I am excited to have a guest writer today! The local legends surrounding the mysterious face of a woman showing in a white marking on a granite gravestone in Penn Yan is shared here by Chris Clemens, a local history buff, and friend I almost met at the Willard Tour.
Thank you Chris for sharing this!
Chris Clemens is a Rochester resident born and raised. He is one half of the duo responsible for Exploring Upstate, a blog about visiting unique and historical sites in Upstate New York. For more, you can follow him on Twitter, Instagram and ‘like’ the ETBOD page on Facebook!
Lady In Granite, Penn Yan, NY
Matilda Gillette was born in 1859 and later married her husband Francis, who was 9 years her junior, and they lived happily together in a home in Penn Yan on Garfield Ave. In 1936 Matilda Gillette passed away and was buried in Lakeview Cemetery on West Lake Road in Penn Yan in the family plot. Unfortunately, that’s about the only set of facts that the stories converge on.
Story One: Francis and Matilda were so madly in love that they vowed when one of them passed away, the other would not remarry. When Matilda passed away, Francis waited no time at all and jumped back into the dating pool and married a young woman. Not long after the new romance, locals noticed that on the large, black granite tombstone where Matilda was buried a white spot appeared in the shape of Matilda’s face laying with her head on her pillow facing upward–her appearance indicating that she was none too happy about Francis’ new lovelife. As Francis spent much of his time walking through the cemetery, he became unnerved and had the tombstone replaced with a brand new one, and the same exact spot in the same exact position appeared again. Unfortunately, the kids who toss this story around fail to tell their new ghost story victims that Francis actually died before Matilda in 1929 and is buried is in the same plot.
Story Two: In another version of the story, Francis Gillette was an abusive husband, and when Matilda died, she appeared on the tombstone so that when Francis visited her he would feel haunted by her presence. Again though, he passed away first.
Story Three: In this one, Francis was an unfaithful husband, and Matilda vowed to haunt him in the afterlife for his indiscretions.
Story Four: Francis and Matilda did not get along well as a married couple. While Matilda was on her deathbed, Francis mumbled something about how he couldn’t wait until she was finally dead and he could be rid of her. Upon hearing him say so, Matilda claimed she would haunt him in her afterlife and that he’d never truly be rid of her. But remember, he died first.
Unfortunately, no historian has been able to confirm any of the accounts that refer to the personal life of the Gillettes. The only fact that remains set in stone, is that there is indeed a white form that has appeared on the side of the tombstone.
Though the folklore that surrounds the Gillette plot is intriguing and probably fun for younger children to scare one another with, the only single fact that has been proven by historical account is the fact that the white spot on the side of the black granite tombstone exists. There is no record of the stone being removed or replaced or that Matilda was ever at anytime unhappy with her husband. The white spot and the transition between the two colors all feels identical, the only indication that the spot exists is what you can see with the eye.
Supposedly Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! was so enthralled with the story that they removed the tombstone, and took it to run tests on it, and while they had the original they put another in its place, and the same white spot appeared!!
My friend Chris Dell directed this very cool Youtube video which includes reenactments of the different stories. Watch for Chris Clemens and the Penn Yan Librarian as they discuss the Urban Legends surrounding the Lady in Granite.