It may have taken a few weeks, but we finally found out exactly who, or what, has been haunting our house. As it turns out, the entity is not human at all, but a cat. Yes, that’s right: we have ourselves a ghost cat. Now, this may come as a surprise to those who are not heavily involved with the paranormal, but let me tell you, I really was not that shocked when my mom told me what she saw one afternoon. Then when I saw it along with a friend the next day, I was completely sold. So anyway, yes, cats can have spirits. We actually have one at the Proprietary House. It came out one time during a séance, when people sitting around the table felt a cat curling up against their legs, winding in and out, one at a time. It also shows up every now and then, as one of our trustees, who has a severe allergy to cats, begins to cough and sneeze out of nowhere, before the fit goes away as quickly as it came.
I’m no stranger to the paranormal. I consider myself a veteran now, who can withstand even the most strangest of occurrences, but that happened to go out the window and unnerve me when something happened a lot closer to home, and by that, I mean my home.
Last Thursday, it was seven in the morning and my mom was downstairs in the kitchen. I was still sleeping and my dad was in the shower, and my mom had just finished plating a tray of cookies that she wanted to wrap up with colored string. She went into the closet to get it, being very careful as to not let our cat Lawrence see it, since he loves string and would be jumping all over the place. However, he was busy staring out the window at the birds and squirrels in the living room, which you can see into from the kitchen, though there is a half-wall divider that separates the two rooms. She wrapped up the tray and put it to the side, leaving the leftover string sitting crumpled up on the counter. She had to go upstairs to do something, so knowing that Lawrence did not see the string come out, and even if he did, he would not be able to see up onto the counter to get it, she left the string and went upstairs.
Just a quick little post before I head to class tonight…
Two weeks ago, I conducted three programs on the paranormal at MTRS. The first was on vampires, witches, werewolves, and zombies, while the second was on the Jersey Devil, Loch Ness Monster, Big Foot, and the Mothman. The third one, though, was a little bit closer to my heart, as it was about the haunted history of New Jersey, and my normal haunt (no pun intended), the Proprietary House. During the hour, I spoke to students in grades ranging from fifth through eighth, and there were even a few high schoolers there as well. I told them of some of the techniques we use, and what can be taken as evidence of a haunting, such as an EVP or pictures containing orbs. One of the students, a fifth grader, was (or at least he is now) convinced that his house is haunted, as it is more than 100 years old and he said that the family knows of at least one person dying there.
I first came into contact with producer and screenwriter Michael Frost Beckner a few months ago, due to his work with the highly anticipated upcoming mini-series To Appomattox. Having written for their unofficial fan blog since August now, and knowing that MFB, as we call him, is very hands on, I thought I would ask him if he had any history-related ghost stories, during my quest to bring you some of the best from filmmakers and historians around the country. He agreed, and actually sent me two, the first of which occurred in historic Lexington, Virginia while on a research trip. It entails a very creepy encounter with what he believes was the ghost of a Civil War soldier. The second story involves the war as well, but has a slightly different twist. I hope you will enjoy these!
First story—Lexington, Virginia
In 2005, my wife accompanied me on a research trip for To Appomattox. We came into Lexington late one night (about 10pm) without reservations. No hotels available. We called all the Bed and Breakfasts…nothing in town. We found one way up on the Lee Highway. They had been under construction and weren’t reopening for another week, but I explained our predicament and they said they would give us a room for the night. We drove from town up that highway. My wife and I have been on windy, dark roads all over the world many times. Something about this one spooked her. Before we were even to this place, she said she refused to get out of the car, that something “bad” awaited us. I gently told her it was late, there was nowhere else, we were tired, the couple who owned the place were elderly and were opening their home to us late at night…and were waiting.
We arrived up the long dirt driveway (it still needed to be re-paved) and she refused to get out of the car. We argued for a moment. The couple was waiting on the porch and my wife wouldn’t budge. Embarrassed, I got out of the car, walked to the porch and lied that on the way my wife and begun throwing up and might have a stomach flu and we didn’t want to bring germs into their home. They didn’t really believe me, but that was that. Got back in the car. My wife said, “Get out of here as fast as you can. This is a bad place.” (By the way, that was a sweet, old couple and I still feel bad about lying; Anne wasn’t talking about them–just to be straight.)
