If there is one thing I have learned after doing paranormal investigations for a little more than three years, it is that any place can be haunted. Usually, we associate places where the act of dying physically occured, or for a residual effect, the place where one felt extreme emotion in life and decided to return there and “haunt” it in death. Because of this, I never gave much thought to cemeteries actually being haunted, because, quite frankly, no one ever dies there. They can be very creepy, and walking amongst an area where hundreds or thousands of dead bodies are buried is not really too pleasant, no matter how peaceful the location. However, Rose Hill Cemetery in Matawan, New Jersey, with graves dating back to the early 1700′s has long been rumored to be haunted, with some apparently crazy stuff that goes on—the time of day not seeming to matter. Rumor has it that the cemetery is a hot spot for EVP recordings, ghostly visions, and orbs and ectoplasm appearing in photographs. Now, this description could be for a lot of so-called haunted locations, but because I am always game for an adventure, and have my own posse of friends, students, and hockey players who have recently been diagnosed with the paranormal bug, we decided that yesterday, we would give old Rose Hill a visit to put these legends to the test. Is it really haunted? Well, just keep on reading.
I do not mean to offend anyone by referring to martial-law declared Highlands as “war-torn”, but after returning from the police restricted zone yesterday afternoon during some of our volunteer work, it was the only adjective I could come up with as a few of my students and players gathered around to ask what it was like. Not having the emotional strength to elaborate after witnessing such a horrible sight, all I could say was, “It looked like someone fought a war down there, like the pictures from our WWII class that I showed you last year, of cities leveled, houses torn apart, and families standing out on the street next to a pile of rubble that used to be their furniture and belongings.” The reason why we were able to get down there, was because we had a town resident in our car, as well as a load of supplies, that included cleaning items and pet food. Yes, we cannot forget our furry little friends, because I am happy to report that the humans in the area are being taken care of to the best of our humble abilities, though there truly is not enough that can be done to help them. Originally, we were supposed to drop the stuff off at another church below Route 36, but on the way, the three of us decided it might be more effective to go house to house—and that’s exactly what we did. One person drove up and down the neighborhoods while the rest of us walked alongside, yelling over to anyone we could see about what we had. The people were incredibly grateful, even the ones that did not take anything.
Just when bipartisanship seemed dead in America, President Barack Obama and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie have shown that it is indeed possible to stand in the middle of the aisle to get things done. Being an independent fed up with both parties, I must say I am impressed with the actions of both leaders. Christie may have been too cautious for Hurricane Irene last year, but this year, you will see that he was spot on. I have not been keeping track of all the updates, but every time I heard him speak on the radio when the power was out, it instilled confidence in me that everything would soon be alright, and progress was being made. His bullyish, no-nonsense attitude may be unappealing to some people, but that is exactly what we need in politics, especially in a time of crisis. He is a take-charge man who tells it like it is, and I applaud him for never dancing around the situation. If I ever did reverse my decision to never vote for a major party candidate for president, should Christie run in 2o16, he very well may be the only Republican I would ever consider voting for. He has called all shots, and the the law and order in this state has been maintained as well as it can be given the circumstances. From trying to stop price gouging to signing the order to start rationing gas tomorrow, there is a sense of calm in an area that has seen much disturbance.
Among the many readers of this blog are people who are lucky enough to live in historic cities and towns; Gettysburg and Fredericksburg to name a couple. As for the rest of us, well, we are relegated to living in normal, boring towns, where the history has been swept away by the sands of time…or worse, the plowing of a bulldozer. Most of you know that I live in Hazlet, formerly Raritan Township, if you were to look at an antique map of the area. What annoys me is that there is absolutely no history here (made even more depressing by the fact that nearby towns such as Keyport, Middletown, and Atlantic Highlands are steeped in Revolutionary War and maritime history)—any landmarks or historic sites we had (operative word, had) have been destroyed over time by our own doing.
“Speaking of child abuse, next stop grade school! Where he won’t be allowed to play tag because it encourages victimization. And he won’t be able to play dodgeball because it’s exclusionary and promotes aggression. Standing around is still okay. Standing around is still permitted but it won’t be for long because sooner or later some kid is gonna be standing around and his foot will fall asleep and his parents will sue the school and it will be goodbye [expletive] standing around!”- George Carlin
This past week, I was conducting a Civil War camp for students at a nearby school, the grade-levels ranging from entering fifth grade to entering high school. We took a lightning-tour through all the causes of war, and every major battle, person, and event that I could cram into the fifteen hours we spent together in those five days. Aside from me speaking to them using PowerPoints and showing battle scenes and clips from various movies, we had to pass the time in some other way, one which would be both educational and fun. The only thing that came to mind was dodgeball, a childhood favorite of…well…everyone. It also served as a way to reenact some of the battles we learned about. For Manassas, we split into two groups, North and South of course, and had to just march toward one another, firing off the dodgeballs. They had to stay shoulder to shoulder for two volleys before they were allowed to run around in the general insanity that would ensue in playing such a fun sport. For Fredericksburg, we set up a barricade using a giant gym mat, which one side, playing as the Confederates, had to hide behind while the Union attacked it. On the last day, we explored the trench warfare that developed in Petersburg, by giving barricades to both sides. There was one difference with our game, which we called “War Ball”, and that was if you got hit, you had to lay down like you were killed in battle. There were no sidelines and no catching the ball to make the thrower out. If you were hit anywhere, that was it, though sometimes we made an exception if someone got hit in the arm—they had to play the rest of the match with it behind their back as if it was amputated in a field hospital. Everyone had a blast, including myself, which makes the taboo surrounding this recreational activity all the more ridiculous.
