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Spooky: The dead risen at Schaghticoke Mansion.

The Legends of Schaghticoke Mansion

 

Within the candlelit mansion a ghastly faced militiaman beckoned. He welcomed a crowd of onlookers into a dilapidated antechamber, and told the story of his life—and not-so-gruesome death: This soldier died quietly in his 80s. About 250 years ago or so, the soldier walked from New Hampshire to Schaghticoke to fight heavy taxation by the British, and he returned from the grave in remembrance of his commander, John Knickerbocker. Upstairs, however, a less peaceful wraith paced the floorboards.

At the Knickerbocker Mansion’s annual Halloween haunting, deceased Knickerbocker family members and illustrious houseguests “returned from the dead” to tell their stories. Played by living Knickerbocker descendents, the cast of apparitions changes from year to year; some tales are cordially informational, and some are sardonic, surprising, or genuinely scary. Last weekend, an appearance by Abraham Knickerbocker (died 1869) was a combination of all three. Standing in front of the parlor’s beautifully restored fireplace, the forbidding gentleman sternly related how he protected his homestead with a mounted posse of vigilantes. Horse thieves and other criminals were captured and placed in chains formerly used for slaves in the mansion’s basement, where, as the ghost enigmatically remarked, “justice was served.” Abraham also talked of his beloved wife, Mary Ann, who redecorated the parlor in Gilded Age fashion (which the Knickerbocker Mansion Historical Society recently restored).

Upstairs, Abraham’s younger brother, Herman (died 1855), regaled listeners with his dandyish vanity, referring to himself as the “prince of Schaghticoke” and describing his first two wives, Arietta Lansing of Lansingburgh and Rachel Wendell of Albany, as royalty. Herman also boasted of his lavish spending and the honored guests he entertained, such as Washington Irving and Herman Melville. Downstairs, however, the specter of Rachel was (seemingly) less amused by his jaunty conceits and she related the family scandal of Herman’s in-house mistress, and her own cares with 10 children. The couple’s posthumous bickering was a comic highlight of the evening, which concluded with the remembrances of the wife of Herman’s nephew, who happily “married up” at age 14, and whose son, Diedrich, had his name immortalized as the fictionalized narrator of Irving’s A History of New York.

Surrounded by deserted cornfields, the centuries-old mansion added to the haunted atmosphere—its decayed interiors are especially conducive to spooky, candlelit shadows and overactive imaginations, and visitors were invited to view the headstones of the storytellers in the nearby graveyard. Next year, however, the crumbling, corpse-stuffed chimney may look quite cheery: The mansion received a $58,000 matching grant from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation to rebuild its chimney system.

—Ann Morrow

On Sat., Dec. 5, the Knickerbocker Mansion will host a Visit from St. Nicholas and a performance of the Baker’s Dozen. For more information, visit knickmansion.com.

Art Beat

LOCAL ARTIST GOES GLOBAL Albany’s own David P. Geurin is showing three works in the Superheroes exhibit at the Look At This Art Gallery in Chiang Mai, Thailand beginning Oct. 31. That’s right, Thailand. Geurin is steeped—immersed—in classic comic-book iconography; the works are said to explore “superheroes and super villains as mythologized representations of the common human and his/her relationship to society.” (See? We’re “common!”) This is a pretty cool thing, considering that over 100 artists from 15 countries submitted works for consideration. And considering that this is the “first international exhibition in the history of northern Thailand.” We’d like to give you directions and gallery hours, but if you really happen to be traveling to Southeast Asia, we recommend Google and Google Maps for all the necessary coordinates.

ELECTRICITY IN THE AIR The Fourth Annual Electric City Film Festival, presented by SACC-TV Channel 16, will be held at Proctors (Mainstage, 432 State St., Schenectady) on Wednesday (Nov. 4) from 5 to 11 PM. The finalists of the 25 submitted films will be screened, and the prizes aren’t bad: $500 for 1st place, $400 for 2nd place, and $300 for 3rd place. There will also be a screening of Schenectady native Antonio Ferrera’s The Gates, a documentary about Christo’s 2005 Central Park show. For ticket info and tickets, call 346-3181; for general info visit sacctv.org or call 346-3181.

SHOP TALK Last week, we suffered what we’re calling an “e-mail apocalypse” here at Ye Olde Metroland—and we’re still trying to sort out the rubble. If you sent a listing and it didn’t get in the calendar, that’s why. Direct inquiries to Josh Potter at 463-2500 ext.144. And resend those e-mails.

—Shawn Stone

sstone@metroland.net

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