The rental car was an Infiniti and had a rear-viewing camera with a monitor in the dash. A little more common now, but back then that was the first I’d driven with one of those and I was into the technology of it all. So I put the car in reverse and didn’t look over my shoulder, opting to use the cool camera/monitor. Anne did look over her shoulder though. Suddenly, I saw a figure (in the monitor) loom up directly behind me. It was a bearded man in Civil War officer’s uniform and slouch hat. Reenactor, I thought at the second it happened. Anne, looking back through rear window glass, shouted, “Stop! You’ll hit him!” I was already slamming my brake. I hit him. I must have. Yet he remained as though embedded in the bumper—I was still looking at the display, Anne still over her shoulder, then he “became” exhaust and dissolved. It was exhaust. I distinctly remember knowing, somehow, in the moment I saw him that he wasn’t “solid.” The exhaust dissipated in wisps.
Anne asked, “Did you see him? Was it someone?”
I answered, ”Where was his hand?”
She said, “Holding the top of his sword.”
He had been—his hand resting on the guard of his sword in his scabbard. When I asked Anne to describe him she gave me the same details: beard, long Civil War coat with two rows of buttons, and a “cowboy” hat. A few years later, I remembered the event and went online to see if anyone else had seen him. There are LOTS of reports of a Confederate officer/spirit who harasses cars along that road.
Second story—Richmond, Virginia
Here’s another one…We were in Richmond (again, another research trip). Staying at small “historic” hotel—I don’t remember the name. The rooms were unchanged since the 1800′s. Bedroom, big living room, high ceiling, original/period furniture. Anne woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me “someone was in the room” with us. I looked around both rooms. No one there. I didn’t feel anything creepy. She said, there had been a woman who woke her up. I told her she had a nightmare, and went back to bed.
Shortly after, about 3am, about to fall back asleep, as we were lying there we began to hear children laughing and chattering and playing outside. It went on for about 30 minutes. It was very irritating. The next morning I complained to the management. They swore that there was no group of children staying there and that no one else had heard anything—the proprietors stay there as well. We checked around and, sure enough there were no children staying there; only two other couples, and I asked them—they didn’t hear any children.
A day later, at another hotel, I found an old Readers’ Digest magazine. There was an article in it about the place where we had stayed. Don’t remember the details, as in names, but it told the story of a young Richmond woman (with a “wild” reputation) who had a love affair with a Civil War officer that was somewhat scandalous—they would race horses up and down the streets. They got married the day before he went to the front. Lee gave her permission to visit him, but battle intervened. By the time she got to the front to see her new husband…he was dead.
The woman who’s husband died returned to Richmond and locked herself in her room for a year. Her house was the hotel we had stayed in–though not the room she’d locked herself in. When she ended her mourning, she converted the home into a school for war orphans.
I would like to thank Michael for taking the time to share these two fascinating stories with me. As we get closer and closer to Halloween, sometimes we do not realize how often history and the paranormal intersect with each other.
This is one of those rare occasions when history and the paranormal intertwine. Though it has nothing to do with ghosts, I would say that being able to predict the future constitutes something that is not normal, wouldn’t you say? Enjoy this creepy little tale.
Finding myself never enough time to just sit down and read novels or other large books, I constantly sift through yard sales looking for older history books and anthology sets so I can just pick one up one day and glance through it for a little while before moving on to something else. Naturally, if I see sets having to do with the supernatural, I gobble them up. Some of the older books I have purchased this way, some from the 70′s and 80′s, are clearly outdated but the information is still worthy of reading. That and the fact that these hardcover behemoths were crafted to stand the test of time, made during an era when people actually read books. I guess that is what this compulsion has been—preparing for a future where there will be no more books made of paper, just ones that can be downloaded on-screen.
It was last year when I discovered a Time Life series published between 1987 and 1991, that is called Mysteries of the Unknown. The ten parts I own are just a part of the 33 volume total collection, but they are so interesting that I may try to find the ones I am missing. After doing some research, I found that they are actually widely available, at least compared to some of the other Time Life sets out there. It is also important to note that this collection broke sales records for the company when it was released.
Yesterday, when I was reading the volume titled “Visions and Prophecies”, I came to the story of Jacques Cazotte, an author in the 18th century who penned the occult romance, Le Diable Amoureaux, or translated into English as The Devil in Love. On the onset of the French Revolution, Cazotte was invited to a lavish dinner party by a nobleman who wanted to dine with only the most intellectual acquaintances he had. Well-known writers, speakers, and members of high societies were invited for the evening where there was plenty of decadent food and wine. Being that everyone was so intelligent and wanting desperately for their opinions to be recognized more than the people sitting with them, the guests tried to out-talk each other all night long, tackling every subject they could, while distinguished ladies of title listened in. Among the topics, was of course, a revolution that seemed to be inevitable.
