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New York folklore

Aunty Greenleaf and the White Deer

    Aunty Greenleaf was a scrawny old woman with a wild thatch of gray hair and a crooked nose. She lived in a hut surrounded by pines just outside Brookhaven, and she sold herbal remedies to the folks in town. Mostly, people avoided her, except when someone got sick because it was said that Aunty Greenleaf was a witch. Her home remedies worked too well to be natural. Folks figured she had to have help from the devil or one of his familiars…

    Vampire Hermit

      She was nervous when her husband said they were to stay in the abandoned house, for it contained the corpse of the hermit who once lived there, enshrined in a coffin in the loft. It was an old custom and one no longer popular among the Iroquois people, but the hermit had insisted upon it before his death. There was good hunting in this place, her man had declared, and so they moved in and she unpacked their few belongings in the front room, refusing to go up into the loft where the hermit’s body lay.

      Dueling fiddlers

      Dueling Fiddlers

        There was once a man named Joost who was plodding home on Saturday night, his fiddle under his arm. He had been playing for a wedding in Flatbush and had been drinking schnapps until he saw stars on the ground and fences in the sky; in fact, the universe seemed so out of order that he seated himself rather heavily on this rock to think about it.

        A Gift from St. Nicholas

        A Gift from Saint Nicholas

          Claas Schlaschenschlinger was a wealthy cobbler living on New Street in New Amsterdam. He was a contented bachelor who could afford eight – eight mind you! – pairs of breeches and he had a little side business selling geese. He cut quite a figure in New Amsterdam society, and was happy being single, until he met the fair Anitje! She was as pretty as a picture, and Claas fell head over heels for her. He was not her only suitor, by any means. The local burgomaster was also courting the fair Anitje. But the burgomaster was a stingy, hard man, and in the end, Anitje gave her heart and hand to Claas…

          A Baker's Dozen

          A Baker’s Dozen

            Back in the old days, I had a successful bake-shop in Albany. I had a good business, a plump wife, and a big family. I was a happy man. But trouble came to my shop one year in the guise of an ugly old woman. She entered my shop a few minutes before closing and said: “I wish to have a dozen cookies.” She pointed to my special Saint Nicholas cookies that were sitting out on a tray. So I counted out twelve cookies for her…

            The Catskill Witch by S.E. Schlosser

            The Catskill Witch

              At the peak of this mountain lived the Catskill witch who managed the weather for the whole of the Hudson Valley.

              The Thunderers

                Three men set out on a hunting expedition, but when one breaks his leg, the others abandon him in a pit rather than risk their lives carrying him home. The wounded hunter is rescued instead by a mysterious hermit who is not what he seems…

                Storm ship of the Hudson

                Storm Ship of the Hudson

                  It was noised about New Amsterdam, two hundred years ago, that a round and bulky ghost ship flying Dutch colors from her lofty quarter was careering up the harbor in the teeth of a north wind, through the swift waters of an ebbing tide, and making for the Hudson.

                  A Case of Blue Denim

                  Blue Denim

                    I asked my friend to come to my seaside cottage with me one weekend in early spring. I wanted to have it set in order for the summer, but I felt a trifle nervous at the idea of entering it alone.

                    The Trapper's Revenge

                    The Trapper’s Revenge

                      About a mile back from the river stood the cabin of Nick Wolsey, who, in the 1800s, was known to the river settlements as a hunter and trapper of correct aim, shrewdness, endurance, and taciturn habit. For many years he lived in this cabin alone, except for the company of his dog; but while visiting a small settlement in the wilderness he was struck with the engaging manner of one of the girls. He repeated the visit; and thereafter he found cause to go to the settlement frequently. At length won the maid’s consent to be his wife.

                      Tug of War

                        Now, my cousin P. S. Woodin is a successful businessman, and he’s got a pretty solid head on his shoulders. But when he told me that he owned a haunted house, I told him that he was plumb crazy. It was a nice, redbrick house about a half-mile above the bridge, and it sat right in front of an old Indian burial ground. Woodin had rented out the house more than once, but no one ever stayed there for long.

