Skip to comments.Ghosts haunt Passaic County
Posted on 10/31/2007 7:07:55 PM PDT by Coleus
The ghosts that haunt on Halloween are usually put outside with the pumpkins: white sheets with stuffed heads draped across the trees. But real ghosts haunt Passaic County, some residents say. In a house in Little Falls, a baby giggles from inside the walls. In Wayne, a widow looks out the window over her husband's grave, though both have been dead since the 19th century. In Paterson, a murdered man moved in with a family until it was "his time to go." A third of Americans believe in ghosts, according to a recent Associated Press-Ipsos poll. And 23 percent of those polled believe they have seen a ghost or been in the presence of an apparition.
Colin O'Keeffe, 32, a landscaper from Little Falls, is one of them. He and his wife, Meghan, 22, were so spooked by the noises they heard in the house they were renting beside the Passaic River that the couple moved out in July. The O'Keeffes said the trouble started after the floods caused by April's nor'easter, when a FEMA employee came to take photographs of the damage to the lawnmowers Colin O'Keeffe stored in a crawl space under the house.
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Meghan O'Keeffe went to Atlantic City over the Fourth of July weekend, and her husband was home alone. "I heard a lady and a guy conversing, real soft, like pillow talk," Colin O'Keeffe said. But when he checked the house and outside to see if someone was there, he found no one. He called his wife, who urged him to call the police. But Colin O'Keeffe refused: "They're going to think I'm crazy," he told his wife.
From there things got spookier. Meghan O'Keeffe returned and heard the same noises as her husband. There was knocking from inside the wall. Colin O'Keeffe, who said his Puerto Rican grandmother had handed down a belief in "good spirits," finally knocked back. "Are you OK?" he asked whoever was inside the wall. Their riverside house had once been a summer cottage for Paterson families. Perhaps someone long ago had drowned there, they thought.
But then Colin O'Keeffe heard a baby giggle, and the sound of someone bouncing a ball, and playing with a child's wooden alphabet blocks. "We had a son that died seven hours after his birth," said Colin O'Keeffe. "Is that you, baby Justin?" he asked. "Hey, daddy," he heard back. Meghan O'Keeffe heard a piano playing, and a woman singing coming from another room. "I'm like, OK, we're out of here," she said in a recent interview. Within a few days, they were packed and moved.
Observers seen as crazy
O'Keeffe's landlord asked him if he was mentally stable, to which he asserted, "I know I am," adding that he's been sober for three years. They're not sure how to make sense of the supernatural experience, but they know what they heard. "In Western culture, we tend to view people who claim to see ghosts as either childlike or mad," said Marlene Goldman, an English professor at the University of TorontoScarborough, who has studied ghosts and ghost stories in literature. "But this is simply not the case in other parts of the world, where dialogue with one's ancestors and a belief in ghosts is a legitimate and valuable facet of cultural practice," she said.
For people who have "faced the pain of sudden loss ... ghosts allow us to project our fears and desires," Goldman argues. In other cases, they "serve to maintain a link with the past." "There are many reasons why people would experience this type of haunting, including a sense of guilt and, equally, a sense, often unconscious, of having to ensure that justice is done in the face of some buried, yet 'undead' injustice perpetrated in the past," Goldman said in an e-mail. In Shakespeare's "Hamlet," a ghost returns to ensure that his murderer is punished, while in Toni Morrison's novel "Beloved," the appearance of the ghost of a murdered child "is both consoling and horrific because it serves as a reminder of the uncanny, traumatic and enduring legacy of slavery," she said.
Researching the paranormal
For those who are more interested in proving the existence of a ghost than in interpreting the meaning of its appearance, there is Mark Johnson, founder and lead researcher of North Jersey Paranormal Research. The volunteer group investigates ghosts, hauntings and other "paranormal phenomena" throughout the tri-state area. "There's no sure-fire way to detect a ghost," said Johnson, but the group does measure electro-magnetic fields, and uses audio, video and still photography to detect unusual sounds or images. Their Web site, www.nnjpr.com, contains photographs of light orbs and recordings of "EVP," or electronic voice phenomena, which capture sounds that can't be heard during recording in a room but appear when the recording is played back. New Jersey is "fortunate in that we have a longer history of settlement here, with indigenous cultures and then settlers," said Johnson, who notes that most ghosts are people who have died fairly recently, although some may stick around for as long as a couple of hundred years.
"Eventually they all move on," Johnson said.