Finally, when Cazotte decided to speak, he silenced the room with these chilling words, which were recorded by fellow-guest Jean-Francois de la Harpe, “Ladies and gentlemen, be content. You will yet see, every one of you, that great revolution for which you are so eager. You know, I am something of a prophet, and I assure you, you shall see it.” As everyone quieted down, he then predicted the exact fates of the male dinner guests:
“You, Monsieur de Condorcet, you will die prone on the stone floor of a prison cell. You will perish of a poison you have taken to cheat the executioner. And you, Monsieur de Chamfort, will cut your veins twenty-two times with a razor, and still, you will not die—until some months later. As for you, Monsieur de Nicolai, you will die on the scaffold. And you, Monsieur Bailly, also on the scaffold.”
As those sitting around Cazotte grew afraid of what he was saying, the ladies asked if they too would suffer the same fate as their male companions. Cazotte then said, “Your sex, ladies, will offer you no protection in this bloodbath. You, Madame la Duchesse, and many others will be taken to the scaffold in the executioner’s cart, with your hands tied behind your backs like common criminals.” Finally, he added, “No one will be spared. Not even the king and queen of France!”
For one to predict revolution in France would not have been an incredible feat, because the world knew it was coming, but sure enough, within five years, all the predictions he made at the party had come true, including that of the king and queen thanks to a new innovation known as the guillotine. Unfortunately, though, Cazotte did not see his own demise in the future, as in 1792 he too was beheaded for not going along with the revolution.
Though no one is allowed inside the Spy House (now Bayshore Waterfront Park) for anything paranormal, Jeff Huber and I will be giving a lecture on New Jersey’s Role in the American Revolution there, this coming Thursday, January 27 at 6 pm. I am still waiting to hear from my superiors on just what exactly we are allowed to talk about regarding the house’s history, but my boss assures me that we are allowed to answer any questions guests pose. This may be your chance to get inside one of the most alluring houses in the state. Bruce Tango (Dave’s father) , the paranormal investigator who has appeared numerous times on Ghost Hunters will be there as well, and he volunteered to answer any ghost-related questions—we are just not sure if we can fit it in the allotted time and if it will be allowed.
Anyway, back in May, Jeff had taken a picture of one of the windows in the Spy House (I think the one below is in the front) and I had noticed a face staring at me from the glass. Though I was certain at what I saw, I wanted to go a few months without looking at it to see if it was just my mind playing tricks on me, or if it was really there. So two nights ago, I brought the picture up and my eyes were drawn to it again. It is diagrammed below:
To me, at least, I see a clearly defined face with eyes, lips, a hairline, and a hint of a nose and chin. I have shown this to a lot of people and it seems that half see it, and the other half does not. I have sent the photo to Bruce Tango so hopefully he will be able to give me an explanation. It could be pixels or just the way the light was hitting the window, but whatever it is, there is definitely a face there, the only issue is whether it is other-worldly or not. If anyone has any kind of software that can enhance it further and clarify it, please feel free to try it out and send it back to me, so we can either prove or disprove if this is a face. I really hope I will be able to show this at the lecture, but it is not my decision to make.
History Alive: New Jersey During the American Revolution
Why was the Battle of Monmouth one of the most important battles of the American Revolution? Why was Benjamin Franklin’s son, William arrested? What weapons and tactics did the troops use? Presenters from the historic Proprietary House will answer these questions and much more. The presentation will feature instructors dressed in period battle uniforms complete with weapons. Find out why New Jersey was such an important part of the Revolution. Don’t just Google it! Come see for yourself.
One 1-Hr Session $5.00 Per Person
Bayshore Waterfront Park Activity Center
Thu, Jan 27 6:00-7:00 PM………………………………XBW11A
Please call 732-842-4000 (EXT 1) to reserve your spot!
Date: December 21-22, 2010
Investigators: Greg Caggiano, Jeff Huber, Reynaldo Arroyo, Brett Bodner, Dan Breen, Alex Vazquez, Brian Otto, and Brad Schultz
For the first time in probably more than fifty years, guests of the Royal Governor’s Mansion in Perth Amboy, New Jersey spent the night at one of the most haunted places in the state. But unlike the guests who frequented the house in the 1800′s when Matthias Bruen turned the former government residence into a hotel, there would be no sleeping on this night. For some time I had wanted to conduct a night-long investigation of the house, taking us through and past the witching hour of 3am, and last night, this would finally come to fruition.
