Ghost Stories in Poughkeepsie

It’s that spooky time of year again: Halloween is upon us! What would the season be without a good ghost story? There are several books about various haunted sites in the Hudson Valley. From creepy old houses and theaters, to hotels and bars, there are supposedly several spooky spots that can be found (or investigated, if one believes in such things). One place that seems to keep popping up is that of the hauntings at Christ Church, right here in Poughkeepsie. Could there be something lurking in the pews of this historic building on Academy Street (other than the Holy Ghost)?

Why would such a special place be haunted, you ask? Well, the land where the modern day Christ Church stands today was once a graveyard (strike 1!). If we look at the early maps of Poughkeepsie, you can see where it says “Episcopal Burying Ground” even as early as 1834, before the south end of Academy Street was established. About seven acres was secured by the Rev. Dr. John Reed, who was rector of Christ Church, for the use of a burial ground. Several burials took place there, beginning in 1828 and ending around 1866, when the city decided there would be no more burials within the city limits. The graves were all eventually moved to the Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery. There are said to be several of the original headstones still located within the cellar of the church. Also, there is said to be a man buried in the basement of the church (strike 2!), a Mr. Robert Craig who died in his 83rd year in 1859 (perhaps a remnant of the old burial ground that was never removed).

However, with all of this in mind, the bulk of the stories of hauntings all center around a former Rector of the church, Dr. Alexander Griswold Cummins. The Rev. Cummins began serving the parish in December of 1900 and would continue in this role until his death in 1946. He was said to be a “militant campaigner against practices impinging on church precepts” and was well loved and respected by all in the community. The next rector who served after Cummins was Bishop James Pike, and it was he who was said to be the first person to witness the spirit of Rev. Cummins hanging around the altar and walking up the stairs. Bishop Pike was said to be the complete opposite of Cummins when it came to church guidelines, and the majority of the hauntings occurred while Pike was in residence (the hauntings apparently stopped after Pike died in 1969).

Do you know any good ghost stories from Poughkeepsie that you would like to share? Let us know – Email us and please have a safe and happy Halloween!

Poughkeepsie Journal – 23 Sep 1946
Farnsworth, Cheri. Haunted Hudson Valley: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of New York’s Sleepy Hollow Country. United States: Stackpole Books, 2010.
The Records of Christ Church, Poughkeepsie, New York: History 1755-1910
Volume 1 of The Records of Christ Church, Poughkeepsie, New York, Helen Wilkinson Reynolds

Poughkeepsie1834 – Map of Poughkeepsie in 1834 showing the burial ground
405b-1PC3 – Postcard of Christ Church from 1907 – LH Collections
C9LD24 – Christ church interior, decorated for Thanksgiving – LH Collections
I25C – Portrait of Dr. Alexander Griswold Cummins, who served Christ Church for 45 years – LH Collections