                        The Night Riders

                        Night Riders

                          Among the Berkshire Hills, more than a century ago, lived Francis Woolcott, a dark, tall man, with protruding teeth, whose sinister laugh used to give his neighbors a creep along their spines. He had no obvious trade or calling, but the farmers feared him so that he had no trouble in making levies: pork, flour, meal, cider, he could have what he chose for the asking.

                          The Old Clock

                          The Old Clock

                            She lived alone in a rickety house in White Plains, and the only thing of value she possessed was a tall clock, such as relic hunters prize, that ticked solemnly in a landing on the stairs. The neighbors avoided her, for she was eccentric and not fond of company. But Polly was not always a recluse. The old clock, if it could speak, had a sad tale to tell of its owner. A tale of love…and despair.

                            The Maid of the Mist

                              She lost her husband and her hope at a young age, and the beautiful girl could not find her way through the sorrow upon sorrow that was her lot in life. So she stepped one day into her canoe, singing a death song softly to herself, and paddle out into the current. Soon the canoe was caught by the rough waves and hurtled toward the falls. But as it pitched over and she fell, Heno, the god of thunder who lived in the falls, caught the maiden gently in his arms and carried her to his home beneath the thundering veil of water.

                              White Lady of Durand Eastman

                              White Lady of Durand Eastman

                                In the early 1800s, the White Lady and her daughter were supposed to have lived on the land where the Durand Eastman Park — part of Irondequoit and Rochester — now stands. One day, the daughter disappeared. Convinced that the girl had been raped and murdered by a local farmer, the mother searched the marshy lands day after day, trying to discover where her child’s body was buried…

                                Piece By Piece

                                  There once was a crazy ghost over Poughkeepsie way that got folks so plumb scared that nobody would stay more than one night in its house. It was a nice old place, or was, until the ghost began making its presence known. It got so no one would enter the house, not even kids on a dare, and you know what they are like!…

                                  Fifty-Cent Piece

                                  Fifty-Cent Piece

                                    There is a story told in Troy and Albany about a couple returning home from a trip to New England. They were driving home in a carriage, and were somewhere near Spiegletown when the light failed and they knew they would have to seek shelter for the night…

                                    The Headless Horseman

                                      One cold winter night, early in the New Year, a certain Dutchman left the tavern in Tarrytown and started walking to his home in the hollow nearby. His path led next to the old Sleepy Hollow cemetery where a headless Hessian soldier was buried. At midnight, the Dutchman came within site of the graveyard…

                                      Death Coach

                                        It is midnight. The streets of Cohoes grow silent as the citizens turn off their lights one by one and go to their well-earned rest. The night is dark, and the wind whispers softly, touching the trees and houses, rattling a window pane here and there…

                                        Ghost Pilots of Times Square

                                          He had just graduated from Harvard University and was living in Manhattan. He loved the city and was beginning to feel at home on its streets. World War II was raging in Europe, and like all other good citizens, he followed the headlines daily and did his part for the boys overseas…

                                          Spuyten Duyvil

                                            Once in old New Amsterdam, there was a brave trumpeter named Anthony Van Corlaer who would blow his trumpet when Peter Stuyvesant wanted to call the people together…

                                            Satin Dress

                                              She worked in a box factory, and her salary was not large. She made just enough to cover the cost of food, shelter, and the clothes on her back. So when she received an invitation to a fancy-dress party from an old friend, she did not know what she should do. Here was her chance at last to shine a little, to experience how the other half lived, but she had no money to buy a dress, or even the material to make one.

                                              Lincoln Death Train

                                                I’d been transferred to the Hudson Division of the New York Central system, and was working the rails on the main line between New York and Albany. I was on the late shift to start with, since I was a bit of a night owl. After six weeks of stomping the tracks and mending the rails, I was feeling right at home in my new job…