When Susan B. Anthony was convicted of illegally voting in 1873, the statue of justice at the Ontario County Court House reportedly dropped her scales. To this day, the spirit of another 19th-century feminist is said to wander Canandaigua's railroad tracks, while the ghost of an early Masonic victim periodically pops up just about everywhere in town It may come as a bit of a surprise to the supernaturally uninitiated, but Canandaigua, for all its small-town grace and charm, is actually something of a paranormal paradise. "The place has a long history of spiritual activity," says Mason Winfield, an East Aurora resident whose book Village Ghosts of Western New York (Western New York Wares) is to be published in September. A historian, folklorist and self-described "paranormal generalist," Winfield is the founder of a company called Haunted History Ghost Walks, which presents mile-long, 90-minute paranormal
perambulations throughout western New York.
Canandaigua's ghost walks take place on Friday evenings through October. The business has allowed Winfield, who was trained as an English teacher, to indulge his parallel passions for history and ghost stories. "Our main goal is to create an appreciation for history, architecture and cultural preservation," Winfield says. "The problem is you can't get people to come out on a Friday night for a history lecture, but when you factor in the ghosts, that's a different story." Paranormal activities in western New York's various towns and villages apparently come in different flavors, Winfield says. Buffalo is big on occultism, and its architecture offers a sort of paranormal Da Vinci Code. Lyons, on the other hand, has been heavily influenced by spiritualism: The 19th-century Fox sisters were responsible for ushering in the age of the séance and mediums in that area. As for Canandaigua, unexplained phenomena there have a strong Native American character, Winfield
says. And that was likely influenced by events surrounding the earliest European settlements. Red Jacket, the noted 18th-century Seneca chief and orator, spoke out fervently against the sale of Seneca land to the Europeans, but he wasn't able to convince many of his Iroquois allies. (The 1797 purchase agreement, by the way, was likely greased with bribes, liquor and trinkets.) Apparently, Red Jacket's ghost still fumes over that fiasco.
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