A moonlit garden on the grounds of Union College in Schenectady plays host to one of the oldest ghost tales in the country. Forbidden love. Blind, murderous rage. And a lost soul. We explore the tragic tale of Alice Van Der Veer in this episode of Listen with the Lights On.
Legend has it that if you take a stroll through Jackson’s Garden on the campus of Union College on the first full moon of summer, you’re likely to encounter the ghost of young Alice Van Der Veer.
(You’re also likely to think you’ve wandered onto the set of “The Way We Were”…in fact you have. Scenes from the movie starring Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford was in fact shot in Jackson’s Gardens in 1972.)
As with most lore, there are many versions of Alice’s sad story. The most consistent plotline seems to be that she was the only daughter of Dutch settlers who lived in what is now Schenectady county in the late 1600s. She was a teenager, and very beautiful. But her father was possessive and controlling.
She fell in love with a young suitor, and sneaked out to meet him one night. Her suspicious father followed her. He caught the lovers in a moonlight embrace. Then in a blind rage, he shot and killed the lover.
Alice was distraught, screaming hysterically as her father dragged her back through the streets of Schenectady’s stockade in the middle of the night. After some townspeople discovered the dead body of the lover, they went after Alice and her father. A mob formed and it seized the father and burned him at the stake.
Alice fled to find her lover’s body, but the mob, who by now had abandoned all rationality, caught her in what is now Jackson’s Gardens. She allegedly tripped and fell over rocks in Hans Groot’s Kill. The mob grabbed her, tied her to a pine tree at the edge of an oak grove and burned her alive.
Since then, many have reported seeing Alice wandering through Jackson's Gardens at night, looking for her lost love.
About 300 years after this sordid tale is said to have unfolded, in 1972, a senior at Union College named Kate White became fascinated with the legend, and did extensive research on it. Kate went on to become editor in chief of Cosmopolitan Magazine, and now writes murder mystery novels. She wrote an article on the ghost of Alice for the school's literary magazine The Idol.
What are your favorite ghost stories. Share them with us! Email us at LightsOn@wamc.org.