Eerie Vibes At Ten Broeck Mansion
Is it heavy static, a mechanical noise or the disembodied voice of a spirit child whispering "I'm downstairs?" An audio recording made by investigators with the Tri-City New York Paranormal Society in the wee hours after midnight in an unoccupied third-floor storage area of the Ten Broeck Mansion is certainly strange, and perhaps even a little creepy. How much stock you place in this "Electronic Voice Phenomenon," or EVP as it's known, will depend on whether you're a confirmed skeptic or a believer in paranormal activity. Regardless of which side of the haunting versus hokum divide you place yourself, a Wednesday night talk detailing the investigators' findings drew intense interest at the Federal-style mansion built in 1797 for Gen. Abraham Ten Broeck and his wife, Elizabeth Van Rensselaer.
At a time when historic sites and museums are struggling to draw younger patrons and to stay afloat financially, a haunted Ten Broeck Mansion may be the best sort of branding imaginable given the popularity among teens with the "Paranormal Activity" movie and its sequels. "It's definitely a big draw and we've gotten a lot more calls than usual," said Wendy Burch, executive director of the Ten Broeck Mansion. The ghost hunters set up audio, video and electromagnetic detection equipment twice over the fall and winter at various "hot spots" in the mansion, long rumored to be home to things that go bump in the night. In the third-floor storage area -- which was used as a nursery and servants' quarters in centuries past -- they picked up what could be a child's voice. They also detected in the kitchen area what sounds like a man saying "Go away." "We had a new cabinet put in and some other work done in the kitchen, so maybe the renovation angered him," Burch said. Coincidentally, a visitor during the Christmas holidays, who identified herself as a medium, offered a similar sensation after she went into the kitchen. "She said she sensed there's an angry man in the kitchen and she hadn't talked to anyone before her visit," Burch said. Claims of hauntings at the Ten Broeck Mansion are not new. Local psychic Ann Fisher held a seance there a few years ago and sensed a presence of a woman who was an invalid in a bedroom. Past volunteers at the mansion claimed to hear strange noises, including a musical sound resembling a flute. "It's always a little bit creepy to be alone in a big, old house after dark, but I've never seen anything concrete that convinced me it's haunted," Burch said. She considers herself open-minded when it comes to ghosts, spirits and other paranormal phenomena that defy a rational explanation. A wide chasm of interpretation exists. While ghost hunters and psychics consider blotches of light on photographs indicative of "spirit orbs," non-believers chalk it up to dust or condensation on the camera lens. Although there were no fatal fires or reports of violent deaths occurring in the mansion, two centuries brought its share of family tragedies among the Ten Broeck and Olcott families. After occupying the house for a century, the Olcotts transferred the property to the Albany County Historical Association in 1948 and it became a historic site. Founder Gary Robusto and members of the Tri-City New York Paranormal Society have floated the idea of leading a "ghost walk" in the Ten Broeck Triangle, where there have been claims of paranormal activity in nearby houses and in St. Joseph's Church. "There seems to be a lot of interest in this," Burch said.