This would be the largest investigation I would ever conduct, as Jeff Huber and I were joined by John Smith and Reynaldo Arroyo, who have years of paranormal investigating experience on their hands, as well as my friends Brett Bodner, Dan Breen and Alex Vazquez, the latter of whom has been helping us carry out the extensive renovations on the house, and Jeff’s friends who drove all the way from Pennsylvania to join us, Brian Otto and Brad Schultz. I arrived there with Brett and Dan at about 8:30pm, while there were others already in the house. The nine of us combined had video and still cameras, as well as recording devices, and we would experience a plethora of occurrences leading up to the three o’clock hour—ironically, not much would happen after that time.
Since we spent so many hours and there were so many people in the house, it will be impossible for me to recount everything we found. I expect this to go through several edits before all is said and done, as we remember all that happened to us in the late night hours of December 21, and pre-dawn hours of December 22. Initially, I thought that nine people was too much—when you have that many people walking around the house, more noises occur and it is hard to filter out what is paranormal and what is human, but everyone was very professional the entire night, including first-timers Alex, Brian, and Brad. I was actually impressed at everyone’s composure because after a certain incident that occurred just after 1am that sent a few people packing home, it was hard to stay calm.
Jeff, Brett, Dan and I were in the office in the basement checking something on the computer while John and Alex were on the first floor. At this point, Reynaldo had already left, taking his equipment with him. Brian and Brad were parked on the third floor landing, up on the staircase. As I stood talking with Jeff, I hear, “Greg, you have to come up here!” so we all bolted up the crammed and creaky staircase to see what was going on. Alex told me that Brian and Brad had heard a scream coming from inside one of the rooms. At first I thought it was a joke—an EVP is rare enough, let alone an actual disembodied voice. We prayed that they had it on camera, and sure enough, when they played back the recording, there it was: the sound of a woman screaming. It lasted only a few seconds, but it was as clear as day, an unmistakable noise coming from one of the office rooms.
We ruled out the possibility that it was anything they had done in their movements, or someone yelling outside. It was distant enough to be right where they said it was coming from. The strange thing is that they actually heard it in person, because many times ghostly voices and noises are only picked up by equipment. At this present time, Brian is working on transferring it to the computer so that you can listen to it. (This is my recording of the recording.) We also have another one of a moan, coming later in the morning, but from the same spot. Please keep checking back. (EDIT: Here is Brian’s original recording. Please note that mine is a recording of Brad’s recording of the original one.)
The second of our recordings was taken by me, when I was alone on the staircase with Brett. This was about an hour after the scream, and we were standing in the same spot, just down from the landing, next to an antique chair. We were asking questions when I decided to test out the audio/visual recording ability on my new digital camera. About eight seconds after I turned it on, you can hear a whisper say, “Hey”. We did not hear this in person, and it was clear when I was listening to the video the first time. Please click here to listen/watch.
Aside from those, we heard a lot of thuds when no one was moving. Having nine people did have some benefits, as we were able to finally place people on every floor and the staircase, all sitting in silence before asking questions. We picked up a lot of noises confirmed by more than one party, and were able to deem what was caused by our own movements.
There was also some activity with a candle in the tea room. John and I have spent some late nights there doing the restoration work, and each time before we head home, we light one candle and place it on the far table, back and to the left. It is perfectly still when lit, as there is no draft in the room. When we ask questions, the flame starts to bounce—not just a flicker, but an almost pulsating movement. Last night there was some activity but not as much as when John and I try it. This is a video of us in the tea room, studying the flame and checking out orbs in pictures on Brad’s camera. I did not notice any EVP’s present in this video, but if you listen close enough, maybe you will find something I missed.
There was also a moment for about five minutes where we all smelled smoke, the kind of smell that would occur after a candle has been blown out. This was on the first floor and the only candle we ever had lit that night was in the tea room, in the basement. It had been blown out more than a half hour prior and at no other time that we know of has smoke traveled all the way upstairs. We even went down to check it out, going back to where the candle was, and we smelled nothing, yet a return trip upstairs yielded the smell. I’m still open to the possibility that it was our candle, but it just did not seem likely.
