In honor of the first day of October, I have prepared some information about some of the creepiest places in the Finger Lakes. Some are abandoned, and some you can visit today. Have you been to or driven by a creepy house or abandoned building? Share it with me, share it with the Finger Lakes! Disclaimer/Statement of the Obvious: If you visit any places listed here, I advise you not to trespass or break any laws.
Ithaca Gun Factory – Ithaca, NY
This is creepy and cool. Even prettied up by graffiti, the place was creepy. Franklin Crawford (frankie14850 on flickr), from tinytowntimes.com did a photoshoot here as part of an exhibit for Cornell Alumni Magazine, where he writes, “Abandoned, “The Gun” became a post-postmodern teenage wasteland, the antithesis of industry and manufacture, a toxic site and museum of the absurd. By the time you read this, all of it will have been demolished to make way for upscale condos.” View more of Franklin’s Ithaca Gun Factory photos on Flickr.com. (Photo courtesy of Franklin Crawford)
Auburn Correctional Facility – Auburn, NY
It doesn’t look that creepy, I have to admit. Built on land that was once a Cayuga Indian Village, the Auburn Prison was constructed in 1816 and is still a New York State Prison. What makes Auburn Prison just a wee bit creepy is the mere small fact that it housed the first ever electric chair and held the first ever prisoner electrocution. There is a lot of history to the Auburn Prison, and some of it is not so pretty (riots, death by showerbath [water-boarding before its time]). More info about the Prison (a photo of the chair can be found here). (photo credit: therealdeal.com)
Seneca Mill/Cascade Mill – Penn Yan, NY
Here’s a creepy place in the Finger Lakes that I’ve actually been to. Located along the Outlet Trail that stretches from Penn Yan to Dresden, linking Keuka and Seneca Lakes, this old mill and manufacturing plant is located by right by a waterfall.
Spook Hill – Middlesex, NY
EDIT: I recently took a visit to Spook Hill and took sole video of our experience. Read about it here or watch the video!
Spook Hill (Newell Road) has a spectacular view of Canandaigua Lake but that’s not what it’s known for. Located in the Vine Valley Region on the East side of Canandaigua Lake in Middlesex, it is known to be a Native American Burial Ground. It is said that if you put your car in neutral, the Native American Spirits will push you car uphill. Creepy, right? Proved to be an optical illusion a few decades ago, people still visit the site to experience the phenomenon.
Willard Psychiatric Center – Willard, NY
It goes without saying that psychiatric hospitals are a bit creepy to begin with, thanks to the way they are portrayed in movies and television. But an abandoned psych hospital? One which first opened in 1869 with it’s first patient being “a deformed, demented woman“? One which administered electro-shock treatments in the 30s and 40s? One which the attic held abandoned suitcases belonging to patients, untouched since their owners packed them decades earlier before entering the institution? Pretty high on my creep-o-meter.
Creepy as it may be now, Willard Psych Center was a huge step forward for NYS’s treatment and care for the mentally ill. Asylumprojects.com explains:
From colonial times, the care of insane persons had been a local function. Each county operated a poorhouse, or almshouse, wherein was indiscriminately lodged a hodgepodge of dependant persons: the mad, the feebleminded, the aged and crippled, drunks, epileptics and beggars. The almshouses provided custody and shelter, but “treatment” was not in their vocabulary.
The care and treatment of mentally ill at Willard changed through time, adapting to accommodate the research and evidence of effective and appropriate treatments until it was closed in 1995. So in the context of its time, Willard isn’t really creepy at all. It’s what’s left–broken glass and abandoned “stuff”–that is creepy.
Photos: What They Left Behind (suitcaseexhibit.org), Old Abandoned Buildings of Northern New York (http://oabonny.com/indexpage50.htm)