She came to America with her husband.
Together, they settled down in a town which was named after the husband and built a luxurious castle.
However, Catherine Skene died in Skenesborough, never being able to return to her homeland even after husband Phillip left for England during the Revolutionary War.
Now, while the Skene Manor which stands today was not her home, and the town is now known as Whitehall, there are some who say she still watches over the village from the windows of the manor.
“People have seen her,” said Alex Manuelle, who guides tours at the Skene Manor. “There are so many versions of her story and of her hauntings.”
“There’s been quite a few who say that they have seen someone walking by the windows at night,” said Skene Preservation Society president Catherine Manuelle. “There are still stories once in a while of people who have seen her. There have been stories of people who saw her on the stairway or in a bedroom.”
The Skenes settled down in Whitehall and formed the town – which will celebrate it’s 250th anniversary in 2009 – thanks in large part to the King of England.
“Phillip got his land here directly from the King,” said Alex. “In the grant, it said that as long as his wife was above the ground, he would keep his land.”
Translation: if something were to happen to Catherine and she were buried, Phillip was on a one-way ship to Scotland.
“She had requested of Phillip that if something were to happen to her, that he take her back to her homeland and bury her in Scotland,” said Manuelle. “Well, it turns out that she did die, but she died during the Revolutionary War and there was no way that he could go back.”
This left Skene with a problem: he can’t go home, but if he buries his wife, his property is gone.
Phillip’s answer was to enclose his wife’s casket in a lead container, which was placed in the basement of the Skene’s castle.
However, Skene left town without his wife, as the fighters who would later be known as Americans took control of the town.
“The story goes that they found the lead casket and so far as anybody knows, that lead became bullets,” said Manuelle. “The body was buried somewhere on the property but to this day no one has been able to find the actual site of the house or the grave.”
Several reports of Catherine’s return include a tale of a woman who warned of danger at the manor and the moving of furniture and beds while someone was sleeping in it.
“Those are the two main stories that I know of,” said Catherine.
Alex said that most of the reports he has heard concern her watching the town from the windows.
“There have been people walking down in the village at around midnight or 1 a.m.,” he said. “Well, we have candles in the windows and they see someone going across the windows and say, ‘there she goes.’”
Catherine said that she was warned at an early age to stay away from the mountain where the Skenes once lived.
“For years when I was growing up I was told never to go up into the hill because there was a woman who lived up there,” she said. “They didn’t want us to come across the ghost of Catherine.”
The big question, however, is why Catherine would be haunting a house that was built long after her death as a residence for Judge Potter.
“My version is that she thinks that this is her house,” said Alex. “She’s looking around her house, maybe trying to find her husband so she can go back to Scotland.”
“I think that when she saw the castle being built here, she thought that it was for her,” said Catherine. “She is very pleased with it and comes back and haunts it.”
A second ghost?
Catherine said that there is a chance that Catherine Skene is not the only paranormal guest at the manor.
“There was a man who lived at the manor in the 1960’s who committed suicide in Judge Potter’s bedroom,” said Catherine. “In the stories, a lot of the activity happens in that same room.”
Haunted: yes or no?
While neither Catherine or Alex would give a definite answer as to if the Skene Manor is the residence of guests from the beyond, there have been those who have tried to prove the case.
“There’s been several mediums who have come up here to investigate,” said Catherine. “There is one group who is coming back that did a whole bunch of things and when they developed the pictures from their stay, they saw some amazing things.”
Alex said that he personally feels that the haunting of the house is in the mind of the beholder.
“People come in all the time and ask me if it’s haunted,” he said. “I ask them if they want it to be.”
Catherine said that she is not sure, but knows what visitors have relayed to her.
“People that have visited, a lot of times, say that they have felt a presence here,” she sa