Religion and Belief

Good Spirits

It was late at night, and the ICU’s waiting
room looked dark and shadowy. On cots,
chairs, and couches slept other patients’
family members. One kind nurse handed
me two sheets; another gave me a list of
nearby restaurants. Someone who had
been resting in one of the chairs helped
me transform a small couch into a bed.

Good Spirits

Studying the dangerous water spirits of European folklore makes me think about Niagara Falls, New York’s most famous waterfall. How much, if at all, do water spirits matter there? If we look at descriptions of the Falls in tourist brochures and online, we find legends of sudden death, with emphasis on Native American folklore. There are, of course, mentions of various people who foolishly went over the Falls in barrels and other doomed receptacles, but the most dramatic legends tell of Native American struggle and sacrifice.


In January 1909, Max Schwartz, a Jewish immigrant from Russia, brought his family to Livingston Manor. He opened a butcher shop on Main Street,and his family thus became Livingston Manor’s first Jewish residents. In April of that same year, my grandparents, Mottel and Manya Sorkin, along with their infant daughter Leya, also settled in the village and opened a tailor shop. Other families soon followed. Livingston Manor was now on the way to becoming a multiethnic community, but not without some bumps in the road.

Spirit Dolls (Muñequitas) in New York Puerto Rican Homes:

Forms, functions, and meanings of altars in Puerto Rican homes on the island or the US mainland are already well documented in association with Espiritismo and Santería, two forms of Caribbean religious belief and practice. Ethnographic descriptions of the roles that dolls play within these contexts of belief are less common. In the New York Puerto Rican homes in which I was welcomed between 2004 and 2007, as a participant observer in Puerto Rican Espiritismo, altars decorated with flowers, food, water offerings, and statues of the saints co-existed with mesitas and other doll displays. Mesitas are little tables, set with offerings for the dolls who sit beside them.

Good Spirits

Upstate and downstate, New Yorkers can
find bars with reputations for being haunted.
New York City has more haunted bars than
any other metropolis, but there are haunted
bars all over the state. Something about bars
invites ghost stories, especially when the bar
is in an old building. When people drink and
hear stories about the dead, strange things
may happen.

The Holocaust, the Catskills, and the Creative Loss of Power

The American and immigrant Jews,
who had made the many hotels, bungalow
colonies, and farms of Ulster and Sullivan
counties their summer retreats year after
year, were always looking for family, for
landsmanshaftn (society of immigrants from the same town or region), for a home away
from home. As a second home to generations
of Jews, the Catskill Mountains became
a place where a Jewish family could
bond as a Jewish family—that is, they could practice the culture of Judaism without the
pressure to assimilate.

Good Spirits

The author travels to Machu Picchu in Peru to experience adventure and mountain magic.

Good Spirits

Some Binghamton legends describe ghosts who struggle to reach their lost loved ones…. we think about connections between the past and the present, and bonds between the living and the dead. The column describes notes that Rod Serling’s ghost is said to haunt a carousel in his hometown of Binghamton.