Mourning Big Moose Lake

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Mourning Big Moose Lake

Big Moose Lake a remote lake on Moose River in upstate New York.  A beautiful destination, many travel there for vacations, boating, water skiing, hiking, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, and visiting Pigeon Lake Wilderness Area.  Spanning over twelve hundred acres, the lake is about three miles long and one mile wide.  The large lake supports both Webb and Long Lake.

images:22970261@N05/flickr Big Moose Lake

Big Moose Lake

While the beauty is enough to bring people from all over the country for recreational enjoyment, sightseeing is not limited to the traditional vacation elements.  Big Moose Lake New York has been the subject of television, books, opera and songs, but not for its beauty.  The area was made famous by the murder of Grace Brown in 1906 and its notoriety continues even today.

The first people to the area were following the railroad.  Trappers and guides quickly established camps and hotels.  That later developed into summer homes and lodges.  The area was known for its unique architecture, utilizing vertical half log construction.

Grace Brown followed the development of factories into the area.  The lovely, but naive, nineteen year old worked at a skirt factory.  She quickly met and fell in love with the nephew of the factory owner, Chester Gillette.  Chester was well known.  He was popular, athletic, and handsome.  The couple would sneak off and maintained a secret affair.  Although Grace was deeply in love with him, Chester never claimed her or acknowledged their relationship.  Instead, he continued to pursue wealthier, more beautiful women.

Unfortunately, Grace became pregnant.  Afraid of being scorned, she begged Chester to marry her.  He delayed and stalled until one day surprising Grace with a request to accompany him to Big Moose Lake.  Grace’s friends warned her about the man, but she followed her heart, thinking he was taking her on a wedding trip.  She envisioned their future together as Chester rented a rowboat and they drifted off down the lake.  She dreamed about their future and raising a house full of children together.  Unfortunately, Grace’s dreams never came true.

Instead, after the couple did not return, a search party was sent out to find the boat.  They discovered the boat capsized and poor Grace Brown’s body just a short distance away, floating face down in the water.  Chester wasn’t found for another two days.  He was eventually located in a hotel where he claimed not to know Grace and was checked in with a fake name. Ultimately, he admitted to knowing the girl but said she killed herself when he told her he was no longer in love with her.

images:herkimerstraycat/flickr Grace Brown

Grace Brown

In 1908, Chester took his last breaths before being led to the electric chair where he was found guilty for striking Grace with a tennis racket resulting in her drowning death and convicted of first degree murder.  No one saw the crime or punishment coming, and no one ever heard from him again. Unfortunately, the same thing was not true of young Grace Brown.

Stories quickly began pouring in even years after her death.  Her spirit was the subject of many research shows, especially in the eighties, as people tried to understand what she was doing lingering in the area.  In certain areas, especially the staff lodge at Big Moose Lake, stories were never sparse. On one occasion, a group of workers entered the staff lounge and reached for the string light.  Refusing to turn on, the group looked around until they felt someone with them.  They looked up and saw a figure floating above the stairs.  Running outside, they passed the lake, only to see the figure of Grace over the lake.  Another worker described a similar incident, when her flashlight refused to work.  She saw Grace at the edge of the lake and felt considerable sadness and mourning.  It seems Grace walks the world even still, showered in darkness, mourning the loss of a dozen lifetimes.

Megan Borchert
Megan Borchert
Lover of all things unusual, Megan is a staff attorney for the state of South Dakota. When she's not stuffed in an office writing case synopses, you can find her at home with her army of Schnauzers, snuggled up with some strong wine and a good book.

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