It was a chilly evening last Friday, October 16, and the mood the weather set was quite befitting for a ghost tour. With a camera in hand and minimal knowledge of how to operate it, I made my way to the 15th Street entrance of the Rensselaer Union. There I came across a group of students, bundled and huddled against the briskness of the night air and buzzing anticipation for the adventure at hand. More importantly, I came across Maeve McEneny and Paul Nooney, seasoned ghost tour leaders and connoisseurs of legends.
For eight years, this duo has been teaching people about the spirits among us with their Original Albany Ghost Tours, which occur seasonally for Halloween. Having a rather conservative background, I was curious as to how somebody became involved in such a specialized and unconventional occupation. “In my case, it was when I was a child. My father was an Albany historian, and to get me to talk about history, which of course as a child I thought was boring, he would say things like: ‘Didn’t you know this mansion in Albany is haunted?’ and I’d want to know who the ghosts were and I’d start researching the history,” said McEneny. As for Nooney, he is one of RPI’s very own employees working in the Office of the First Year Experience, and is part of the reason ghost tours were even made available for students. “Paul actually works at RPI for his day job, and when RPI found that we do ghost tours, they invited us to come for the RPI 125th to do our first tour here,” continued McEneny.
With lanterns in hand, the pair led the group of students across from the modern portion of the school towards the more historic, a symbolic travel through time. True to their roots, the expedition was led in the fashion of a historic tour, with McEneny and Nooney switching off, providing the listeners with historical information about the school. Some of this historical information was rather well-known, such as the story of Russell Sage and his wife, Olivia. This recognizable tale goes that Mr. Sage was a millionaire who made his way in the world without the aid of higher education, and was believed to have despised it. He was also known to be a misogynistic man. Thus it was ironic when his wife established foundations for higher education, one for women, in his name. But along with the well-known, our tour guides mentioned spooky stories that they themselves learned weeks before, such as an ominous voicemail recording that had a garbled voice, pleading phrases, such as “I love you,” sent to them by a member of the Humanities and Social Sciences school. This voice is believed to be the voice of either a female worker who died in the Sage building years ago, or even Olivia Sage herself.
Along the way between buildings and between stories, there were individuals interestingly dressed: one as a monk, another as a zombie, and a few as deranged RPI students. Their presence, although purely for scare value, was a nice touch put on by a few members of the RPI players and Sheer Idiocy that placed a sinister vibe on the campus.
This ghost tour, entitled Spirits of Rensselaer, was both historically enriching and spooky. When asked if they would return next year to lead the tour during the Halloween season, McEneny responded with “We will go anywhere we are invited.” If you haven’t gotten a chance to experience the tour for yourself, they are available Friday and Saturday nights, at 6 and 9 pm.