Fainting Goat Island InnJun 01, 2021 11:34AM ● By Gayle Morrow
There are some ironies here at the Fainting Goat Island Inn in Nichols, New York. One is that Porkchop, the resident pot bellied pig, lives in what was once a smokehouse. It was her decision—she had other options, but she seems content in this cozy conversion. She also seems to know there is no danger that her home will ever be, uh, put to its original use, at least not while she is in residence.
Then there are the goats. When inn owner Marnie Streit is questioned on whether the goats enjoy the seventeen-acre island that is part of the property, or if she worries about them escaping via the Susquehanna, which flows just beyond the inn’s back yard, she laughs.
“They’re fainting goats, and they’re afraid of water,” she says.
As for the Inn’s alleged spirit residents, Marnie confesses to not being a true believer—or at least she wasn’t at first. But, “stuff has happened that I really can’t explain,” she says with a smile and a shrug. And even though, when she bought this 1850s-era former railroad hotel a dozen-plus years ago, she really had no thoughts of turning it into an inn, let alone one that might be haunted...well, it’s possible, isn’t it, that the inn had its own plans?
Marnie, who grew up on a farm in Pierrepont, New York, way up in St. Lawrence County, has been a physical education teacher at Sayre High School for twenty-one years. One day she was on a Susquehanna float trip, enjoying the water and a few beers, and saw the house as the river carried her past. It was love at first sight. And it was for sale.
“I didn’t think I could afford it,” she says, but “it worked out.” So there she was—“I bought it myself, it was my house.” It wasn’t in great shape, she continues. There were no porches, the ceilings were all dropped, there was a summer kitchen with servants’ quarters above, but she started making changes, working on the renovations and remodels nights after school.
“When I came in the house, I actually kind of saw it done,” she recalls. And she wondered: What am I going to do with this huge place?
“I wanted to share it,” she says.
That desire was the beginning of Fainting Goat Island Inn. The fainting goats would come later, the ghosts were probably already there, but, in the interim, Marnie continued cleaning, painting, and decorating. Ah, yes, the décor—it is gloriously Victorian-ish, with couches and chairs sporting engraved, curling backs and armrests, austere-looking ladies and gentlemen staring out from ornate carved frames (Wait, are the eyes following me?), high headboards and even higher ceilings, sideboards and free-standing cupboards of various shapes and sizes, cozy corners, and an elegant entryway that makes you think high-button shoes and a starched shirtwaist could, perhaps should, be standard attire.
And while an allegedly creepy attic is not strictly a part of the décor, there is one of those, too. The drop-down stairway for it is in the Alpine Room. Each of the five guest rooms, by the way, are named for goat breeds—along with the Alpine there is the Fainting Room, the Angora Room, the Nubian Room, and the Toggenburg Room. On a Friday afternoon, Marnie is welcoming three guests—a mom and two teenaged daughters—who are there for the weekend and, specifically, for a night of ghost hunting, and she explains to them how to pull down the stairs for attic access.
“There are lots of stories with this room, but I’m not telling you anything ahead of time,” she says to the spirit seekers. She tells the ladies that “we do have ghost equipment downstairs.” The guests, however, have brought their own.
The haunted side of the Fainting Goat Island Inn was nothing Marnie or her partner, Bill Gamble, planned or initially thought about promoting. But, as Marnie acknowledges, stuff has happened—to her, to Bill, and to guests—including the sound of footsteps where there are no people, the sound of footsteps on stairs where there are no stairs, furniture moving, disembodied voices, and glimpses of what one might presume are spectral shapes. It is deliciously spooky to think about, and has, Marnie says, “really been kind of fun.” The inn was eventually featured on a program called Hotel Paranormal, and was named by USA Today readers in 2019 as the second most haunted hotel in America.
As for the fainting goats, they arrived several years ago after Marnie’s sister died.
“When my sister passed away, I lost my smile—for probably a good year,” she reflects. At one point she saw a special on television about fainting goats and “I laughed ’til I cried.” (The goats don’t actually faint. They have a genetic mutation that causes them to stiffen up or fall over when they’re startled.) She has since made Buttercup, Bonnie, Clyde, Laverne, and Shirley part of her animal family. Guests at the Fainting Goat Island Inn can commune not only with the ghosts and goats but with Porkchop, ducks, a couple of cats, and four Great Pyrenees who are so, so happy if you’re willing to spend a few minutes or a few hours petting them.
If you happen to be a bride-to-be, or you’re headed in that direction, you might think that this beautiful inn with the eclectic décor, an expansive side yard, and the flower gardens that Marnie swears have had otherworldly help from the much-loved sister, might all combine to make the perfect spot for a shower, a bachelorette party, or a wedding. You might be right. While Marnie admits that “I can do the house, the goats, the gardens, but not weddings,” she is up for letting someone else do the weddings. That’s what’s happening on Halloween, when Fainting Goat Island Inn will host its first nuptials. The bride is planning to wear black.
To make your own arrangements for a stay at Fainting Goat Island Inn, call (607) 972-9849, (607) 414-1013, or visit ;faintinggoatislandinn.com.