As day broke, the storm had subsided and rescuers were able to reach the boat. Of the eight who were on the ship, two were found frozen in the riggings and two were found on the deck wrapped in masting and clinging to life. The others had fallen over board during the night and drowned. The two survivors were bundled in blankets and rushed to shore. One, Soren Nielson , died of tetanus within days.
The other, Claus Stevens, survived his ordeal and returned to sea soon after. It was through his first hand account that we have gleaned a terrifying view of the crew as they struggled to survive. His official report noted that Captain William Squires was the first to die as his frozen body disappeared over the side of the ship. Next was the cook, Charles Morrison, who also appeared frozen as his body was washed over board. Charles Allen was the third to die, though he fought valiantly to survive before giving up hope and "letting go" to be washed into the sea. The forth to die was a big Sweed, Gustave Jiby, who at over 200 pounds fought throughout the night to stay alive but finally succumbed to the wind and the cold and was lost over board with the others. Fritz Ward and August Olsen had both climbed into the riggings of the masts to stay dry, and their cries could be heard throughout the night as they begged for help. It was there that they were found the next morning, frozen in place where they had died.
Claus Steven’s was interviewed for a number of years after the incident and gained some notoriety as the sole survivor. It was reported however that later in life he was so effected by the tragic incident that he was committed to Central Islip Psychiatric Hospital where he spent the remainder of his life.
The bodies of the dead were brought to shore in Patchogue and taken to the village undertaker, John Ruland. The people of the town were so fascinated that Undertaker Ruland displayed the bodies in his establishment so they could be viewed by all. But along with the morbid curiosity came charity. Audrey Weeks, one of the leading patriarchs of the town immediatly donated plots in the newly created Lakeview Cemetery. Ms. Weeks was one of four sisters whose family amassed a fortune in the military industry of New York City. The sisters were leaders in the village, and were well known for their charity. As you will see later, they were also very odd. Although details vary, it is certain that not all of the sailors bodies were buried in Lakeview Cemetery. Accounts of who is actually buried here vary from one to the next. Gustave Jaiby however is mentioned in all accounts along with a bizarre detail. He was reportedly buried in the cemetery with a piece of rope still frozen in his hand.
By the time of the sinking of the Louis V. Place, the old mansion on Blood Hill had been gone for years. The land both around and where the mansion had sat had been purchased by Ms. Weeks, and she generously donated some of it to provide burial plots for the unfortunate crew of the Louis V. Place. She wanted them to have a proper "Christian burial". Within two weeks of the sailors burial, sightings of ghosts and apparitions at the cemetery increased dramatically.
The most famous accounts of the haunting of Lakeview Cemetery occurred soon after the burial of the crew and as discussed earlier were written about in the New York Times, the Brooklyn Eagle and the New York Sun. The story involves the report of two sisters who were returning late at night from work at the Lace Mill adjacent to the cemetery. As had always been their custom, they had instinctively moved to the other side of the road, looking to avoid passing too close to the site of the old haunted mansion The sisters were startled by wailing coming from the cemetery. There they saw what they described as a headless apparition waving its arms and hovering around the graves of the recently buried sailors of the doomed ship. The ghost than began to float towards the ruins of the old Oake Smith House, where it rested by a tree. The girls let out a scream and ran for home, where they told their friends and family. All rushed back to the cemetery, but were unable to find any traces of the ghost.
The girls story soon began to circulate about the town. A nightly watch was instituted to try and catch a glimpse of what they felt could be the ghost of one of the poor unfortunate sailors. Finally, a week after the sisters sighting, a young man named Gerard, while waiting with his friends for a glimpse of the ghost, found what he was looking for, as at 10PM they spotted the headless ghost floating in the river that ran besides the cemetery . There it hovered n the freezing waters for close to an hour, while Gerard and his friends hid by the bank waiting for their opportunity to spring at the spirit. Their chance came when the apparition seem to float from the icy water and move into the gravestones of Lakeview Cemetery. The newspaper account tells how they gave chase, but could not catch up with the headless ghost who seemed to be able to move amongst the graves in total darkness without any trouble. Finally, the newspaper account says the chase ended as the ghost neared the boundary of the cemetery along Waverly Avenue, dropped what seemed to be some type of cloth, and disappeared into the woods behind the cemetery(6).
