Originally published October 2016 | Updated September 23, 2020
Who ya gonna call? 👻
Fall is here and Halloween is right around the corner. Aside from pumpkin-flavored everything, football 🏈, hoodies, and bonfires🔥, everybody’s looking to get scared out of their socks. 💀
Most people enjoy going to “haunted houses,” or controlled environments where actors dress in scary costumes and pop out at random times to scare thrill-seekers. No disrespect – we have a critically-acclaimed haunted house in Frightworld. The Haunted Catacombs are pretty spooky, too. Even some haunted hayrides and DIY haunted garages in local neighborhoods can give a good scare.
And while all of that is fun and great, perhaps they aren’t quite scary enough for you. Maybe you’re a truth-seeker, a skeptic, or just someone looking for creepier.
Luckily Western New York is full of haunted houses. Real haunted houses. Locations that, regardless of your beliefs, have eyewitness accounts of unusual happenings and things that actually go bump in the night. There may not be ghoulish figures popping out around every corner, but these spots are almost guaranteed to give you chills. The history behind them and the stories they tell keep even the most skeptical people enticed.
So what are you waiting for? Grab some friends, an EMF detector, recorder, camera, and probably a flashlight 🔦 and get out there. Here are some of the most haunted places in WNY to explore. 👀
Please note: We left out any that are unsafe or not open to the public for exploration in some way.
Think we’re missing one? Email email@example.com!
1. Iron Island Museum
998 Lovejoy St., Buffalo / (716) 892-3084 / ironislandmuseum.com
The History: Iron Island Museum was originally a brick Methodist church built in 1883 and opened in 1885 that was well-attended. A small wooden church with a parsonage existed on the property in 1888. The church closed in the 1940s and was abandoned for a brief period of time before a funeral director took over and turned it into a funeral home in the late 1950s. A building was built inside the church with three viewing rooms to accommodate funeral services. In August, 2000, then-owner Anthony Amigone donated the building to The Iron Island Preservation Society of Lovejoy, Inc., which transformed it into Iron Island Museum. It was then discovered by members of the preservation society that there were some strange things happening within the building. The owners invited several paranormal groups to investigate the property. With both Ghosthunters and Ghost Lab visiting the Lovejoy museum, it’s no question why this museum has a spot on this list.
The Stories: When The Iron Island Preservation Society of Lovejoy took over, they began restoring and renovating the building while collecting items for the museum. During the process, they found 24 unclaimed cremations left in the basement. With this discovery and current renovations going on down there, the basement is said to have plenty of activity, including shadow figures.
Elmira native and psychic medium Chip Coffey came to do a reading at the museum and he gave a name: Edgar Zernicke. After research was done into the name, one of the unclaimed containers was found to have the remains of an Edgar Zernicke, a former U.S. Marine. Mr. Zernicke likes to spend time in the attic, where footsteps and disembodied voices can be heard.
In 1958, a seven-year-old boy named Tommy Philangelo passed away battling Leukemia. He was waked at the museum when it was a funeral home. Tommy is sometimes seen and heard in the “children’s room,” where employees have laid out toys for him to play with. According to his cousin, Tommy liked boats during his lifetime. Apparently, he still does. One of the first EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena) from the museum was recorded in the children’s room. The voice of a little boy saying “boat” was recorded when asked about the model boat in the same room. On numerous occasions, eyewitnesses have returned to the room to find a toy has been moved when nobody else had entered the room. It is now called the children’s room due to the belief that multiple child spirits haunt the room. The museum also has a military room, where sounds of heavy footsteps and EVPs that sound like mortar and gunfire have been recorded.
2. Buffalo Central Terminal
495 Paderewski Dr., Buffalo / (716) 810-3210 / buffalocentralterminal.org
The History: The Ghosthunters have visited this massive terminal on several occasions, so you know it’s got to be magnificently creepy. On June 22, 1929, this $15 million, Art Deco staple to The Queen City opened its doors as a railroad station owned by New York Central Railroad. The first two decades were the busiest times at the terminal, especially during World War II. New York Central Railroad put the terminal up for sale in 1955. When it realized there wasn’t a big demand for such a sprawling structure, the company didn’t use a lot of sections and opened a smaller station within the terminal to accommodate its remaining passengers.
The station was then absorbed in 1968 by Penn Central Railroad until Amtrak took over in 1971. The last passenger train departed from the terminal in October 28, 1979. Anthony Fedele & Galesi Realty then purchased the terminal for $75,000. The train-terminal concourse bridge was demolished to make room for taller freight cars. Fedele defaulted on his taxes in 1986 and the terminal went up for auction, where the only bidder, Thomas Telesco, bought it for $100,000. Many of the terminal’s artifacts and contents were sold and it saw a lot of neglect for nearly two decades. In 1997, the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation bought the terminal.
The Stories: Beyond what SOB Contributor Jessica Kelly experienced during a Ghost Hunt, the basement is rumored to be full of paranormal activity. When the terminal was left to neglect, vandals, arsonists and transients moved in. Among others were sometimes homeless people. It’s rumored that during the winter, some less fortunate tried to escape the unforgiving weather by breaking into the terminal. The terminal didn’t have any heat in the basement and they couldn’t access other floors. Once they entered, they never came out.
