By Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public AffairsOctober 29, 2018
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Oct. 29, 2018) -- James LeRay de Chaumont is often referred to as the "Father of the North Country," and was a well-known entrepreneur and philanthropist, a man of vision and sponsor of public improvements.
His home, however is a different story.
Community members were invited to ghost hunt the historic LeRay Mansion on Oct. 26 and learn more about the spooky legends that surround the hallowed grounds during the Haunted LeRay Mansion Tour.
Mysterious toilet flushes, alleged ghost sightings and moving furniture are among the inexplicable phenomena associated with the mansion's history, and attendees were able to experience some of it firsthand.
Heather Wagner, Cultural Resources outreach and education coordinator, greeted attendees at the start of the self-guided tour and handed out pamphlets that included a map of all the haunted sites and short stories compiled from oral histories, newspaper clippings and local history books.
Inside the mansion, guests explored all the creepily-decorated rooms and spoke with costumed staff as the 10th Mountain Division Band provided the soundtrack of macabre melodies.
Dr. Laurie Rush, Fort Drum Cultural Resources manager, said that she was excited that the Cultural Resources and Natural Resources branches could host such a unique tour.
"This was a lot of fun for us," she said. "Ghost stories are not part of any of our regular history tours, unless someone asks us a question about it."
Dressed as the ghost of Mrs. Phelps - a former mansion owner - Rush was busy spinning tales of specters upstairs, but she also managed to take in some of the festivities below.
"It was so exciting to see the mansion and the district come to life," she said. "When I had the upstairs to myself, I was able to open the front windows, listen to the band, and see all the twinkling lights from the people walking through the woods and across the lawn."
Israel and Ruth Martinez brought their four children - all dressed as various circus characters - to the haunted tour.
"This was something fun we could do as a whole family," said Ruth Martinez. "I think they were a little spooked out, but they had fun."
Martinez said that they had also attended the Mountain Monster Mash at Magrath Sports Complex on Oct. 19.
"I liked this tour because you also got some history and a little bit of education with the fun," she said. "I took the kids on the (Lost Villages) tour last year, and I really liked that."
Rush said that the staff is now preparing for the Lost Villages Tour on Nov. 9, but hopes to bring the Haunted LeRay Mansion Tour back next year.
"I would love to see Haunted LeRay become an annual event, but I can't imagine ever doing it without the band - they were fantastic," she said. "I also can't say enough good things about Heather (Wagner) and the team. Their creativity is boundless, and they just keep contributing to the life of the mansion every day."