New Paltz, NY – Every town has its share of dark history, but most seem like fairy tales in comparison to the mysterious stories and accounts that have been passed down over hundreds of years that highlight the haunting and at times horrific history that overshadows the oldest inhabited street in the United States. Huguenot Street appears to be a quaint and cheerful by day, but when the sun goes down the atmosphere is chilling. Huguenot Street has a dark side. Tales of murder and mayhem haunt this historical haven. From tales of axe yielding ghosts to one of the most grisly murders of the 18th century this quaint street nestled in New Paltz is a treasure trove of legends and twisted tales.
Picture yourself living in the 1800s. You are isolated – no one around for miles, It’s going to be a long cold winter. You huddle together with your family in a small stone cottage heated only by the roaring fire in the hearth. Sounds echo through the night. Your mind starts to wonder. Wait…what’s that rumbling outside the door? Is it the werewolves that roam the banks of the Wallkill River? While the superstitious may have believed in these mystical creatures, there was more to fear than these figments of an overactive imagination. While some feared night creatures, one awaits the arrival of his passage to the other side.
The Death Coach
This ghostly tale of Huguenot Street is one of unearthly travel. On a dark night an old woman sits vigil at her husband’s side waiting for the town doctor. As he lay dying in his bed, the woman’s sickly husband impatiently asks his concerned wife ,“Is it here yet? …Is it here yet?” Finally there is a sound of the clip clop of horse’s hooves outside. The woman feels a sense of relief in the hopes that her husband’s pain will be eased.
The woman looks out the window and to her amazement she sees a black coach with no windows, no horses, and no rider. She overcomes her fear and then realizes what her husband was asking. He was awaiting the arrival of his “death coach”. She went to her husband squeezed his hand and at that moment he was gone. She then watched his spirit move toward the door. The woman ran to the window to watch her husband board the carriage. He turned to his beloved wife, waived goodbye and boarded the carriage. The death coach clip-clopped down the road to continue its final journey.
While this story is indeed bittersweet, Huguenot Street has seen darker days. Let’s just say that if you thought Lizzy Borden had an axe to grind, it was the weapon of choice in this sinister town.
If you live in the Hudson Valley, you have probably heard the tale of the man with the long dark coat who carries an axe and also has a large black dog who is often seen in the Abraham Hasbrouck house looming over sleeping victims. While there have been many reported sightings of this man, there has never been any trace of evidence that his presence exists, however the following story of this axe man is clearly not one of fiction.
About forty years ago a SUNY New Paltz student was arrested for breaking into an apple orchard. The action was deemed as a harmless offense and he was released. The young man then returned to campus and was found trying to strangle a female student. Her screaming was alarming and his act of violence was interrupted. He escaped the campus and ran into the barn of a man named Mr. Grimm. Mr. Grimm came to assist in the assailant’s capture, but the assailant lunged at Mr. Grimm with an axe and hacked him to death.
The assailant was admitted to the Asylum for the Criminally Insane, which was also known as Mattawan State Hospital and after being bounced around hospitals, this son of an international diplomat was finally deported.
A sad, but true story about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This was a tragic incident that made the news, but some stories are meant to be kept a secret; like hiding a body in a basement.
Bones in the Basement
Basements are generally a harmless place in today’s world; however historically they were known as slave quarters. You may have heard of the famous slavery abolitionist Sojourner Truth who at times led a life of servitude in and around New Paltz and Ulster County. Knowing that now, what would you think if someone told a story about a bones in your basement? Hudson Valley author and Woodstock historian Alf Evers would have such a story to share.
Alf lived in the Abraham Hasbrouck house with his mother and father. He was the son of a Clairvoyant mother who was insistent that there was the body of a child buried in the basement of their home. After much prodding, Alf and his father started digging and made a gruesome discovery. They actually found bones of a child in the basement. They unearthed their findings and lay them out on a table. The doctor declared the remains as that of a child. The child’s identity would never be known because the odd thing is that after the remains were placed on the table they disintegrated shortly after. Where these the remains of an illegitimate slave child? We will never know. It will forever be a mystery. Speaking of mysteries , this next story of an unexplained murder put New Paltz on the map!
Horrid Murder and Suicide
“Horrid Murder and Suicide”, that’s what the news sheets said. This story made history and if you query the Library of Congress and search for New Paltz this is the one of the first stories that you will find.
Maria Terwilliger Deyo lived on Springtown Road in New Paltz in 1801. She was an upstanding and religious woman who cared for her husband and family and on this particular morning she snapped. She sent her husband and one son out to the corn field and she tended to the remaining children; a son, daughter and an 9 month-old infant. She sent one son outside to play warning him not to go far as she would be calling him soon. Maria combed her daughter’s hair and then led her to a darkened room and slit her throat from side to side with a razor as she begged her mother not to hurt her. Maria then called her son in and when he realized what was happening he ran. Maria caught him outside and finished him off with the razor. She returned to the house took and took the life of her infant daughter and then killed herself.
Maria’s husband returned home to witness this bloody nightmare that would make national news. The community was in shock. We will never know what possessed Maria to wipe out her entire family. Maybe it was the hardship of living in small home with a large family. Maria will take that secret with her to the grave.
Have you heard enough stories of murder and mayhem? Do you think that Huguenot Street is haunted? It wouldn’t surprise me if spirits of the past linger on this historic Hudson Valley street.
It’s Your Turn to Relive the Past
I have not shared all the legendary history of Huguenot Street. You can experience these and more mysterious tales each year when Huguenot Street turns dark in the month of October. Test your senses as you immerse yourself in the dark side of Haunted Huguenot Street. The air is crisp and the brilliant colored leaves crunch and swish beneath your feet as you wonder from house to house following an endless path of luminaries that cast false shadows into the night. Your guide will lead you to the location of the next twisted tale where ghosts of the past relive their tales of despair.
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