You’re probably wondering what t-shirts, cigars, and chicken all have to do with each other. Well, nothing, actually, except they all involved the last two days of my trip here in the wonderful state of Pennsylvania. In case you missed out on the last two journals, I spent the first two and a half days in Gettysburg, leaving yesterday for Lancaster, before we head back home to an unknown land…oh, never mind, romanticism is dead anyway…back to New Jersey tomorrow. There were a few incidents that occurred, some good, some funny and cute, some stupid, as it usually is. Anyway, below are the final goings-on of my Keystone State adventure. Enjoy!
Haunted History 2011 continues with yet more stories from the Royal Governor’s Mansion and Proprietary House in Perth Amboy. I have just been contacted by Steve, who tells me that a lot has happened just in the past week alone, and since my last article. I have to meet with him for a committee meeting tomorrow night at the House, so hopefully I will have more to report on, and maybe we can hang around for another investigation. I imagine the paranormal activity will only accelerate as we near closer to Halloween and All Soul’s Day, where spiritual energy is at its height.
Identification of a Spirit
You are now all well aware of one of our resident ghosts, a shadow person named Byron. He was first named by a psychic while she was standing at the base of the first floor steps two years ago, the place where he is normally seen, although he tends to drift around when Steve is there. Then, a year later, another psychic, with no connection to the previous one, confirmed that is what his name was. Well, now we have a little bit more information on him that we were able to dig up. One of the house’s owners in the 1800′s, after Governor William Franklin, was Mathias Bruen, a self-made millionaire merchant who chose Perth Amboy, of all places, as his home. It was during his residency that the hotel was added, and the first major restorations were begun. It is also rumored that the first ghost sightings occurred with these changes. We have known for some time now that Bruen, in fact, owned one slave while living at the mansion, and we feared that Byron was him, but it seems that Byron was actually a mulatto servant at the home, amongst many others, and not a slave. He might have even been the head one, but we cannot be sure.
Either way, every bit of information helps, as maybe it will now be possible to communicate with him, other than him just showing up randomly and startling us. There are many people who believe that knowing a spirit’s name gives you power over them, but I believe that does not apply to spirits or ghosts, only demons. We did not want to know his name and background so badly to have control, we just wanted to be able to communicate with him better, and who knows, maybe help him cross over. Jeff also added this bleak assessment regarding Byron, “Maybe he walks up and down the steps all the time because the people he worked for didn’t give him keys to the rooms, and so he wanders up and down because he has no place to go.” This would be an example of what we investigators call a residual effect, in which a menial task from the person’s life continues over and over again in death.
An EVP in the Kitchen
This next recording comes from Tom Gillissie, who was one of our visitors on October 14th, for Bruce Tango’s event. When we allowed people to roam around the house to take pictures and recordings, he was able to capture this. If you listen closely, right after the person he was with says, “Damn”, and right before he himself says, “I think there’s too many people”, you can clearly hear a voice say what sounds like, “I like it. Like it.” This is one of the clearest ones I have ever heard, and as usual, they did not hear it in person, but only after Tom got home and listened to his recordings. It does not sound like a human voice, and actually ends at the same time that Tom began to talk, ruling him out as the cause for the noise. Many times, just general sounds, breathing, or background noises can sound like a voice during the excitement of trying to find an EVP, but this is definitely a voice, and it does sound other worldly.
I sure hope that if indeed the voice did say that he liked something, he was referring to the countless hours of restoration work we have been doing at the house. I know we can’t please all the people all the time, but if we pleased the dead with our painting, that’s good enough for me!
