“Haunted Travels” 2014: A Year in Review

The members of
The members of “Haunted Travels” present for the investigation.

2014 was a busy year for us at Haunted Travels, our web-series which would consist partly of ghost stories, myths, folklore, and also actual paranormal investigations. In the last twelve months, we have managed to film 25 episodes, visit 10 locations, host four public investigations at our regular stomping grounds at Strauss Mansion, give nine lectures on paranormal activity at historic sites in New Jersey, see me have my first book published, welcome in some new crew members, and of course, happen upon an untold number of stories at each and every location, some of which do not make it into our videos or appear on our social media. This write-up is a recap of our adventures during the last year, some of which you have seen, and others which you have not. Please check out the hyperlinks to be redirected to relevant additional content such as videos and investigation reports.

Just a few days into the new year, kicking off season two, we recorded what I maintain to this day is our best recording ever captured using the SB-7 Spirit Box. It was a Sunday afternoon, and a few of us were in the basement of Strauss Mansion in Atlantic Highlands. This is one of those recordings that I always explain to people at lectures that may sound clear as day when you listen to it now, but in person, we missed it. The reason is because the SB-7 spits out so much noise and static, that sometimes it is hard to pick-up on the responses located within the layers of those noises on one’s first listen. When we replayed the recording moments later, we were shocked to find we actually had a conversation with what sounded like two different spirits. I asked, because the energy was becoming very negative in the room, “Are you mad at us?” to which a little girl responded with, “Yeah”. A man’s voice then said “choke”, and I asked, “What do you want to do?” and that same male voice answered with “to kill”. These are not responses which are barely audible, the type where different people interpret them in different ways—they are clear as day. Between that, and a video we posted a few days earlier, which was a drive down Whipporwill Road in Middletown (not an investigation, but basically a five-minute rant debunking all the myths and legends associated with the road), 2014 was off to a bang.

Our streak of good luck continued when I was finally able to get into the infamous Spy House in Port Monmouth for a lecture on the “Haunted History of New Jersey”, a presentation I have given in different variations (with updates as they happen during our experiences) for a few years at numerous locations. I had lectured on the American Revolution at the Spy House before, but when it came to ghosts, it was very difficult to convince them to allow me, or anyone, in there. Well, after nearly four years of trying, I was finally allowed, in February, and I presented in front of a sold-out room. It was the first paranormal-themed event there since the days of the former caretaker, the late Gertrude Niedlinger, probably a decade earlier. Jake and I were even allowed to walk around the house with the SB-7 before and after the lecture, to see if we could find any evidence of the highly popularized location. Aside from Jake hearing the voice of a little girl in the hallway during my lecture (when there was no little girl present), we failed to capture anything solid there except for a few scattered responses, nor even on our second visit for another lecture this past October. On the bright side, I was able to meet a few good contacts who assisted me in helping to establish the facts and break the myths of the Spy House, which led to this article which I published on this blog back in August. I still believe the house is haunted, it is just nowhere near as scary and mysterious as everyone wants to believe.

Later in the spring, we continued to film at local cemeteries, some of which may not even be haunted. Our group has become fascinated by old, sometimes forgotten, cemeteries because of the stories and history they may hold. It also gives us a chance to feel like we are helping those who are buried there, because they are so-long dead and no one comes to visit them. Rose Hill Cemetery (an exception to that, since it is rather busy with ghost hunters and visitors) in Matawan is a popular place, with many outrageous stories hovering around it, and we were able to get our historical adviser, local historian and Civil War buff Tom Burke to tell the history of the location on camera for us. We also made our way to a tiny cemetery in Holmdel, Dorsett Town Historic Cemetery, which is right on a main road, yet is in really rough condition. We ended season two with a visit to another small, old cemetery on Longbridge Road in Lincroft, and then prepped for season three, which would be our most diverse one yet.

We kicked off our third season at the end of May with a full investigation of Allaire Village in Farmingdale. Tom Burke was going to be running a weekend long Civil War encampment there as president of the New Jersey Civil War Heritage Association, and he was able to get Haunted Travels in for an investigation and then a lecture two days later to present our findings to anyone interested in attending. Now here is where a behind-the-scenes story comes in. After arriving in the daylight and walking around for a bit, we grabbed some of our gear and headed for the Allaire Mansion when we were stopped by the caretaker, who told us we would not be allowed to film anything anywhere in the village if it was paranormal-related. We called Tom over who insisted he had board approval, and my lecture was actually on the schedule of events for the coming Sunday. The caretaker would not back down, relenting slightly, saying “still pictures only, no video”. I was irate, but was able to stay calm saying, “If we can’t film video in this village, then we are going to pack up and go home.” After a few minutes back and forth, finally he said, “Fine, you can film, just as long as they does not end up on television.” I responded, “Do you think we’d be filming episodes with this $50 camera and our cell phones if this was a TV show?”

This investigation was groundbreaking along the lines of the Spy House, because many historic sites have a very tight-lip when it comes to paranormal activity and putting it out there for the world to see. Apparently, after allowing the BIO Channel to come in and film an episode for the series Celebrity Ghost Stories, they had thought they made some kind of mistake, and did not want anymore paranormal publicity, but because our little web-series has some background in history (and we’re, well, not exactly famous), we were allowed in; the first, and to my knowledge, only group to have done so in recent years. Still, even with approval and walking through the Allaire Mansion and other buildings, we were watched like a hawk—as if we all had three heads and just fell out of the sky and landed on their property. Every step of the way we were met with, “You know, I’ve been working here for X amount of years, at every time of the day and night and never had an experience. It’s not haunted.” from the caretaker. However, he began to warm up to us when we spoke of our knowledge and love of history, and also explained our methods and technology to him. I think, in his mind, we weren’t a bunch of nut-jobs after all.