Finally, we took some pictures of the outside of the house and upon comparing, the curtains seem to be ruffled in one of the windows in my picture, but not on Brian’s. These were taken at the same time, and roughly the same angle. Brad also has a picture on his camera of a shadowy figure peering out of the window, a head and shoulders is clearly visible. I will add that to this report as soon as he sends it to me.
Overall, this was a fun night rife with activity. It beats any other experience I have ever had there, and stunned everyone with the capture of a scream. It appears we have discovered a new hot spot, on the stairs, as the majority of our findings occurred when we had investigators on the steps. Just another crazy night in the annals of Proprietary House lore!
The small unknown town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania was transformed into one of the most well-known towns in the country, after three days of ferocious and bloody fighting in July of 1863. During that time, an approximate 51,000 soldiers would be either wounded or killed, before the Confederate army retreated south through Maryland while the Union army chased after them. But many have seen evidence that some of these soldiers did not leave after all. It is expected that an old town would be haunted, furthermore, with so many dead and dying people laying in the surrounding fields and streets. The passion exerted by both sides during the heat of battle is the perfect set-up for a haunted city. But unfortunately, the town of Gettysburg has blown it out of proportion, sparking different available ghost tours at almost every gift shop in town–there must be at least twenty to choose from.
Each tour comes built up with drama and commercialization, and with an experienced, period-dressed guide that will walk you through a section of the town of your choice. Many take place right on the main street in town, Steinwehr Avenue, but many venture closer into the battlefield on Seminary Ridge. Also take note that you will never seen one price listed anywhere, for the cost of this little walk. After doing some research, many cost around $10 after tax, which is not all too bad, but if you have a family with children (because all kids love ghosts), then the money can soar.
In the nine years I have been coming to Gettysburg, I have been tempted time and time again to go on one of these, but I still have not. I see it as a sort of disrespect to the soldiers who gave their lives here almost 150 years ago. In just a few years, Gettysburg has gone from a historic Civil War town to a tourist trap, and the ghost tours located all over town prove that.
In talking to people who have went on these tours, not one has ever seen anything pointed out by the guide. Jeff Huber, who went with his niece Karli, saw something only once, and that was when the guide had her back to where he was looking. These tours have too many people with them, and when you have a group of loud-talking, camera-shooting, bumbling tourists, no ghosts will come out. It’s fascinating how they advertise these tours, but still I will not participate. At least the tours Jeff and I conduct at the Proprietary House are free, and we don’t build it up so much that if you see nothing you’ll be angry at us.
In the early 1990′s, Mark Nesbitt published Ghosts of Gettysburg, which started out as only a minor publication. But that has since sparked the ghost-mania in this sleepy town, and of course, five sequels to his original book. Many of the tours use his investigations as the basis for what they present to customers. These can be trusted more than the others because he at least has some shred of credibility.
But the one thing that Jeff noted which was worst of all, is the fact that if only one person sees something, whether in a tour or on their own, these ghost tours will make it a part of their talk for tours to come. This information, which has been uncorroborated and could have been made up out of thin air, then becomes the driving force for the next tour. This is exactly not how to conduct paranormal research work, but I would expect nothing less of the tourist trap Gettysburg has become.
Now we move onto Sachs bridge, the place that Jeff and I said we were going to investigate. We made it out there at about two o’clock in the morning, only to find more than we bargained for. “More” as in people, lots of people. It seems that Sachs bridge is the new hangout spot in town, and everyone from teenagers to adults were walking around, taking pictures, smoking cigarettes, and eating McDonald’s, because of all the fast food wrappers tossed on the ground. If this is how it is every night, than you can be sure no ghost will ever again be spotted there. By my count, there must have been thirty people wandering all over the place, ruining any chance at all of seeing a ghost.
The bridge arose to prominence after numerous ghost sightings in photographs, which can be found online. It was used the day after the battle when Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army retreated, and crossed over, and there was even a small skirmish at the base of the bridge as the Union army tried to slow them down.
Sachs bridge itself is very creepy–there are no lights except for the moon, and there are woods surrounding it which make it only darker. If I were to guess, I would say the best time for an investigation there would be in the winter, when kids are in school and the adults may be turned away from the cold weather. It was an interesting experience to go and see it, but I was disappointed because, quite frankly, I figured we would have the place to ourselves at such a late time.
Also, if you plan on investigating this bridge at odd hours, please beware that the police come there for a look every few hours, as told to us by a local who was there when we went.
