Cemetery in Patchogue has been the subject of countless tales of ghosts and
hauntings since the early 1800’s. I discovered that its reputation as one
of the most haunted places on the Island is well deserved!
Cemetery runs along Main Street and Waverly Avenue in the western portion of
Patchogue. It is actually a combination of 5 separate cemeteries, with
the oldest graves dating back to the late 1700’s. These cemeteries
include the Episcopal, Waverly, Gerard, Rice and Lakeview cemetery.
All are now commonly referred to as the Lakeview Cemetery. The actual
Lakeview portion of the cemetery is the youngest portion, having been opened in
the late 1880’s. This land was donated by Ruth Newey Smith, one of the
four well to do Smith sisters of Patchogue.
oldest graves are found in the Episcopal, Gerard and Waverly portions of the
cemetery and date back as late as 1794. The original church building
built in Patchogue (The Congregational Church) was built on the edge of the
cemetery in 1794 and was located on the northeast corner of Main Street and
Waverly Avenue. It is probable that the cemetery was located in
this area because of the church.
left- old section of Lakeview Cemetery taken by author)
The combined cemeteries contain the remains of
over 1200 souls including at least 13 Revolutionary war veterans, 9
civil war veterans, 12 World War 1 veterans, 6 WW 2 veterans and 3 Vietnam
Vets. For many years, the cemetery had been abandoned and over grown
despite the efforts of some dedicated individual Patchogue
residents such as Hans Henke (also the town historian)
who valiantly attempted to keep up with the work. But like
Patchogue itself, the cemetery is now in a period of revival. Under the
leadership of Steve Gill, the
Lakeview Restoration Committee was formed and with the help of many volunteers, the cemetery is being restored and
maintained. To the left is a picture of the cemetery gates as they appeared in
I first learned of
Lakeview Cemetery when reading "Long Island’s Most Haunted, A Ghost
Hunters Guide" written by Joseph Flammer and Diane Hill (9). This
very interesting book gave some background on the cemetery and referenced
articles from the Brooklyn Eagle written about a ghostly sighting that occurred
there in 1895 (9). My interest peaked, I decided to research the story
and the cemetery. Using the
Brooklyn Eagle articles referenced in the book as a spring board I began to dig
for more information on the cemetery, events and people that were mentioned in
the article. I was surprised by what I found. I went into the
project thinking I was researching a single ghost story but found
something much more fascinating.
hours in various libraries and Internet searches, I discovered that the hauntings attributed
through the years to Lakeview Cemetery could have come from any number of
fascinating real life people whose remains reside within its confines.
These stories opened a fascinating window into many of the events
and people that shaped the history of Patchogue and in some cases Long
soon discovered that a tavern once stood on this property and a President had dined
there. Elizabeth Oakes Smith, a famous 19th century poet and one of
the original crusaders for the rights of woman was buried here, next to
her equally famous husband Seba Smith. Seba
was one of our countries original political satirists, a newspaper editor and
an author, whose works included the well known Jack Downing series that
poked fun at the American political process and those that were in it. Very near to Seba
and Elizabeth lie the bodies of the crew of the schooner Louis V. Place, a
doomed ship that had in February of 1895 floundered
off the coast of Patchogue in a wintry storm. Unable to be rescued, the
crew of the ship died a painful and eerie death. Resting side by side with the
crew of the Louis V. Place rests the similarly doomed crew of the Nahum
Chapin which sunk off the coast of Patchogue in 1897.
across from the sailor’s graves can be found the monuments to the
eccentric Smith sisters who are buried in Lakeview and who donated much of
the land where the new portion of the cemetery sits. The wealthiest
people in town, the Smith sisters also donated the plot where the sailors
were buried and used the Lakeview Cemetery to build a number of memorials to
their family. They too add to the mystery of this cemetery as one of
the sisters, Augusta, was so afraid of being buried alive her will stipulated
she could not be buried until 5 days after her death! (see Patchogue Stories)
residing in Lakeview Cemetery is the body of a little girl who was cruelly
murdered in the 1930's and buried in a lonely grave on the corner of the property.
Her story and the mystery behind her murder were the subject of national
attention, and her restless and sad spirit has been reported through the years
wandering the grounds.
there is the long told story of the “Haunted House On Blood Hill”. It was this
story involving the old mansion which was located on the property that originally
gave Lakeview Cemetery its reputation as one of the most haunted places on Long Island. This
house dated back to the late 18th century and occupied a prominent place
on the hill found on the southeast brow of the cemetery. This house stood
until the late 1800's and was the subject of terrible secrets that form the
basis of its haunted history that persists to this day.
