The Thousand Islands — if you’ve even heard of them — are probably best known as the home of a certain sweet-and-spicy salad dressing. Unless, of course, you happen to be the fancy type of person who builds themselves a villa. The islands on the St. Lawrence River dividing New York from Canada have been sprouting ritzy summer homes for the rich and famous for more than a century. Which is a bit strange, when you think about how one of the earliest of those homes was clearly the target of a family-destroying curse.
House of Horrors
As far as we can tell, there aren’t any ghost stories associated with Carleton Villa — none that made it on to the internet, anyway. Maybe that’s because there don’t really need to be. The house’s well-documented history is more than enough on its own to give any passerby the willies.
Let’s go back to the beginning. In 1894, William Wyckoff was on top of the world. About eight years previous, he and two of his business partners had purchased the Remington Typewriter Company and turned it into an incredibly lucrative business. Looking for some well-earned R&R, he commissioned the architect William Henry Miller to design a luxurious house on Carleton Island, one of the 1,800 islands in the Thousand Island archipelago.
It was beautiful. Covering seven acres, the estate was notable for the stately stonework, towering turrets, and eye-popping stained glass that was the envy of any passing boater. But even before Wyckoff and his family moved in, a dark shadow began to pass over them. One month before move-in day, William’s wife Francis passed away from cancer. But that was only the beginning. The very first night that the rest of the family moved in, William Wyckoff suffered a heart attack in his sleep. He never woke up.
The family fortunes only fell further. Clarence Wyckoff, the youngest son, inherited the house after his father’s death. Then the Great Depression hit — hard. As the bank accounts drained, desperate measures became necessary. The Wyckoffs sold Carleton Villa to General Electric, who planned to demolish the building for scrap and build a new employee resort and plant on the site. But this, too, failed to happen. That beautiful stained glass was removed — along with the rest of the windows — and in the service wing, the entire floor of a bedroom was cut directly out. The marble cladding around the mansion’s most prominent feature, the four-story tower, was removed as well, greatly weakening its foundation. But when World War II broke out, the demolition stopped. It never started again.
It wouldn’t have been pleasant to live in Carleton Villa in those days, but imagine what it’s like now. Other than the occasional urban spelunker, the house has been virtually abandoned ever since. Its tower is now long gone, torn down when it began to threaten the rest of the structure. But perhaps not all hope is lost. In fact, are you in the market? If you’ve got $495,000 handy, the place could be yours — as long as you’re all right with a bit of a fixer-upper. Elsewhere on Carleton Island, other monied residents with more modern houses have firmly established themselves. You know what that means. Once you’ve got the spooky old house, all you need is a mask and Halloween sound effects and you’re three-quarters of the way to scaring off your neighbors and getting an island to yourself.