If you’re from New York, then you know that scattered throughout our state we have a pretty spooky assortment of ghost stories and haunted locations. One of the most saddening, publicized murders the Adirondack region has ever experienced, the story behind this haunted lake will send shivers down your spine:
The upsetting tale begins with a young girl who grew up on a dairy farm in the Otselic Valley by the name of Grace Brown.
Grace Brown was a young adult who gave up her farm life for a change of scenery in Cortland, New York. Grace would come to Cortland and begin working at the Gilette Skirt Factory.
While working at the Gilette Skirt Factory, Grace would eventually meet the owner's nephew, Chester Gilette.
Chester Gilette was well-known throughout town, coming from a wealthy family he caught the eyes of many young girls. While Grace Brown may have grabbed Chester's attention enough to date her secretly, he would never bring her out in public or acknowledge their relationship. Being a factory worker, Chester and his family felt that someone like Grace wouldn't be suited to meet their family standards.
After dating each other in secret, Grace found herself falling in love with Chester and would eventually realize that she was pregnant.
In May of 1906, Chester would find out about Grace carrying his child and with little surprise he was not happy about the situation. During these times, mothers who found themselves unwed were highly outcasted by society. Grace would eventually go back home to her family, where she and Chester would write letters to each other. Imagine having a dramatic situation like this on your hands and your only way of communication is snail mail? Yikes.
The two would exchange a series of letters with each other, where Chester would eventually tell Grace that he wanted to take her on a trip up to the Adirondacks.
After declaring her love for Chester and expressing her deep desire for marriage, Grace found herself having high hopes that this trip meant Chester was proposing or had planned for them to elope. After spending the night in Tupper Lake, the pair would take a train heading towards Utica, making a stop at Big Moose Lake.
Chester and Grace rented a canoe on Big Moose Lake, spending the day out on the water, only Grace would never return back to shore alive.
For whatever reason, Chester brought his entire suitcase with him on the canoe ride. The story goes that Chester had his tennis racket with him and struck Grace over the head, knocking her into the water. Grace had let Chester know in one of their many letters that she did not know how to swim. After the couple never came back or returned the canoe, the man they rented it from organized a search party to find them. It was during this search party the following morning that Grace's body and the capsized canoe would be found in Big Moose Lake.
Several days later, Chester was found and arrested in a hotel room in a nearby town, initially claiming he had no idea who Grace was. Sadly, Grace's autopsy would show that she was indeed roughly four months pregnant and had bruising on her head. After admitting he knew of Grace, he made up a story claiming she jumped out of the canoe in an attempt to kill herself once she found out that Chester had no intentions of marrying her. He would also claim that the reason the boat capsized was because he stood up to try and save. Insert upsetting eye roll here.
The trial would quickly spark an interest around the entire nation when the dramatic letters between Grace and Chester would be revealed.
The story of a young factory worker who was pregnant and murdered quickly captured the attention of many. News outlets at the time from all over the state were reporting on this scandalous trial. Despite his best efforts to weasel his way out of this unfortunate situation, Chester was found guilty of first degree murder after a 5-hour deliberation. Chester was sentenced to death by the electric chair.
Now known as one of America's oldest functioning prisons, Chester would be transferred to Auburn Prison where on March 30th, 1908 he would be executed. In an even stranger turn of events, it would be revealed that Chester confessed to his spiritual advisors in the prison that he did indeed murder Grace.
Pictured above, you can see one of the several historical markers in New York that's dedicated to Grace Brown. You'll find these markers at the home of where Grace grew up, the location where her and Chester went out on Big Moose Lake and other spots. Considering the amount of scandal and drama involved in this terrible murder, it was no surprise that it would eventually become the inspiration for several songs, movies and books. Some of the most well-known works that came from this murder? Most of us have heard of the 1951 film A Place In The Sun starring Elizabeth Taylor and the novel An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser has also been a favorite for those who have found this story to be fascinating.
As if this story wasn’t heartbreaking enough, many believe that Grace Brown’s spirit has yet to leave Big Moose Lake. Stories of people actually seeing her ghost and experiencing strange phenomena by the lake have been told for years, leaving many afraid to vacation in this popular area of the Adirondacks! Many believe that Grace’s spirit is upset by the loss of her baby and the terrible betrayal by her lover.
Did you ever hear about this haunted lake in New York or have family members who were around for this tragedy? To hear more bone-chilling stories,
meet these 6 other ghosts from New York!