That's what happened in the tale Vincent Marchese, 54, of Paterson, and his father, Frank, 92, heard passed down from Frank's mother, Emilia, who was living on Passaic Street in Paterson in the years after 1910. Emilia's story about a ghost that appeared to her friend never changed in all the years she told it, Vincent Marchese said. 'Not my time yet' "At that time most of it was Italian immigrants, and this young fellow was shot and killed in the street," said Frank Marchese. A few days later, the woman heard her name being called from the back of the house, but no one was there. That night an apparition walked toward her, the ghost of the young man who'd been shot and murdered. "He said, 'It's not my time yet, I need a place to stay,'" Frank Marchese recounted. "What could the woman say? You can't close a ghost out of the house. She felt the only thing to do was to accept the ghost as part of the family."
A few years passed, and one night the ghost came to her and told her, "My time has come, I have to leave you." In thanks for her hospitality, he directed her to visit the Paterson "car barn," now the bus terminal, late at night, and to bring three dimes, which she would throw on the ground there. Three coffins would sprout up, and if she kissed all three, she would find two dead bodies but a coffin full of money in the third, Marchese said. On the appointed night, the woman went to the car barn and threw the dimes, but when the coffins appeared, she lost her nerve and could not bring herself to kiss them. At home, the ghost lamented that she could have been rich and then left the house for good. "A lot of these old-time Italians took for granted that there were spirits or ghosts," said Vincent Marchese, a photographer. For him, growing up with such stories "added another dimension and richness to your life. It added a creative side to your living and made you open to possibilities."
Tales that give goose bumps
Manny Nieves, 46, of Paterson, recalled encountering older ghosts near Laurel Grove Cemetery in Totowa on a nighttime drive 25 years ago. He still gets goose bumps when he tells the tale, now a family favorite. Nieves and three friends took Riverview Drive, between the cemetery and the Passaic River in the summer of 1982, primed to see the ghosts they'd heard about from a high school teacher. Suddenly, three boys appeared before them on the road, dressed, Nieves said, "like Huckleberry Finn." "All three of them had straw hats," and wore shirts with suspenders, and dark jeans rolled up at the calf, he said. All were barefoot and carrying branches. The boys approached the car and began knocking at the windows, said Nieves, who broke into prayer and yelled at the driver "They're ghosts! They're ghosts!" "We just sped off," Nieves said. "All four of us were scared."
Sometimes a ghost story makes for a good tale, whether you believe it or not. At the Schuyler-Colfax House Museum on Hamburg Turnpike in Wayne, the ghost of Hester Schuyler reportedly stands by the window of her former bedroom, with its floral wallpaper and wide floorboards, looking toward the grave of her husband, Gen. William Colfax, a personal bodyguard to Gen. George Washington, who predeceased her. Colfax was buried at the family gravesite, behind a Dunkin' Donuts that is now up the road. The ghost has been spotted only by women, said Robert Monacelli, chairman of the Wayne Historical Commission. "She does not appear as a full-bodied apparition," he said. "She is a presence, is what we've been told by the people who have experienced this. The first thing they experience is the smell of wisteria, wisteria being Hester's favorite fragrance. "More than a ghost story, this is a love story if you think about it, because she's watching over the grave of her Billy." But he is open to the possibility that the ghost wanders the house, Monacelli said. "She's been seen."
Leonia, Oradell theaters' invisible guests
Some of the liveliest actors at two local theaters, the Players Guild of Leonia and the Bergen County Players in Oradell, may be ... ghosts. They laugh. They talk. They clomp up and down stairs. They turn the lights on and off. And sometimes, according to members of both theater groups, they reach out and touch you. "I can feel the ghost walking through me," says J. Edmund Fond, 39, of Secaucus, who acts with the Players Guild. "I felt this friendly little tap on my shoulder," recalls Eileen Deutsch, 54, of Hawthorne, a member of the Bergen County Players for 10 years. "I turned around, and there was no one anywhere near me."
Haunted theaters are an old story.
Long before "The Phantom of the Opera" popularized the theme, Broadway managers were known to keep a single light bulb -- the "ghost light" -- illuminated onstage at all times to chase away spooks. But ghostly tales involving these two Bergen County community theaters have been so persistent -- and go back so many years -- that they cried out for investigation. Preferably on a stormy Friday, close to Halloween.
|Players Guild of Leonia
Structure built: 1859.
Ghostly manifestations: voices, weeping, lights going on and off, mysterious crashes with no source.
