Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Macabre Story for Halloween

This is a true story. The events took place in the past year, and the mystery was solved only in recent weeks. This curious tale was told to Gossips by the proprietor of a Hudson B&B, who is the author of the account that follows.

The Secret in the Crypt

For More Than Seventy Years a Mausoleum in the Hudson City Cemetery Held a Secret. Unsuspecting Family Descendants Would Make the Shocking Discovery.  

In 1910, Dr. George W. Rossman of Ancram had a mausoleum constructed in the Hudson City Cemetery. Dr. Rossman was a prominent physician in the area, highly respected and civic minded. He began the practice of medicine and surgery in 1867, and he continued successfully for thirty years. He was one of the early members of the Columbia County Medical Society, served for a time as its president, and was often a delegate to the New York State Medical Society, of which he became a member. His final resting place would be a magnificent mausoleum. Constructed of Quincy granite, from Quincy, Massachusetts, it was designed by J. L. Miller, a foremost designer of elegant burial monuments and crypts befitting his wealthy clientele.

According to the Hudson Register, on August 31, 1910, the Rossman mausoleum was nearing completion.
While simple in design, it presents a very artistic exterior, being of Quincy granite, partially polished, the rest hammered. The interior walls are of white polished marble, with a ceiling of Quincy granite. It contains four crypts. The front contains pilasters and in the pediment there appears the name Rossman in polished black lettering in a panel. Between the pilasters there are polished panels. Surmounting the gable roof is a granite sphere weighing about 600 pounds. The roof is one piece of stone, and weighs in the neighborhood of seven tons. The door is of bronze.
At the time of construction, Dr. Rossman's mausoleum cost $7,500.

Dr. Rossman had married Frances N. Green, daughter of John Green and Elizabeth Northrop Green, in 1870. Their only child, Clark, would, like his father, become a renowned and respected physician with a practice in Hudson.

Frances Rossman died in August 1931, and Dr. George Rossman died six months later, at the age of 91. They were interred in their palatial crypt built twenty years earlier. For reasons unknown, their son, Dr. Clark Rossman, and his wife, Florence Hoysradt Rossman, would be buried in the Hoysradt family plot, leaving two vaults in the grand mausoleum unoccupied.

It appears that once the mausoleum was closed up in 1932, after Dr. George's interment, it was never opened again.

In April 2013, Rossman descendants from Colorado came to Hudson to pursue genealogical research. With the assistance of a member of the Hudson chapter of the D.A.R., they were taken to a Philmont cemetery to visit Rossman graves there. They then continued to the Hudson City Cemetery on their own.

The cemetery attendant that day handed them the key to the Rossman mausoleum. Excited that they would be able to access the mausoleum, they hurried over. By their account, they could tell when putting the key in the lock that it had not been entered for many decades. The interior was of white marble, with four vaults straight ahead. Two vaults contained Dr. George and his wife, Frances; the other two were empty.

Much to their horror, on the floor in front of them, was a decrepit and collapsed wooden trunk with skeletal remains spilling out!

Shocked, confused, and downright befuddled by what they had found, the descendants told no one of their discovery and went back home to Colorado. After giving it very careful thought, they decided something was amiss and alerted the Hudson police. The police investigation proved inconclusive. Official cemetery records indicated that two individuals are interred in the crypt. However, it could not readily be determined if the remains were one of the two bodies that were supposed to be there.

The Rossman descendants came back to Hudson in September. During this visit they shared the story of their discovery with the innkeeper at the bed & breakfast where they were staying. Feeling defeated and brushed off by the authorities, they told their host to do with the information as he pleased, and they headed home once again to Colorado.

Who was the unidentified person in the trunk? How did the person die? Why was he or she left in that particular mausoleum? Who placed the body there and when? Was this a chilling find that could lead to closing the file on a decades-old Hudson cold case?

It turns out that the trunk is in fact full of human skeletal remains, but it appears that this was a skeleton that Dr. Rossman used in his practice as a reference source.

The innkeeper was given access to the mausoleum with authorized cemetery supervision. Looking closely, he was able to determine that the bones had tiny drill holes and some were still held together by wire and chord, conjuring up the image a full skeleton displayed in a doctor's office or laboratory. The bones were probably placed in the trunk after Dr. Rossman, or perhaps his son, retired from practice. The bones could have found their way into the Rossman mausoleum with good intention. Perhaps it was an earlier Rossman descendant who, faced with the dilemma of what to do with them when the Rossman estates were dissolved, decided that putting them with the good doctor in the mausoleum was best.    

The decision to keep them with the doctor appears to have been done with care and with dignity for all concerned. The donors of such specimens were usually indigents, paupers, or John Does, so to have such an elegant mausoleum as a final resting place seems deserved after making a positive contribution to medicine.

Now Dr. Rossman, his specimen bones, and all the curious who have been involved with this story as it unfolded can rest in peace.


  1. What an interesting story, and such a poignant ending. So much fascinating history in Hudson. Thanks for this article.

  2. Very cool story. One part is troubling:

    "The police investigation proved inconclusive."

    Is this part true?

    1. It's all true. The B&B owner who tells the story FOILed the police report and shared with me the information it contained. It was "inconclusive," the word he chose to describe it, because the report did not explain whose bones they were or what they were doing in that mausoleum. That was surmised when the innkeeper was able to visit the crypt himself.