Spooky cemetery tours begin again in Johnstown

JOHNSTOWN – More than 20 people attended and applauded the summer’s first Colonial Cemetery After Dark Tour on Tuesday evening.

The Johnstown Historical Society began hosting the tours last summer and found them to be popular. They will be offered again this summer every Tuesday at 9 p.m. through Sept. 3.

Jahnn Gibson, an officer of the historical society, leads the tours. They begin at the Drumm House on West Greene Street, next to the Colonial Cemetery. The cost is $3 for children ages 10 to 16 and $5 for adults. The tour lasts about 45 minutes to an hour.

According to Gibson, last year, the tours averaged 35 to 40 people, though a crowd of 75 attended one evening.

“People seem to enjoy it; people have come more than once,” said Gibson.

The tour begins in front of the Drumm House, which is thought to have been built by Sir William Johnson for one of the early settlers of the community.

Dressed in the dark clothes of a Victorian-era woman in deep mourning, Gibson begins with a brief history of Johnstown and the life of Sir William Johnson, then talks about past mourning traditions.

Inside the Colonial Cemetery, Gibson leads the tour group with stops at 15 different graves.

Some of the graves include Daniel Frasier, the earliest burial in the cemetery, Matthias Hildreth, a state attorney general, and Gibson’s favorite, Elizabeth Van Valkenburgh, who poisoned her husband and was hanged for the crime in the 1840s.

When talking about Van Valkenburgh, Gibson said, “She has the most human interest of anyone.”

Gibson told guests Tuesday that a group of 10 Van Valkenburgh descendents took the cemetery tour last year.

The youngest person buried in the cemetery was only a day old, while the oldest was 96.

Standing over one grave, Gibson said, “I feel somewhat connected” to the deceased buried there.

Gibson also talked about a story she heard from a local woman who lives across the street from the cemetery and swore she saw a man hanging in a tree in the spot where someone was once lynched long ago.

Gibson then asked guests, “What do you think it was?”

Gibson urges people to bring their own flashlights and bug spray. People can visit the Drumm House before and after the tours.

For more information, call 762-7076 or see the Johnstown Historical Society’s page on Facebook.