Ask anyone in Western New York — or anywhere at all, really — about ghost stories, and I’ll bet they have one for you.
My little Cattaraugus County hometown wasn’t an exception. When I was growing up, we had both the cemetery (conveniently on a hill overlooking my childhood home) and old “Miner’s Cabin” (which wasn’t, by any stretch, a cabin). More recently, an old home partially destroyed by fire picked up the haunted reputation. We whispered about it and rushed by when walking at night, holding hands and glorying in the sheer spookiness of it.
St. Bonaventure University (which was teeming with legends about multiple sites, including my dorm), Batavaia and LeRoy in Genesee County, Lewiston, NT, the Town of Tonawanda ... I’ve never lived a place without a ghost or legend attached to it.
We may be a mere corner of a particularly young country, but we like our stories. And why not? Everyone wants to believe the place where they live is special — even if it’s in a spooky sort of way.
Supernatural historian Mason Winfield has been tracking these stories in Western New York for years. He’s written a number of books about them, from “Shadows of the Western Door: Haunted Sites and Ancient Mysteries of Upstate New York” to “Village Ghosts of Western New York,” and presents ghost walks in locations from Williamsville to Lewiston and (recently) North Tonawanda.
His latest book, “The Paranormal Almanac of Western New York: A Book of Ghostly Lists,” takes a step back from the occasionally dense history and legend of the prior works, and instead presents local tales of the haunted and supernatural as just want the title says: Lists. These are nothing David Letterman ever thought of, but range from topics like “10 Crazy Skeleton Sites” to “10 Fabled Phantoms of Fort Niagara.”