I have no doubt that Gettysburg is haunted, and may even be the most haunted place in America, but make no mistake, if you want to find ghosts you will have to do it on your own. Don’t fall into the trap and shell over money to a tour guide. Ghosts are not parlor tricks, and they do not show just because you’re on a tour. Find a quiet spot on the battlefield before closing and do some searching. They are there, and if you look hard enough, you’ll find them…or they’ll find you.
The readers of this site have been introduced to the wonderful Kurt Epps numerous times, mostly as his character of New Jersey’s last Royal Governor, William Franklin. As a member of the Board of Trustees for the Proprietary House, which served as his mansion from 1774-1776, I had a chance to meet some very unique people, including Kurt, and have a chance to participate in the re-enactment of the Governor’s arrest in June.
But Kurt is not only a reenactor, or historian, but also an accomplished actor, writer, and speaker, who has also contributed reviews to the Beer Advocate, as well as maintaining his own blog, The Pub Scout. No matter what his ventures are, though, he will always be the governor to me, and as Woodbridge, NJ town historian Jeff Huber once said to me, regarding Kurt and his character, “Once he goes, he does not come back.”
Kurt Epps takes his role very seriously, but he has fun along the way. A former teacher, I can only imagine what his classes would have been like. It is because of people like him that the past is kept alive for future generations, so that we may know what came before us, and why it is so important.
I had a chance to sit down with Kurt and talk to him about his role as a living-historian, what he does for the Beer Advocate, and much more. Below is our conversation:
GC: You have become a local celebrity for your portrayal of Royal Governor William Franklin at the Proprietary House and other Perth Amboy events. When did you first start this portrayal, and why do you love to do it so much?
KE: “Sure I have. I’m a legend in my own mind. I moved back to Perth Amboy, which was my hometown, in 1987 just prior to the birth of my eldest son, Brett. A dynamic, wonderful woman I had known since my youth from my church, Mrs. Alma Cap was deeply involved with the saving and restoration of the House, and she convinced me to get involved. I became a member, then eventually a trustee. During that time, Mrs. Cap, who put her heart and soul into saving the House, concocted the idea of reenacting the arrest of Governor Franklin. She knew that I had some experience acting and asked if I’d portray the governor. I agreed. I’ve been doing it ever since—nearly a quarter of a century. I’m the most arrested recidivist in Perth Amboy.
Mrs. Cap also spearheaded a number of other dramatic events involving the governor and his rebel father, Benjamin. Perth Amboy’s famous actor Charles White (his sister was Ruth White, also an esteemed actress) and I did shows at the house—sometimes with scripts, sometimes improvisatory—which highlighted the diametrically opposite positions each man had with respect to the “troubles” between England and her colony. Charlie White was a quintessential professional who made it very easy to interact with him in such scenes.
Once, a large group of students was scheduled to visit the House and tour the rooms and grounds. Mrs. Cap thought it would be wonderful if Charlie and I—as Ben and William—would make an appearance while the students were there. So, in full costumes and with no scripts, we waited upstairs for the group to assemble, and when we felt the time was right, we just came down the stairs arguing about the revolution as though no one else was in the House. All conversation stopped and all eyes focused on us. We’d move from room to room, with the multitude of students following us to “eavesdrop” on this historic confrontation. Of course, we pretended to be oblivious to them. It was absolutely riveting theater—due in large part to Charlie’s great timing and theater sense. We just “clicked” together every time we were in costume in the House. There was humor, pathos, anger and screaming—during which the students—and their teachers– stood frozen with mouths agape. When we concluded the scene (it lasted for about ten minutes) we both stormed out of the house in different directions. There was TOTAL silence in the House for at least 30 seconds, and then a thunderous applause began. It was thrilling.
Another time, writer Robert Collins of Metuchen contributed a play entitled “Poor William” to the House, and I performed it a number of times it with two different professional actors playing Ben, my father. The entire play was set in candlelight, and traced the relationship of the two men from the time William was young until he died in England, never having reconciled with his American father. The performances with the outstanding actor J.C. Hoyt drew overflow crowds on successive nights, and got rave reviews. JC and I became friends as well.
You have witnessed some of the “electricity” that happens there when regular Joe’s like us try to make history come alive. That House is such a treasure and has left us a wonderful legacy to pass on to future generations. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy it so. It’s weird and not easily explainable, but when I’m in my Franklin regalia, I become William Franklin. I can “feel” his presence, especially when I’m there in the House, especially when I’m performing. I believe the Governor, Ben’s bastard son, to have been a semi-tragic figure whose real story is not known by enough Americans.”
