Update 2018: The castle is on private land and you must gain permission from the current caretaker to visit.
Craig-E-Clair Castle, alternatively called Dundas Castle, is nestled away like a decaying fairy tale in the enshrouding forests of the Catskill Mountains.
Even today, a fair amount of mystery and intrigue surrounds the castle. With varying dates attributed to its construction, no one seems to be certain of its history. What truth is reasonably certain, however, is that the structure was originally a summer lodge built by Bradford Lee Gilbert in the early 1880’s. The name of Craig-E-Clair is said to have come from Gilbert’s wife, a Scottish native who was reminded of small town by the name of Craig-E-Clare in Scotland. After Gilbert passed away in 1911, the land and lodge was sold to Maurice Sternbeck, before coming into the possession of Ralph Wurts-Dundas in 1915. Dundas began construction of the castle soon after, but never lived to see it completed, dying in 1921 while the estate was in the final stages of construction.
Then, in 1922, a year after Dundas’s death, his wife Josephine Wurts-Dundas, was committed to a sanatarium, without ever having lived in the castle. After Anna’s commitment, her only child by Dundas, Muriel Harmer Wurts-Dundas, inherited the fortune that had passed to her mother from her father. She soon had a large portion of the fortune stolen by the castle care-takers, who were acting as her guardians at the time. Eventually she went on to get married, and moved to England, where she departed with her husband on an expedition to find “St. John’s Gold.” The expedition fell apart when the couple fired the historians and scientist helping in the search, and hired a mystic with a willow wand instead. Eventually, Muriel’s mental stability was questioned. She was soon committed, just as her mother had been.
The enigmatic keep passed from the hands of the Dundas family and into various short-term uses. For a time it was used as a summer camp for children, before being purchased by the area’s Masonic chapter as a retreat. Eventually they gave up on even that use, and though the Masons still own the structure (leading to the sometimes title of the Mason’s Castle), it now sits abandoned, rotting and brooding in its wood, subject to the cruel hands of nature and vandalism.
The curious history of the place, the tradition of every endeavor put upon it of failing, and its eventual abandonment have given rise to many legends about the house. Some say it is haunted by the ghost of Josephine Dundas, who they claim was locked in an upstairs room. Others say that the three heart-shaped ponds on the property fill with blood on the full moon. There is no evidence that anyone was ever locked in any of the rooms, indeed, according to the history available, no one ever lived there for any amount of time at all. Fact however, cannot deny that the site has an atmosphere that can stir the imagination of anyone who sees the castle, alone in its mountains, with no company but the silent trees.
Visit New York State with Atlas Obscura Trips
Only in Queens: Tasting Our Way Through New York’s Most Diverse Borough
Manhattan may have name-brand recognition and Brooklyn a certain cache, but Queens is the city’s largest and most diverse borough. Join us, October 4-7, to dig into Queens’ rich neighborhood life.