a gambrel roof, a milk room and large, beehive oven with an inscription of 1796. It also appears to be haunted.
The House was inhabited by the Hewlett Family, including a descendent of the original owners, Lewis Hewlett, who presumably carved his initials into the ceiling above the fireplace. What makes this unusual, is that for some time no one noticed the carving. Then one afternoon, a worker was leaning over the fireplace when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Upon turning around, she found nobody there. This was the first day that the initials were noticed.
There is a tapestry on one of the walls of the house, done by a child learning to embroider, which refers to being buried, rotting bones and their desire not to be forgotten. And appropriately enough, in the parlor one finds a coffin, lain out for a wake, which presents a unique opportunity to see how a family remembered and sent off their dead in the 19th century.
Another visitor reported feeling pulled towards the staircase every time she entered the Hewlett House, which she described as a strong desire to go upstairs, which she finally did, only to report seeing a noose hanging from the top of the stairwell. Another woman felt as if she was being pushed down the stairs, and reportedly the two women decided to hold a seance, at which they contacted Lewis Hewlett who stated that it was he who was hanging from the stairwell.
Security guards tell of one of their own, who heard the voices of men in the basement, and thinking they were intruders made for the door. Unfortunately, the door to the place locks from the outside, and the door had closed and the hapless man found himself locked in. So frightened was he that he went out the window rather than wait for help to arrive.
The Noon Inn is one of the most popular stops, if Old Bethpage photos found on the internet are any indication. It was originally purpose built in East Meadow to be an inn and bar, before being closed down, when it was used for storage. Kids would break into the place and vagrants reportedly used to sleep in there. One such vagrant, according to popular legend which has been discredited by a fellow whose family formerly owned the home, was surprised by three teenagers whom he stabbed to death. The bodies lay undetected for some time, until a security guard found them, and a short time later, according to the story, the vagrant was arrested with some of their possessions, and confessed to the crime. As such with all urban legends, the place took on the reputation of being haunted, and the same night that the vagrant was supposed to have hung himself in his cell, a girl walking down the street outside the Noon Inn saw the three boys’ faces in the windows. It’s stories like this which as I said, appears to have no basis in fact, that add to the richness of a place. And Old Bethpage is fortunate to have brought along the legends, along with the structures which now line the streets of Old Bethpage Village.
The Williams House, restored to 1860, was once home to a certain Henry Williams, farmer and carpenter, and stood in New Hyde Park. A seamstress named Esther once lived there as well. Reports of poltergeist activity abounds in the Williams House. Trunks have been heard moving about upstairs, and upon investigation are found with their contents strewn about.
One hot afternoon, two interpreters were working the Williams House, and opened a window to let in the breeze, which is often quite nice there. They went back to their sewing, which is their charge at Old Bethpage, when they heard the window slam shut. One opened it again, this time propping it up with a stick, which is typically used to lock the windows, by jamming it into the top of the window. They left the room, only to hear the window shut again. Coming back into the room, they found the stick lain on the sewing table. A third time they opened the window, once again propped it open and once again left the room. The window slammed closed again, and this time the stick was found far from the house in the garden, by a child visiting the park. In the Williams house, the workers are on a first name basis with Esther.
On another occasion, two workers were cleaning up in the house. One picked up a small teacup, used originally as part of a toy tea set, when she head a small voice telling her to “Put my teacup down.”
Thanksgiving is a wonderful time at the Williams House. Turkey is roasted in the hearth, and the sights, sounds and smells of a Thanksgiving feast brings the house to life. During the preparations one year, the door to the place kept closing. Even on a November Day on Long Island, so much cooking and activity can quickly overheat a house, so one of the women there propped the door open with a fireplace tool, only to be hit in the head by the same tool when she went back to her work.
The spirits it seems at Old Bethpage Village Restoration don’t mind visitors, but they are very fussy about their homes, even to this day.
(Thanks to Long Island Oddities and Newsday for some information in this article, which pointed out which questions to ask of the workers at OBVR, and a special thanks to them as well)