Fainting Goat Island Inn: An Old Railway Inn With A Touch Of The Unexplainable
The Fainting Goat Island Inn. That's a name that stands out, and so do the stories from this Nichols hotel.
The unassuming house is located on River Road. Back in the 1800s, a whole slew of travelers would have been coming through the door. Greeting me when I walked in, innkeepers Marnie Streit and William (Bill) Gamble tell me their research shows before the inn was actually built, the river bank where it sits was an open-air market.
“The big boats would come down and they would stop and people would be selling their wares on the bank," says Marnie.
By the 1850s, the current dwelling was built and the traffic shifted to the railroad, built in front of the house. The inn at Hooper's station offered a place to stay for train travelers.
This old photograph shows guests sitting out front of the railway inn.
Marnie bought the house in 2008 and she and Bill have been working to restore it to its former glory. Along the way, they've uncovered some pieces of the building's past including old photos and deeds to the property that name some of the previous owners.
Owners Marnie Streit and Bill Gamble show me around Fainting Goat Island Inn.
There are rumors around Tioga County that the house played a role in the underground railroad, though Marnie and Bill aren't sure how true that is. There are plenty of stories, some of them are unexplainable.
Those stories are how I found the Nichols inn. A Google search of "Southern Tier Ghost Stories" took me right to a web page listing the inn among the most haunted buildings in the Southern Tier. In fact, USA Today readers have since voted Fainting Goat Island Inn the second best haunted hotel in America.
When I asked Marnie about this, she took me right to the room at the top of the stairs, saying: "This is the room right here." Marnie and Bill say there are strange stories about every room in the house, but Alpine Room guests seem to have the most interesting experiences.
”Well, just the other night we had a gal who heard a little boy laughing," says Marnie.
Marnie labels herself as a skeptic. She says she had experiences early on with furniture moving around, but just explained it away as her being tired. But then guests started to tell her things. From voices and footsteps when no one else is in the house to the downright odd.
“Ladies were here and they woke up and quarters were lined up in a row all like heads up or something," says Marnie.
Marnie and Bill say they've gotten the most strange stories from guests staying in the Alpine Room.
Here's the thing, as far as Bill and Marnie can tell, this inn didn't come with a story or local legend that would warrant this kind of thing. Little is known about who built the hotel or who owned it besides a list of names and dates. The current innkeepers wouldn't believe half the things guests have told them or written in the comment books if they hadn't seen some things themselves.
“When we were taking the ceiling out, Bill and his brother were, it had a drop ceiling… a knife fell out. A knife came out of the ceiling," says Marnie.
She kept that knife. The blade is rusted and looks a bit stained. Bill says the next thing they found was under the floor.
"Under that floorboard is the clothes," says Bill, "And they look stained."
Who's clothes? No one knows. Bill and Marnie left them right where they found them, not about to go messing with that.
Another Alpine Room guest complained of hearing people going up and down the stairs all night. He pointed out the area where he heard the noise to Marnie. The problem? The stairs no longer exist.
“Because we remodeled the room and we had found the old stairwell… at least the box for it. So, under your feet there was an old stairwell," says Bill.
The foyer of the Fainting Goat Island Inn is full of old pictures and postcards from the property over the years.
The stories go on and on. One guest says he had a suitcase follow him across the floor, another woke up to cigar smoke, and still others have told the innkeepers they've smelled flowery perfume out of no where.
"We've never felt threatened," says Marnie, "The house feels settled to me right now. It's when we're up here tearing things apart that things start going bump."
While tales of haunted inns and dwellings is nothing new, my visit to the Fainting Goat Island Inn had me convinced that, if nothing else, this Nichols destination is definitely one of a kind.