Local Haunts and Ghost Hunters: Welcome to October!

Most of us have heard spooky stories about the Catacombs of Paris, Dracula’s Castle, the Tower of London, and the Lizzie Borden House. But have you heard of the girl ghost at the Red Hen, the dancing coatrack at the Eglington Cemetery office, or the many haunted locales included in the Ghost Walk of Mullica Hill?

There’s no need to travel far to visit places that can cause doubt even among the skeptics in your life. Alleged apparitions are around the corner, and as Halloween and Day of the Dead approach, there’s no better time to discover what eerie tales lurk about, and how paranormal researchers detect your phantom neighbors.

Each October, for more than a decade, the Harrison Township Historical Society has hosted a “Ghost Walk” fundraiser. The tour explores Mullica Hill’s haunted history, with guides, often in costume, telling detailed stories of historical buildings, local businesses and private homes along Main Street.

This year’s walk is Oct. 12 and costs $10 per person. Lisa Rysinger, chairperson of the walk, explains that many visitors sign up for the tour year after year, since the stops will rotate and some new stories can be heard that weren’t part of the previous year’s tour.

Tours are joined by members of JUMPS (Jersey Unique Minds Paranormal Society). These investigators do a live broadcast from Old Town Hall (which is included on the tour) and set up ghost hunting equipment during the walk.

Old Town Hall in Mullica Hill.

Added to the tour this year is a visit to the Civil War reenactment camp, offering a peak into 1860s military life that coincides with the historical vibe of the ghost walk.

Paul Showers, Mullica Hill resident of 52 years and the longest-serving guide on the tour, explains that all of the haunted tales have been relayed to the society by residents or former residents of the properties.

“To keep the experience respectable, all claims are researched by the staff and any embellishments or stories that don’t check out are removed from the tour.”

Along with the ghost tour this year, the historical society is hosting a free photo exhibit at Old Town Hall, aptly entitled “Dead and Buried: Secrets of South Jersey’s Hidden Cemeteries.”

The exhibit features photographs by Lori Nichols, who will be present at the opening on Oct. 12. Nichols is a journalist and photographer for the South Jersey Times and NJ.com.

The exhibit features approximately 30 to 40 small cemeteries in South Jersey, all of which have 50 or fewer known burials.

Although Mullica Hill boasts a richly haunted past, bragging rights are certainly not limited to that locale.

Consider the case of Edith, the 12-year old girl whose ghost haunts the rooms of The Red Hen Restaurant in Swedesboro.

Sometime in the 1800s, Edith’s family owned and resided in the building that now houses the Red Hen, which at that time was known as the Ford Hotel or the Washington Tavern.

The Red Hen Restaurant on Kings Highway in Swedesboro, formerly the Old Swedes Inn, is a well known haunted location.

One story alleges that Edith, who suffered from scarlet fever, was being looked after by her uncle, who may have been afflicted with schizophrenia.

The story continues with Edith having convulsions due to her fever, which triggered a schizophrenic episode in her uncle.

During this episode, Edith’s uncle believed his niece to be possessed by a demon. To kill the demon, he either hung Edith or threw her into the fireplace.

Another story purports that Edith died in a blaze on the third floor of the inn. Either way, it was a gruesome ending for a young girl already suffering from a harrowing illness.

Elizabeth Pope, general manager of the Red Hen since its opening, said she and many other employees and guests have encountered “Edie” on multiple occasions.

Pope, who was previously “on the fence” about ghosts before her employment at the Red Hen, recalls an employee retrieving supplies from an empty storeroom on an upper floor.

“She came back down, saying she heard old-fashioned carousel music in the storeroom.” While the employee initially blamed the music on a co-worker prank, it quickly became apparent that this was no joke.

Edie also likes to dwell in the building’s basement. Pope reported being alone in the building, attempting to do some basement organizing, when the ventilation fans started running on their own. “I quickly left,” she recalled.

Other unexplained phenomena include refrigerator condensers turning on by themselves (giving the cook quite a fright), restroom faucets running on their own (reported by several spooked customers), and lights flickering at the same times each day (don’t blame the electrical system, because it’s new).

