We will be discussing and signing copies of our book Long Island Oddities at the following dates and locations:
10/23/13 7PM Carle Place, Barnes and Noble
10/24/13 7PM Bay Shore, Barnes and Noble
10/30/13 7PM Lake Grove, Barnes and Noble
Sitting ominously on the top of a hill overlooking the village of Montauk, the manor conjures up thoughts of Stephen King’s “The Shining”. Wandering through spacious lobbies and luxuriant well-stocked rooms it is easy to imagine the many veins of history that run through these walls. Sometimes, that history comes to life.
In 1925, multi-millionaire Carl Fisher came up with an idea to create the "most fabulous summer resort ever imagined in the western world". Having formerly developed Miami Beach, Fisher knew what he wanted. The resort would contain a beach club, yacht club, polo fields, a golf course, glass enclosed tennis courts, a boardwalk along the ocean, a ranch, and health spa. The icing to the cake would be a 200 room luxury hotel in the Tudor style set atop Signal Hill in Montauk NY.
Fisher opened the hotel in 1927, and it quickly filled up with the rich and famous. But try as he might, he would never fully realize his dream with the coming of the Great Depression. The only remnants left of his vision are the manor hotel and the playhouse.
But aside from the ravages of economic depression, there was a darker history here that stretches back much further in time. 3,000 years before white men walked Long Island, there was a tribe called the Montauketts in the very same area where the hotel stands.
In 1620 Wyandanche was the most well respected sachem of the Montaukett tribe. He had grown very close to Lyon Gardiner of the historic Gardiner family. They even went through a blood brother ritual. This closeness with his white brother, also a very prominent figure, would be both boon and curse for Wyandanche.
Though the Montauketts were at peace with the settlers, they were always at war with the Pequots and Narragansetts from New England. These tribes led an attack against the British settlers of Long Island, and Wyandanch’s tribe stepped in to fight on the side of the settlers due to his bond with Gardiner. This further alienated the Montauketts from the other tribes. In the end, the Narragansetts invaded again and nearly wiped out the Montaukett tribe, leaving many dead on both sides right where the hotel stands. Wyandanche’s daughter was captured and ransomed during this battle. When he could not come up with the funds, Lyon Gardiner stepped in and paid the ransom so his daughter could be rescued. The low lying land just next to the hill was called “slaughter valley” because of this battle.
But these were not the only Native Americans to have been buried on the spot where the hotel stands. After speaking with a very knowledgeable Montaukett during our stay at the hotel, we learned that the hill had long been a burial place for chiefs of all Native American tribes on Long Island, even all the way to Canarsie. So the hill held many graves covering a long period of time buried just beneath the ground. When the hotel was built, these bones were discovered and were mixed with lime to be shaped into the foundation of the manor. The building literally stands on the bones of Native American ancestors.
And yet history was not quite done with the hill. Theodore Roosevelt passed through with his Rough Riders who had come down with yellow fever. The disease spread so fast that Roosevelt rushed them to the top of the sacred hill, with men dying along the way. In 1962 the manor also closed, to remain abandoned and empty for 20 years.
But today the hotel has blossomed despite its sordid past. However there are some permanent guests that apparently still linger. There have been many reports of an Indian chief roaming the halls and appearing at the foot of the bed. A business man saw him once floating by on the first floor and alerted the manager, but he has been seen on every floor. Strange noises on the fourth floor above him caused Jimmy, a maintenance engineer working at the manor to move out of his room on the third floor.
According to “Ghosts of Long Island, general manager Janice Nessel once received a call from someone whose tribe was having a reunion not far from the hotel. This was during Labor Day Weekend. They wanted to put up a teepee and set it on fire in the parking lot. They felt it would put the spirit of the Chief at peace. Needless to say this did not exactly meet town codes and the ceremony was never performed.
Many interesting stories were revealed to us during our stay there as well. Two men on the second floor saw a black sphere roll across their floor and then disintegrate into nothing right before their eyes. A two year old on the first floor started yelling “Ghost” and carrying on so much that the parents had to cut their stay short and leave the same night at 2AM.
A woman staying during the middle of winter called the front desk frantic because she heard someone speaking a foreign language in her room while she was in the shower. There were only 5 people at the hotel and none of them were lodged net to, above, or below her room. After an initial fruitless check the woman called for security again saying that she could still hear it. No one was ever found.
The elevator doors in the lobby are said to open on their own. One of our members, Max, spotted this while it happened. We also had another elevator open on its own while we were in the basement. The night front desk manger could give us no explanation.
Aside from the ghostly legends, there are also strong rumors that there is a tunnel connecting Montauk Manor to Camp Hero. Though our search for the tunnel led to a dead end, we were spotted by the Montaukett gentleman at the front desk which led to a wonderfully informative discussion that went on until 6AM.Though the Indian Chief did not show himself to us during our stay, we still had a wonderful time.
Between the ghostly legends, the amazingly detailed and long history, and the luxury, Montauk Manor is definitely something to see. And if you suddenly find yourself with a surprise guest in your hotel room or elevator, tell the chief we said hi.