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Shadows of the Western Door by Mason Winfield

I came across this book in my mother’s extensive library as we were packing her house up when she downsized.

It was a signed copy, so I presume she met the author.

I had been aware that Western New York was awash in mystical places and happenings – if you consider the region from roughly Seneca Lake across to Lake Erie, and encompassing the full height of the state, from Lake Ontario down to the Pennsylvania border, you will have The Fox Sisters, Lilydale, Roycroft, Murder Hill and the odd town of Friendship.

Digging deeper still, though, we learn that the city of Buffalo, much like Washington, DC, is laid out with a presumable purpose (DC supposedly recreates the Masonic compass and square), and some think the same might be said of Buffalo.

But the mysteries of the Western Door date back a good deal further than the founding of Buffalo —and include the Seneca Nation, the mysteries of the “White” Natives, and signs and indications of early Celtic and/or Viking visitations to the region— including stones with perfectly manufactured holes in them, that were found at a time and in a place where no such artifact of its kind should have been found, within the capability of visitors from another continent, but not within the capacity of the indigenous people to create.

Winfield explores the regions many UFO sightings, Bigfoot and other mystery monsters, and proto-crop circles (pre-1920s, so well before the crop circle craze).

Author Mason Winfield and the cover of his book about the hauntings of Western NY.

Tales of the Fox Sisters are part of the mystic.

Broken into sections more or less along general topics, he reserves one section for the many haunted locations – standard “spooks,” including haunted Fort Niagara (I have visited there myself, and can attest to its odd feel, though much of that is probably due to some of the gruesome stories about the treatment of prisoners there), and of course of large segment about the Fox Sisters, who summoned “Mr. Splitfoot,” and who learned the many tricks of the Spiritualism fashion that swept the region in the mid-1800s (casting one’s voice, lifting a table with a conveniently placed knee, cracking a knuckle near a resonant background to amplify its sound), and the slightly more credible though much less famous Davenport Brothers.

What compendium of mystical happenings at the Western Door would be complete without Joseph Smith, his tablets, mysterious glasses, and visitation from the Angel Moroni, birthing the whole religion of Mormonism, still active to this day – and not without its famous and well-placed adherents?

I was amused and intrigued to learn that Father Nelson Henry Baker of Lackawanna (near Buffalo) was associated with Padre Pio-like miracles – amused because he established a home for “wayward children,” with which slightly scary place my sister and I were threatened by exasperated parents when our naughty behavior reached a peak.

Reading this book, I couldn’t help wondering if the place where one is raised influences appetites of the imagination. Both my sister and I grew up fascinated by the unexplained, the paranormal, ghostie and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night – and being children of Buffalo, perhaps some of the mysterious nature of the place had its effect on us?

Mason details many locations in Western NY and their hauntings, including tales about the treatments of the prisoners therein.

If you’re like me and enjoy a good tale of the unknown – citing places you can actually visit – you can stop at his website: www.hauntedhistoryghostwalks.com/books.html and pick up a book, or check out his Ghost Walk schedule, which includes architecture and hauntings in walks and pub crawls in various locations throughout Western New York.

Nancy Roberts
Writer, voice over artist, information achitect, very curious person.