Even though this is my personal blog, I just wanted to take a few moments to discuss the latest goings-on at the Proprietary House in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, of which I was just elected 1st Vice President of their board of trustees. For starters, I have taken down the paranormal blog I was running about the house because there seems to have been some confusion in town as to the blog being an official website of the house, and not just a hobby for me to keep track of different ghostly occurrences. While I had approval of the board president when I started the blog, I want to make it clear that I was not speaking for the house, just myself and those who were with me in the event that something paranormal occured. The blog has been removed, so from this moment forward, any time I feel like writing about ghosts and the house, it will be here, since it is not affiliated in any way—still, any stories at all will probably be saved for October. I would also like to address the latest city-wide condemnation of the Proprietary House, as only caring about ghosts and not wanting to be bothered with history. This is absolutely, categorically false.
Yesterday was the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, an event that brought the United States into WWII and caused so many young, enthusiastic men to enlist in the army. Josef Jankola from Perth Amboy, New Jersey was one of those men. It is his uniforms that are currently on loan to me from the Proprietary House Museum, as I bring them around when I teach and give lectures. It was almost a year ago when we stumbled upon them in the back of a closet at the old museum and not seeing them having any use there, they were given to me, for the time being, so they could be used for education. All this time later, I still have them, and all this time later, I was still searching for more information on the marine who owned them. After posting two articles on the uniforms, one about them being found, and one with some additional follow-up information thanks to my friend, military expert Ed Mantell, many people have contacted me with more information about the jackets themselves and the insignias, but we could not find anything in-depth on the sergeant, who we did deduce died sometime in 1943 or 44 in the Pacific. But even with more facts steadily mounting, what I really wanted was a picture. It was yesterday when I finally got my wish.
Call it fate, irony, or a little bit of both, but the Spy House still stands in Port Monmouth, New Jersey, not being the victim of any apparent damage, at least not that I could see from the pier parking lot, as I could not get any closer yesterday due to the property being roped off. As I was passing through the area with a friend, I just could not help but ask him to take the drive down to see if the house was still there. Sure enough, just as I knew in my gut (call me crazy, but I don’t think the spirits there would allow for its destruction), the 262 year old establishment also known as the Seabrook-Wilson House and Bayshore Waterfront Activity Center was still standing tall, in the middle of an area that was completely leveled. To my amazement, though located about fifty feet from the beach, it did not appear to even have a broken window. This is obviously great news for history buffs and paranormal enthusiasts, as the house in rich in both history, lore, legends, and hauntings. I guess it is safe to say that the house is going to be here for a while longer, its survival being a testament to how great construction was back then.
What would Halloween season be without a ghost tour at a historic site? Though we at the Proprietary House have been sizing down the paranormal events of late, to focus more on history, we continue our annual tradition once again this October, in welcoming world-renowned psychic Jane Doherty to our establishment, to conduct her highly anticipated tours through the halls of the now 250-year-old mansion, the former resident of Benjamin Franklin’s son William. The house has been home to many intriguing characters, including Franklin, who served as Royal Governor of the colony until his arrest at the house in 1776. After that, it was owned by a man named John C. Rattoon, an early mayor of the city of Perth Amboy, and a British spy during the Revolutionary War. Following him came Richard Woodhull, who added an adjoining building and turned it into a hotel named the Brighton in the early 1800′s. Later still came Matthias Bruen, a self-made millionaire merchant, who attempted to restore the hotel to its former glory in 1817, after some years of disrepair. When the mansion was no longer owned by the Bruen family, it served a multitude of tasks, including an orphanage, retirement home for Presbyterian ministers, and then a hospital for officers after the battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War. The house then went through many periods of neglect and resurrection, and is currently owned by the State of New Jersey’s Division of Parks and Forestry, while being maintained by the Proprietary House Association and a board of trustees, of which I am a member.