Some claim the cloth was a covering for a prankster bent on scaring the girls of the town. They say the prankster dropped it while being pursued by the young men. Others thought that impossible. How would any human be able to spend an hour in the icy waters of a river and than not only manage to survive but outrun a group of young men through a dark cemetery with a cloth over his head? They also noted the cloth that was found was made of old muslin which they pointed out was used by sailors. Instead of a prankster, most people of the town felt the boys had come face to face with the ghost of one of the unfortunate sailors of the Louis V. Place who had dropped a small piece of his ghostly belongings.
In 1914, almost ten years after the original articles appeared, an interesting note about the haunted cemetery appeared in the Brooklyn Eagle under the heading; "Blood Hill Ghost Appears Again!"(7). The article tells of the local residents of Patchogue reporting the return of the headless ghost of Lakeview Cemetery, who once again had been seen wandering about the gravestones and freighting those who came upon it. The article ends with the town constable assuring the public he would be laying in wait for future visits.
A secondary story that is often related to the Louis V. Place revolves around the ghost of a "dark skinned" cook who was supposedly aboard the Louis V Place. The story goes that when the life savers found the bodies of the crew, they brought all of them back to the cemetery with the exception of the dark skinned man. Because of the prejudices of the time, it was believed that because of his skin color he was most likely from a country that were "non believers" and thus could not be buried on consecrated ground. Instead, they buried him at the beach back in the dunes in an unmarked grave. When they returned to the town they found that the cook was actually a Christian, so they returned to retrieve the body for proper burial, only to find it was gone. It is the spirit of this man that is rumored to roam the beach looking for his fellow crew members, and occasionally visiting Lakeview Cemetery to take his place along side those given a proper burial.
Alas, I feel this is but an interesting tale as there is no evidence that a "dark skinned" cook was ever on the ship.
The Ghost of Helen Tiernan (8)
May Savage, a 16 year old girl from Brookhaven Hamlet east of Patchogue, was walking through the woods near her home on a lovely spring day. This area is now part of the Werthein National Park. The date was May 16th, 1937. As she walked she was scanning the ground for flowers in hopes of putting together a small bouquet to give to her teacher. But in and instant, her life changed forever when she stumbled across the badly burned body of a young girl lying in the weeds. It was clear that her throat had been cut. It was a grisly discovery she would never forget.
The story that would unfold from this senseless and brutal murder would grab the attention of the entire nation and make newspaper front pages and wire services from coast to coast. It also added another chapter to the strange and fascinating history of Lakeview Cemetery.
After her gruesome discovery, May Savage ran for help, returning to the site with her friend Warren Brady. When originally confronted with the story Brady had thought that the girl may have mistaken a dead animal for a human. When he came across the body, they immediately knew this was no animal and they both went for help returning with the local police. There they found the body of a seven year old girl whose throat had been slashed from one side to the other. Her body had been badly burned. It was apparent she had been dead for a few hours. As the police spread out around the area looking for clues, one member of the party thought he saw something in a patch of weeds. When he called out to his fellow searchers for help, the head of a young five year old boy popped up from the weeds. He stared blankly at the officer, obviously dazed and disoriented. As they rushed to his side they realized he too had had his throat cut, but the wound was not as deep as the young girls. He was covered with bumps and bruises and was mumbling incoherently about his mother. Thinking they may find the mothers body nearby, they continued the search while others rushed the young boy to Patchogue Hospital. The search turned up no other bodies, but instead a bloody knife and hatchet along with a half empty bottle of gasoline which were found in the weeds a short distance from where the children were found. Thus the police had loctated the weapons used in this horrible attack and the gas intended to cover the evidence.
An investigation was immediately launched and pictures of the surviving little boy were plastered in newspapers from coast to coast along with the grizzly details of the event. The boy was still too traumatized to relate much of what happened, but babbled conflicting accounts of seeing his mother hitting his sister. He could not indentify his mothers or his last name. Within days of the murder, a Mrs. Emma H. McGowan came forward and identified the little boy as a student in her establishment, the West Side Nursery in New York City. She had recognized him from his picture in the newspaper. The boys mother, Helen Tiernan was immediately located and the horrible story of the death of the young girl and the brutal beating of the young boy soon began to unravel.
