Montauk , Long Island has always been a very special place for me. I spent many a summer out there as a child, and I still go back now with my own family. It's just one of those magical, mystical, and beautiful places. It's also known to be...well...haunted.
All sorts of stories abound in Montauk, from haunted resorts to haunted lighthouses; from Big Foot to time travel and even more recently the alleged "Montauk Monster" which washed ashore in the summer of 2008. What many people don't realize however, is that it's also a very historical and spiritual place, which could also be the reason for a variety of paranormal activity which has taken place there.
Archeological excavations have shown that Montauk was inhabited by Native American Indians more than 3,000 years before any white man set foot in North America. The tribe called the land Montauket, meaning “hilly country.” The tribe itself was known as the Montauks, and the Indians were called the Montauketts. They were a peaceful tribe who fished the waters and farmed the land. By 1620, Chief Wyandanch had become known as the greatest chief in Montauk history. Unfortunately, his friendship with Lion Gardiner, and his tribe’s involvement with the British settlers would ultimately cost the Montauk tribe their land in years to come.
The Montauketts lived in peace with the white men, but they were almost constantly at war with more aggressive tribes from New England, the Pequots and the Narragansetts. In 1653, the Narragansetts once again set foot in Montauk, waging a surprise attack on the Montauketts. The fierce warriors nearly destroyed the Montauk Indians in one of the worst attacks ever made on the tribe. The ambush took place at the foot of the present-day Montauk Manor. Because of the terrible losses inflicted on the Montauketts, the low-lying land just east of Fort Hill next to Signal Hill became known as “Massacre Valley.”
The land on which the Montauk Manor stands is therefore very much connected with the Montaukett Indians. There were camps, bloodshed and burials there. Next door to the Manor is Fort Hill Cemetery, which was established by East Hampton Town during the 1980’s. It was named Fort Hill after the fort the Indians once had there. There are many Indians buried in this area, although the graves are not marked. The entire area was disrupted during the Manor’s construction.
It was Carl Fisher’s dream in the summer of 1925 to create the “most fabulous summer resort ever imagined in the western world"...a magnificent English Tudor-style “castle on the hill." Fisher was a multimillionaire industrialist who was responsible for the development of Miami Beach, Florida. He envisioned Montauk as having a beach club, a yacht club, polo fields, a golf course, a ranch and a health spa. His centerpiece would be the Montauk Manor, a 200-room luxury resort hotel. In 1927, part of Fisher’s dream became a reality when the Manor was officially opened. The rich and famous of the day flooded its grand ballrooms, played croquet on the rolling front lawn, drank tea on the veranda overlooking the Manor’s 10,000 acres, and ate in the finest of restaurants, which served international cuisine.
Did anyone at that time know the events that had once occurred there? Did they know about the amazing history that lay beneath the massive structure … Indians, wars, plagues and graves?
The Montauketts weren’t the only ones who died on the land. During the late 1890’s many of Teddy Roosevelt’s soldiers came down with yellow fever. It spread among the troops so quickly that Roosevelt decided to lead them up to the sacred site on the hill. The hill was steep, and the soldiers struggled in their weakened conditions to climb it. It is said that over 300 men died en route. Some died in a detention hospital that was set up near the present Manor. The soldiers were temporarily buried above Indian remains, both at Fort Hill and nearby at Lake Montauk. Eventually, most of their bodies were exhumed and sent home. Neither of the makeshift cemeteries were marked.
Throughout the years, many people visiting the Manor have claimed to see an Indian chief in full headdress wandering the floors. Some guests were so alarmed they had reported what they saw to the front desk. Strange banging sounds have been heard coming from a fourth floor room when no one was there, and another story, apparently more recent, mentioned a cleaning lady. The woman was cleaning the men’s sauna downstairs when she heard the door slam. That noise was followed by a baby’s cry. Terrified, she ran to the management and said she would never work there alone again.
I've gotten a number of orb photos at the Manor, and on one very foggy and quiet night I heard Indian drumbeats on the property when no one was around. Next door at Fort Hill Cemetery, a nine-year-old girl who lived next door claimed to have seen an American Indian in full headdress “perched on top of the hill” two years after the new cemetery was established in the 1980’s. Before she could show anyone, the man was gone.
In recent years, ghostly phenomenon has begun to slow down at the Manor. Perhaps the Indian chief has passed on. You could always check out the Montauk Lighthouse then, which is also rumored to be haunted. I have yet to research and investigate the lighthouse, or you can take a hike in the old Camp Hero which is loaded with all kinds of stories. I don't know who or what you'll run into there.
Even if you're not into ghosts, Montauk remains for many, one of the best places to vacation on Long Island, whether you're staying at the Montauk Manor or in one of the motels in town. Do take a trip up to Fort Hill Cemetery though. It is a beautiful and spiritual place, and offers one of the most spectacular views of Montauk.
Excerpts from this blog have been taken from my book Ghosts of Long Island; Stories of the Paranormal. If you're interested in reading more about the history and haunted phenomenon in Montauk, check out the chapter entitled, "The Spirit of an Indian Chief at Montauk Manor."