Phantoms of the Hudson Valley: The Glorious Estates of a Lost Era
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Phantoms of the Hudson Valley: The Glorious Estates of a Lost Era [Hardcover]

Monica Randall
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 1, 1996
Monica Randall's evocative, sepia-tinted photographs capture the architectural splendor of twenty-six palatial estates that loom as mysterious ruins along the Hudson River. These stately mansions recall the aristocratic luxury of a bygone era, with their turrets and spires, rambling porticos, gleaming columns, and glaring gargoyles. Through her masterful photography and darkroom work, Randall has created some of the restless phantoms she learned about while interviewing the current owners. Pairing the visual spectacle of these ruined mansions with tales of the ghosts that haunt them, Monica Randall celebrates the glamour and mystery of these glorious old estates in this lavish book.

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Editorial Reviews Review

A stunning architectural tour of 28 abandoned estates that loom as mysterious ruins along the Hudson River between New York City and Albany. Many of the now-faded mansions were designed by Stanford White, the premier architect of New York's gilded age, and were owned by such illustrious families as the Vanderbilts, Astors, and Whitneys. The author's evocative, sepia-tinted photos capture the architectural splendor of these once luxurious homes, as well as the ravages of time, from the houses' crumbling turrets and spires, porticos, columns, gargoyles, and weed-choked courtyards and gazebos, to their interior vaulted ceilings, spacious ballrooms, and huge, empty libraries. Paired with ghost stories and legends about the estates, this book is a haunting reminder of a bygone era and lifestyle.


"Captures the haunting atmosphere of great wealth’s trappings gone to seed . . . [Randall] provides entertaining lore along with her pictures." -- The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Books; Reissue edition (August 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879516178
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879516178
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 0.8 x 11.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #250,377 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
69 of 73 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A massive disappointment July 28, 2005
By MartinP
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If ever there was truth in the saying that a book shouldn't be judged by its cover, it's here. The book cover and the sales info might lead you to expect atmospheric photographic impressions of ruined estates on the banks of the Hudson. Well, that is definitely NOT what you are getting. Wyndcliff, seen on the cover picture, is one of only a very few true "phantoms" represented in this book - most of the houses documented are, on the contrary, in excellent repair and often even open to the public. The "phantom" part seems mainly to refer to the ghosts featuring in the accompanying texts (and, indeed, in several of the photographs - transparant ladies in elaborate ballgowns floating down stairways, that kind of thing). The texts as such are illuminating and have a certain charm, but clearly this book wants to be a photobook first and foremost, and in that respect it is massively disappointing. Just type "Wyndcliff" or "Bannerman's Castle" in your browser and the web will turn up many more pictures of these places than are seen in this book, many that are way more atmospheric than those on offer here, and all for free. Haunting impressions do not depend on sepia tones, unsharpness, and fish-eye lenses (Randall's love of the latter is truly worrying...), let alone Photoshopped apparitions. In fact, what this book basically gives you are unclear, artificially "spooked up" images, of houses that are seen to much better advantage in several other books - mostly ones that are far less expensive, too, than this exorbitantly overpriced publication.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mysterious and Melancholy October 2, 2000
Randall's book is a fantastic feast for the eyes with her sepia tone photographs and her well-written, can't-put-it-down narrative. Her clever way of blending the history of the houses with any supernatural happenings kept me turning the pages. In fact, I have read the book once and am re-reading it again with fresh eyes. With each chapter, however, I felt an extreme sadness at the thought of all those magnificent houses gradually disappearing. A must read for a quiet evening.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Welcome book on a rarely treated topic July 11, 2004
This volume is dedicated to a subject that, to this day, continues to be underserved by photographers and writers. The reasons for that aren't close to clear. The compelling images and folklore are there. Anyway, I accept this book -a cynic might say charitably- in a spirit that factors in the scarcity of material on the topic.

I was not convinced by some of the staged-looking "ghost" photos. I didn't think the subject required any such reaching. Without this spook show punching-up, the books images of stately homes, long abandoned and encroached upon by the elements (one completely engulfed, with the waters of the Hudson right up to its foundation) is legitimately the stuff of dreams --or nightmares. But a gaffe or two doesn't come close to destroying the experience. If you want to like the book, I think you will have no trouble doing so.

If you have heard of these ruins, but never seen anything more than perhaps an extended magazine article on them, I feel sure you'll enjoy this book. In my opinion, the photography isn't nearly as bad as another reviewer suggests.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If Only. . . December 27, 2006
I bought this book with much hope and many expectations--having visited soem of the sites personally, I was disappointed in the photographic coverage and the writing. If someone is going to be buy this book in hopes of using it as a reference volume, then pass it by. It serves more as a personal portfolio for Ms. Randall to pose in old costumes, and share some tales in reference to the places she mentions. I found the photos of Wyndcliffe quite compelling, but having photographed it many times now over the last 12 years, I realize what is missing more than anything else.

Don't get me wrong, it's a fine book, for what it is--an amusement for someone not looking for a lot of depth or knowledge on a wonderful subject.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Read!! February 17, 2005
By ojh333
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A very nostalgic and melancholy look at some incredible estates both standing and demolished. The author chose most of her subjects because of interesting "ghost" stories that accompany them. Photographs are eery and of sometimes unimportant things like statutes, but there are beautiful interior and exterior shots as well. This is an enjoyable book preserving some of these homes for posterity, but it's not really meant for anyone interested in architecture. There are no floor plans or detailed descriptions of the architectural elements. This book is just meant to be enjoyed.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Info - Poor Art September 23, 2003
By A Customer
I'm thankful to Ms Randall for providing a well written comprehensive guiebook. Regretfully, her photographic attempts do not match the subject - they are amateurish in the worst sense of the definition. Her technique and taste require a lot of development.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good, but certainly not great. January 14, 2006
Monica Randall is a good writer covering a great subject. I don't need her standing in as a model/ghost in various pictures. The subject is fascinating enough unto itself. Stop with the extra whipped cream on my ecliar!
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Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The book is beautiful, bound with stiches that you can see down the spine when it's opened. The author visited each site to take her haunting photos and to research the history of the house, sometimes able to interview the owners. Her love of the subject is apparent on every page; I read the book in one sitting.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Lost Era Phantoms
Very interesting book. Enjoyed reading it.
Published 7 months ago by Frances V. Fumia
5.0 out of 5 stars Very cool
If you are into the vanishing past of super estates on the east coast, this is a neat book. The author does a bit of ediorialzing, and the photos are all in sepia or black and... Read more
Published on February 13, 2013 by H Malin
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful coffee table book
I bought this as a gift for my son. We both share an interest in old houses. He loved it and it will be a nice keepsake.
Published on December 25, 2012 by Lo Ko
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfull book.
Wonderful and interesting book. Very atmospheric. Dreamy, wish you were there kind of experience. I Think that says it all.
Published on May 18, 2012 by darnit
5.0 out of 5 stars Phantoms Of The Hudson Valley
Loved the book with all the pictures of the old mansions. It was well worth the money! Would love to have more like it on other areas of the US
Published on January 3, 2012 by Vickie Weber
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly extraordinary book
Phantoms of the Hudson Valley: The Glorious Estates of a Lost Era has been out of print for a long time; now this captivating compendium of black-and-white (actually, sepia-tinted)... Read more
Published on August 12, 2010 by Midwest Book Review
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly fascinating!
I read this book avidly, absorbed by the haunting photos and descriptions of manor houses: some that are still existing and others that were doomed for destruction imminently. Read more
Published on August 9, 2008 by Mystery Maven
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