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The Hidden World of Dundas Castle

Lost in the Catskills is a forsaken stone castle haunted by tales of madness ...

Every castle tells a tale. Some represent royal ancestry; others stand as monuments to war. As years pass, many of these impressive structures transcend their everyday history and enter into the realm of fairy tale.

But not every one of these stories has a happy ending. In fact, some are haunted by an eerie kind of madness.

Dundas Castle is an abandoned piece of architectural brilliance in the sleepy town of Roscoe, New York. Designed to look like a remnant from the battle-worn pages of Scottish history, the structure began as a much simpler idea–by most accounts.

dundas castle

In the mid-1880s, farmer named Joseph Cammer owned a small section of land in the Catskill Mountains. As a fisherman, Cammer knew the importance of lodging; he offered room and board to his fellow fishermen who passed through town with their rods and reels.

Among the regular visitors was an architect named Bradford Lee Gilbert, whose claim to fame was designing Atlanta’s flatiron building. Gilbert proposed using a portion of Cammer’s land as the site of a log cabin. All parties were amenable—and soon a piece of the property was secured on the banks of the Beaverkill River.

A few years after construction was over, Gilbert moved his wife into the cabin. Improvements followed, until the place was finally named the Beaverkill Lodge. Gilbert’s wife, a native of Ireland, named the land upon which lodge was built “Craigie-Clair” (which translates to “Beautiful Mountainside”), after an Irish fishing village.

But the Gilberts’ stay would be short-lived. Bradford Gilbert sold the lodge to a businessman named Morris Sternbach in 1903; four years later, Sternbach turned around and sold it to a man named Ralph Wurts-Dundas.

Dundas was an extremely wealthy, reclusive, and somewhat odd man. In addition to being a husband and a father, he wanted to be a Scottish Laird. To solidify his grand delusion, Dundas purchased Beaverkill Lodge to convert it into a Scottish-style stone castle. Rather than destroy the lodge, Dundas literally built his castle around it and on top of it. With its thick walls leaded glass windows, and mounds of stone and mortar, Dundas’ new domain buried the original lodge.

Dundas’ wife Josephine was known to be mentally ill. Her instability was rumored to have been triggered by the death of their son, who fell from a window of their home years earlier. And while other rumors have Josephine being locked away in one of the castle’s rooms to wallow in her own psychosis, neither she nor Ralph ever truly lived on the property for any length of time. Construction on Dundas Castle was not completed until 1924, three years after Ralph’s death.

Ralph left a near $40 million dollar fortune to Josephine and their daughter, Muriel. But Ralph’s death sent Josephine over the edge, and she was committed to a sanitarium, where she died a short time later. Control of the Dundas fortune and castle went solely to Muriel. However, her inexperience with such matters made her an easy target for the property’s caretakers, who reportedly swindled her out of most of it. Muriel married in 1930 and moved away; she never returned to the castle. Less than two decades later, Muriel herself was declared mentally unstable and committed to a sanitarium. She sold Dundas Castle to the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the Masonic Order in 1949 for $47,500.

Plans to turn the castle into a home for the elderly eventually fell through, and it was used as a vacation resort through the 1950s. In the mid-1960s it became “Camp Eureka,” a summer retreat for inner-city youth. At some point, Camp Eureka dissolved and the castle fell into abandonment. Despite being added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001, nothing much has been done to maintain the property.

Today, spectral rumblings echo through the halls of the abandoned structure. One tale claims that Josephine Dundas still haunts Dundas Castle—perhaps despondent over her mental illness, or searching for Ralph in a never-ending loop of sadness. Another story claims that there are three heart shaped ponds outside the castle that fill with blood during a full moon.

Whether the ghosts of the past still linger at Dundas Castle is hard to say—the property is private and entry is prohibited. Still, it’s easy to see how a crumbling castle in the mountains of New York could conjure its own haunted history.

dundas castle
dundas castle
dundas castle
dundas castle
dundas castle
dundas castle
dundas castle

[via Roadtrippers; Atlas Obscura; Friends of Beaverkill Community; The Art of Abandonment]

All photos via Forsaken Fotography / Flickr [CC]

Published on 06 Jun 2016

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