Throwback Thursday – Restless Spirits at The Manor

The Montauk Manor before it was extensively renovated in the 1980s. | Larry Ramond, Montauk Library Archives

A friend wrote recently to ask if there were ghosts at the Montauk Manor. About 20 years ago, he said, his sister and her husband stayed in a room on one of the upper floors — perhaps one built into the roof level, as she remembered a sloped ceiling – in the massive, four-story landmark.

“While in the unit that night they had a run-in with something that probably didn’t want them there,” he said. “It slammed a bathroom door on my sister’s foot and when they came back to the room after dinner it had moved furniture around the room and knocked some of their belongings off the table and bed.”

The manor’s exterior in 1928. Many “ghost reports” have originated on the fourth floor. | Richard T. Gilmartin Collection, Montauk Library Archives

That spot, on what is called Signal Hill, has a bit of history in itself. In the 17th century the Narragansett Indians ambushed the Montaukett Indians there, inflicting terrible casualties, kidnapping Chief Wyandanch’s daughter and slaughtering her bridegroom, and inspiring the name of a portion of the area that was downhill — “Massacre Valley.”

Native Americans, and perhaps even Wyandanch, were buried on the hill, and later some of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders who died while in quarantine were buried there as well. Most likely the remains of the Montaukett Indians, whose graves were unmarked or else indicated by a circle of stones, were dug up when the manor was built. (The Rough Riders’ were later exhumed.)  “The entire area was disrupted during the manor’s construction,” wrote Keriann Flanagan Brosky in her book Historic Haunts of Long Island.

The manor thrived briefly as a luxury hotel, was taken over by the Navy during World War II, closed down in 1964, sat in mounting disrepair for almost 20 years, and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places before its reincarnation into 140 luxury condominiums in the mid-1980s. Since that time there have been occasional reports of spirits who intimidate guests and residents.

“One woman, while living on the fourth floor, said while in her bed she was lifted five feet off the floor, according to … a former manor employee, who noted that after the incident, the woman moved to the first floor,” the East Hampton Star reported in 2001. | Montauk Manor room, 1943, Richard T. Gilmartin Collection, Montauk Library Archives

“When the manor was constructed, ‘everything went by the wayside,’ and stones marking the Indian gravesites were undoubtedly moved, said Harriet Gumbs, a descendant of Wyandanch,” in a 2001 article in the East Hampton Star. “Disturbing a grave would ‘hold up’ a spirit, but the builders ‘just didn’t care,’ she said.”

Perhaps for that very reason, guests and employees have occasionally reported seeing an American Indian in full headdress, even perhaps a ghost who appears to be Chief Wyandanch. Others have reported mysterious sounds, like the cry of a baby or the banging of doors or drawers, or else visions like moving smoke or hazy white light.

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