Inside The Cursed Castle Deep In The Forests Of New York

An abandoned building sits forlornly within an overgrown clearing in the forests of New York’s Catskill Mountains. But this is no simple log cabin! Its witch’s hat roofs, soaring turrets and Gothic windows make it look like something out of a fairytale. Sadly, though, there has been no happily ever after here – just whispers of curses and ghosts that haunt the forgotten grounds.

Hidden in the Catskills

The Catskills are a vast, impenetrable wilderness that still stretches across much of southeast New York state. And they are just the sort of place where legends are born. Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that Dundas Castle has been shrouded in myth and mystery for as long as anyone can remember. Though what is the real story behind this eerie and deserted place?

Dudas Castle

Built back in the first half of the 20th century, Dundas Castle was designed to mimic a far older style of building. But tragedy would strike just before its first owner could move in and indulge his baronial fantasies. Since then, the empty hallways and echoing chambers have remained mostly devoid of life.

Why was it abanonded?

So, why was this grand home just a few hours’ drive from New York City abandoned to rot and decay? And what of the rumors that a ghost haunts one of the upper rooms? To find the answers, a handful of brave urban explorers have ventured inside. And, thankfully, they have lived to tell the tale!

It has a rich history

Documentation about the early history of Dundas Castle is scarce, which is fitting for such a haunted building. In a 2011 post on his blog the Art of Abandonment, photographer Walter Arnold described a meeting with local historian Dr. Joyce Conroy in which she recounted the history of the estate. Apparently, the first person to build here was the New York architect Bradford Lee Gilbert, who constructed a hunting lodge in the 1880s.

But records are non-existent

According to the website Atlas Obscura, it was Gilbert’s wife who dubbed the land Craig-E-Clair after a town in her native Scotland. What’s odd is that there appears to be no record of such a settlement ever existing. That said, the name is still used to describe Dundas Castle even today. According to reports, the family used the property sporadically up until Gilbert’s death in 1911.

Passed into new ownership

After that, Atlas Obscura claims, the lodge and land came into the possession of a man named Maurice Sternbeck and later Ralph Wurts-Dundas. By this point it was 1915 and World War I was already raging across Europe. And it’s at this time when Craig-E-Clair’s new owner decided to create a fairytale retreat.

Purchased by a wealthy recluse

So, who was this Wurt-Dunas fellow, then? Well, he was reportedly the youngest of five children and came from a wealthy family. Not only that, but the reclusive man had plenty of money to burn, too, according to Art of Abandonment. Craig-E-Clair must have seemed like the perfect place to hide away — located in the forest some 5 miles outside the small town of Roscoe.

No expense was spared

It was in this magical spot that Wurts-Dundas began constructing an elaborate home — known today as Dundas Castle. Arnold notes that he fantasized about living like Scottish nobility, which would certainly explain the grander elements of the design. Yep, it certainly appears that no expense was spared in the creation of the Catskills manor.

Disagreements over its style

In fact, some have claimed that Dundas Castle was modeled after the Scottish castle of the same name — built as a clan seat in the 15th century. But in reality, the New York building looks hardly anything like the Tudor-era pile located just outside Edinburgh. Though that hasn’t stopped various writers from adding this claim to the ever-growing legend of Craig-E-Clair.

30 room mansion

According to Abandoned Spaces, Wurts-Dundas built it around the frame of Gilbert’s lodge — rather than starting from scratch. And what resulted was a sprawling pile that mimics the architecture of both the Gothic and Elizabethan eras. Reportedly, it boasts more than 30 rooms, each of which are furnished to the nines.

It included one major luxury at the time

Steam radiators were apparently installed throughout the property — something that would have been considered a great luxury back in the 1910s! Yes, only a small amount of private homes were equipped with electricity during this time. Yet Wurts-Dundas ensured that the new technology was present throughout his new home.

Luxurious details

Despite these modern concessions, though, Dundas Castle was clearly designed to recapture the grandeur of a bygone era. Alongside state-of-the-art heating systems, the builders installed grand fireplaces in many rooms. Art of Abandonment notes that one was even coated in a layer of gold leaf!

