Every town has its share of dark history, but most seem like fairy tales in comparison to the mysterious stories and accounts passed down over hundreds of years highlighting the haunting and sometimes horrific history that overshadows the oldest inhabited street in the United States. Huguenot Street appears quaint and cheerful by day, but when the sun goes down the atmosphere is chilling. Huguenot Street has a dark side. Tales of murder and mayhem haunt this historical haven. From tales of axe yielding ghosts to one of the most grisly murders of the 18th century this quaint street nestled in New Paltz is a treasure trove of legends and twisted tales.
Picture yourself living in the 1800s. You are isolated—no one around for miles, It’s going to be a long cold winter. You huddle together with your family in a small stone cottage heated only by the roaring fire of the hearth. Unfamiliar sounds echo through the night. Your mind wonders. Wait—what’s that rumbling outside the door? Is it werewolves roaming the banks of the Wallkill River? While superstitious folk may have believed in these mystical creatures, there was more to fear than figments of an overactive imagination. While some feared night creatures, one man awaits his transport beyond the veil.
The Death Coach
This ghostly tale is one of unearthly travel. On a dark night on Huguenot Street, an old woman sits vigil at her husband’s side anxiously waiting for the town doctor. As he lay dying in his bed, the woman’s sickly husband impatiently asks his concerned wife ,“Is it here yet? Is it here yet?” Finally, sounds of clip clopping horse’s hooves are heard outside. The woman feels a sense of relief hoping that her husband’s pain will be eased.
The woman peeks out the window and to her amazement she observes a black coach with no windows, no horses and no rider. She overcomes her fear and realizes what her husband meant. He was awaiting the arrival of his “death coach”. She sat beside her husband squeezed his hand and at that very moment he passed on. She watched his spirit glide toward the door. The woman ran to the window and watched as her husband boarded the black carriage. Turning to his beloved wife, he waived goodbye. The death coach clip-clopped away continuing its final journey.
While this story is indeed bittersweet, Huguenot Street has seen darker days. Let’s just say if you thought Lizzy Borden had an axe to grind, her story is mild compared to our next story.
The Axemen of Huguenot Street
If you live in the Hudson Valley, you've probably heard the tale of a man wearing a long dark coat carrying an axe walking with a large black dog. This spectre is often seen looming over his sleeping victims at the Abraham Hasbrouck house.
While there have been many reported sightings of this shadow man, there has never been evidence that his presence exists, however the next story of this axe man is not one of fiction.
About forty years ago a SUNY New Paltz student was arrested for breaking into a local apple orchard. He was released for what was classified as a harmless offense. This same young man returned to campus and was found attempting to strangle a young, female student. Her violent screaming interrupted his act of violence. Making his escape, he ran into the barn of a man named Mr. Grimm. Mr. Grimm attempted to capture the assailant. Lunging at Mr. Grimm with an axe the crazed man hacked him to death.
The assailant was admitted to the Asylum for the Criminally Insane, which was also known as Mattawan State Hospital. After being bounced around hospitals, this son of an international diplomat was finally deported.
A sad, but true story, Mr Grimm was in the wrong place at the wrong time. This tragic incident that made the news, but some stories are meant to be kept secret; like hiding a body in a basement.
Bones in the Basement
Basements are generally a harmless place in today’s world; however historically they were known as slave quarters. Knowing that now, what would you think if someone told a story about bones in your basement? Alf Evers, Hudson Valley author and Woodstock historian, would tell such a story.
Alf lived in the Abraham Hasbrouck house with his mother and father. He was the son of a Clairvoyant mother. She was insistent that there was the body of a child buried in the basement of their home. After much prodding, Alf and his father started digging up the dirt. Much to their surprise, they made a gruesome discovery. There actually was bones of a child buried in the basement. They unearthed their findings and spread them across a table. The doctor declared the remains as that of a child. The child's identity would never be known. The oddest thing happened. After the remains were placed on the table they disintegrated.
Did these remains belong to an illegitimate slave child? We will never know. It will be a mystery forever. Speaking of mysteries, this next story of an unexplained murder putting New Paltz on the map!
Horrid Murder and Suicide
Horrid, Murder and Suicide, that's what the news sheets said. This story made history.
Maria Terwilliger Deyo lived on Springtown Road in New Paltz in 1801. She was an upstanding, religious woman who cared for her husband and family. On this particular morning she snapped. She sent her husband and one son out to the corn field while she tended to the remaining children; a son, daughter and an 9 month-old infant. She sent one son outside to play warning him not to go far as she would be calling him soon. Maria combed her daughter’s lovely, long hair and then led her to a darkened room. As Maria slit her daughter's throat from side to side with a razor while the little girl begged her mother not to hurt her. Maria called her son into the house. When he realized what was happening; he ran. Maria caught him outside and finished him off with the bloody razor. Returning to the house, she took the life of her infant daughter and then killed herself.
Maria’s husband returned home to witness a bloody nightmare that made national news. The community was shocked. We will never know what possessed Maria to wipe out her entire family. Maybe it was the hardship of living in small home with a large family. That's mystery has gone to the grave along with Maria and her children.
Have you heard enough stories of murder and mayhem? Do you think that Huguenot Street is haunted? It wouldn't surprise me if spirits of the past linger on this historic Hudson Valley street.
It’s Your Turn to Relive the Past
I have not shared all the legendary history of Huguenot Street. You can experience more mysterious tales each year when Huguenot Street turns to its dark side in the month of October. Test your senses as you immerse yourself in the haunted history during Haunted Huguenot Street. The air is crisp and the brilliantly colored leaves crunch and swish beneath your feet while you wonder from house to house following an endless path of luminaries casting false shadows into the night. Your guide will lead you to the location of the next twisted tale where ghosts of the past relive their tales of despair.
How to Visit
Of course, you can visit Historic Huguenot Street anytime of the year, but if you want to hear about the dark side, visit Haunted Huguenot Street in October.