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Spooky

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BiblioFlames and Breathe Inspiring Gifts are among the places in Port Jefferson Village cited by Village Center building manager Bob Hodum as hotbeds for paranormal activity. Photo by Kyle Barr

There are the old stories told only in whispers, and then there are the legends, which hide in the dark corners of local homes and shops. Port Jefferson has a long history, and such a village always has one foot in modern times with compelling ghost stories of days gone by constantly trailing in its wake.

Bob Hodum, the building manager of the Port Jefferson Village Center, annually takes willing participants on a ghost tour of the village to peer into its haunted past. Back in the days when Port Jeff was known as Drowned Meadow, a port settlement with a thriving shipbuilding industry and only a few shops to its name, spirits made their way into the woodwork of these lasting structures, according to Hodum. In the 19th century there was no Main Street as it’s known today, and instead East Main Street was considered the real commercial district.

BiblioFlames and Breathe Inspiring Gifts are among the places in Port Jefferson Village cited by Village Center building manager Bob Hodum as hotbeds for paranormal activity. Photo by Kyle Barr

All along East Main Street, stories abound about a haunted past. Jena Turner, the owner of Breathe Inspiring Gifts, which sells a number of spiritual items — such as crystals, minerals, tarot cards, incense and oils — said she has sensed a number of spirits who live in her store. One she and her friends named George or The Captain and another they named Charles. Another apparition once came into the store just a few months after Turner moved in 2009, a Mae West-looking woman they dubbed The Madam, she said.

“The day I came to look at the building I sensed it right away,” Turner said. “One day I felt like I was pushed, and I broke a mirror. Another day I was in a store with a customer, it sounded like somebody was trying to get out of the bathroom. The mirror came off the wall and landed on the floor. … There’s an office door next to cash register which opens at random times and freaks people out.”

During the 1930s, the space that Turner occupies was a bar, Hodum said, which gained the gruesome name The Bucket of Blood because of the number of fights started by sailors and shipwrights. Hodum added legends say the local village doctor was a regular attendant to those hurt in fights at The Bucket of Blood, and those who survived his treatment were offered a free drink.

“The place was a real dive — men fought all the time in it, and knives were their weapon of choice,” Hodum said.

The house across the street from Breathe was owned by a man named Capt. George Washington Brewster, a well-known mariner of the mid-19th century, Hodum said. Turner suspected his spirit must be the one making an appearance, perhaps among others who once visited the saloon. Despite the spirits being hosted in the building, she said she feels the ghosts aren’t malicious, and they add a little bit to the atmosphere of her shop.

Many other buildings on East Main Street belong to the late-19th and early 20th centuries. In the shop now occupied by BiblioFlames, a book-inspired candle shop on East Main Street, Hodum told another story of Lee Jong, an amiable laundryman and Chinese immigrant to Port Jefferson. Jong was known as a model citizen, and often gave refuge to people down on their luck. That is how he came into contact with John Rys, who was given space by Jong after the young man found himself homeless. Rys later went on a robbing spree, which Jong found out about and subsequently told the police. As Rys was being led away, he vowed revenge on his benefactor.

“One day I felt like I was pushed, and I broke a mirror. Another day I was in a store with a customer, it sounded like somebody was trying to get out of the bathroom. The mirror came off the wall and landed on the floor.”

— Jena Turner

The robber got his revenge in 1922 by murdering Jong in his own shop, according to Hodum. The crime was witnessed by a woman in the shop next door, and he was sentenced to death at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining. Both Rys and his accomplice John Emieleta were put to death in 1925 via the electric chair, gravely given the sobriquet “sparky.”

Sometimes Hodum said people can still hear Jong in his shop, continuing his lifelong profession by ironing shirts.

Hodum told another story of a lurid murder spree by Henry Walters of his wife Elizabeth Darling-Walters and her son-in-law over the family’s inheritance in 1857. The tragedy took place near the site of the Port Jefferson Power Station. Emmet Darling, the youngest member of the household, survived and managed to escape. Knowing that he would most likely be caught, Walters hung himself, according to Hodum. If you listen on a cold November day, some locals still say they hear the murderer’s voice.

“In November, when the murder took place, in the evening you can actually hear Walters moaning, where he’s crying about the fact that he would be discovered, and how sorry he was for it,” the building manager said.

Hodum hosted ghost tours to help promote the Port Jefferson Conservancy and the Village Center’s Haunted Mansion night Saturday, Oct. 27. The night will included fun and scares for all ages, mad scientists, ghosts, spooky fortune tellers and more. 

The funds raised by the event will go toward supporting the conservancy.

‘Metamorphosis,’ Best in Show Senior Division by Jeanette Wells

Just in time for Halloween, the Huntington Arts Council’s annual Nightmare on Main Street — Student Art Exhibit is currently on view at the Main Street Gallery in Huntington through Saturday, Oct. 31.

