DANSVILLE — No matter what corner you start at in the sleepy historic village of Dansville, you may find ghosts around every bend, hiding in every attic, and roaming in every basement this Halloween season.
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church held a fundraiser on Oct. 6 and Oct. 13 to raise money for a Halloween party at the church, which will be held at 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 31 for the community children before the Dansville Halloween Parade. This fundraiser, Dansville Ghost Tour, was a huge hit on the first haunted night with about 30 people. On Oct. 13 they held another tour for the press and community alike.
Katrina Macaluso said that she and her husband, Pastor Eric Macaluso, have always been fascinated by ghost stories and history of small communities. There is talk that they will have these tours every Saturday in October, and in the future they want to add more to the event.
The ghostly tour starts in Pioneer Park on Liberty Street and ends at the G.A.R. Monument on Ossian Street. There are several stops along the way that brings the tour to nearly two hours, featuring a lot of rich spooky history that has scared and fascinated people for years. The stops include Pioneer Park, Church Park, Fearless Hook and Ladder, The Village Clippers, The Leaning Tower, CB’s Bar and Grill, Paradise Alley, Clara Barton House, Dansville Public Library, Muchler Finance, Expressive Ink, Better Homes, and the G.A.R Monument. Others included but not visited are: The Castle on the Hill, Kings Daughters Home, St. Mary’s School (now C.A.N.N.), The Garden House, Redemption MMA, Battle Street, The Coffee Cup, The Maxwell Block, Genesee Valley Credit Union, and the Dansville Family Dentist.
“We have such amazing rich history in Dansville, and that is really what this tour is about,” Katrina Macaluso said. “I always enjoy getting to know the history, but ghost stories are a lot of fun too. Most of Main Street has ghosts.”
Macaluso did a lot of research, talked to the historical society, talked to the store owners, and had a lot of enthusiasm from most of the community on this tour.
“All good ghost stories start with an Indian burial ground and defaced graves,” she said. “Pioneer Park was the original burial ground of the first settlers of the village. This was known as the western frontier for New York in those days. The first burial was Cpt. Nathaniel Porter in 1797. It is believed that many of them are still buried here, even when the gravestones were taken and dumped behind a shed in Greenmount Cemetery.”
A couple of the gravestones were kept by family members, and are found in strange places in village attics like the Dansville Historical Society and Dogwood Trading Company.
Macaluso said that a study was done to make this a place to honor those who first settled here by turning it into a park, and the large tombstone is meant to be for all who remain.
“Just about everything in Dansville has had a time when it was on fire, and everything was burned to the ground,” she said. “Church Park was once the old public square, and its owner, Nathaniel Rochester, sold the land to the village for $36. Rochester owned a lot of Dansville, and even made the first paper mill here.”
Many of these churches were built in the 1800s after the original ones burned down, but St. Paul’s Lutheran Church is the only one that never saw a tragedy. Many of them have a ghost of the past or two that still haunts the holy walls, she said.
Among other haunts explained in the tour —
The Heckman Opera House has a very chilling history. It burned to the ground in 1934, but before that Mr. Heckman lost his 14-year-old son. Heckman’s teen son hung himself in the hallway in 1912. The Village Clippers has reported strange occurrences that happen within the walls.
The Salvation Army literally sits on the first morgue of Dansville. It is said that ghosts of soldiers can be seen walking across the street by the Dansville American Legion.
St. Mary School (C.A.N.N) is a place of the Whiteman Family. Alonzo Whiteman was said to be a gambler, alcoholic, and criminal. He had warrants out for his arrest in several states. One cold winter’s night he was wrangled by the police on the roof of the home.
CB’s Bar and Grill has a violent shake of the building in the late hours that leaves dust on the tables and chairs. There have been many reports of a creepy feeling at night, lights flickering, and other occurrences.
The Great Fire of March 31, 1854 happened near Paradise Alley. It was across the street at what is now The Coffee Cup. Upstairs was a gun shop, and in those days they kept gunpowder close by. It started a blaze that spread right down Main Street on both sides. The Hyland Hotel also burned at this time.
There has been a lot of activity at the Clara Barton House since the change made to the museum, and the loss of its historic roots to the American Red Cross being threatened. They still hold some meetings in Chapter One, but it isn’t as active as it once was.
Castle on the Hill has too many ghosts to name, and is off limits to the public, but it has a rich history to the start of the village. Same thing with the Kings Daughters House that was many things before it was a senior living facility. Then there is the Garden House on Health Street that was once a home to James and Kate Jackson. It is said to be one of the most haunted places in Dansville.
The Expressive Ink has many eerie supernatural occurrences as the owner and his son have heard and seen things that can’t be explained, such as doors unlocking, footsteps, photos coming off the walls, chains rattling, and knocking.
Better Homes sits in what was always used as a furniture store, but it was also known as a funeral parlor in its day. There are still remnants of the crematory in the basement. They have had spooks and scares happen to the point where they want to have an investigation into the activity.
The G.A.R. Monument was built by the families of the Civil War soldiers, and it was meant to be a place to honor the fallen. In World War II they needed all the metal they could find, so there was talk of taking the metal cannons and using them to melt down for war machines. This very much upset the remaining families, and thankfully the war ended before we lost our cannons.
If you are interested in the full experience, and the eerie historic ghosts that walk the community you can contact Dansville Ghost Tours for info on future tours at 335-5434.