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Community members explore the spookier side of Fort Drum during the Haunted LeRay event Oct. 22 at LeRay Mansion. Fort Drum Cultural Resources Program staff decorated the LeRay Mansion and grounds in Halloween fashion for the annual event. (Photos by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)

Haunted LeRay tour conjures up supernatural tales for daring
Fort Drum community members

Mike Strasser

Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs

FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Oct. 26, 2021) – Micaela Wallace had heard that LeRay Mansion was haunted before she began interning with the Fort Drum Cultural Resources Program this summer.

In fact, she said her father, a former 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldier, has declined to visit the historic district because of the supernatural stories.

“I’m a skeptic, and I am kind of used to be being inside an old house, so I didn’t think this would be spooky to me,” she said.

So when a door inexplicably opens or slams shut, or a toilet flushes on its own inside the mansion, she just shrugs it off.

“I was sitting in the front dining room today when the door opened, which was impossible because I made sure it was closed,” Wallace said. “Sometimes, things just happen that you can’t explain.”

This history of the unexplainable was presented Oct. 22 during the annual Haunted LeRay event, hosted by the Fort Drum Cultural Resources staff. With both the district grounds and mansion decorated in Halloween fashion, community members were invited to explore the spookiest part of Fort Drum. Children could borrow an electro-magnetic detector to find any lingering spectres.

“This adds such another dimension to the house, and it’s a great way to teach about the history of LeRay Mansion to the community,” said Dr. Laurie Rush, Fort Drum Cultural Resources manager. “It’s a lot of fun, and kind of light-hearted. I like that we can offer a haunted experience that is not gory or terrifying.”

The staff also recently installed ghost cameras, which have captured video of bats flying in the attic as well as a strange light show.

“The orbs of light are something completely different,” Rush said. “I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It’s almost like an orb ballet with several of them just appearing together and floating across the attic space.”

It’s safe to say that the Cultural Resources team has gotten along well with any otherworldly guests at LeRay Mansion.

“Dr. Rush and I were in the attic one day, because we had a high-ranking visitor coming over for the day,” said Karen Koekenberg, LeRay Mansion curator. “So we wanted to make sure everything looked OK, and it was kind of a mess.”

She said the floor was covered in bat droppings, and that they decided to return the next day with mops, buckets, gloves and masks.

“We were all ready to go, mentally prepared to clean that up, and it was all gone,” Koekenberg said. “And there was an old-fashioned straw broom that we had never seen before.”

“We were the last ones out the night before, and the first ones in the next morning,” Rush added. “No one else was here.”

“That’s the kind of ghost we like,” said Koekenberg. “If the ghost is listening, you are welcome to clean anytime you want.”

Heather Wagner, Fort Drum Cultural Resources education and outreach coordinator, recalls being interrupted while researching ghost stories for the first Haunted LeRay event in 2018.

“All of a sudden, all of the lights in the mansion go off and there was a loud pop sound,” she said. “I yelled, ‘Knock it off!’ and then all of the lights came back on. I had enough at that point and left work early that day.”

For those who missed the Haunted LeRay event and would like to learn more about the history of the LeRay district, the mansion is open from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Monday through Friday for guided history tours.

For more information about scheduling a visit, call (315) 772-6051 or email BookLerayMansion@gmail.com.