After initially denying she knew anything about the death of her daughter and attack on her son, she soon confessed to having been the culprit. Helen was 25 years old and had been widowed for three years. She had recently met a new lover whom had moved in with her and her two children, 7 year old Helen and 5 year old Jimmy. She had demanded they both call the man "father". The new man in her life was George Christy, a restaurant worker from New York City and a former boxer. It seems that Christy had expressed to Helen that he may not be too excited with sharing the house and his life with two young children and that he may be leaving. In a panic at the thought of losing her lover, Helen Tiernan hatched her plan to eliminate the problem.
Having visited Brookhaven Town on Long Island before as part of a church retreat, she was familiar with the area to which she would travel. Both children were loaded on to the train in New York City under the guise of going on an outing to the country, and accompanied by their mother they traveled far out to Long Island. They got off the train at what was than known as the Brookhaven Train station (it no longer exists). Helen than guided the children down Yapank Avenue heading north bound towards Montauk Highway. Three quarters of the way to the Highway, she veered off into the woods on the easterly side of Yapank Avenue and proceeded approximately 150 yards into the forest. There, the horrible attack commenced, as Helen had decided that to save her relationship, the children had to go.
Helen immediately attacked both children, presumably with the blunt side of the hatchet, leaving them dazed and laying on the ground. She than turned her attention to her daughter, Helen, strangling her first before cutting her throat with the knife she had brought. It was this horrible site that young Jimmy later recalled. Once she was dead, she turned her attention to her son Jimmy, whom she pounded on the head with the blunt side of the hatchet before taking her knife and sliting his throat. Than, thinking both were dead and wanting to destroy any eveidence, she took her bottle of gasoline and poured the liquid on the bodies, setting them on fire. She than calmly left the woods, and proceeded back to the train station where she caught the first train back to New York City.
It is estimated that this brutal attack most likely took only 15 to 20 minutes. Because Jimmy's kneck wound was not deep enough to cause death, he was able to survive the attack. Police theorize that he was able to drag himself from the scene of the attack into the weeds where he was later found hiding.
Later accounts and newspaper articles related that the day after the attacks, Helen Tiernan went to the beach with her lover George Christy. After originally being considered an accomplice in the attacks, Christy was later acquitted of any involvement. He testified that Helen had told him she had sent the children away to live with her brother. Christy disappears from history after being cleared, although it was later rumored that unknown to Helen, he had been married during their affair.
Jimmy was brought to the hospital to recover and was showered with attention from the people of the town. His only known relative was his grandfather, George Smith of New York City. He would come from time to time to visit him. The full details of Jimmys attack never fully returned to him, with his memories of it containing only vague snippets of his mothers hitting his sister. A number of people came forward that considered adopting Jimmy. One was an uncle from out on the Island that had not known him but was considering taking him in. Another was a couple from California who had read about the incident and sent word that they would be very interested in adopting the young boy. No mention was made in any of the accounts that the grandfather showed any interest, and in fact, Jimmy disappears from all record after the initial publicity around the attacks subsided. There is one final article that notes that after his recovery Jimmy was taken into an orphanage in New York City until a proper home could be found. There his story ends. Who if anyone adopted him and what ever became of him is a mystery.
Helen Tiernan was convicted and sent to Bedford State Prison for Woman in New York to serve a 20 year sentence. Before leaving, she expressed remorse and asked that money from her account be used to provide for a proper burial for her daughter. The money was used for flowers and a casket. I have found no records of when Helen died or if she ever got out of prison. Like Jimmy and George, she disappears quickly from history as time passed on.
And little seven year old Helen Tiernan? Her body was sent to CW Rulands undertaking establishment, as so many bodies had been before her. There she was prepared and sent to Lakeview Cemetery for burial on a piece of land donated by the town. Her grandfather, George Smith, was the only mourner at her lonely funeral. Jimmy was not well enough to attend. A few days afterwards, some workers at the Lace Mill adjacent to the site decided they would chip in and purchase a headstone for the little girl. They wanted it plain and dignified, and ordered that only her name and dates of birth and death would appear on the stone. It is that stone that is there today, with no mention of the horrible fate that befell this poor child. Most people have long forgotten this sad story and when they pause to look see only the grave of an unknown little girl.
