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Herkimer Ghosts

I love ghost stories any time of year, but I find they are easiest to come by at Halloween. Last week on Oct. 30, Steven and I heard not one but four ghost stories, one each at Herkimer NY’s Historic Four Corners.

The event, sponsored by Herkimer Now, began at 6:30.m. We put Tabby on the leash and walked from our house. It had been raining earlier in the day and was still misting a little as we set out. Tabby seemed OK with it (she usually doesn’t like to be rained on), so we persevered. We could see a small crowd gathered around the courthouse steps as we approached. A lady dressed in an old-fashioned dress with a hoop skirt and a shawl stood on the steps.

I thought she looked familiar. When she greeted Tabby as Super Dog, I remembered her from the first Superhero Sprint. It was Tina Cirelli, a member of Herkimer Now. I also remembered her from the Main Street Walks that Herkimer Now sponsored last year.

Kathy Penree welcomed everyone and introduced the first storyteller, the ghost of Grace Brown. I think most people in the area have heard of Grace Brown. She was murdered by her boyfriend, Chester Gilette, who was tried in the courtroom on whose steps the ghost now stood. At least, she assured us she was a ghost. I must say she looked pretty good for someone who had been conked on the head, drowned and been dead for over a hundred years.

Herkimer Now had said on their Facebook page that the stories were not meant to be historically accurate but were for entertainment purposes. The Ghost of Grace Brown was certainly entertaining. I always pictured Grace Brown as a quieter, more self-effacing person. That would have made a boring story. This was fun, and she pretty much got the facts of the case right.

Next we all walked across the street to the 1834 Jail where Jim Greiner told us the story of a serial killer from the 1920s. Jim Greiner, as you may remember, wrote a book about Roxalana Druse, who killed her husband and was subsequently hanged at the very jail we stood in front of. I’ve heard Jim speak before and taken tours of the jail led by him. He is a dynamic speaker.

I confess I missed part of the story, because Tabby was pulling quite insistently on her leash. I thought she might have to poop, so we moved a discreet distance away. As we went I recognized the police officer who was standing nearby as one of my new friends from Coffee and Conversation with a Cop. We said a quiet hello.

I was sorry to have missed any part of Jim’s story. Perhaps I’ll get another chance to hear him tell it, or maybe he’ll write a book about it then give a talk about the book at the Herkimer County Historical Society. but I digress.

Next we went to the Herkimer Reformed Church, which is surrounded by an intriguing-looking graveyard. Kaylynn Iglesias from Ilion told the story of the Weeping Widow of Herkimer, which she said she had first heard as a little girl. We’ve seen Kaylynn in a few plays at Ilion Little Theatre. She is a talented actress and an excellent storyteller. By the end of the story many of us were making plans to walk by the cemetery Halloween night and listen for the ghost.

Anthony Brindisi, mayor of Herkimer, awaited us in front of the Historical Society for the final tale of the evening. He told us how the Suiter Building, as it is called, was built by Dr. A. Walter Suiter, who acted as medical examiner for some of Herkimer’s prominent murder trials.

The mayor led us down Court Street where we could see the back of the building. Some archaeologists had been digging back there, he told us, but they had mysteriously disappeared. He was going on to say nobody knew why they had left and he hoped they came back, when a few of the kids in the crowd exclaimed that they saw somebody.

“What? Who?” the mayor asked.

“That guy!”

Then we all heard a very scary noise. I never saw anybody (or any THING!), but others did. I think one lady got a picture. I hope she posts it on Herkimer Now’s Facebook page.

Steven and I were so happy we had walked down for the program. It was great fun. I sought out Kathy Penree and told her I would love to be one of the storytellers next year. Steven could do it with me. Maybe we could be Roxalana Druse and her murdered husband.

Herkimer Now, who sponsored the event, is an organization whose aim is to revitalize Herkimer, beginning with Main Street. In addition to the storytelling, they sponsored trick or treating on Main Street and a party at the VFW on Halloween night. They also have plans for Christmas. To keep informed on future events, visit their website,, and Like their Facebook page.

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