Does a century old murder victim haunt a resort in upstate New York?

Grace Brown

The boat was found overturned

CASE DETAILS

Grace’s ghost haunts the lake

For generations, the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York have been a favorite vacation spot for the famous and the infamous.  One summer night in 1988, several employees of the Covewood Lodge on Big Moose Lake, including Rhonda Bousselot, were approaching the staff lodge.  Rhonda led the pack, unaware that someone, or something, might be waiting inside:

“I walked into the staff lodge, straight up the stairs with my hand out, reaching for the string, which is how to turn on the light.  As I approached the top of the stairs and just before I was ready to turn on the light, a feeling came over me that somebody was right there.  More or less, I stopped in my tracks and really just didn’t move.  I didn’t have an overwhelming feeling of fright, but something definitely or someone was there, and it just kind of took my breath away.”

But the real show was outside. According to Rhonda, her friends were witnessing a spine-tingling vision:

“All three of them had the same exact story.  It lingered for just a few seconds, and then moved away. All three of them saw the ghost.  I didn’t see anything myself, but I felt that somebody was right there, and it was just a strange feeling.”

But who is haunting Big Moose Lake? People there believe it is the ghost of the young and beautiful Grace Brown.  In 1906, her brutal murder shocked the nation.  Decades later, Hollywood turned the notorious case into a hit film, “A Place in the Sun.” Hollywood portrayed Grace as an unattractive nag.  But in truth, Grace Brown was a naive, lovely 19-year-old who worked at the Gillette skirt factory in Cortland, New York.  It was there, in 1905, that she met the handsome and charming Chester Gillette, the factory owner’s nephew.

Author Craig Brandon has written about the infamous Grace Brown murder:

“Chester Gillette was considered quite a catch by the people in town because he was popular and he was athletic and he was handsome.  I’m sure a lot of women in Cortland were interested in him.”

Chester Gillette was convicted of Grace’s murder

From the start, it was a scandalous romance.  According to Craig Brandon, Chester convinced Grace to see him without a chaperone which, in those days, put her reputation at risk:

“I think she saw him as the ideal person, that he was everything that she wanted.  She was in love probably for the first time in her life, and she wanted to see this through no matter what.”

For Chester, it was a secret affair.  He never took Grace out in public.  He never acknowledged their relationship.  According to Craig Brandon, Chester was frequently seen with other young women, especially those from the town’s wealthier families:

“Her friends were warning her that he wasn’t what he seemed to be, that he was something different, and I think that she had no experience with that type of person.  And so she was seeing what she wanted to see rather than what her friends were telling her.”

But Grace could not resist Chester and she soon discovered she was pregnant.  At the time, unwed mothers were outcasts.  Grace begged Chester to marry her, but he stalled as long as he could.  Finally, in July, 1906, Chester took Grace to the Adirondacks.  She assumed it was a wedding trip.  According to Craig Brandon, they rented a rowboat at Big Moose Lake from a man named Robert Morrison:

“Morrison expected them to come back around dinnertime.  And when they didn’t come back, he thought that was somewhat suspicious.”

The next morning, Morrison organized a search party.  The rowboat had capsized.  A short distance from it, they found Grace’s body.  Two days later, police found Chester Gillette in a nearby hotel.  At first, he denied even knowing Grace Brown.  Then, he claimed Grace had drowned herself in despair because he didn’t love her anymore.  Few believed him.  He was tried and convicted of first degree murder.  On March 30, 1908, Chester Gillette died in the electric chair.  Had justice been served?  Apparently not enough to satisfy the restless spirit of Grace Brown.

Lynda Lee Macken had her own encounter with Grace Brown a few months after Rhonda Bousselot’s:

“I was walking down toward the lake with my flashlight and the light was getting dimmer and dimmer.  By the time I got to the edge of the lake and the rocks, my flashlight wasn’t working.  So I had to turn around and go back… I was awestruck, and not only was I certain that I was looking at a ghost, but I had a very strong feeling of sadness.  She was very sad.”

Was it the ghost of Grace Brown?  Over the years, there have been continual sightings.  And many wonder if her spirit has been trapped at Big Moose Lake since the day she was drowned by her faithless lover.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season eight with Robert Stack and in season two with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

 

27 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    I used to strum my guitar and sing a song called Pretty Polly(a very old folk song partly based on this case and another much older similar case.) Researching the song’s history led me to read Dreiser’s American Tragedy. Coincidentally, just as I was reading the very last paragraph of that book, this episode of Unsolved Mysteries happened to be on. I wasn’t paying attention to the television until I realized this very case was the topic. Pretty freaky if mere coincidence…

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  2. amy

    I’m from Eagle Bay. Big Moose Lake is very dark, very remote. I could see why he thought he would get away with murder, her body could have easily never been found.

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  3. Pamela Thompson

    I would love to read their love letters and his diary he wrong before his execution.

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  4. Anonymous

    You thought I was dead, didn’t you? I’m still there. While you’re searching in the Adirondack Mountains for me, that is not where I died. My body is in India.

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  5. Anonymous

    WOW, I believe she never left b/c she thought it would be her happy place, but it turned out to be deadly & she can’t move on.

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    • mary

      I believe her spirit is still there is is not at peace she is searching for something but what and is there other people responsible for her death, have a syaunce and find out somone needs to talk to her spirit And find out what does she want

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    • Elizabeth lynne

      I saw the this episode a couple times growin up id like to find it again to show my boyfriend bc hes neber seen it and he doesnt really believe in ghosts i tried finding it on youtube and its not there does anybody have any suggestions where to find it?? . . . .it also happens to be one of my favorite ghost stories

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    • Elizabeth lynne

      I did forget to say please in my last email my appologies if anybody could please tell me where to find the episode of grace browns spirit id greatly appreciate it please and thank you Elizabeth lynne c:

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    • Karen

      I’m intrigued by this story. Especially since having had the grandma with the same name. Grace Brown. In NC.She passed before I was born though. I’d love to see the ghost of this Grace Brown.

