Oct 02, 2017

Haunted Places

By Lori Draz

Whether you are a casual viewer or a true believer, most people have seen at least one of the ghost investigations shows on TV, proving that everyone loves a good ghost story. So this month, in the spirt of the spirits, we’ve teamed up with a well-known area ghost expert and member of the web series “Ghosts on the Coast” for some of his researched insights into places that go bump in the night. Greg Caggiano is a published author and historian who has had a lifelong interest in the paranormal. He serves on the board of directors of the Atlantic Highlands Historical Society, which is housed at the rumored-to-be-haunted Strauss Mansion Museum. He lectures on the paranormal, the American Civil War, and the Kennedy Assassination at Brookdale Community College and works as a field guide for their Ocean Institute program.

Before we begin, Mr. Caggiano asks that readers keep an open mind. Paranormal investigators treat what they do as a science. He knows his lectures attract many skeptics, but he reminds everyone that history is at the core of a ghost story. He says, “As a historian, ghosts and ghost stories are history. It’s a window into a time gone by. I don’t try to convince people; I just present my opinion and findings.” He also tells those who want to try the science to be very patient. “It’s not like the movies or TV. I would say 90% of investigations are inactive or unexciting. I’ve done hundreds of investigations, but have only a handful of really striking pictures or videos. That’s how rare it is to find something.”


Local Hot Spot: Lincroft

The Brookdale campus itself may be multiply haunted. Mr. Caggiano runs a summer camp for kids and in October, he presents his most-popular program, “Legends of New Jersey: Fact or Fiction?” It’s half Ghost Hunting 101 and half stories about locations he has investigated. During summer camp and the Paranormal Investigators Camp for middle and high school students, he has captured recordings of a ghostly voice saying “Lester” over and over again. Lester was believed to have been a stable hand during the Thompson Estate era when the property was a horse farm in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Several other ghosts of that era have also come through. The land and surrounding area dates back to the Lenape Indians. It saw activity during the American Revolution and even has loose ties to pirate Captain Kidd and his rumored buried treasure. Mr. Caggiano jokes that one day he hopes the ghosts will lead him there.


Whipporwill Road (Middletown)

The creepy dirt Whipporwill Road attracts a lot of rumors. There are a myriad of tales relating to witches being burned and buried on the road, Satanists worshiping and making sacrifices in the 1800s, and even a meeting spot for the KKK in the early 1900s. Mr. Caggiano debunks this chiller ride, sharing that no witches were burned in New Jersey. Satanic worship is possible, but also undocumented. The KKK is the only legend that makes sense, since many areas of New Jersey, including Camp Evans, were hotbeds of Klan activity at the turn of the 20th century and even beyond. He warns the curious to go slow on the road, as it full of potholes and no place to break down.


The Strauss Mansion

Mr. Caggiano says that the mansion is one place where people can try ghost hunting at one of several public paranormal investigations throughout the year. In October, the mansion hosts a month of events, including horror movie screenings, lectures, a party, and a weekend of ghost tours. One of the movies screened is “Don’t Go in the House” (1979), which was actually filmed at the Strauss when the building had fallen into severe disrepair and was being used as low income housing. It’s an infamous movie that has actually been banned in several countries because of a violent scene.

The Strauss Mansion is home to quite a few spirits. The more popular one is named Bob, who died there in the 1970s. There are reports of ghostly men, women, or even spirits of children. Mr. Caggiano says his group has captured disembodied voices, footsteps, and shadows moving, as well as objects moving from place to place There is even an original Victorian coffin in the basement (found there in the 1980s when the historical society took over the property), that was most likely used for family wakes in the parlor. On Halloween night 2014, following a midnight séance, the group captured a chilling video of a shadow moving in one of the upstairs windows.


Dempsey House (Leonardo/Middletown)

Mr. Caggiano debunks the myth of the tiny, creepy Dempsey House. It is probably the eeriest property in the area, but the stories of a man killing his whole family and committing suicide aren’t true. It was just a water pump house. No one ever lived there. The real Dempsey Mansion was across the street and was knocked down within the last year or two. It still attracts a big crowd of apparition enthusiasts on Halloween.

These are just a few haunted topics. Mr. Caggiano invites you to check out the web series, which strips down the ghost hunting process through unedited, raw footage videos. “All I ask is that people keep an open mind. Everyone is interested in ghost stories; believers want to learn more, while skeptics want to poke holes in them. It’s all part of the field. What a boring world it would be if we all had the same opinion.” Check it out at www.facebook.com/ghostsonthecoastnj and www.youtube.com/channel/UCOhdnmuhaGr4pZzZMRoA1sg/videos. You can also hear Mr. Caggiano speak on Thursday October 26 from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. at the Oceanic Library in Rumson.

Another important, but unhaunted, event is coming up on Friday, October 13, for the 11th Tavernfest at the Allen House in Shrewsbury. Guests will enjoy a barbecue meal, plenty of brews, music, and dancing under the tent, along with a 50/50 raffle and gift auction. All proceeds benefit the Monmouth Historical Association. Tickets go quickly, so get yours early by calling (732) 462-1466 or go to www.monmouthhistory.org. Tavernfest runs from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. at the historic Allen House, located at 400 Sycamore Avenue, Shrewsbury.