Other stories include the spirit of a little boy on the second floor and other spirits who wander around the floor. Although he didn’t die there, the spirit of Anthony Fedele is said to haunt the third floor. Fedele had an apartment up there, where he lived during the time of his ownership. Fedele was known to throw parties and was said to have really enjoyed his time at the terminal in life. Using a Spirit Box investigation device on the third floor, paranormal group Beyond Ghosts asked any potential spirits if they knew where they were. The answer they got was long exclamation of “Buffalo!” They believe it could have been Fedele. A Beyond Ghosts team member was once helping clean the third floor and happened to take a picture with their phone down the hall looking toward the office area. Upon further inspection, the apparition of a woman can clearly be seen in the distance. Sure, it could have been a trespasser. But the only problem was, the floor leading to the offices had previously collapsed, making it impossible for anybody to walk back there.
3. Buffalo Naval Park
1 Naval Park Cove, Buffalo / (716) 847-1773 / buffalonavalpark.org
The History: SyFy’s Ghosthunters have also investigated this location. The U.S. Navy donated USS The Sullivans to the City of Buffalo. The USS Little Rock guided missile cruiser was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977 and The Sullivans in 1986. The naval park opened in 1979. In 1989, the park acquired the World War II submarine USS Croaker, and it was added to the National and New York State Registers of Historic Places in 2008. The ships were moved to their current location in 2003.
The Sullivans, a Fletcher-class destroyer, was named in honor of the five Sullivan brothers who lost their lives when their ship, the USS Juneau, was sunk by Japanese submarine during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal on Nov. 13, 1942. It was the greatest loss by any American family during World War II. The Sullivans served in World War II and the Korean War. After, it became a training ship until it was decommissioned on Jan. 7, 1965.
The USS Little Rock is the last surviving member of the 27-ship Cleveland class. She was originally a light cruiser before being one of six to be converted to a guided missile cruiser. The Little Rock didn’t see combat in World War II, but spent time in South America, the Caribbean and often as the Sixth Fleet flagship in the Mediterranean. The cruiser was decommissioned finally in 1976.
The USS Croaker was a Gato-class submarine, the first to be named after the croaker, a type of fish. She was launched on Dec. 19, 1943 and commissioned on April 21, 1944. The Croaker arrived at Pearl Harbor on June 26, 1944, where she saw a lot of successful combat. The Croaker saw six war patrols before being decommissioned for the last time on April 2, 1968.
The Stories: According to the book, “Haunted Buffalo: Ghosts of the Queen City” by Dwayne Claud and Cassidy O’Connor, people have heard unexplained footsteps aboard the ship on USS The Sullivans, especially at night. It is said that one of the Sullivan brothers’ spirits, George, roams the ship in search of his other four brothers. One story involving an overnight stay with Girl Scouts claims that they woke up to find all of the pictures in the museum broken on the floor. Claims also exist that if you try to take a photo of the Sullivan brothers in the museum, George does not come out in the photo.
Another story involves an elderly couple who was on a tour of the ship. They approached a naval officer to ask questions about the ship, to which he gladly answered. After the tour, the couple sought to thank the officer, but were informed there wasn’t an officer onboard that day. The museum displays a lot of personal possessions, which may be an explanation for the unusual occurrences.
4. Dunkirk Lighthouse
1 Point Dr. N, Dunkirk / (716) 366-5050 / dunkirklighthouse.com
The History: The original lighthouse was established in 1827, with the $10,000 Fresnel light from Paris, France still standing today. In 1875 – 1876, the current 61-foot stone tower and Victorian residence were constructed, both of which still stand today. Bricks from the original lighthouse keeper’s house made the foundation for the new one.
The first shot fired in the War of 1812 was fired near the west bank of the lighthouse. The lighthouse was also home to 12 active Coast Guard personnel who were stationed there, along with the keeper during World War II. As well as a handful of keepers, the waters the lighthouse overlooks were the site of four shipwrecks, most notably, the wreck of the Erie in 1841, where a fire on board caused the loss of 141 lives.
The Stories: Shadow figures have been seen roaming the grounds here. Eyewitnesses have seen the apparition of an attendant that people believe to be of one of the past lighthouse keepers. Others have seen a former lighthouse keeper still patrolling the site. An apparition of a young boy in mid-1800s attire has also been spotted. The boy likes to be playful with guests and sometimes interacts with objects or toys.
5. The Rapids Theatre
1711 Main St., Niagara Falls, NY / (716) 205-8925 / rapidstheatre.com
The History: Yet another location investigated by the Ghosthunters, The Rapids Theatre is a promising haunted location in Western New York. The theatre opened in 1921 as a luxury movie house known as The Bellevue Theatre. The Bellevue Theatre was also host to a variety of vaudeville shows, most notably, The Three Stooges. The theatre has been handled by a number of different owners over the years, transforming into a movie theatre, two dance clubs and a night club at various points.
The Stories: The Rapids Theatre is said to have loud footsteps, mysterious whistling, unexplained sounds of keys jingling, doors closing and objects moving unexplainably. The theatre was featured on a Ghosthunters episode, where the TAPS team described a rumor that an actress had hung herself in the back.
Photo courtesy of Rolling Hills Asylum
6. Rolling Hills Asylum
11001 Bethany Center Rd, East Bethany, NY 14054 / (585) 502-4066 / rollinghillsasylum.com
The History: Rolling Hills Asylum has a long history of paranormal activity as the former Genesee County Poor House, in East Bethany, NY. Often resembling a reformatory, poorhouses usually housed orphaned children, families, destitute elderly, physically handicapped, mentally unstable, morally corrupt, even criminals. Learn more about Rolling Hills’ history here.
The Stories: The Rolling Hills website is rich with stories and testimonials including tales of voices being heard, shoe squeaking, small children’s voices and more discovered on recordings after the fact. Read more testimonials here.
Think we’re missing one? Email firstname.lastname@example.org!