Matt Boire, the sole tour guide for the Greater Adirondack Ghost Tour Company, reaches for his lantern during “Dr. Beaumont’s Tour of Terror,” one of three tours his company puts on every weekend.
PLATTSBURGH — If you listen to Matt Boire, Plattsburgh is full of ghosts.
They frequent downtown as the disembodied products of murder, and they still patrol the property of the old base as soldiers of a bygone, but not forgotten, era.
Boire, who is the sole tour guide for the Greater Adirondack Ghost and Tour Company, loves to tell true stories about the region’s rich history.
The ghosts, he said, just go with the territory.
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For more information on the Greater Adirondack Ghost and Tour Company, or to reserve a spot on a tour, call 645–1577 or visit facebook.com/GhostandTourCo?fref=ts.
“You can’t have one without the other,” Boire said. “Plattsburgh was founded in 1785. Anywhere you have that rich of a history, that depth of time, there always seems to be that other layer that’s left behind.”
Maybe he’s right.
Plattsburgh, it turns out, does have a lot of history, and with it comes an eerie past.
As Boire strolls through downtown with a tour group in tow, wearing a tall stove pipe hat and black, Abraham Lincoln suit, he gestures to buildings and street corners and tells tales of what life in Plattsburgh used to be like.
“I can walk through these streets and visualize what it looked like 100 years ago,” Boire said. “I like to make that connection with people, and let them know what happened right where they’re standing.”
Boire’s delivery is witty and engaging, even as he describes characters like Dr. Beaumont, the famed U.S. Army surgeon who became known as the “Father of Gastric Physiology.”
But Beaumont, whom Beaumont Hall on the Plattsburgh State campus is named after, had a dark side.
During “Dr. Beaumont’s Tour of Terror,” Boire stops at a plaque indicating the former site of Beaumont’s office, and explains in grim detail how the man performed the experiments that gave him so much knowledge on all things gastrointestinal.
Beaumont’s test subject was a man who went to the doctor for help after being accidentally shot in the stomach.
The hole produced by the bullet, called a fistula, provided the perfect window for Beaumont to observe how the human stomach works.
Beaumont’s experiments led to his discovery that digestion is a chemical process, not a mechanical process as previously assumed, but it also led to years of grave discomfort for the fistulated test subject.
Like many of Boire’s stories, the one about the Father of Gastric Physiology contains elements of tragedy, but the real tragedy, Boire said, is that hundreds of people walk by Beaumont’s plaque daily and few even realize it’s there.
“It’s always sad to me when I speak to someone and they don’t have any pride in their community’s history,” Boire said. “Events that changed the course of American history happened right here, where we live, on these streets, where we drive every day. These stories can give them pride in their community that they might not have had before.”
Boire’s interest in the past started with his own family, which has been in the region for eight generations.
“My fifth great-grandfather fought in the Battle of Plattsburgh in 1814,” Boire said. “I can stand where he stood 200 years ago, when he looked down his musket at the British. I get a huge kick out of that, and when I tell people that, they get a kick out of it too. It makes history come alive.”
After touring places like Gettysburg, Pa. and St. Augustine, Florida, Boire began to wonder why Plattsburgh didn’t have similar history-based tours.
So Boire put his affinity for history to work about three years ago when he decided to give ghost tours for Halloween.
“When people hear ‘ghosts,’ their ears perk up,” Boire said. “The ghost tour helps put an interesting and unique spin on these stories. It doesn’t have to be ‘history force-feeding 101.’”
The tours were so successful that he soon began doing them from spring through fall.
He now leads three different tours every weekend—”Ghosts of the Old Post,” “Spectres and Soldiers” and “Dr. Beaumont’s Tour of Terror.”
“Ghosts of the Old Post” encompasses the Plattsburgh Barracks and the Old Post Cemetery, “Spectres and Soldiers” covers the old Roman Catholic burial ground, and “Dr. Beaumont’s Tour of Terror” begins in Trinity Park and travels through most of downtown Plattsburgh.
More tours are always in the works, and existing tours are constantly being modified.