Do ghosts haunt Warwick?

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:17

    WARWICK-On Halloween, along about twilight, find a spot in Bellvale or along Dutch Hollow Road that has a clear view of Mt. Peter. Look up towards the section of the Appalachian Trail that heads from Route 17A north to the "Cat Rocks." According to local folklore, as reported in a story written by Warwick resident Jim Wright, you may see a flickering light that moves across the ridge and then disappears. Perhaps it's a hiker. But some say it's the spirit of Halley Crist. Generations ago, Halley spent her youth dutifully helping her father, Gap Crist, a farmer by day and an applejack moonshiner by night. One afternoon, while shopping at the Bellvale Store, she learned that revenuers were on their way to raid her father's illegal alcohol still, which was hidden by the natural formation above Dutch Hollow Road known as "The Cat Rocks." When she reached the top of Mt. Peter, darkness was setting in but Halley had brought a lantern. She continued through the forest along what is now part of the Appalachian Trail. Meanwhile, Gap Crist, armed and always alert to the possibility of a raid by Federal tax collectors, heard a noise and saw someone approaching with a light. He called out to the intruder but there was no reply. Halley and her mother had fallen from a horse when she was seven years old and ever since that time, the child had been mute. Her mother was killed in the accident. Since no one answered his challenge, Crist aimed his musket slightly above the light and fired. The old-timers say he buried his daughter next to his wife and disappeared forever. But according to the legend, Halley returns each year at this time, holding her lantern high as she rushes through the forest to warn her father. Stories like these are fun to tell around a campfire. But for those who really believe their house may be haunted, an organization called the New York Ghost Chapter, will send a certified paranormal investigator to check things out. The investigators carry identification, wear badges and come equipped for the task with cameras, thermal scanners, camcorders and audio recorders. However, if you can put up with a few scares or playful tricks, having a ghost in the house may not be such a bad thing. In her book, Seeking Ghosts in the Warwick Valley, author Donna Reis relates 60 personal accounts by local residents. In some cases, they've learned to live with their unwanted guests. Pina and Silvio Muto, owners of the Italian Villa restaurant on Route 94 South, told the author that strange happenings occurred shortly after they purchased the facility, formerly known as the Vail House. The well-known gunsmith, Roy Vail, had committed suicide in his home. Other than a brief sighting of Vail and a few other ghosts, most of the disturbances are more like mischievous pranks than scares. Besides the sounds of footsteps, lights automatically turn on and off, equipment disappears and doors open and close. But, in recent times, the disturbances are gentler and to some extent, an attraction for the popular eatery. There are more chilling tales in Reis' book and if you dare, it might be fun to curl up by the fireside or by candlelight on Halloween and read them to the family. Learn about the mystery of the screams on Pine Hill Road, the ghost in the barn, being tapped on the back when no one else is in the house, shadowy figures floating by and feeling a cold touch on the back of your neck. All of these stories and more are explained in detail. Some of the storytellers may be your friends and neighbors. And if anything strange happens in your own house, you can always call in a certified paranormal investigator.