Long before munitions magnate Francis Bannerman acquired Pollepel Island as a place to stockpile explosives and other war materiel, the place had a spooky reputation. It’s said that early settlers seeking to hide from the local indigenous people sometimes sought refuge on the island because the Wappingers regarded it as an abode of evil spirits. Washington Irving made it the haunt of a tribe of goblins in one of his short stories, “The Storm-Ship.” Dutch captains allegedly left drunken sailors onshore there to sober up out of fear.
In more recent literature, including mystery, science fiction and fantasy novels, comic books and films, Bannerman’s Castle keeps popping up as well. It seems to be the vaguely described site of Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy in Lev Grossman’s Magicians book trilogy (inspiration for the current SyFy TV series), and the DC Comics Nightwing series places villain Talia al Ghul in the castle, doing creepy human genetic experimentation.
So, it makes perfect sense that the folks at the not-for-profit Bannerman Castle Trust, in their endless quest to schedule programming that will lure new visitors to the island, hit on the idea of a summer screening series heavily tilted toward classic monster movies like The Mummy with Boris Karloff and The Wolfman and The Phantom of the Opera with Lon Chaney. The Island of Lost Souls is based on H. G. Wells’ novel The Island of Dr. Moreau, which is undoubtedly also the source for the Talia al Ghul storyline. Also included in the lineup are a Hitchcock thriller – North by Northwest, which includes a shot of the castle – and some other fare for fans of the alarming and uncanny.
The 2018 Movie Nights on Bannerman Island series, brought to you by the Bannerman Castle Trust in association with Story Screen and Swank Motion Pictures, gets underway this Saturday, June 9 with a showing of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. It returns on Saturday, June 23 with Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (the 1971 Gene Wilder version), picking up again in late July and continuing into September.
The price of the excursion is $40 per show ($35 each if you buy a package of three movies). This includes a cruise to and from the island, departing from the Floating Dock at the Beacon Institute; your choice of a short self-guided tour of the island or Local Legend Lecture when you arrive; and the film screening. Candy, popcorn and other refreshments will be available for purchase. Sailing times vary, presumably depending on when the sky darkens enough to screen a movie outdoors at a particular point in the season; but the evening’s entertainment should fall more or less within the 7-to-10 p.m. window. Visit the Trust’s website at www.bannermancastle.org/2018-events.html for the full schedule, departure times and ticket ordering.
Prefer to explore the island in full daylight, by kayak? Storm King Adventure Tours provides excursions of three to four hours that include kayak equipment rental, a kayaking guide and an island tour with a Bannerman Castle Trust historian. These tours depart on various dates throughout the summer from Cornwall-on-Hudson. Call (845) 534-7800 or visit www.stormkingadventuretours.com.