In 1826 the Genesee County Board of Supervisors met in Bethany, NY, to establish an alms house for the poor. But this facility became much more than a shelter for the destitute. It was also an asylum for unwed mothers, widows, orphans, mentally challenged people, the elderly and sometimes even the criminally insane.
The staff did their best to keep unsafe patients away from the general population, but there were many problems. As a result, a solitary-confinement cell was constructed in the building and those who lived there were often referred to as “inmates.”
The spirits of some of these disturbed souls are thought to inhabit the halls of Rolling Hills.
Roy: One tragic story involved an inmate named Roy. Roy suffered from gigantism—a physical deformity that left him with protruding facial features, large hands and feet, and a height of over 7 feet. Roy was the son of a prominent banker, and his physical appearance was an embarrassment to his family. At age 12, Roy was dropped at the Genesee County Home and was left there until his death at age 62. Roy liked opera music and was generally kind. Today his hulking shadow is still witnessed by visitors who report seeing him lurking throughout the building.
Nurse Emmie: Other personalities weren’t as harmless. In the infirmary wing, there was a nurse known for her cruelty. Emmie Altworth, better known as Nurse Emmie, was hated and feared by the staff and inmates. Rumors began circulating that Nurse Emmie was involved in the dark arts and was performing black magic and Satanic rituals.
“Potter’s Field”: Being a poor house, when the inmates died, there was little or no money for a proper burial. Over the decades, thousands were buried in a potter’s field on the property. Most of the graves were unmarked, and the dead still lie below. Today there is a monument in the nearby Genesee County Park that holds a few of the headstones from the facility. Besides the many ghosts, this monument is the only reminder that people died under this roof.