It's October, and that means Halloween is right around the corner, and some fun local events that go with it.
Fort William Henry in Lake George is having weekly ghost tours on Friday and Saturday nights starting at 7:30pm. Reservations are required. You can call the number here to reserve your spot: 518-964-6649 or you can call here for more information about the tours: 518-668-5471. The prices for the tour varies by age. For children aged 5 through 12 tickets are $7.95; for adults the tickets are $14.95; and for seniors tickets are $12.95.
The New York State Museum is having it's annual Monster Mash & Bash on the 26th and 27th from 11am to 4pm; the cost is $5 per child ages 2 to 10. There will be music, a maze, face painting, arts and crafts projects, a costume parade and more.
Starting on Halloween and going on until November 2nd, Historic Cherry Hill will be hosting a murder/ghost tour. The times are Thursday, Oct. 31 at 4:00, 5:30 and 7:00 p.m.; Friday, Nov. 1 at 4:00, 5:30 and 7:00 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 2 at 2:30, 4:00, 5:30 and 7:00 p.m. The cost for this event is $15 for non-members and $10 for members. Reservations are required. The number to reserve your spot is 518-434-4791.
Historic Cherry Hill was the home of the Van Rensselaer family from the time it was built in the late 1780s until the 1960s. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in the 1970s. However, what many people do not realize is that Historic Cherry Hill was once a crime scene and that a murder took place here.
In 1827, the house at Cherry Hill was home to 17 occupants--mostly aristocrats, the decedents of the Van Rensselaer and Lansing families, and a young man named John Whipple. John Whipple was married to Elsie Lansing (Whipple), a niece of Catherine Van Rensselaer.
Elsie Whipple's father had died when she was very young, and so she was raised by her mother and grandmother. At the age of 14, she had eloped with John Whipple, who was nine years her senior, and had lived next door. Her grandfather, Captain Abraham Lansing, was not happy. He had given Elsie's father money and land that had passed down to Elsie but due to the laws of coverture of the day, that land and money would be controlled by John Whipple. Lansing did not like John Whipple, and thought of him as a fortune hunter, only marrying Elsie because of her money. After Lansing died, the family warmed up to Whipple, and he even grew Elsie's inheritance into a small fortune, as he was a businessman.
Also living in the house was a handyman named Joseph Orton, whose real name was Jesse Strang. Strang had deserted his wife and children with the belief that his wife was unfaithful. He became and drifter but returned to New York in 1826. Unfortunately, his bags were lost, which forced him to seek employment in Albany. Working at a bar, Strang first laid eyes on Elsie and fell in love. After a short time, he took a job as a handyman at Cherry Hill, where he and Elsie would continue to become close. The lovers kept in touch with the help of other members living in the house who would pass letters between them.
Elsie felt controlled by her husband, and the plan to kill John Whipple was hatched. The first attempt on his life was made when Elsie convinced Jesse to poison John's tea with arsenic. The attempt was not successful, as John only got really ill. After that, John began to keep a loaded gun. In 1827, Elsie stole the bullet and gave it to Jesse, telling him once again to kill her husband. One night, Jesse climbed onto the roof of the shed and shot Whipple through the window. He then ran one mile to a local store in order to secure an alibi. Later, he returned to Cherry Hill to help a doctor remove the bullet from Whipple's body.
The police concluded that Jesse could have shot Whipple and then ran the mile to the store and detained Jesse on suspicion of murder. When he was detained, Jesse was hoping to receive a lighter sentence and confessed and blamed Elsie for coming up with the plan to murder her husband. Elsie, in turn, was arrested. While in jail, the two communicated and Elsie never failed to remind Jesse that had he not confessed, they would have gotten away with the murder and could have run away together.
Love can make a person do crazy things, including murder.
Jesse, believing that Elsie would be given a lighter sentence because she was a woman, asked his lawyer to plant incriminating evidence in Cherry Hill proving that Elsie was the one who came up with the plan. His lawyer refused to plant the evidence and told Jesse he would not receive a lighter sentence no matter what he did.
At the trial, the district attorney was Edward Livingston, who was a relative of the Van Rensselaers. The jury debated for less than 15 minutes before pronouncing him guilty of the murder of John Whipple. Four days after his trial, Elsie stood trial for aiding and abetting the murder. Elsie was pronounced guilty and the charges against her were cleared...and Jesse was sentenced to hang.
On August 24, 1827, Jesse Strang, surrounded by a crowd of 30,000 to 40,000 people, was hanged in the last public hanging held in Albany, NY. However, the hanging was unsuccessful. The fall failed to break his neck and kill him instantly; instead, he swung there for half an hour before suffocating.
Elsie later remarried and moved to New Jersey, then returned to New York and lived in Onondaga before she died in 1832.
Today, stories circulate about the hauntings at Historic Cherry Hill, but no one knows whether the ghost who haunts the stately halls are the murdered John Whipple or the murderer Jesse Strang.