GC: What were some of the other events at the Proprietary House in the past that you were involved with?
KE: “The Proprietary House Association used to have wonderful events that not only brought recognition to the House, but actually made it come “alive.” As Governor Franklin, I greeted Former NJ Governor Christie Whitman when she came to the House, and, believe it or not, she was the first NJ Governor to do so! When she and her entourage arrived, I greeted her at the door, by bowing and kissing her hand, and exclaimed, “My dear Mrs. Whitman! Welcome to my home. It figures it would take a woman to make history by visiting here!”
Under Mrs. Cap’s watchful, creative eye, we also had events like “Servants’ Night Out” which allowed the Servants the run of the House, as the Governor was supposedly away in Burlington or Rancocas. It was an event open to the public for a fee, offering a discount if you arrived attired in period dress, and featured period food, music and grog. Fun was an automatic by-product. Ditto food and music events that saw the House decorated for Christmas and me entertaining guests from the public. All this was done to raise public awareness of the House, and, of course, to help raise funds to restore it.”
GC: In working at the house for a long time, have you ever had any paranormal encounters of your own?
KE: “There have been a few times when I’ve sensed other-worldly “presences” while in the House. One time there was a very discernible cold presence that brushed by me while I was standing at the bottom of the staircase on the main floor. The “cold” lingered around me for a few seconds, then dissipated. While there have been many summer reenactments where I prayed for a cold presence to surround me, this wasn’t air-conditioning, because it happened in the Autumn. I also usually get some vibrations when I enter the Wine cellar and the servants’ room opposite it.”
GC: You also find time writing about beer. What do you think constitutes a good beer, and what is your favorite brew?
KE: “I have posted reviews on the Beer Advocate, but most of my writing is now available on my blog. As a freelance writer, I have written for a number of major “brewspapers” however. Celebrator Beer News on the Left coast and Ale Street News on the East coast are two. But I got my start with the Beer and Tavern Chronicle. As to what constitutes a good beer, it comes down to styles. There are many styles of ales and lagers, and they all have nuances. If a beer is true to style, it’s a “good” beer, unless, of course, you don’t fancy that style. Beer is not a snobbish beverage by any means, and no expert should purport to tell you what you should and shouldn’t like. Personally, I’d drink water before I’d drink a Bud, a Miller or a Corona, but if others like them, I’m not about to look down my nose at them.
My favorite brew is kind of like my underwear: Depends.
Depends, that is, on many things…what season of the year is it? Every season brings a wonderful array of beers that match it. In a week or so, for example, the true Oktoberfest beers start making their appearances, and they are most enjoyable to me. In the Winter, Belgian Dubbels, Trippels and Quadrupels call my name, as do Stouts, Scotch Ales, double-bocks and spiced beers. In the Spring, nothing makes me happier than a good Maibock, and in summer, IPA’s, witbiers, farmhouse ales and hefeweizens get my attention.
What food is being served with it? Different beers complement different foods—and vice versa. There’s even a good beer for chocolate cake.
What activity am I doing or have I just concluded? After mowing my lawn, A Wild Blue or a Sam Adams Blackberry Wit hits the spot. After stopping at a pub during a hot motorcycle ride, an IPA is absolutely refreshing, and if the time is right (and the bar has clean beer lines) a Trappist Ale like a Chimay is worth its weight in gold.”
GC: In your spare time, you enjoy riding motorcycles. What kind do you own, and how did you become interested in this activity?
KE: “I’ve been riding motorcycles on and off for over forty years. Before my sons were born, I’d think nothing of jumping on my bike and heading from NJ to Montauk Pt., NY for a beer, then turning around and coming home. Raising kids, however, puts some limitations on that kind of spontaneity. Now that they’re older, I have more time to myself. I currently ride a Honda VTX 1300R, but I’ve had many bikes in my life. I started riding a Yamaha when I was 18. I’ve always loved the sense of freedom a bike provides. Riding through the countryside and using all my senses (except taste, unless a bug flies into my mouth) to enjoy the experience is both exhilarating and calming. I’ve had Suzukis, Hondas and Kawasakis, too. In fact, I used to sell motorcycles, and I taught Don Imus how to ride back in 1974—or at least I tried to. Though they are beautiful bikes, I’ve never been captivated by the Harley mystique. I did rent a big one in Hawaii once, and it was fun. If somebody gave me one, I sure wouldn’t turn it down. But I’d rather have a Gold Wing. There’s a saying: “Four wheels move the body; two wheels move the soul.” There’s just something about motorcycling that both lights me up and puts me at peace.”
