October Mountain State Forest originated from land purchased by William C. Whitney who was Secretary of the Navy under President Grover Cleveland. William C. Whitney began purchasing his property on October Mountain in 1894. Whitney purchased small farms and other parcels of land and would ultimately amass approximately 14,000 acres. It was on this property where Whitney constructed a “cottage” called The Antlers.
The Antlers was a gilded age “cottage” and game preserve on top of October Mountain with 800 acres of fenced in land in which Whitney stocked buffalo, black tailed deer, elk, moose, and angora goats. He also went on to breed pheasants and quail with the aid of his son, Harry Payne Whitney. Additionally, Whitney also stocked trout and bass in the streams and lakes on October Mountain.
In addition to all of the fish and game hunting that occurred on his estate, William C. Whitney also had a tennis court and golf course built on his property. Whitney wanted have a multitude of sporting activities available for his friends and family to be able to partake in. There was a total of 24 houses and 30 barns on the Whitney estate, many of which were made available to Whitney’s staff so that they could maintain the cottage year round. One of the more well known structures built on his October Mountain estate was a small cottage called The Nest. The Nest was built in just 15 days in 1896 and was used to “receive” his son Harry Payne Whitney and his newlywed wife, Gertrude Vanderbilt. A New York Times article from December 3rd, 1899 claims that Whitney actually paid for about half of the taxes for the town of Washington, Massachusetts!
Before his death in 1904, Whitney gave the deer, elk, buffalo, and moose to various zoos. Some of the original herds of animals still remained on the property well into the 1920’s.The Antlers burned down in 1929 while the rest of the buildings had either collapsed or were razed.
October Mountain Myths & Historical Discrepancies
I thought that I would include a couple of stories that are related to the above article.
The Ghost Of Old Man Whitney
One of the most commonly told ghost stories by Berkshire locals is that of the spirit of “old man Whitney” who walks through the woods carrying a lantern with his dog at his side. They say that Whitney died in a fire when his mansion burned to the ground and now haunts the state forest that he helped to create.
Before doing the research, I was really, really hoping that there was some truth behind this tale. Unfortunately there just isn’t. Whitney died in 1904 of appendicitis. The Antlers didn’t burn down until 1929 and no one perished in the fire. It is probable however that people have in fact seen a man walking through the woods at night carrying a lantern and accompanied by a dog. These people didn’t see a ghost though, just a hunter.
Strange Creatures On October Mountain
For decades people have reported seeing strange creatures on October Mountain. Some people have spotted mutated deer while others have claimed to have seen horned “devils” on the shore of Felton Lake at Camp Eagle on October mountain.
There actually may be some truth to this… According to my research, William C. Whitey donated his animals to different zoos prior to his death in 1904. One report claims that Harry Payne Whitney captured all of the animals with the exception of a bull mouse nicknamed Old Bill. Old Bill was poached in 1920 and his head was mounted and now resides in the Berkshire Museum. All other reports however (including a 1910 New York Times article) state that some of the original herds were alleged to have remained on the mountain. If this is true, then people may have actually seen black tailed deer (and not mutant deer) on October Mountain many years after Whitney’s estate burned to the ground. The horned “devils” seen at Camp Eagle could very well have been the angora goats that Whitney had imported.
Help Me Further Develop This Article