The following is an
accounting of three of the more detailed stories of who may be haunting
The Haunted House on
Lakeview Cemetery rests on the top of a
small hill in a portion of western Patchogue that for many years was ominously
referred to as "Blood Hill". The origin of this name is
somewhat unclear and adds to the mystery of the place. Most articles I could
find, which are very few, note that this name was given the area because of its
reputation as the site of constant drunken fights engaged in by sailors
visiting the port of Patchogue. It was said that these fights were so bad that
the streets were often” running with blood".
Other accounts credit the name coming from the atrocities that
occurred in a house that existed here in the early days of the village. The
Haunted House on Blood Hill. Whatever the source, the "nick name"
persisted until sometime in the 1920's, when local business men worked to
eradicate this negative image by convincing the public that the area had
changed and that its blood soaked reputation was a thing of the
as you travel west bound on Main Street in Patchogue leaving the main business
area and passing the YMCA, you will begin to ascend a small hill.
This rise is what remains of the infamous "Blood Hill". It is on the
brow of this hill (on what is now Lakeview Cemetery) that sat for many years
and old mansion. Newspaper accounts of the late 1800 hundreds describe it as an
"ancient house" dating back to the revolutionary war. This was the
Haunted House of Blood Hill. (Picture
left - current day view of "Blood Hill")
The house has been
a source of controversy. Some accounts I have found state the house had been
built and owned by the famous revolutionary war hero, Nathaniel Woodhull.
These reports cannot be accurate as it is well established that Nathaniel
Woodhull lived his entire life in the family manor located in Mastic. This
historic manor house and much of its original land still exists today as a
museum. Records do indicate however that the House on Blood Hill was
once owned by a Squire Brewster Woodhull. In fact, records show it was a
B Woodhull who sold the house to the famous Seba Smith and his wife
Elizabeth in 1860. An 1858 map of the area shows the house with the
name B. Woodhull written next to it. Perhaps Brewster Woodhull was a relative
of Nathaniel which may account for the miss-identification. Or perhaps Nathaniel
owned the property but did not live there.
Seba and Elizabeth
were the most famous occupants of the house, and after moving to it in
1860 they thoroughly renovated it and named it "The Willows".
This name reflected the fact that many lovely willow trees graced the
property. Sadly, Seba died in the house in 1868.
We get a
fascinating glimpse of what the old mansion looked like in an interview
with Elizabeth Oakes Smith in the September 10th,1873 Brooklyn Eagle
("Madame Elizabeth Oakes Smith"). The Willows is
described as an old three story rambling house built in the revolutionary war
times. It had balconies off of the windows facing the street and was surrounded
by willow trees. The inside is described as old, and musty. As this
interview had taken place after the death of her husband Seba, the article
implies that perhaps the house had become run down as a result of
Elizabeth being a widow. The interior is described as having old wooden
beams, bookshelves filled with old manuscripts and walls covered with peeling
wall paper and paintings. This description gives us our only glimpse into what
this strange and storied mansion looked like, and reinforces the image
of the houses appearance as something out of a Victorian ghost
tale. You can imagine it sitting alone, on the breast of the hill
surrounded by an ancient grave yard.
Like many accounts
found in newspapers of this time, the details seem a little
confusing. The interview takes place with Elizabeth in 1873
within the house. Yet we know from other accounts that Elizabeth Oakes
Smith moved out of the Willows in 1870. This leaves us to
assume that the interview was actually conducted earlier and published in
1873 or that the interview simply contains accounts of Elizabeth
Oakes Smith reminiscing about the house and describing it to the
Perhaps the most
controversial part of my research however is the evidence that has been
uncovered that points to the fact that this house may also have
been Harts Tavern, famous for having been a stop off for George Washington
during his tour of Long Island after the Revolution. Harts
Tavern had been reported to have stood somewhere alongside Main
Street on the cemetery property, but the exact location of the house has long
been a mystery. There is a plaque placed by the DAR in the 1920’s marking the
approximate location of the house. This plaque is near the
"Rice Cemetery" portion of Lakeview, which I believe is incorrect.
In fact, I believe Harts Tavern, the old Oakesmith House and the legendary
Haunted House of Blood Hill are all the same houses. More on this later.