Bottled water is something that many people consider to be a luxury, because why pay for water when you can drink all you want out of the faucet? Then there are Brita filters which supposedly help with the taste of tap water if you live in a state such as New Jersey, where it tastes like dirt all year round. It was not until my family moved to the Garden State from Staten Island in the mid 1990′s did we begin to spend many dollars annually on something that should technically be free for all. Well, if you lived here, you would too. To briefly comment on my experience in New York, I have to say it is the best water on the planet, tap and all. It had a fresh, crisp taste, one that would make my dad, if we ever went back to a mall there, take a drink out of a fountain just to get that old feel back. Tap water in Staten Island is like a lifestyle in itself. I could open up a water bar in Jersey and serve it—it’s just that good. But let’s face it, the tap water here is filled with mold and other pollutants (I feel clean when I step into the shower and dirty when I exit), and Brita uses cancer-causing charcoal in their filters. So unless you want to move to Montana and drink rainwater, it is a lose-lose situation. I can only imagine what would happen if someone in New Jersey drank rainwater on a regular basis—they would probably grow a third arm, sticking out the back of their head.
With those three options null, I gladly shell out X amount of dollars per week on “Spring Water”, as every label, regardless of brand, calls itself. It used to be Poland Spring, but we have now downgraded to Kirkland because it is cheaper. Hey, at least the nutrition facts are identical. In fact, I am actually drinking out of a bottle right now, marveling at the genius who thought of taking something free and created naturally, and spinning it into a business to make a buck. But that is not the point of the story, the real moral is that bottled water keeps changing. If you are a regular consumer, you remember about two years ago when the caps got slightly thinner, to the point where they almost resembled a Necco Wafer. Then, as time passed, the actual bottle itself transformed into a much thinner, much weaker plastic.
When I was little, I used to tie water bottles to the crossbar of my hockey net and shoot them for target practice. It took a lot of force to dent and crumble them, but these new creations can become mis-shaped just by me attaching the string around it. Then you have the actual opening of the case. Usually, I take a knife or open scissor and just slice along just inside the first row of bottles in the shape of a square, all the way around. The plastic on the top can then be pulled off easily, and the bottles are now accessible. But this new plastic was so thin that the knife or scissor began to actually slice open the tops of the bottles, spilling water all over the place. I now have to make sure to do it softer, which I don’t like to do. There is something inside the strength of a man that once he has a knife in his hands, if he has to use it, he actually wants to use it.
But now, there is yet another change that I noticed last month. The bottles, at least in Kirkland anyway, are not neatly aligned in rows, but are patterned so they are indented every other bottle (pictured above). There is also the absence of a cardboard box underneath. It is just 35 bottles shrink-wrapped in plastic, with n0 bottom (and there were actually some ulterior uses for those bottoms). Okay, so missing the cardboard is not what upsets me, it’s the fact that now I can’t even run my knife through the casing, because the bottles are not in straight lines. I have to twist and turn my hand to cut it, or else more bottles will be wasted by getting cut open. I find this inconvenient and cannot help but wonder why they chose to package it this way. The lacking cardboard is an exception: costing about two cents to make, getting rid of it will save millions of dollars in the long run, because you can think about how many hundreds of millions of bottles are produced each year. But these companies do not care about how we, the consumers, feel. They just want to save a few pennies here and there. The thinner plastic? Yep, saves money. The thinner cap? Even more money.
Maybe next week when I buy another case, there will be a surprise inside. I would not dare to presume what, since these companies always have a trick up their sleeve. Maybe they will just get rid of the bottles all together and place the water in plastic bags with a spot to insert a straw. But they would not give us the straw, no sir, because that too would cost money.
I already talked about Sky Harbor when I previewed them back in December for their debut show on New Year’s Day at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey, but I thought it was time that we actually got a chance to meet one of the newer pop/punk bands in Jersey. After talking with their drummer, Alex Vazquez, shortly after their debut, he told me that their first show did not go exactly according to plan, but their bassist, Sam Acevedo, assures me that their ensuing shows have been much, much better, including one recently at Post 282 and a trip out to Penn State which he described as one word: “amazing”.
The good thing about this band is not that they are good musicians, but that they are good people as well. Alex and Sam regularly volunteer their time at the Proprietary House, helping to work on the restoration. I had a chance to chat with Sam a two weeks ago, before I actually sent the interview questions to be answered by the band as a whole, and he clearly knows what he is talking about when it comes to playing bass, and he did not mince words when talking about the Stone Pony, but says the other band members might not feel the same way as him, so I’ll leave that one alone.
Sam also told me how his life changed through music, which I think is something everyone can relate to, to a degree. After moving to Perth Amboy two years ago, and being the “new kid on the block” with no friends, he decided to bring his bass to school one day, and next thing you know, he’s in a band and the member of the school’s guitar club. Even after their graduation, people still talk about the products of Sky Harbor with reverence. (He even sleeps with his guitar!)
Now to get a chance to meet the band, this is the conversation we had through the internet today, including other members Augusto Cespedes (vocals), Travis DeLillio (guitar), and Jay Fria (guitar) . Please enjoy:
GC: First of all, explain why you chose the name “Sky Harbor”. How did all of the band members meet each other and decide to start a group?
