Tales of the Slate Valley macabre

Many years ago three thirsty slate quarry workers decided they needed to row across the lake to keep the party going.

It was late, so the story goes, and they had already had a few when they set out – they never returned.

Their bodies were never recovered.

Since then, on a full moon night with the water flat calm and the air unnaturally still an empty row boat can be seen that somehow moves up the lake against the current with no oars disturbing the glassy surface of the lake and no occupants in the boat.

That shimmering ship is all that remains of three slate quarry workers who decided to row out for a drink one fateful night and never came back.

Slate Valley Museum coordinator of education Bob Isherwood told this tale and others as a part of the evening tour of the remains of the West Castleton Slate Company along the shores of Lake Bomoseen at Lake Bomoseen State Park.

Along with a walking tour of the remnants of the slate company, Isherwood and museum trustee John Jones and even members of the tour shared some of the tales of the Slate Valley that made the blood run cold.

Jones related stories of quarry workers killed in various accidents and efforts to return maimed men to their country or origin.

Isherwood told a tale from the Granville Sentinel’s pages in which three workers were killed in an explosion that shook buildings in the village.

The graphic description of the injuries sustained by the men who were killed when working with dynamite was stunning, something that would be out of place in a modern newspaper account of a similar tragedy.

Visitors, including Slate Valley Museum director Kate Weller, walked the path through the West Castleton Slate Company including the still-standing company store which still had the bell used to call the workers for any reason, including terrible tragedies.

Established in 1852 the West Castleton Slate Company’s main building is a hulking ruin now.  

This company was large enough that a fire at the mill in 1871 made the front page of the New York Times newspaper, according to the Slate Valley Museum. 

Members of the tour added their own tales of ghostly apparitions dressed in period attire standing near the bed of a man staying in one of the nearby houses which used to house the factory manager.

Or another who saw a mysterious black cloud floating near the ceiling in the same residence.

The tour ended back at the pavilion with cider and donuts and a fire to chase away the fall evening chill.

“I think it went really well, I think everyone had a good time,” Slate Valley Museum director Kate Weller said Saturday night.

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