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    • Pamela Thompson

      I believe she’s not moving on and she was also very pregnant and very in love and for the person to kill her that she loved would be the tramatic. She has not moved on.

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  6. Anonymous

    If being horribly betrayed and murdered by a rotten lover equals your soul haunts that place forever then this world would be stacked 12 feet high in hauntings inch by inch.

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  7. Sourav P

    Maybe she wanted to interact with her treacherous lover after her death and suddenly her lover dies and this made her sad. As she is not harmful to others, it is clear that she may not have been killed i.e. the capsizing would have been a mishap. Here a question arises; why did Morrison send the search party in the morning instead of sending at night?

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  8. Anonymous

    Maybe she died from eating too many donuts from Eagle Bay Donuts

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  9. Anonymous

    In the mid 1970’s I had two close encounters with Grace Brown’s ghost at her home in South Ostenic, NY:
    I was awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of steps on the stairs between the first and second floors of the house.
    Some months later, again at Grace’s home, I was playing cards with 3 friends in the dining room when we heard the rattling and banging of pots and pans in the kitchen. Upon checking the kitchen, of course we witnessed no one there. But what exactly were those kitchen noises in a house so far away from its neighbors?

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  10. Karyn Jean Sparks

    Are you sure it was him who killed her maybe something happened maybe man waved down need some help wacked stick with him with head wood he drag to him into the woods then guy took her middle of the lake thought was her lover was not killed her with wood! Swim away her lover awoke up didn’t know what happened then walked to the hotel room got his stuff got in car. Probably going to tell the sheriff next day!

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  11. very intersting story

    This story has intrigued me for years. I even got chesters prison diaries. She obviously is aware she is dead because she appears to people and extinguishes lights. Why though? Chester got excecuted and her justice was served. What more could she possibly want? My grandmas house was haunted by a pilgrim and he was violent in his hauntings. He wanted her and her family outta that house. Grace isn’t violent. She just appears looking sad and turns off lights. Her ghostly nature seems pretty much like her human nature. I guess ghosts are like people. Who knows why some of them do what they do.

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    • Catherine J Fusco

      “”””A Place in The Sun””.. was Grace Brown the unattractive control freak as depicted in movie by Shelly Winters?..I read this story many years ago..however I heard she was beautiFULL but that wouldn’t fit with the storyline script..{movie}..The trial courtroom scene was aggravating ..But Monte played his role as he did his many roles as if he were the character stellar performances by cast and especially Monte..Grace Brown’s ghost was seen by many.vacationers in the Adarondaks..{spellllling may be incorrect} ha..sorry restless spirit of Grace Brown..as many spirits are restless ..having returned to the place they died and or where they were most happiest..case in Point {Mary Queen Of Scots} Mary Stewart…….This sight””” is great..Intelligent comments..inquiring minds..wanna know….

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  12. Phoebe Moody

    I believe that she’s not at peace … and might even still be in shock over what happened to her at the hands of someone she dearly loved and trusted. She might not even fully understand exactly what happened. She still feels “alive” and might not realize she has passed on. Her sadness stems from the fact that the last thing she remembers was being assaulted by the man she thought she was going to marry …. and the next thing she knew was that he had apparently abandoned her at the lake and now she cannot find him. There is no sense of time for those who have passed …. so she probably even believes that it’s 1906. A good psychic medium could go there and communicate in a compassionate manner with her and literally explain the situation to her …. and then gently persuade her to go into the Light and move on to the Other Side where she can reunite with those who love her. It’s quite amazing …. the basic similarities between this story and that of Lacey Rocha and Scott Peterson. Chester Gillette and Scott Peterson even share the same dark good looks. It is said that the personality does not change and can be reborn into a new physical body until it finally learns it’s lesson and chooses to evolve. Until then …. they just remain the same type of person and keeps repeating the same type of behavior and making the same kind of mistakes lifetime after lifetime. Gillette hit Grace in the head with a tennis racket and then tossed her body overboard into the water and left her there. He even laughed during his trial and seemed completely unrepentant about what he had done. On the other hand …. Scott Peterson told a cell mate that HE hit Lacey in the head with a golf club …. and then took her body out on the water in a small boat and dumped it overboard. During HIS trial …. he, too, was laughing and unrepentant about what HE had done. Both young men murdered the pregnant mother of their child because they did not want the responsibility of fatherhood …. and both men have been incarcerated on death row. There are many other similarities between the two stories — such as both men were seeing other women behind the back of the woman pregnant with their child. Like I said ….. the similarities are amazingly “coincidental”.

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  13. rob

    this case seems so like the movie : a Place in the Sun

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  14. mike hawk

    fake

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  15. halea

    I believe she already knew/knows what happened to her. I believe she is also grieving for her baby that also lost his/her life .

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  16. Gail Long

    i would love to read more about this story

    Reply

  17. Kiss Marianne

    It’s a true story.
    Dreiser had write a novel from it: American Tragedy the title.

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    • Stephanie

      This is a true story a sad but true story.. You should read Murder in the Adirondacks it gives a truer version of the story then “american tragedy did.” I look forward to going to big moose lake and finding out more.

      Reply

  18. Anonymous

    I would like to know more about Chester Gillette and how she haunted him. Enjoyed reading this story.

    Reply