NEW PALTZ—During the Halloween season, the ghastly tale of Maria Terwilliger Deyo often surfaces in the Hudson Valley.
As it goes, she sent her husband off to the corn field and then took a razor and slit her daughter’s throat.
Her young son and infant daughter were next. She finished by turning the razor on herself.
The Sept. 13, 1801 triple murder-suicide is a true story that has been chronicled in books like “Spooky Hudson Valley” by Marianna Boncek.
While the insane mother lived on the outskirts of Historic Huguenot Street, her gruesome story, along with tales of a death coach and an ax-toting phantom and his hound, has been retold over the years at Haunted Huguenot Street tours.
It is the one time of year when America’s oldest inhabited street unveils its dark side.Signs outside the burial ground that dates back to the original settlers. Photo by Paula Ann Mitchell
This year will be no exception, though there will be no mention of Maria’s macabre tale, promised Kara Gaffken, the director of Historic Huguenot Street’s programming.
Every October, the Halloween-inspired event returns with new interpretations of legends from the National Historic Landmark District.
This year’s tour focuses on the everyday hardships plaguing the early French settlers, who put down their roots on the banks of the Wallkill River in 1678.
“These stories come from fact and come from history,” Gaffken said.
“They’re about the unfortunate things that people experienced every day like disease and death. Historic Huguenot Street isn’t just about spooking people. Everything we do here is based on history.”
The final tours at Haunted Huguenot Street are scheduled for Friday and Saturday. They depart hourly from the Dubois Fort Visitor Center, beginning at 5 p.m. on Oct. 30 and 7 p.m. on Halloween.The DuBois Fort Visitor Center at Historic Huguenot Street. Photo by Paula Ann Mitchell
According to Gaffken, paranormalists insist the preserved settlement is haunted, particularly the Deyo House, where a 20-year-old expectant mother, Gertrude Deyo, died of tuberculosis around 1840.The Deyo House, which is reported to be haunted by a young woman who died of tuberculosis in the 1800s. Photo by Paula Ann Mitchell
“Her portrait hangs in the Deyo House. It’s part of our historic collections piece, and there has been a lot of activity surrounding that,” Gaffken said.Paranormal activity is said to surround this portrait of Gertrude Deyo, who died of tuberculosis when she was pregnant. Photo by Paula Ann Mitchell
One source—hauntsandhistoryblogspot.com—says that during a makeover of the house in recent years, the portraits of Gertrude’s parents were moved to the first floor of the museum, while hers initially was left behind.
The paranormal activity surrounding the painting stopped after it was brought downstairs to rejoin her parents, the blog notes.
In between that period, strange happenings were recorded at the house, Gaffken said.
“We’ve heard stories of the portrait flying off the wall (and) ending up in different rooms where it wasn’t supposed to be,” she said.
In recent years, staff members have reported doors slamming during regular tours and other unexplained phenomena, Gaffken said.
For the upcoming tours, costumed guides will lead visitors inside the Deyo mansion to experience the “terror of the maid.”
They also will be taken to the candlelit burial ground dating back to the first settlers.
There, the dead will be “given a voice,” with readings from Edgar Lee Masters’ ”Spoon River Anthology,” Gaffken said.
Additionally, guests will tour the Jean Hasbrouck stone house, built in 1721, where they will meet Joseph Hasbrouck, a young man tormented by the memory of his dying sister.The entrance to Historic Huguenot Street, including a marker and the Jean Hasbrouck House in the foreground. Photo by Paula Ann Mitchell
According to Gaffken, the story comes right out of Abraham Hasbrouck’s 18th-century diary, and costumed characters will bring an adaptation of it to life.
Taken as a whole, the experience not only will haunt those on the tour but force them to rethink the brevity of life, Gaffken noted.
“It’s an authentic experience that’s fun but also educational,” she said.
If you go this bewitching weekend, you may even see something out of the ordinary–perhaps an eerie sighting or unexplained phenomenon.
“I had a couple of volunteers once tell me that something always happens on Halloween during Haunted Huguenot Street,” Gaffken said. “I was here last year, and there was nothing too bad, but you never know what might happen this year.”
In the spirit of the season, the entire street will be decorated (campfire included) for an immersive Halloween experience.The reconstructed French Reformed Church of 1717 and burial ground. Photo by Paula Ann Mitchell
Because tours sell out quickly, preregistration is strongly encouraged. Tickets are $20 for members, seniors, students and military personnel. Tickets for non-members are $25 and $30 at the door.
For more information, go to www.huguenotstreet.org or call (845) 255-1660.