Tragedy strikes

But how did such a grand property end up empty and forgotten — slowly decaying as the trees of the Catskills close in around it? Well, the first tragedy associated with the castle struck in 1921 when Wurts-Dundas died before his ambitious project could be completed. And although work on the property continued, neither his widow nor child would get to enjoy life at Craig-E Clair.

Things went downhill

Within a year of her husband’s death, Josephine Wurts-Dundas’ mental health had deteriorated to the point where she was hospitalized. The matriarch had inherited a vast fortune, yet she was deemed incapable of managing her own affairs. As a result, the castle passed to her then-18-year-old daughter Muriel.

Stolen and starting over

Given her young age, Atlas Oscura reports that Muriel was placed under the guardianship of the castle caretakers. But these unscrupulous men apparently stole a large chunk of her family’s wealth. Eventually, she left Craig-E-Clair behind — moving to England with her husband and starting a new life.

Treasure hunting mission

Though even that wasn’t the end of the sad story for the intended inhabitants of Dundas Castle. Muriel and her husband apparently later departed on a treasure-hunting mission to find a stash of lost gold. But she later fired qualified professionals and turned to a mystic dowser for help instead. And Muriel’s mental health — like her mother’s — was soon called into question.

Erie echoes of trauma

Ultimately, Muriel would follow the path of her mom and end up being institutionalized. But what of the grand castle that her father had dreamed of? Over the years, the castle passed into the hands of a number of different owners, although none of them seemed to stay there for long. Might the various traumas associated with the building have left some eerie echoes behind?

Camp for children

At one point, Atlas Obscura claims, Dundas Castle was turned into a camp where children came to spend the summer. Yet it seems difficult to imagine young voices echoing along the spooky, abandoned hallways today. Before long, they left Craig-E-Clair when the estate was sold to the Freemasons for use as a vacation home.

Current owners

Who owns Dundas Castle now, though? Well, apparently it's still in the Freemasons’ hands. But it's clear that no one has vacationed within the complex’s crumbling walls for many years. Like many grand buildings and former resorts in the Catskills, it has been abandoned to a sad fate — left to rot and collect graffiti as time ticks by. Over the years, it has acquired a reputation for being haunted or even cursed.

Hotspot for urban explorers

If the photos taken by various urban explorers are anything to go by, it’s easy to see why people think its haunted! Dundas Castle is privately owned, and permission must be acquired in order to visit. Though a number of people have made the journey out to the Catskills to see the haunting property for themselves. And many of them have found it a chilling experience.

Fallen into disrepair

From a distance, you might be quite surprised at how much Dundas Castle has managed to retain its original charm. Its Gothic windows and turreted roofs create a real fairytale appearance. Though up close, it soon becomes clear that the panes of glass have been replaced by wooden boards, and weeds are beginning to grow up through the elegant stonework.

Signs from the exterior

In November 2016 the YouTube channel RnK All Day uploaded a video featuring two explorers known as Robb and Kristy exploring Dundas Castle. And even from the outside, they quickly spot signs that the property is totally abandoned. Speaking to the camera, Robb points out, “There’s a tree growing out of the gutter.” But that was nothing compared to the decay and destruction that the pair would find inside!

Graffiti inside

Climbing through an unboarded window, the YouTubers are immediately confronted by brightly colored graffiti daubed throughout the castle. Interestingly, this seems to be a relatively recent addition. In 2011 Walter Arnold described a building that was far more elegant in its dereliction on his website Art of Abandonment.

Like being transported in time

“We all stood in awe of what we were seeing,” Arnold wrote. “It was like being transported back to medieval times.” Inside, the photographer and his companions found themselves surrounded by porcelain tiles, marble fixtures and all the trappings of a luxury home. He added, “Every window and door we encountered was beautifully peaked, and every corner we rounded and every room we entered spoke of mystery and an untold history.”

The subject of local legend

It is this mysterious past, no doubt, that has influenced the terrifying legends that have grown up around Dundas Castle over the years. No one — not even the builder — has ever managed to settle in this strange and lonely place! And its current eerie appearance has done little to assuage such stories.

Haunted by a former resident

According to Atlas Obscura, some say the castle is haunted by the spirit of Josephine Dundas, who was kept shut away in one of the upper rooms. Mind you, there are no records to support such a claim. But the internet is still littered with rumors about ghostly activity on the abandoned estate.