SH: One day, Travis was singing a song by The Wonder Years that was in reference to Arizona’s airport “Sky Harbor.” Jay heard it, and suggested it as a band name. We all agreed and we all love it. Sam and Alex were friends, and Jay and Travis were friends. Travis met Alex through Alex’s old band from Craigslist. Travis was going to tryout for Alex’s band, but unfortunately fell through and Travis and Alex went on their separate ways. Travis and Alex then had an idea for a pop/punk sound, asked Jay to join and had their first practice. They loved it, asked Sam to hop on. A couple of weeks later, they found the lead singer on Craigslist from an ad that was named “In Need of a Pop Punk singer ASAP.”
GC: Who are your major influences and favorite groups?
SH: Our influences as a band are New Found Glory, The Wonder Years, A Day to Remember, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Four Year Strong and old-school Fall Out Boy.
GC: What is it like being on stage? Does it make you feel any differently than when practicing?
SH: Nothing compares to playing a show. It’s the natural high that is created when everyone’s eyes are on you. During a show, it’s just one take; “Let’s make this perfect.” In contrast when we are doing our weekly night practices, we treat it like a show to practice the “tightness” of our performance, but use it to have the freedom to be open-minded with any potential ideas.
GC: The band recently took a trip to Pennsylvania. What was that like?
SH: The road trip to Penn State was amazing. Being with the people you love and just knowing you’re going to play the music you made with all of your heart is a reward in itself. Nothing compares to being on the road with your band mates sharing stories and making memories.
GC: Describe YOUR style of pop/punk.
SH: How do we think we sound like? Here’s a little guided imagery. Let’s say A Day to Remember made love to New Found Glory without consent and had a baby: Sky Harbor, 7 lbs. 3 oz. (laughs).
GC: What was your first show at the Stone Pony like?
SH: It was an experience that we turned positive. Everything that happened on stage we learned, grown and matured from.
GC: What are some of your upcoming shows? Where can your music be heard?
SH: Our next show is such an important show for all of us. It is the Battle of the Bands for the East Coast Indie/Kevin Says Stage at Oceanport Warped Tour on March 19th at Post 282 in Harrison, NJ! We need everyone to come and sing their hearts out with us! You can catch our tunes on our Facebook, Myspace and Pure Volume page. We thank you so much!
I would like to thank the members of Sky Harbor for taking the time to conduct this interview. I highly suggest you check them out and give them a listen, and I wish them the best of luck in establishing themselves on the pop/punk circuit!
Well, you guys asked for more music and you’re getting it. Received a few emails from readers after reviewing The Vinyls two weeks ago saying that you wanted me to cover some more local rock bands. It turns out, I have another one up to par, and once again, I know the guitarist from the same class as the other one. Small world.
The Call Out is yet another New Jersey rock band that has yet to reach a high stature on the rock music circuit, but just like The Vinyls, they sound more professional than they let on, deserving more attention. These two bands are actually very identical to one another, as one thing I stressed in the prior review is that new bands tend to overuse the drums to the point where they become annoying. The Call Out has found the right combination of vocals, guitar, and drums and they seem to remind me of another band, though that names slips my mind.
Led by John Ferris on the vocals, Sean Marmora and Anthony Manginelli on the guitar, and Danny Wrensen on the subtle-but-sweet drums, I would say they would be making some noise in the music world, but that saying wouldn’t do them justice. The old saying holds true, that “birds of a feather flock together”, because Dan from The Vinyls, and Anthony here, are both outstanding guitarists who are surrounded by a great cast of musicians. Do not be fooled—these are not poorly constructed, let’s-do-it-for-fun garage bands. They have a very professional sound that can rival most, if not all, new-age rock groups (and they still seem to be having fun).
I have to be honest, I have only heard three songs by The Call Out, much like I had only listened to four or five of The Vinyls, but once again, first impressions won me over. I must give a prediction (hopefully with better luck than my hockey ones) that given the right exposure, these two bands have bright futures ahead of them and will go far. Make sure to head on over to their Facebook page and check out their three featured songs, “A Place to Call Our Own”, “Hookline, and Sink-Her”, and “If I’m All Talk (Why Are You All Ears?)”.
Their bio says, “We formed in the Spring of 2008, and over the last year we’ve spent all of our time, money, faith, blood, sweat, and tears on this band. And THIS year, we have the opportunity to do even more. Please help us on our journey.” Hard work will always shed results, and that is evident with this band.
It will definitely be interesting to see their upcoming songs, and if you are so inclined, they will be playing at the Highline Ballroom in New York on December 19. Please go to their Facebook page for details. Also, make sure to follow them on Twitter.
Questions, comments, or suggestions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @GregCaggiano.