Possible ghosts: Civil War captain, little girl with curly dark hair.
On the Web: leoniaplayers.org.
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Bergen County Players
Structure built: 1879.
Ghostly manifestations: footsteps, self-shifting objects, touch of a ghostly hand.
Possible ghosts: lady in blue, fearful little girl upstairs, man whose last name begins with a D.
On the Web: bcplayers.org.
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That's when Wayne-based paranormal investigation group Vestigia set up shop. "OK -- there's something here," says Vestigia's consultant Karlene Matthes, halting about four steps from the top of the stairs leading to the Players Guild costume shop. "There is crying," says Matthes, 46, brought in from Alexandria, Va. "It's a woman. There's a lot of crying going on here, sniffling, tears. Even a little moaning type thing going on." Matthes is the "sensitive" -- not psychic, thank you -- tapped by Vestigia to investigate the two theaters where at least three generations of actors have sworn that something is going on.
Both theaters are old -- and eminently suitable for haunting.
The Bergen County Players do business in an old firehouse, dating back to 1879. The Players Guild is housed in an 1859 Civil War drill hall. Tradition has it that the ghost who haunts the Leonia theater is Capt. John H. Margerum, Company G, 22nd Regiment, N.J. Volunteer Infantry -- whose bewhiskered portrait hangs in the lobby. Could be, Matthes says. "I'm not picking him up active right now," says Matthes, putting thumb and middle finger together into a kind of otherworldly antenna, to better catch signals from beyond. "But I wouldn't doubt if he were active at other times," she adds.
Picking up clues
Flanking Matthes as she surveys the theater corridors is Vestigia member Janet Kroenke, 58, of Westwood, holding a TriField meter to measure minute fluctuations in the electromagnetic field, and Vestigia co-founder John Berkenbush, 64, of Wayne, manning a video camera -- in case there's any ghost activity. "I'm picking up a man's name like Grady or Grayson," Matthes says as she comes down the guild stairs. "Something like that." TV viewers have seen teams like this in "reality" shows such as Sci Fi Channel's "Ghost Hunters." But Vestigia, founded in 1975 (the name refers to "vestiges" of humanity, aka ghosts), is a group that has done hundreds of painstaking investigations, from the Gettysburg battle site to private homes in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. The TV ghost hunters, Berkenbush says, are mostly hotshots with lots of high-tech bells and whistles but small credibility.
"They have equipment they're not familiar with, but, when they use it, it's very spectacular, very showy," Berkenbush says. Trooping behind the ghost-hunting team are anxious guild actors, directors and executives. All of them are looking for answers -- because all have had firsthand experiences of it. "I walked into the foyer and thought, there's people rehearsing inside," recalls longtime guild member Ceil Boris, 62, of Bogota. "I heard voices, quite a few people, talking, laughing. When I opened the door, the theater was completely dark." A man's voice called "Wait!" to past President Annette Lenge, 61, of Guttenberg.
Then there was the time the lights kept popping back on as quickly as theater co-President Dori Persson, 46, of Leonia could turn them off. "We had an electrician come in and check everything, and while he was here, the lights went on [by themselves]," Persson says. "He goes, 'I can't explain it. I don't know. It's nothing I've ever seen.' " After gathering impressions for 90 minutes, Matthes offers a preliminary report. Yes -- the Players Guild of Leonia is haunted.
Among the entities on the premises: a playful little girl with dark curly hair just outside the building, a weeping woman on the stairs, and a man associated with the letter G who may or may not be Capt. John H. Margerum, of Company G. She has other impressions as well: of illness (the place may have been used as a hospital at one point, she says), of a traumatic fire across the street, of interpersonal conflict in the basement. And then there's that inexplicable "cold spot" backstage. "There are a lot of secrets in this place," Matthes says. It's a banner day for these Vestigia members -- their second bona fide haunting in eight hours.
Bergen County Players, which they explored earlier in the day, is also haunted. Very. "Oh, my God, what happened up there?" says Kroenke, taking note of the ghostly pressure drop -- a telltale sign of ectoplasmic activity -- in the upstairs BCP costume room. For years, folks at BCP have been telling stories of mysterious footsteps, objects that seemingly shifted themselves and equipment that turned itself on, unaided. "It had been dark onstage," says life member Marci Weinstein, 54, of Hackensack, recalling one incident. "When I came upstairs, the stage was lit -- and there was nobody else in the theater."