Creepy full moon story

But that’s not the only spooky tale to be associated with Dundas Castle! Apparently, there is a trio of ponds on the property — each constructed in the shape of a heart. Every time there is a full moon, the story goes, their water is replaced with blood. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this impressive feat has never been captured on film. Yet there are plenty of photographs and videos that attest to the eerie atmosphere throughout the estate.

But there are reminders of modern-day

In Arnold’s images on the Art of Abandonment website, Dundas Castle appears as a bastion of faded grandeur — all peeling paintwork and cavernous empty spaces. But here and there are scattered reminders that this was intended to be a state-of-the-art home. He wrote, “It was a strange juxtaposition to be exploring the hallways and rooms of what one would imagine to be a castle out of the dark ages. And then [you] notice an old push-button switch on the walls which was once used to turn on the electric lights. It was like a modern-day fairytale gone wrong.”

It only grows darker

Yet that legacy has only become darker as the years have passed. The building was barely recognizable by the time that Robb and Kristy arrived at Dundas Castle a few years after Arnold’s visit. Word about the abandoned relic had clearly gotten out, and vandals had descended on the property.

Painted-over original features

Dundas Castle now looks even creepier than it did before! Throughout the property, once-beautiful fireplaces have been covered in paint, and childish slogans are daubed in bright colors across marble and wood. In the RnK All Day video, Robb comments on the fine craftsmanship that once graced the rooms — lamenting that it has now succumbed to destruction and decay.

Few areas untouched by vandals

In other rooms, bathroom tiles and Gothic arches have been covered in the same graffiti. In fact, it seems that there is barely a surface that has not escaped such vandalism. While some areas bear the names of people brave enough to venture inside the allegedly haunted house, others have been daubed with spooky symbols such as “666.”

Inside a turret

In one of the turrets upstairs, long, dark corridors further contribute to the unnerving atmosphere. And the chaos continues inside what would once have been bedrooms. Again, the walls are covered in painted slogans and tags, while piles of leaves have accumulated on the floor of the en-suite bathroom.

Shell of a kitchen

Elsewhere, a vast kitchen clearly designed to cater for a large household sits empty and abandoned — its huge sink devoid of dishes and the stove a gutted shell. Did Wurts-Dundas plan to treat his family to lavish meals here? And do the echoes of his tragic past still reverberate around the crudely painted walls?

Locals claim to have paranormal experiences

In the comments section beneath Arnold’s blog, one user wrote, “When I was younger… a few friends and I visited this property at about three in the morning. This place is haunted. I have a very chilling story about what happened and a picture of what I am convinced are spirits surrounding me.”

But not everyone is convinced

Speaking to Arnold, though, Conroy herself was dismissive of the building’s ghostly reputation. She said, “The thing that fascinated me about the castle is that everybody thinks that it’s haunted, that people were locked up in the courtyards… none of it’s true.” Though she does acknowledge that there is something strange happening at Craig-E-Clair.

No one stayed there long

“What did strike me as very unusual is from the time that I’m able to record; no one has ever been able to live on that land...,” Conroy continued. “That struck me as bizarre.” Back when Dundas Castle was new, this must have been a puzzling conundrum. Now, though, it is plain to see why most people would give it a wide berth.

Spectacular stonework was smashed

Sadly, the castle’s spooky reputation has done little to keep the vandals out. In one room, a row of artisan cabinets have been smashed up with just a few pieces of splintered wood left behind. And in another, a beautiful carved marble fireplace stands crumbling and chipped. In the RnK All Day video, Robb says, “[This is] probably one of the nicest stone mantles or hearths you’ll ever see in an abandoned place. But even this… somebody couldn’t recognise it. They had to chip it away.”

One section remains locked

In the video, Robb and Kristy can be seen exploring large parts of the castle. But as they make their way between the rooms, the pair discover one section that is kept tightly locked. Unwilling to break into the property, they leave without seeing inside this secret wing. Might something sinister have been lurking behind these sealed windows and doors?

It's being watched

Well, perhaps not. As Robb points out, the locked section may well have been used for storage. These days, though, security around the property has increased — with cameras dissuading explorers from heading inside. But, of course, there are always plenty of other creepy castles for Robb — and others like him — to discover. Particularly if they are willing to venture beyond New York.