The early stories of
the haunted mansion of Blood Hill are mentioned in articles in the Brooklyn
Eagle, New York Times and The New York Sun (1). There is more on those stories
in the section on the Louis V. Place. What is unusual about this is that few stories of hauntings make it into the pages of such respected
newspapers. These stories did. The New York Times even did an
editorial on the event. (2) Why? I believe they received so much coverage
because of a few factors. First, a number of people claimed to have seen
the ghost. This was not the tale of a single individual. Secondly, for
Long Island, Patchogue was a fairly big town and tourist destination. This was
not an isolated town that no one had heard of. Patchogue was well known to
the readers of these papers. Thirdly, this was not a one- time
occurrence. The rumors and stories of the haunting of this cemetery went back
decades and had become part of the towns own story. And lastly, the
tragedy of the Louis V. Place made the newspapers all over the United States
and thus the reports of sightings of spirits of its crew members was
All three papers relate
the same basic events. They tell of the location of the ghost sighting as
near a cemetery where a house that had long been rumored to be
haunted had stood long ago. Residents of the town claimed this cemetery had
originally been haunted as a result of it having been the site of a house that contained
a "slave pen" in the corner of its basement. The story went that until
the abolition of slavery in New York in 1827 the "pen" was used
to hold and punish slaves who were disobedient or who attempted
to run away. It was said that local citizens could often hear
the screams of these poor individuals coming from the basement and it
was rumored that some of the detainees never left the house alive.
Some thought that under cover of darkness bodies were dragged from the
basement and buried in unmarked graves in the old portions of the
Long after slavery
was abolished in New York, town’s people continued to tell of screams and
cries coming from the basement of the old house, even when it stood vacant from
time to time. Stories persisted that these screams were from
those who were tortured and killed in the basement.
Adding to the
ominous reputation, there was persistent reports throughout the 1800's of
a "dark ghost" walking the cemetery near the house. It held a
'blue flamed lantern" and generally tended to appear during rain
storms. At night, the people of the town instinctively moved to the
opposite side of the road to avoid the danger of this haunted area and its
articles of 1895 speak to a specific sighting of a "headless ghost"
wandering the cemetery. The towns people believed the ghost was one of the
sailors from the Louis V. Place, the ship whose unlucky crew were
buried in the cemetery only weeks before.
As noted before,
the most famous individuals to live in the haunted mansion was Elizabeth Oakes
Smith and her husband Seba. Elizabeth is pictured to the left. They moved into
the house in 1860 and EOS moved out in 1870, no longer able to support the
house on her own after the death of her husband in 1868. A succession of
families moved into the house after she left, but as was the case in the early
years, they all quickly moved out complaining of noises and strange occurrences
coming from the basement. The same
basement where the slave pen was said to have existed.
In later years, the house was
abandoned. Town’s people would still move to the other side of the road at
night to avoid passing too close to it, and the stories of strange
apparitions and noises coming from the area persisted. In 1893
the house was destroyed by fire and its haunted legacy only grew as stories circulated
that it had been hit by a bolt of blue lighting and left to burn to the ground
by the townspeople because of its reputation as an evil place.
Although this account would
certainly add to the legend, it is doubtful it is true. An 1881 note in the Brooklyn Eagle states that the
"Oakesmith mansion in Patchogue was burned to ashes by fire". There
was no mention of the house being hit by lightning. Instead the article
noted that prior to the house burning down, it had been inhabited by over 100
Italian railroad laborers who had recently abandoned it and left it in a
state of infestation and disarray. (3) Perhaps it was this use of the house
that led to the fire, but no definitive explanation is given. An interesting
side note to this story. In a 1903 article in
the Brooklyn Eagle discussing the history of the Patchogue Fire Department and
one of its charter members, William E. Simpson, it
is mentioned that the first fire the newly organized company responded to was a
fire at the old Oakesmith mansion and cotton mill. They were only able to
save the cotton mill (4).
From what I have
read and seen, I believe that the Haunted House on Blood Hill stood to the
right of the entrance gates of the cemetery. Where the house once sat is now an
open field on the edge of the cemetery with a large depression in the middle of
it. I believe that beneath that ground still sits the basement of the old
mansion. Filled in after the fire, but still there. The basement
where those poor souls were tortured and abused so many years ago. And perhaps
the basement that still holds the tortured souls that haunt the cemetery.
To the casual passerby,
there is nothing to indicate what once stood there. One only sees a
grassy field boarded by the headstones of those who have passed to another
life. But perhaps it is not what you can see that makes you uneasy.
Perhaps it’s that uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach that tells
you that you may want to move to the other side of the road.
