By Sarah Rosenblum
While Jackson’s Garden served as a beautiful backdrop for many of the love scenes in the well-known Hollywood flick The Way We Were, a far more tragic love story allegedly took place there in 1672.
According to an article published on April 30, 2002 by “Weekly World News,” Alice Van der Veer was hung or burned alive by a mob seeking revenge after her father shot and killed one of her suitors.
The article describes Alice as a stunning young beauty who was the “most desirable belle” in the Mohawk Valley. Her mean spirited father notoriously turned down every man who came to pursue his daughter. Yet, one determined lovestruck man arranged to secretly meet Alice near the banks of the Mohawk River. The young lovers continued to sneak away each night to see one another, until Alice’s father grew increasingly suspicious.
One night, Alice’s father followed her, and he shot her lover in outrage when he saw them together.
Since the young suitor had bragged to his friends about his conquest for Alice’s affection, it did not take long for them to realize who was responsible for this tragic death.
A group of townspeople gathered to seek revenge on Alice’s father. Once they captured him, they supposedly dragged him to the area that is now Jackson’s Garden, where they burned him at the stake.
Yet this mob was still hungry for revenge, and they did not stop there. A disheveled Alice stumbled to the scene where her father was burned alive, and they took her next. The innocent young girl was tied to a tree and they burned her near her father’s corpse.
This tale has haunted Union’s campus, and people have allegedly seen Alice’s ghost roam the gardens. Alice’s spirit is said to walk along the creek on the first full moon after the summer solstice.
Director of Greek Affairs Timothy Dunn and Director of Residential Life Molly MacElroy went searching for Alice’s ghost in the summer of 2008 because the ghost allegedly makes its way from the Stockade to the gardens on the first full moon of summer.
“It was the middle of summer and no one was around. We were bored since this place is a ghost town when school isn’t in session, and this was before downtown Schenectady was lively,” Dunn explains. “We decided to search for Alice’s ghost and waited in the garden for hours, hoping to see her spirit.”
It eventually started to rain, so they fled the site and unfortunately never saw the ghost. While students and faculty have searched for Alice’s ghost for centuries, few have actually been graced with her presence.
If you want to be spooked this Halloween, wander to the gardens and see if you can call upon Alice’s spirit.