Come one, come all, to the historic Proprietary House in Perth Amboy, New Jersey on Saturday, June 16 at 1pm! We will be reenacting the unfortunate arrest of the colony’s last Royal Governor, William Franklin, whose argument with his famous rebel father Benjamin caused him to make a decision that would change not only his life, but American history: loyalty to the crown and King George III over loyalty to his father, and his passionate support of the revolutionary cause. It is the story of one of the most famous family break-ups in history, and this decision caused the Provincial Congress of New Jersey to order his arrest on June 19, 1776 by the Colonial Militia led by Col. Nathaniel Heard. While we see the British as evil today, Franklin was much-loved by the citizens of the colony, but he just could not rebuke his inner feelings of loyalty to a King he deeply respected; the man who instilled him as the governor after years of hard work and service to the Crown. This reenactment that we put on every year takes place over the course of three days in the year of our independence, with Heard’s first visit to the governor’s mansion—we stage the event in Franklin’s actual drawing room—where he got the door slammed in his face, and his return later in the week with an arrest warrant and full militia to drag haughty William out of the house. It is an untold story of the Revolution, except by us, as we have now eclipsed twenty years of arrest plays and reenactments.
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.
Go to any book store in the country and look at their magazine section, and sure enough, you will find an issue of Weird N.J staring you in the face. It is truly amazing how much the weirdness of this state has captivated audiences around the world for more than twenty years. I always like to joke around with people, saying that New Jersey is very weird, and it’s not just the people who live here. On a more serious note, we can graciously thank the co-authors and publishers of the semi-annual magazine, Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman, for bringing the strange tales, legends, and more importantly for me, creepy history, behind the small towns of New Jersey, into the public eye; stories you would never be able to read or find elsewhere, or even think up in your wildest dreams. People are fascinated by our weird history, so much so that in 2004, the authors of this publication expanded their horizons for a book called Weird U.S, which went around to different states, with the same theme as their original series, which also became a compilation published as a book in 2003. Soon after the publication of Weird U.S, Moran and Sceurman were given a show of the same name by the History Channel, which lasted for two seasons, and went on to explore haunted and weird areas all over the country.
Since then, they have put out many different books, specializing on individual states besides New Jersey, with their latest coming out last May, on Tennessee. I was very happy to have been able to conduct an interview with one of the authors, Mark Moran, here today. We were first in contact about a year ago because of my paranormal work at the haunted Proprietary House in New Jersey. After all that time, though, I finally decided to actually ask him for an interview, and he was kind enough to accept the request. Below is our conversation, and he really gives us some fascinating back-story on the publication, methods, and where it all began. Enjoy:
Last week, I wrote about how a co-worker and I found two World War II uniforms buried in the back of a closet at the Proprietary House in Perth Amboy, and how friend, historian, and actor Ed Mantell was helping me do some research to find out who exactly these belonged to. After a few days, we found out, and I am delighted to be able to write this for you all today. I had asked Ed how we would be able to identify these, and he said that the name of the soldier could usually be found inside the sleeve or cuff. A day or two earlier, I had looked there and seen some smudgy ink, dismissing it as being the name of the factory who made them, but when Ed told me that, I realized that must have been his name. I was disappointed that it was barely legible and would leave me guessing, but then, right there on the belt that was attached to the hanger of the longer uniform, was the name, stamped clear as day.
This past week, I spent every day substitute teaching at the school where I taught the Civil War class, and coach hockey at (the next league starts in a little more than a month, which guarantees more funny stories being posted here). My first day ever at this new job actually occurred in the week prior, when I was called in on a Wednesday morning. Because of this, I have not really had much time to write here on my blog, because of the change in my schedule that leaves me drained of energy when I get home, until my body can completely adjust to the new routine. Substituting did have its positives, though, as I now got my first taste of what being a full-time teacher is really like. Before this, all I had done was teach one class here and there, or, when I went into the local high school to do some field work for college, it was mainly just sitting and observing, save for the occasional lesson I was allowed to teach. But here it was, five days of classes and dealing with many different students (most of which I had coached already), and I must say, it did get better as the days went along, though there were a few bumps in the road, as every substitute must face.
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.