The Ghosts of the
Louis V. Place
original stories of haunting s at Lakeview Cemetery come from the Haunted Mansion
on Blood Hill, it was the strange happenings that began to occur after the
sinking of the Louis V. Place that brought the cemeteries reputation as
one of the most haunted places on Long Island to state wide prominence.
cruel fate of the eight crew members of the Louis V. Place has been well
documented. Sailing off the coast of Long Island and trying to make it to
safe harbor in a freezing, gale driven storm, the ship ran aground off of Watch
Hill opposite Patchogue. The "Life Savers Unit" that was situated
near by immediately responded to the scene, accompanied by many people of the
town who ran to the beach to try and help. But the winds, high seas and
freezing weather prevented the life savers repeated attempts to launch rescue
ropes to the deck of the ship. Getting a boat over was impossible.
From the shores, the rescuers could see the crew of the ship clinging to
the riggings of the masts, in a fruitless attempt to stay out of the freezing
water. Ice formed on every inch of the ship and crept into the masts and
the rigging's. As the sun went down, all the
rescuers could do while they waited for the morning was listen to the screams
and cries of the sailors as they fought for their lives.
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 rigging's and two were found on the deck
wrapped in masting and clinging to life. The others, including the
Captain, 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.
other, Claus Stevens, survived his ordeal and returned to sea soon after. It was through his firsthand 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 overboard.
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 Swede, 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 rigging's 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. A copy of a postcard he would hand out is shown to the right. 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
(Ruland’s establishment was in what is now Reece’s 1900 restaurant). But
along with the morbid curiosity came charity. Audrey Weeks, one of the leading
patriarchs of the town immediately 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 sailor’s 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
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
burials, sightings of ghosts and apparitions at the cemetery increased
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 in 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 seemed 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 among 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 then 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
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 lying in wait for future
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 of "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 alongside 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
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 Wertheim
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 an 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 moving in a patch of weeds. When he called out to his fellow
searchers for help, the head of a young 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 was found in the weeds a short distance from
where the children were found. It was obvious the police had located the
weapons used in this horrible attack and the gas intended to cover the
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 identify 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 5-year-old student
in her establishment, the West Side Nursery in New York City. She had
recognized him from his picture in the newspaper. The boy’s 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 was not too excited with sharing the
house and his life with two young children and that he was considering leaving.
In a panic at the thought of losing her lover, Helen Tiernan hatched her
plan to eliminate the problem.
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 then known as the Brookhaven Train
station (it no longer exists). Helen proceeded to guide the children down
Yaphank 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 Yaphank Avenue, proceeding 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.
attacked both children, presumably with the blunt side of the hatchet, leaving
them dazed and laying on the ground. She then 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 slitting his throat. Then, thinking both were
dead and wanting to destroy any evidence, she took her bottle of gasoline and
poured the liquid on the bodies, setting them on fire. After the deed was
done, she calmly left the woods and proceeded 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 neck
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 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
Patchogue 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 Jimmy's attack never fully returned to him, with his memories
of it containing only vague snippets of his mother 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 records 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 Ruland's 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,
containing 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 sounds 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. Perhaps the
ghost of a young girl brutally murdered many years ago.
So who is haunting
Lakeview Cemetery? I'm not sure. 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? Could it be “the
dark ghost” who has been reported to roam the cemetery for hundreds of years or
perhaps the restless souls of the slaves tortured and enslaved in the basement
of the old mansion? Or maybe it is the spirit of a young girl brutally
murdered by her mother and looking for her younger brother who she lost so many
Or do they all haunt
the cemetery, taking turns roaming its grounds and seeking something that will
allow them to finally rest at peace?
I have walked Lakeview
Cemetery during the daytime looking at the graves and trying to make some type
of connection with those who lay below. I have walked it at night looking for
some glimpse of a restless spirit. 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. It’s 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.
Notes and Credits
(1) - New York Times - 3/1/1895 - "Ghost Has No Head"
Brooklyn Eagle - 2/28/1895 - "Patchogue's 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
(9) -"Long Island’s Most Haunted, A Ghost Hunters Guide" written by Joseph Flammer and Diane Hill.
1. Lakeview Cemetery as it appears now - taken from the Lakeview Cemetery Restoration web site.
2. Lakeview Cemetery headstones
3. Lakeview Cemetery as it appeared 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
A photograph 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
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.
A picture of the search party standing over the body of young Helen
Tiernan at the murder scene as taken from
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.