Hyde Hall is a large country mansion built in the early 19th century a few miles from Cooperstown, NY. Its story is one of several generations of wealth and power by birthright and marriage with fortunes made on both sides of the Atlantic. Reports of the house and grounds being haunted have existed for more than a century. The Syfy cable network’s popular series, Ghost Hunters, investigated the estate in 2013 and aired the show Oct. 30, that same year. One year later, Oct. 30, 2014, Hyde Hall is hosting Halloween tours by candlelight to illuminate the family ghosts and active areas featured on the Ghost Hunters program.
George Clarke (1768-1835) was born in England in an affluent family. His great grandfather, also named George Clarke, had been part of the colonial government of New York from 1703 to 1743 as secretary and lieutenant governor. When he returned to England in 1745, he had amassed 120,000 acres in the Hudson and Mohawk Valley regions and also had a large monetary fortune. Following the American Revolution, the young George Clarke came to New York in 1806 to claim his great grandfather’s land.
The land manager for Clarke’s vast acreage was Richard Cooper, the older brother of author James Fenimore Cooper. Clarke married Richard Cooper’s widow and bought several hundred acres next to her family property. His land had a view that looked down to Lake Otsego and the village of Cooperstown. After he had purchased the property in 1817, he cleared part of a hill that he named Mount Wellington after the Duke of Wellington, commissioned leading architect Philip Hooker to draw plans for a small country house, and began construction.
The description of Hyde Hall during special Halloween candlelight tours illuminates the history of the house itself as well as the stories of family ghosts. The architect’s plans evolved from a small house to a large mansion with additional quarters for family members, guests and staff, a gatehouse and farm buildings. It was named after the Clarke family seat of Hyde Hall in England. The main house was built in three distinct styles. Large rooms designed for entertainment had 19-foot tall decorative ceilings. After 17 years of construction, the entire complex was finished in 1834 with 50 rooms, making it the largest private home built in the United States before the Civil War.
Clarke died in 1835 and, according to a popular legend, his children ordered their mother out of the house. She, in turn, decreed that no woman would ever be happy living there. The alleged evidence of her “curse” is that the women of future generations were supposedly not happy. There are other examples of paranormal activity on the property based on findings by the Ghost Hunters team. The family crypt, the nursery and the drawing room have their resident ghosts.
Each tour is limited to a maximum of 15 people. Tours start every 30 minutes beginning at 5:30 p.m. through the last one at 7:30 p.m. The house is a National Historic Landmark and a New York State Historic Site. For those who visit Hyde Hall during Halloween, the candlelight tours will be as much about illuminating history as the stories of family ghosts. For more information, the website is listed below.
By Cynthia Collins
Cooperstown – Hyde Hall Ghost Hunters Tours
National Historic Landmarks – Hyde Hall
Photos courtesy of Hyde Hall