Madame Sherri Forest's Spooky Staircase

Where better the celebrate Halloween than here?

It's a story with all the elements of a good novel — fame, wealth, tragedy and mystery. And there are ghosts, too.

It starts with a young French woman, Antoinette DeLilas, who left the Paris Cabaret in 1911 for a life in New York theatre. She changed her name to Sherri and opened a costume business — one that supplied the Ziegfeld Follies. She became quite rich. Her husband Andre died young, but Sherri continued to enjoy a lavish life of fashion, theatre and wild New York parties.

With her fortune she built a chateau on a mountainside in Chesterfield, N.H., near Spofford Lake, a popular spot for the jet setters of the day. With her flamboyant style, Madame Sherri provided much fodder for the rumor mill.

A continuous cycle of beautiful women coming and going at the house had locals believing she ran a brothel. There was also talk that she drove around wearing only her fur coat. Over time, Madame's ill health prevented her from keeping up with the property, and she was placed in a Vermont institution and died in 1965 at the age of 84.

On the day she died she sold the property to Ann Stokes. Some say it was an act to preserve her connection to the land that would extend beyond the grave. Today the Society for the Protection of N.H. Forests owns the 500-acre Madame Sherri Forest, which is open to the public.

It's the perfect place to put you in a Halloween mood. The castle ruins — stone archways, chimney, columns and a stone staircase rising from the forest floor — are said to be haunted by the spirit of Madame Sherri. It's easy to imagine her, dressed to the nines, making her grand entrance on the elegant stairs. And then, after a brief flicker, disappearing into the mist that blankets the forest floor.

After you visit what locals call “The Stairway to Heaven,” take a scenic two-mile hike around the Ann Stokes Loop Trail. Here is an opportunity for a real “Haunted Hike,” just in time for Halloween.

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