Weird NY: The Haunting Loyalty of the Ghost Dog of Kaaterskill Falls
Amid the beauty of the one of the most celebrated waterfalls of New York, just 2 hours from Utica, visitors can sometimes hear the forlorn bark of a ghost dog, whose howl symbolizes the loyalty of our canine companions.
Kaaterskill Falls is one of the most beautiful falls in the Catskills of New York. In fact, Thomas Cole - who has paintings in Utica's Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute - painted the falls, giving rise to the Hudson River School of art.
The falls, which are 260 feet high, are divided into two segments that crash into the pool and rocks below.
The legend of The Ghost Dog of Kaaterskill Falls tells the story of a faithful dog, Vite, who leapt from the top of the falls to reach his master below, meeting his untimely end.
In the "Walks in the Catskills" guidebook by John Bennet and Seth Masia, the 1868 accident is described as follows: "Vite, who was exceptionally smart, had been trained to jump high in the air whenever his master whistled a command. One afternoon while the two of them were standing at the precipice, taking in the view, the master absent-mindedly began to whistle .... Afterword, he was so heartbroken by his pet's loyalty and obedience that he had a Catskill stone cutter engrave a stone in Vite's memory."
The engraving reads:
To the Memory of VITE, the Bayard of Dogs, Sans Peur et Sans Reproche.
Killed June 19, 1868, by Leaping from the Platform Above the Falls to the Rocks Beneath.
This Epitaph is Inscribed to His Memory by His Friends
J.S.McK. - W.E.P. - J.K.M.
*The epitaph here refers to Pierre Terrail, a 16th-Century French soldier, also called the Chevalier de Bayard, who was regarded as the highest example of chivalry and good character, 'le chevalier sans peur et sans reproche', or “the knight without fear and beyond reproach," according to HudsonValley360.com
You can see a photo of the plaque HERE.
So whether the beloved Vite jumped on command, or leapt to his master - visitors to the falls say they can sometimes hear ghostly barks and howling - and some claim to have seen the apparition of Vite as he takes his final leap from the falls. Some say this happens on June 19th - the anniversary of the accident.
Kaaterskill Falls can be dangerous for humans as well. Six people have died falling from the top of the falls. There are also concerns about trash left by visitors, so if you decide to explore, be sure to carry out what you carry in.