The Capital Region presents endless opportunities for the students to explore recreation and local culture. With that in mind, the students in the Local History class taught by adjunct professor, Michelle Brown, had the chance to go on a Ghost Tour of the sprawling State Capitol Building on Friday, October 19, 2018. The State Capitol Building was officially completed in 1899, after 32 years of construction, at least fifteen hundred stonemasons, and a cumulative cost of $25 million dollars ($735 million dollars in today’s money). In the 119-year history of the building’s existence, plenty of events have happened and not all of them have been good. The purpose of the tour was to give our students a piece of history and wonder whether there is a supernatural world beyond what we see.
The students asked introspective questions about some of the phenomenon captured in some of the photographs such as a lone broom standing undamaged in a photograph showing the gutted building immediately after the 1911 fire. The ghostly broom allegedly belonged to a beloved night watchman and Civil War veteran named, Samuel Abbott who perished in the fire. The late-Mr. Abbott has been sighted making his rounds late at night and a state employee even identified him from a photograph as the man who once peeped his head in her office to say, “Get home safely.” His face and attire were identical to the same man in the photograph.
The infamous 1911 fire, destroyed most of the library and is commonly blamed on defective electrical wiring. Others have different opinions, according to Kathleen who was our tour guide. One of the few items unscathed by the fire happens to be the Native American masks that were on display much to the chagrin of Native American Society at the time. According to legend, when Native American artifacts are disrespected they have the power to emit fire among other forces.
Another story involved a fruit vendor on State Street who leapt from the top floor of the “Million Dollar Staircase” and fell to his death in front of horrified Victorian women who witnessed the incident. The man was apparently distressed over his failing business and is one of the spirits said to haunt our State Capitol building.
One of the photographs we captured features the Capital Region’s very own demon that was carved by a disgruntled mason who supposedly just lost his job or knew he would be fired. The mason wanted to place a curse on the building forever.
Even though the experience was just a little bit frightening, the students found it to be a pleasant, pre-Halloween treat. We also wish to show our gratitude to Michelle Brown and the other staff members for organizing so many fun trips this semester!