For years after Helen’s death, bouquets of flowers could be found at her grave. No one was ever sure who put them there. Some thought it was Jimmy who would return to mourn the sister he had lost. Some said it might be the grandfather. No one ever saw who was placing these flowers. They just seemed to appear. As the years passed, the flowers stopped and Helen’s grave, like many in Lakeview Cemetery, fell into disrepair and neglect. Over grown weeds and wild trees covered the site. Fortunately, the same renaissance that has retaken the rest of the cemetery has restored Helen’s resting place. Volunteers have cleaned up the grave site and installed a small bench in front of the headstone. And the flowers have returned, place there by the wonderful volunteers that now care for the cemetery.
And oh yes. Through the years there have been numerous reports of the sound of a young girl crying coming from the cemetery. From time to time concerned people enter the cemetery to see if there is a child in distress only to find nothing. Reports to the local police are investigated with the same empty result. There have also been scattered reports of the form of a young girl wandering through the grave stones who seemingly vanishes into mist. The ghost of a young girl brutally murdered many years ago?
So who is haunting Lakeview Cemetery? I'm not sure. I have stood late at night in the middle of Lakeview Cemetery and just listened to the wind as it swirls through the leaves of the trees. I have strained to hear anything that resembles the voices of the past or to catch a glimpse of the ghosts who haunt the cemetery. I have roamed it during daytime looking at the graves and trying to make some type of connection with those who lay below. Alas, I have neither seen nor heard anything that is not natural to the surroundings. But I do get a very uneasy feeling when I am there. Its a sense that there is something unusual going on, just beyond my ability to see or feel it. It sends a chill down my spine.
Through the years however, there are numerous reports from those who claim to have seen and experienced the ghosts that roam the cemetery. Is it the ghosts of the Louis V. Place? The dark ghost who has been reported to roam the cemetery for hundreds of years? The restless souls of the slaves tortured and enslaved in the basement of the old mansion who are now seeking justice? Or is it the spirit of a young girl brutally murdered years ago, perhaps looking for her younger brother or the mother who killed her, still in search of her love? Or do they all haunt the cemetery, taking turns roaming its grounds and seeking something that will allow them to finally rest at peace?
Notes and Credits
(1) - New York Times - 3/1/1895 - "Ghost Has No Head"
Brooklyn Eagle - 2/28/1895 - "Patchogues Cemetery Ghost"
The Sun - 3/3/1895 - "The Ghost Was Lively"
(2) - New York Times Editorial - 3/3/1895- "The Patchogue Ghost"
(3) - Brooklyn Eagle - 5/15/1881 - "Oakesmith Mansion Burns To The Ground"
(4) - Brooklyn Eagle - 11/20/1903 - "Fire Chief Simpson Honored"
(5) - "Wrecks and Rescues on Long Island", The Story of the U.S. Life Saving Service.
(6) - New York Times - 3/3/1895 - "Gerard Chased The Ghost"
(7) - Brooklyn Eagle - 10/6/1914 - ""Blood Hill Ghost Appears Again"
(8) - Brookhaven and Southhaven Hamlets web site http://brookhavensouthhaven.org
1. Lakeview Cemetery as it appears now - taken from the Lakeview Cemetery Restoration web site.
2. Lakeview Cemetery headstones
3. Lakeview Cemetery as it appered in 1899 taken from the Lakeview Cemetery Restoration web site.
4. EOS headstone showing crack
5. Bloodhill in Patchogue as is appears today
6. Seba Smith
7. Louis V. Place floundering off of Fire Island- courtesy of Long Island Marine Museum Sayville
8. A photogragh from on board the Louis V. Place showing the ice encrusted masts. - courtesy of Long Island Marine Museum Sayville.
9. Claus Stevens, one of two survivors of the Louis V. Place
10. The Smith Sisters of Patchogue gathered around the head stones of the doomed crew of the Louis V. Place. The sisters had donated the burial spots and headstones.
11. A picture of the search party standing over the body of young Helen Tiernan at the murder scene as taken from http://brookhavensouthhaven.org
12. The murderer, Helen Tiernan as taken from http://brookhavensouthhaven.org
13. The headstone of young Helen Tiernan which had been donated by the workers of the nearby Lace factory.