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Ghost appearances at Fort Drum, primarily the LeRay Mansion, make lasting impression


FORT DRUM — Something spooky may be roaming the halls of the LeRay Mansion on post.

It can’t be explained, but a collection of mysterious figures reportedly has stepped loudly through the halls of the early 19th century home, played with children and even flushed toilets rooms away from the nearest person. One potential answer is that it could be the spirits of previous inhabitants and visitors.

“That’s one of the wonderful things of growing older,” said Laurie W. Rush, the post’s cultural resources manager. “Over time, enough new things happen to you that you begin to realize and gain a greater appreciation that there’s so much more going on than we really, really know.”

The mansion was built in 1808 by James LeRay de Chaumont and was rebuilt in the 1820s after being destroyed in a fire. The federal government acquired the property in 1940.

Ms. Rush got her first taste of the mansion’s lore when she spoke with the garrison commander after taking the job in 1998. The garrison commander told her that on multiple occasions his dog would rush toward the door as if something was on the other side, then without reason quickly run away yelping.

“That’s when I was introduced to the fact there were other occupants of LeRay Mansion,” Ms. Rush said.

Fifteen years later, Ms. Rush said, her most frequent paranormal moment comes when she does tours of the mansion, as she enters the home’s basement area. With nobody else in the house besides her and her tour group immediately with her, a noise has emanated from an upstairs bathroom. She said she has had the unusual flush happen six different times over the course of her career on post.

“I can almost point, and the upstairs toilet will flush,” she said. “Invariably somebody will say, ‘Oh, toilets will do that.’ Not in my house.”

However, Ms. Rush said, unusual sightings in multiple forms have been relayed to her over the years, from animal appearances to shifting furniture.

A small boy at the house while his mother helped decorate it with her family readiness group for Christmas told her that he was playing with a group of other children, even though nobody else could be seen. As he left the house, he told his mother and her friends that the group of children and their parents were waving to them.

“The little boy was so convincing that all the women stopped and waved goodbye to the mom and children on the stairwell before they left,” Ms. Rush said.

A longtime lodging employee found himself with quite the scare as he investigated a noise in an upstairs bedroom while doing a quick inspection of the house. He knocked on the bedroom door, and a woman cracked it open and told the employee to come back later, as her husband was sleeping. Ms. Rush said the employee ended the inspection and went back to the lodging office. To his surprise, he was told that nobody had rented the room. When the office’s staff went to investigate, they found no evidence that anybody was there.

Asked to describe what the mystery woman looked like, the employee described the woman as very pale, and wearing a very old-fashioned bathrobe. Ms. Rush speculated the person the worker saw was the spirit of Julia Phelps, who lived in the house for much of her life, up to her death in the late 1800s.

Other sightings have been a phantom fox, possibly representing the shooting death of a man that the shooter claimed happened after seeing a fox, and the cries of a baby who died in the first version of the mansion. Guests of the mansion have reported a person noisily walking around at night, reporting the squeak of soft leather hitting the ground.

For Ms. Rush, the spirit stories are not directly scary, but an indication that there is more there than meets the eye.

“I think it’s terrific fun,” she said.

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