Duke Center author William P. Robertson thought he’d have to scrounge to fill his follow-up to “Ghosts Revisited.” Turns out, there are more ghosts in the area than he realized.
Robertson just announced the publication of “Ghosts Revisited 2.”
He decided to put together another collection of ghost stories after seeing how popular the original was. After the book came out, people were approaching him with more local ghost stories.
“Everybody I talked to had a ghost story to tell me,” he said.
Robertson talked about his process for collecting stories for his ghost story book.
“I sort of have a recipe for these stories, you might say,” he said.
He explained that, if someone tells him a story, he does an interview to get the facts, then he goes online for further research on each one.
“After I find out as much information as I can about the story, the history behind them and the personal experiences, I visit the site myself, soak up the atmosphere of the place. That helps to bring the story to life,” Robertson noted.
He takes plenty of photographs, too, which he uses as illustrations. Only then does he write the stories, editing them “about 50 times” and double-checking his facts.
For Robertson, “The most interesting part is actually visiting the different places.”
No doubt that adds to the appeal for readers, who can visit the actual spots where these ghosts are said to haunt. McKean County residents can still visit the furthest location on a day trip.
One such spooky destination is Elmira (N.Y.) College, which he said “has a lot of gothic buildings and all these old trees.” One building in particular — Cowles Hall — is reputed to have “a good side and an evil side.”
Also included in the book are two ski-themed stories that inspired the cover artwork.
Artist David Cox designed the cover artwork with an image of a “phantom skier” using an action shot that Robertson took at Holiday Valley in Ellicottville, N.Y.
One of the ski-themed stories is about two ski slope groomers who were murdered after they stumbled upon a robbery — a crime which was never solved — and the other is of phantom skiers who still enjoy the party scene at Ski Wing.
Meanwhile, there is a cemetery called Hencoop Cemetery near Ellicottville that is also featured in the book. There are many children’s gravestones there, and “a lot of children’s ghosts apparently are seen there every night romping around the graveyard,” Robertson said.
He added, “Another one that I really enjoyed was “The Lady Behind Glass,” which he said comes from the Lakeview Cemetery in Jamestown, N.Y.. Grace Galloway, daughter of an oil millionaire and budding opera singer, died of tuberculosis. Her father had a sculpture made of her, which was enclosed in glass and is located at the cemetery.
Robertson found multiple versions of Grace Galloway’s story, but he chose to focus on the version where she can still be heard coughing from the tuberculosis that took her singing voice.
To research another tale, Robertson’s friend Matt Boyer of the Kane Historic Preservation Society took him on a haunted tour of Kane, sharing the stories of several ghosts that haunt the borough.
Robertson explained that Boyer has a couple of devices he uses to communicate with ghosts: one is a ghost box used to check the level of paranormal activity, and the other is a phasmabox, which is used to “directly communicate with spirits.”
Boyer asked the phasmabox if Elizabeth Kane was present. Elizabether Kane is the wife of Gen. Thomas Kane, for whom Kane Borough was named.
“I heard as plain as day, ‘Yes, I’m here,’” Robertson said.
Boyer also introduced Robertson to Gen. Kane himself.
Gen. Kane organized the Bucktail Regiment during the Civil War — a topic on which Robertson has written extensively.
Robertson got another story from Elk County author Jim Baumgratz. Baumgratz writes about local murder stories, and he came across a ghost story that he thought would fit better in Robertson’s book than his.
“Ghosts Revisited 2” includes tales from Allegany State Park, too.
Ghost stories are a relatively new topic for Robertson, who is known for his books about the local Bucktail Regiment.
“I consider myself a historic fiction guy. That’s really my genre,” he said.
However, the pandemic has prevented him from doing the personal appearances and book signings at events like re-enactments and vendor fairs. That’s when he decided to branch out into ghost stories. He is hopeful things will return to normal by next summer.
The next project that Robertson is planning is a collection of battle stories — including local stories — from the War of 1812 called “More War.”
“Ghosts Revisited 2” is available now at the Main Street Mercantile in Bradford, the Penn Brad Oil Museum in Custer City and the Paper Factory in Olean, N.Y. Learn more about Robertson’s work at his website, bucktailsandbroomsticks.com.