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Sept. 29, 2006

Fort Ontario Invites Visitors on Ghostly Tours

Fort cemetery

OSWEGO -- The fact and fiction of Fort Ontario’s ghosts will be explored in two “ghost tours” Friday, Oct. 27 and Saturday, Oct. 28 from 7 to 9 p.m. The tours are hosted by the Friends of Fort Ontario, in cooperation with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.

“Last year, Fort Ontario hosted a very popular ghost tour, and because of its success, the fort is planning two nights of tours,” said Paul Lear, manager of the state historic site at Fort Ontario.

A donation of $5 for adults and $2 for children ages 5 to 12 will benefit the Friends group’s restoration efforts and programs. Advance reservations are required due to last year’s popularity. Reservations may be made by calling the fort at 343-4711.

Highlights of the tour include former post residents George Fykes, Basil Dunbar, Sgt. James Fawdry, and others. Fykes, a loyalist soldier who died at Fort Ontario in 1782, reportedly appeared in the parlors of young ladies in late 19th century Oswego.

According to Lear, another unusual incident includes a figure in blue uniform who wanders the grounds of the fort. He said music is sometimes heard coming from unoccupied rooms in the officer’s quarters; voices reportedly rise in volume until told to be quiet.

Guests will tour various points around the fort, enter areas normally off limits to the public, and learn about Fort Ontario’s real and fictional history using primary sources obtained from original documents, newspaper articles, obituaries and more.

Many of the fort’s reported ghost sightings are not attributed to any particular individual, but research into those buried in the post cemetery may provide insights into possible connections, said Lear.

“Shootings, drownings, traffic accidents, fevers, alcoholism, flu epidemics, accidents, and even a murder committed with a sword claimed the lives of over 100 individuals buried in the post cemetery at Fort Ontario,” said Lear.

He said ghosts date to the earliest period of the fort’s history, and include the French and Indian War (1754 – 1763), Revolutionary War (1775 –1783), Civil War (1861 – 1865), up to the last burial at the fort cemetery in 1943.

Fort Ontario State Historic Site has been featured in three publications dealing with the ghosts, “Ghost of the Northeast,” “Haunted New York, Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Empire State,” and the “Encyclopedia of Haunted Places, Ghostly Locales from around the World.”

During the tour, refreshments will be served and the museum shop will be open. The fort staff recommends that guests bring a flashlight and wear sensible shoes or boots, warm clothing, hats and gloves.

Fort Ontario State Historic Site is located at the north end of East Fourth Street in the City of Oswego.

The fort is one of six historic sites and 16 parks in the Central Region administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Bernadette Castro, Commissioner. For additional information, contact the fort at 343-4711.

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