‘The Bride of Frankenstein’ by Cameron Matassa, Grade 11, Massapequa Park
‘The Bride of Frankenstein’ by Cameron Matassa, Grade 11, Massapequa Park

Now in its 4th year, “the inspiration for Nightmare on Main Street came from the dramatic holiday Windows at Macy’s in New York City. We wanted to take advantage of the beautiful windows that frame the gallery at the Huntington Arts Council and turn the actual windows into a work of dramatic art,” said Andrea Maire, immediate past president of the Huntington Arts Council.

“Once inside the gallery, visitors would find that even the gallery floors and walls had been treated with similar flair. We chose Halloween because the many possible interpretations of the season would give our young participating artists the most choices in creating their works,” she said.

Thirty-four student artists in grades K through 12 were selected as finalists including Sarah Ansman, Eleana Canas, Kianna Criscuola, Andrew Davis, Katie Elkowitz, Katie Eng, Jessica Garcia, Allie Giordano, Claire Hannon, Jackie Hawkins, Ashley Herkommer, Julie Jankowski, Aisha Khan, Tateana Khokhar, Sarah Kimmel, Tyler Kiser, Lauren Landolfi,  Cameron Matassa, Jean Miller, Ruth Mistretta, Eli Mollineaux, Theresa Moreno, Erin O’Kelly, Martin Perez, Kenya Pinos, Maheen Rahman, Claudia Reese, Nicole Ruiz, Jack Ruthkowski, Jordan Shaked, Dipti Sharma, Michelle Shin, Aidan Spencer and Jeanette Wells.

The exhibit was juried by Michelle Carollo, an installation artist, administrator, teacher and community organizer whose work has been shown across the United States. The recipient of many awards, she was recently a select finalist for the NYC Public Art in Public Schools.

‘VooDoo Doll,’ Best in Show Junior Division, by Jack Ruthkowski. Image from Huntington Arts Council
‘VooDoo Doll,’ Best in Show Junior Division, by Jack Ruthkowski. Image from Huntington Arts Council

On exhibit is artwork that has been inspired by Halloween whether it be ghoulish, gross or somewhat gruesome. “The works in this show capture the true spirit of Halloween, whether it be playful, psychological or physical, the spectator soon realizes the power of the imagination is the scariest of all,” said Carollo in describing the students work.

Two winners were ultimately chosen for Best in Show in the Junior Division (Grades K to 8) and Senior Division (Grades 9 to 12) category. Congratulations to 9-year-old Jack Ruthkowski  of Huntington for Best in Show in the Junior Division for “VooDoo Doll” and Jeanette Wells, an 11th-grader from Northport for Best in Show in the Senior Division  for “Metamorphosis.” Both artists will receive a check for $50.

“The Nightmare on Main Street exhibit continues to draw talented student artists. It is wonderful to see how young people interpret the Halloween theme. The creativity, skill, technique and enthusiasm for the show are all part of what makes this program so rewarding for us,” said Marc Courtade, executive director of the Huntington Arts Council. “It is our pleasure to provide this opportunity to student artists throughout the community,” he added.

A costume party will be held at the gallery on Oct. 30 from 6 to 8 p.m. where the two winners will be presented with awards. All are welcome to attend this free event and costumes are encouraged. Refreshments will be served.

The Main Street Gallery, 213 Main St., Huntington, is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. For more information, call 631-271-8423 or visit www.huntingtonarts.org.

The Un-Living History cast, front row, from left, Jim Ryan, Carmen Collins, Rick Outcault and Ellen Mason. Back row, from left, Florence Lucker, Peter Reganato, Vincent Ilardi and Mary McKell. Photo from Vanderbilt Museum

A terrifying, hooded figure sits in Mr. Vanderbilt’s bathtub. A skeleton stands behind an armchair in one of the elegant bedrooms. An eerie woman in a black robe with pasty-white skin and a frightful stare sits on a divan in Mrs. Vanderbilt’s bedroom. Near the fireplace in the grand, paneled library stands a tall mummy.

These are just a few of the ghostly, life-size props that will welcome you to Halloween at the Vanderbilt Mansion.

Saturdays and Sundays, Oct. 24 and 25 and Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, are Haunted Weekends at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport. Festivities will include hourly Un-Living History Tours of the mansion beginning at noon, with the last tour starting at 4 p.m.   

Tours are interwoven with Vanderbilt family history and include ghost stories told by mansion guides dressed for the occasion. Visitors may meet Delia O’Rourke, the Irish cook, dressed in her bloody apron and carrying a meat cleaver, or one of the Vanderbilt family guests, aviator-industrialist Howard Hughes, dressed in the dirty, bloody clothing from his plane crash. Visitors also might run into the Phantom of the Opera or the occasional witch.

The Vanderbilt Mansion has a few ghost stories of its own — experienced by staff members from years ago. Those tales include hearing the laughter of young girls in the nursery wing of the mansion, in the evening after hours, and the nighttime sighting of the ghostly figure of a young boy in knickers and a cap running across the mansion lawn.