By the time Matthes and her team got to the upper rooms where the costumes and playbooks are kept, they had logged a bumper crop of spirits. There was a woman in blue, 60-ish, her hair pulled back, pacing the vestibule. There was a man buried in back -- last name D. "Dylan, Dempsey, something like that," Matthes says. "First name Bart, Barnum, Bartholomew, with a B." There seemed to be, disturbingly, an 18- or 19-year-old woman who hanged herself onstage. "The woman feels she can't take it anymore and this is her only way out," Matthes pronounces. And upstairs, in the costume room, there was fear. Lots of it. "Somebody's afraid," Matthes says. "A young girl. Cathy or Cassandra. Almost like they're hiding out." Not all of these manifestations, Matthes points out, are necessarily ghosts.
There's also something called "residual energy" -- an incident with strong emotional associations that replays itself endlessly in a kind of tape loop. And a theater -- a place where strong emotions are enacted every night onstage -- is just the place for such a thing. "It's like somebody wearing heavy perfume and then leaving the room, but you still smell the perfume," Matthes says. Suddenly, one of the BCP actors, Eileen Deutsch, remembers something. As part of a play she appeared in called "Accomplice," in 1992, an actor named Wayne Markover was bound and suspended onstage -- with a noose around his neck, she now recalls. And the spot was exactly where Matthes had sensed a hanged person. "That's right where it was," Deutsch says. "In a word -- wooooo," she adds.
Totowa cemeteries hold 100,000
What do a TV actor, the inventor of the modern submarine, a priest who died in the Sept. 11 attacks and a couple of congressmen have in common? They are among the more than 100,000 people buried in the borough's cemeteries.nAlthough Totowa has about 10,000 residents, more than 10 times that number are buried in its five eternal resting places -- the maximum number of cemeteries allowed under state law.
Laurel Grove, Holy Sepulchre, Mt. Nebo, Stein-Joelson and A.M. White cemeteries are all in Totowa. Two were already in place when the borough was founded in 1898. Several Paterson businessmen bought farmland outside the city limits in the 1870s to create Laurel Grove, the largest of the five. John Y. Culver, the landscape engineer and superintendent of Prospect Park in Brooklyn, designed Laurel Grove's more than 200 acres. The cemetery's first burial occurred on June 22, 1888, according to the book "History and Highlights of the Borough of Totowa 189898."
Cemetery officials conduct about 1,800 funerals there each year, according to the borough's history book. Two congressmen, Robert G. Bremner (18741914) and Gordon Canfield (18981972), have been buried there. Laurel Grove also serves as the final resting place for borough native John Spencer, best known for his work on "The West Wing" TV show. Spencer died in 2005.
Sights & Sounds:
More Halloween video, photos and links
Holy Sepulchre's 88 acres were deeded to St. John's Cathedral in Paterson in 1864, said Tom Stanford, its manager. The graveyard is so old that no one knows exactly how many people are buried there, Stanford said. "We have (memorial) cards for people who died at 37, and it reads that they died of old age," he said, "That's how far back this cemetery goes." But several notable figures have been buried at Holy Sepulchre in more recent times.
John P. Holland, credited with inventing and launching a submarine into the Passaic River in May 1877, according to the library Web site in his native County Clare, Ireland, is also buried at Holy Sepulchre. He died in 1914. Also laid to rest at Holy Sepulchre were Daniel Duva, a boxing promoter who worked with Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield and Sugar Ray Leonard; and Dave Prater, half of the 1960s R&B group Sam & Dave. Franciscan priests are buried in a special section at Holy Sepulchre, a Roman Catholic cemetery, marked with a large statue of the cross. One of its best-known internees is the Rev. Mychal Judge, a firefighter chaplain killed at Ground Zero on Sept. 11, 2001, while delivering the last rites to a fallen firefighter.
Also buried there is the Rev. Father Leo Heinrichs, a Prussian friar who was the assistant priest and director of St. Bonaventure's Church in Paterson. Heinrichs was transferred to St. Elizabeth's parish in Denver, Colo., where on Feb. 23, 1908, a crazed gunman burst into the church and shot Heinrichs to death. The killer, identified as an anarchist named Joseph Alia, later said he killed Heinrichs because he hated the Christian clergy.
For borough residents, these cemeteries have been more than a place to bury the dead. Joan Titus, a Totowa native and president of the borough's Happy Seniors club, recalled playing there as a child. "We had a lot of fun. There used to be a little pond there where we used to go ice skating when it was real cold," she said Tuesday. "Now, it's just full of geese."
|10 things you don't know about candy
1) The Arabs are often credited with inventing caramel. But an early use of the hot, sticky substance was not so sweet: Women in harems applied it as a hair remover.