GC: As a former teacher, why do you think it is so important to keep the past alive? Do you think the interest level in the subject is higher or lower that when you were in school?
That said, I do not believe that history—especially American history—is being taught sufficiently these days, and worse, the attempts to rewrite history to serve politically correct goals is an abomination. Entire generations of kids have grown up with the notion that only blacks were slaves and only America had them. That’s patently absurd, as slavery is as old as warfare. When you conquered an enemy, you enslaved them—and their women and children. Being descended from slaves myself (my ancestors were American Indian slaves of Thomas Jefferson’s daughter, Maria), I can attest that not all slaves were black.
It is incredibly important to preserve our sense of history, especially in our young people. They must know it and share it with their children, and they with theirs. For once it is forgotten, our remarkable story will have ended.”
I would like to thank Kurt for taking the time to conduct this interview. No matter what the topic, his words always seem to find a way to hit home. Please make sure to check out the Proprietary House, by clicking the tab at the top of the page. History is such an important part in both our lives, and it is of the utmost importance that we keep it alive. I will end this interview with two quotes: the first by William Shakespeare, “What is past is prologue.” and the other, by author George Santayana, “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Jeff and I returned to the Spy House for the second time in less than a week, mainly because we got something on camera that was unexplainable. If you look at this picture closely, you will notice something in the bottom, right window, next to the door. Before I explain what I think it is, look for yourself and make a decision, because the power of suggestion can make people see things that they would not normally see. Please click on photo to enlarge.
Now that you have seen for yourself, I will explain what we think it is. It caught my eye the first time I reviewed it on the computer, and after maximizing the size and zooming in as best as I could, I can say, almost without a doubt, that it looks like a head half in shadows. If you look closely at the left side of the head, the side in shadow, you can see something protruding outward, like a nose. Because this is seen sticking out of the shadow, that means that whatever it is, is not a flat object.
Here is a closer look at it, after zooming in and cutting it out of the original photo. It’s gets blurry, but it is still noticeable.
When we returning to the house last night, our goal was to take pictures of every window individually, because again, we saw shadows moving by them on the side that is not adjacent to the road. We did not really notice anything, but after Jeff takes a closer look at them, we may find something.
But to confirm this head in the window, I took a shot of the house last night, from almost the exact same spot. It was as close to where I was originally that I could get. Notice how the same light is in the window, but this time, there is no object.
Whatever the object is, it’s not a permanent fixture, and since no one is allowed in the house (not even workers at this point) no one could have possibly moved anything around to make that object visible to the camera lens. We are not quick to call something a paranormal sighting, because so many things can contribute to playing around with the mind.
But this object is clearly visible, and as of right now, all things considered, we still do not have an explanation for it.
Jeff will be trying in the next few weeks to make an effort to actually get us in the house to investigate. That will be easier said than done, considering all the stories we have heard about why the house closed down, such as people getting pushed down the stairs and seriously injured.
What is even more eerie, though, is the fact that there are no signs for the house, and no official website. For a house that is famous for it’s hauntings and has been covered by establishments such as Weird New Jersey, it is so strange that the people in charge are acting like they do not want anyone to know it exists.
If we were to get in, though, it would definitely be worth our while. After doing some research on the house, we have learned that a pirate who used this as a station in the early 1700′s used to store the dead bodies of all the people he killed in the basement. It may be because of that why such an evil and cold presence can be felt when standing on the property.
We got the feeling the first time, and we got it again last night; a ghost being in the house is one thing, but it becomes entirely more personal when you realize that the ghost knew we were there, and he wanted us to go away.
We are going to stick to short, twenty minutes bursts when investigating the house, especially after I found out that spirits can latch onto a person, and follow you home. After which they leave whenever they see fit. Most of the times it is not for long, but there have been instances where priests had to be called in to do an exorcism of the house.
There is something enigmatic about this house, that will inevitably call upon our return there again in the next few days. Because of this sighting of what we think is a head, I want more pictures of that window from every angle possible, to see if that object appears again. If it does not, then we will confirm it as a sighting with 100% confidence. Currently, I am at about 95% sure.
Greg Caggiano and Jeff Huber are the founders of FRANKLIN AND HEARD PARANORMAL. Please visit their website here.