Recommended for children ages 8 and up. Tickets, sold at the gate, are $7 adults, $6 students and seniors, and $3 children ages 12 and under general admission plus $5 per person for a guided mansion tour. For more information, call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

A creepy graveyard will be on the tour during the Haunted Hayrides at Benner’s Farm. Photo by Giselle Barkley

By Rita J. Egan

Scaring up some Halloween fun isn’t tricky when you live on or near the North Shore of Suffolk County. However, beware; some activities are not for scaredy cats.

Those taking a hayride at Benner’s Farm, 56 Gnarled Hollow Road, E. Setauket, will find that things will get a little spookier on Oct. 30 and 31. While visitors will find an array of static figures, including ogres, witches and ghosts, in the fields on any given day this month, the creatures will come alive on Halloween eve and day from 6 to 9 p.m. when the farm offers Haunted Hayrides.

Owner Bob Benner said the event is open to all ages, but he warns that the later the ride is, the scarier it gets. “We have had some people who have been really scared and other people who simply just enjoyed the ride a lot,” he said.

Mr. Benner said the farm staff, along with volunteers, play the creatures that can come out of nowhere and jump toward the hayride or unexpectedly scream. In addition, there are different tableaus, including the farm’s spooky cemetery, where visitors may witness a ghoulish figure up to something evil.

Mr. Benner said the creativity of those in the field always amazes him. “I never quite know what they are going to come up with in terms of scaring folks.” Rides, which cost $6 per person,  leave every 20 minutes. Visit with the animals and have a Halloween treat while you wait. For more information, visit www.bennersfarm.com or call 631-689-8172.

Over at F&W Schmitt’s Family Farm in Melville, 26 Pinelawn Road, a mad doctor who encountered a book of ancient texts has taken over. Visitors to The Haunted Mansion of Melville will encounter otherworldly creatures as well as various oddities during their spine-chilling visit.

Outside, those who dare can explore The Haunted Corn Maze where the physician dumps his patients who may or may not be dead. There’s also a high-intensity live stage show, “The Experiment,” that gives spectators the opportunity to witness some of the doctor’s experiments on his patients.

The show, which is enhanced with special effects, isn’t recommended for those with heart conditions or those who cannot handle intense situations. Tickets are $19 for the mansion, $11 for the corn maze, $5 for “The Experiment” and $30 for a combo ticket. Open Thursdays and Sundays 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays 7 p.m. to midnight through the end of October. Visit www.schmittshaunt.com or call 631-271-3276 for information, including hours for their less scary, daytime show for children.

For more hair-raising Halloween moments, head over to The Darkside Haunted House at 5184 Rt. 25A, Wading River. The indoor and outdoor attraction, which spans over 14,000 square feet, features movie-quality sets and bone-chilling special effects. While The Darkside Haunted House is not recommended for children under 12 years old, an early matinee from 1 to 5 p.m. on weekend days, with the lights on and no live actors, is available for the little ones as well as the weak of heart. The Darkside Haunted House is open weekdays and weekends until Nov. 1. Tickets start at $18. For more information and hours, visit www.darksideproductions.com or call 631-369-SCARE.

For a tamer treat, join the animals at Sweetbriar Nature Center, 62 Eckernkamp Dr., Smithtown, during their annual Halloween Spook-tacular. Children are encouraged to wear costumes as they spend the day walking through the ghostly garden, and participating in the scavenger hunt, story time, crafts and sensory activities. New this year, visitors can travel the Jack O’ Lantern trail decorated with hand-carved and glowing pumpkins. The Spook-tacular is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 23, and Saturday, Oct. 24, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. and costs $7 per person. The center will also offer a Not-So-Spooky Spook-tacular on Oct. 24 from 3:30 to 5 p.m. For more information, or to contribute a carved or uncarved pumpkin, call Eric at 631-979-6344, ext. 302.

Spooky stories will fill the halls of the museum of the Hallock Homestead Farm, 6038 Sound Ave., Riverhead, during its Haunted Museum Tours on Friday, Oct. 30, at 4:30 p.m. More than 250 years of Hallockville Homestead dark secrets will be exposed, including the death of the Phantom British Officer.

During the tour, one may hear the hair-raising sobs of the broken-hearted Spectral Bride searching for her lost love, and guests may even encounter the ghost of the dishonest Regretful Rumrunner, doomed by his own poisoned drink. Based on historical fact, local folklore and urban legend, the tour was created by professional actress, costume designer and museum educator Colette Gilbert.

Beth Motschenbacher, assistant director, said this is the first year the museum is offering the tour. “I hope people enjoy seeing the historic homestead in a different light and learning a little bit more about the darker side of folklore,” she said.

Tours, which depart from the Hudson-Sydlowski house, last 50 to 60 minutes and run every 15 minutes until 7:45 p.m. Advance reservations are recommended. Geared for all ages, admission is $7 for adults and children age 10 and under are free. For more information, call 631-298-5292 or visit www.hallockville.com.