He was finally convinced when he caught wind of a response on our SB-7 in the blacksmith shop, when Tom had entered the building and a voice called out, “Hi Tom!”, possibly the spirit of a deceased fellow reenactor who did events with him at that location in previous years. That, combined with other words coming through on the SB-7 and Carla’s Ovilus III, and the caretaker was now sold. His eyes lit up, and he was excited to show us other buildings in the village, even driving us around on his golf cart. We were very happy that we were able to convince him. Well, actually, we didn’t do anything—we just let the ghosts do the talking. All in all, we shot six episodes at Allaire Village, getting decent activity in nearly every building, and were even joined by former pro-wrestler Ric Savage for one of the episodes.

Two months later, Jake and I decided to take a road trip to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, to see if we could find any haunted locations that we could film at. While on the way to the Peddler’s Village tourist site, we stopped at an old church-turned-antique shop, the former Solebury Baptist Church, which was not haunted, but were able to check out the graveyard where several Civil War soldiers were buried. We were also told by the shop’s owner (who used the phrase “Tombstone Tourism” to describe the people who visit cemeteries just to take pictures like we were) that the first interracial married couple in the country allowed to be buried together in the same cemetery was at this location, at the corner of the property. We took a lot of pictures, but shot no videos. On the way home, we unexpectedly took a stop in New Hope, which is supposedly a very haunted town. The historic Logan Inn is featured in many ghost books, and in the town’s walking tour. When we went inside to inquire further, we were told we could only investigate if we paid for a night’s stay (an upwards of $220 at the time), and because our mantra is that we neither pay nor get paid to investigate (unless it’s a donation to a historic site), we quickly went on our way. We walked around town for a while, making our way into The Angels Light, another antique store. While there, I just happened to ask the owner how old the building was and whether or not it was haunted. He said that the building was from 1815, and then went under the counter and pulled out a Haunted New Hope book in which the house was featured.

He told us how it was owned by painter Joseph Pickett, whose many works were nearly all destroyed by his wife after he died, thinking they were a waste of space and not worth anything. Then, at the turn of the century, his surviving work was discovered when a new folk movement swept across the country, and the few remaining pieces became a hot commodity. There are two known to exist in museums, one at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the other at the Museum of Modern Art. I have to wonder what would have happened if she actually kept all of his paintings. Anyway, we asked him if we could come back one night for an investigation, and he said yes, but when we mentioned that we had our equipment in my car, he offered to close the shop down right then and there so we could do a walk-through with the SB-7. We recorded several responses coming through, including the word “office” when we were in the upstairs room Pickett used to paint in. It was a very exciting afternoon for us, and totally unexpected, and we would like to thank the owner again for allowing us in there.

Following that, we went across the street to a very unique store called Tear Drop Memories. Inside contained all manner of items relating to Victorian-era death and funerals, all of which were for sale. We are talking embalming equipment, post-mortem photographs, religious paintings and iconography (many of which were scary, not comforting), human hair, coffins, grave markers, and other items such as animal skeletons. We talked with the owner for a short while who was quite a colorful character. Although we sensed some animosity towards us for coming in with my carrying-case of equipment (even though we told him we were sent by the owner of The Angels Light who was a friend of his), he did say we could walk around and investigate if we wanted to. He told us how he believed in an afterlife, having been raised a Christian, but did not believe in ghosts. But Jake and I were too unnerved to stick around and actually investigate, so we wrapped up our conversation and headed out into the sunlight for a breath of fresh air. The man, whose name I cannot remember, did leave us with a pretty good parting quote, though. When he asked me if I was religious, and I said no, he responded, “No, you are religious. What you do is a religion, because you are searching for something greater than yourselves.”

After the road trip, we laid low for a couple of months since I was busy prepping the release of my first book, Ghost Hunting Confidential: Investigating Strauss Mansion, and also setting up some public investigations over there and volunteering with the “Haunted Mansion” tours. We would film two evidence review videos, where we had some very good SB-7 responses, including one where our newest investigator, Hunter Dillon, had his name spoken by a little girl, and when he asked if she said his name, she responded, “Yes I did”. There was then one last video shot on Halloween night, where we captured shadow movement in one of the Strauss Mansion videos. I apologize for the language in this video, as we try our best to make this series family friendly, but the events leading up to the sighting are why we were so bothered by something we would usually be fascinated by. Those events will be the subject of my next book, which I will try to release by the summer of 2015.

So, as of right now, we have already filmed the first two episodes of season four, which we will post tomorrow on our social media pages and episode listing over on the main site. They were shot at a nameless cemetery in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, and contain some interesting SB-7 responses. We also have some other locations lined up for 2015 that we are very excited about, and you’ll be learning all about those hopefully in the near future. From all of us at Haunted Travels (me, Jake, Hunter, Brett, Doug, Carla, Tom, Jeff, Brian, and Carly), we would like to wish everybody a very happy and healthy 2015!

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