From Stephen King to Goosebumps, libraries (and these days, tablets) are full of ghost stories for the hard-to-spook to the faint of heart. And come Halloween, actors dressed as the undead dole out more tricks than treats for people who dare to enter haunted houses like Gateway Playhouse.
Though a sneaky zombie may give guests a temporary fright, they can rest easy knowing it was all make believe.
But there are a handful of places on Long Island, locals insist are haunted.
From an abandoned asylum that may not be so abandoned after all to a lake with a legend that’s deeper than the water, here’s five spots to explore this Halloween season. These tales may or may not be accurate, but who cares on Halloween.
Amityville Horror House
This 5,000-square-foot home gained notoriety in 1974 when 23-year-old Ronald DeFeo killed his parents and four siblings inside. New residents dared to move in about a year later, but they only lasted a month. Their claims of paranormal activity inspired the “Amityille Horror” book and popular film series.
112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville
Kings Park Psychiatric Center
When Kings Park Psychiatric Center opened in 1885 to help with overcrowded asylums in New York City, it developed an early reputation for its humane treatment of patients. Therapy included feeding farm animals and growing plants. But the asylum became overcrowded in its own right by the 1950s and since it closed more than 20 years ago fans of the paranormal believe its past residents have returned in the afterlife. The alleged paranormal activity has attracted filmmakers to shoot scenes there for nearly a half-dozen films.
West 4th Street, Kings Park
Fire Island Lighthouse
Though there’s no official count, Fire Island Lighthouse is one of the most photographed landmarks on Long Island. But tourists may not be the only visitors drawn to the summer hotspot. In 1857, a new lighthouse structure was being built, forcing the caretaker and his family to stay in a poorly-insulated wooden shack during a harsh winter, as the legend goes. The daughter fell ill from a cold and died. The caretaker was unable to attend her funeral in Sayville because of work, leaving him alone with unbearable grief. One night, people noticed the light in the tower had gone out, and he was found hanging from a rope. Today, people report seeing a ghostlike figure pacing back and forth, sometimes with a rope in-hand.
Burma Road, Fire Island
Long Island’s largest freshwater lake is thought to have an even bigger ghost problem. As the story goes, a Native American Princess named Tuskawanta fell in love with a woodcutter, Hugh Birdsall, in the 1600s. But Tuskawanta’s father didn’t want her mingling with the white English man. She defied her father for seven years, writing Birdsall letters on pieces of bark, but he never responded. She threw herself in the middle of the lake, where she’s spent the last several centuries dragging men she fancies into a watery grave. She’s now known as The Lady of Lake Ronkonkoma, and like Jaws, she keeps swimmers out of the water.
Lake Shore Road, Lake Ronkonkoma
Katie’s of Smithtown
After a few-too-many brews, it’s common to see stars or the room spinning. Ghosts are an entirely different story — but at this Suffolk haunt, beer goggles may not be to blame for a spooky sighting. Once a speakeasy in the age of Gatsby, Charlie Klein served as a bartender and bootlegger there until his death. In the centuries since, guests have seen ghostly figures dressed in 19th-century garb, and it’s said footsteps can be heard when the building is unoccupied. A television crew is said to have captured paranormal activity at the site earlier this decade.
145 West Main Street, Smithtown