After Maine, the one place I’ve always wanted to live, but never had the opportunity, or could never afford, is upstate New York. My ancestors were from the state but I just happen to’ve been born in Pennsylvania. So it goes. Perhaps it comes with professionally studying mythology, but one of my longterm interests is folklore. I’m always fascinated by what people tell of their local setting. Now when I approach books about the paranormal in a region, such as Cheri Farnsworth’s Haunted Hudson Valley, I know to take most of it with a grain of salt. People love to tell stories and local people like to talk about where they’re from. The Hudson Valley has had a long history of strangeness and several tales that reflect that are collected here.
I often think of ghosts. They generally seem to prefer a single place that’s familiar. And although you can’t take everything everyone says as gospel, there do seem to be regions beset with them. I wonder if regions early settled by Europeans are particularly prone to haunting. It’s difficult to imagine that, at the time with the unquestioned rectitude of church and empire, that they ever stopped to think “Hey, we’re stealing land that belongs to someone else.” Did that idea ever come back to haunt them? Perhaps such unspoken guilt leads to ghosts. Or maybe simply dwelling in a place for a long time leaves plenty of opportunity for ghosts to gather. And, of course, people do stretch the truth at times and misinterpret things otherwise explained.
No matter the reasons or rationale, these kinds of books are always a guilty pleasure read for me. I don’t expect the get the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth from them, but I enjoy them nevertheless. Since I can’t afford to live in the Hudson Valley, the other result of such books—and one of the reasons locals appreciate them—is to make me want to travel to the region and see for myself. For many years we lived not too far from the Hudson while in New Jersey. Still, we didn’t make it up that way very often. It’s a bit more of a hike now, but isn’t a hike worth making when you might see something unusual after you arrive? My ancestors had settled north of the Hudson Valley and eventually migrated further south. The end up in Pennsylvania, where I find myself. But I’m still haunted by upstate New York.