2) Most Americans knew nothing about chocolate in 1893, when the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago featured a display of chocolate-making equipment from Germany. Among the fairgoers was Milton Hershey, who bought every piece of equipment on display and went into the chocolate business.
3) Early American chocolate-makers often touted their products' nutritional value. During the Depression, candy bars had such names as Chicken Dinner, Idaho Spud and Big Eats. The Hershey's chocolate wrapper once carried the slogan "More sustaining than meat."
4) The Chicago area has been at the center of the U.S. candy industry, producing such treats as Tootsie Rolls, Atomic Fireballs, Lemonheads, Baby Ruths, Butterfingers, Milk Duds, Milky Ways, 3 Musketeers, Snickers, Oh Henry! bars, Frango Mints, Cracker Jack, Turtles, Doves, Jelly Bellies and Pixies. Candy historian Tim Richardson credits Chicago candymakers with popularizing the tradition of giving sweets to trick-or-treaters.
5) The Baby Ruth candy bar debuted in 1921, and even today the origin of the name remains in dispute. The Chicago-based Curtiss Candy Co. insisted that it named the bar after President Grover Cleveland's daughter Ruth. But some historians find it odd that a company would name a new candy after a girl who had died 17 years earlier. They also find it mighty suspicious that the candy's name was similar to that of baseball star Babe Ruth, who never collected royalties and was prevented from selling his own Babe Ruth Home Run Bar because of a Curtiss lawsuit.
6) When the Mars candy company marketed Snickers in Britain, it changed the name to Marathon to avoid any jokes about Snickers rhyming with knickers. (Many years later, Mars renamed Marathon as Snickers.)
7) Producers of the film "E.T." wanted to use M&Ms as the candy that lured the extraterrestrial from hiding. But when Mars said no, Hershey jumped at the chance to showcase Reese's Pieces instead. Sales soared.
8) Cotton candy is known as "candy floss" in Britain and "fairy floss" in Australia.
9) The rock band Van Halen had a contract clause requiring a bowl of M&Ms backstage at its concerts -- but all of the brown M&Ms had to be removed. The clause is sometimes cited as an example of ridiculous rock-star demands, but it made practical sense, singer David Lee Roth has written. If a concert venue got the M&Ms wrong, it was a red flag that promoters hadn't read the contract closely and were likely to mess up on other, more important details.
10) The National Confectioners Association says 90 percent of parents admit sneaking Halloween goodies out of their kids' treat-or-treat bags.
Sources: "The Emperors of Chocolate," by Joel Glenn Brenner; "Candy: The Sweet History," by Beth Kimmerle; "Sweets: A History of Candy," by Tim Richardson; candyusa.org; snopes.com.
"Those who celebrate Halloween are worshiping a culture of death that is the product of a mix of pagan customs," the Archdiocese of Mexico published in an article on its Web site Monday. "The worst thing is that this celebration has been identified with neo-pagans, Satanism and occult worship." The archdiocese urged parents not to let their children wear Halloween costumes or go trick-or-treating -- instead suggesting Sunday school classes to "teach them the negative things about Halloween," costume parties where children can dress up as Biblical characters, and candy bags complete with instructions to give friends a piece while telling them "God loves you."
The church suggested holding these activities on Nov. 1 -- the Catholic All Saints' Day -- but didn't endorse the Day of the Dead, a traditional Mexican holiday that also appears to have pagan roots. Pre-Hispanic cultures celebrated a similar holiday in August, but after the Spanish conquest, historians say, the date was changed to Nov. 1 to coincide with the Catholic holiday.
That was all so cool. Thanks & happy halloween. ~Pandora~
I had a number of spanish speaking people call me a devil worshipper tonight.
They all came to our neighborhood in Latino Transport Service vehicles.
I usually don’t let on that I understand what is being said when spanish is spoken in front of me. It is amazing how so many can just assume that no one understands spanish.
Because you were celebrating Halloween? Or was it the costume?
Ghost Ping!!! Thanks again to lowbridge for finding this one...
I didn’t know the people in North and Central Jersey enjoyed ghost tales so much. I thought that was just a Piney thing, down here in South Jersey. ;-)
I think of you every Halloween. Thanks for keeping up with the ping list.
Oh cool...i am watching ghost hunters live right now on SciFi and it is very interesting.
Spooky stories bump.
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