An especially creepy occurrence was reported while renovations were being done to the building, prior to The Red Hen’s opening.

The Old Stone Church Cemetery in Woolwich Township, is part of the photo exhibit
“Dead and Buried: Secrets of South Jersey’s Hidden Cemeteries” opening October 12.

While working in the basement, a contractor was passing wooden beams through the window. He thought his partner was outside, receiving the beams, but turned around to see him working behind him.

No one else was working on the site, and there was no one outside. The workers went home for the day, quite shaken.

Some guests and employees have even reported visuals of Edie. Pole recalled, “A guest insisted on going to an upstairs storage area because she knew something was happening.”

“She came back, saying there were books and toys flying around, in what we believe to have been Edie’s bedroom,” Pole continued.

Another guest once asked the staff if they knew a ghost was on the premises, because she saw a little girl around the corner of the bar who kept beckoning her to come and play.

Some staff and cooks say they have seen a shadowy, gray figure. Especially in the basement.

Once, Pole and another employee heard Edie’s voice.

“I was closing up the restaurant with a server named Jenna. No one else was there.” Pole continued, “I was walking behind her, and we both heard the name Jenna called. Jenna turned about around and said ‘what?’ thinking it was me calling her name.”

It wasn’t Pole. They both started running out the door. “The voice sounded like a young girl,” Pole remembered.

Although understandably a bit freaked out by having a phantom tween colleague, Pole seems to take it in stride.

When asked if she feels that Edie is a malevolent presence, Pole was quick to answer. “This is a good ghost. I never had a bad feeling, never felt threatened or unsafe.”

With unexplained paranormal phenomena, come those who seek to research, detect and prove the existence of ghosts and other apparitions.

While several organizations research supposed hauntings in our area, one stands out as being slightly different from many other groups.

South Jersey Ghost Research is a non-profit volunteer-based organization established in 1955, and, according to Co-Director David Juliano, much of their research in Mullica Hill is what the first Ghost Walk was based on.

The South Jersey branch of the group, led by negative haunting specialist and author Juliano, has researched several reported hauntings in the area. The group is an affiliate of TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society), the organization behind the hit show “Ghost Hunters.”

Juliano and his team have investigated Amelia’s Tea House (now Cherry on Top Ice Cream Shoppe) and Old Town Hall in Mullica Hill, Heaven’s Gate and Eglington Cemeteries in East Greenwich, and St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Swedesboro.

This stone pillar marks the entrance to Eglington Cemetery in Clarksboro.
— Photo courtesy of findagrave.com

Juliano particularly recalls an investigation at the Eglington Cemetery offices, which occurred around 2007. “It was one of the experiences I always talk about in my lectures about always being prepared.”

“I was sitting in the hallway with another investigator, and a wooden coat rack teeter-tottered and moved like something out of Beauty and the Beast. It was like the coatrack was dancing, and it moved from one side of the hallway to the other.”

“We were so shocked that it was happening, that neither one of us lifted our cameras up to take a picture or start video,” he continued.

“Heaven’s Gate Cemetery was another one that was very active, with Native American spirits,” remembered Juliano. At one point a few of us saw about 20 (spirits) standing together on the edge of the property just staring at us. This was sometime around 2001.”

Juliano emphasized that his teams are trained to be respectful of cemeteries and to treat the properties with a reverence, sometimes picking up trash, uprighting flags or memorials, and even cleaning overgrown graves.

Pat Kibby, co-director of the organization, explains how the group differs from some other investigators. “Our tagline is ‘Helping the Haunted since 1955.’”

The group lives by its motto, as its purpose is not only to investigate a reported apparition, but to help the residents live in harmony with the ghost or other phenomenon.

“It’s also important for the clients to know that someone who believes them is coming to help,” said Kibby.

Kibby relayed how the process works. A client calls the organization to report an apparition, four to six volunteers travel to the location with their equipment, investigate for 3 to 4 hours, review data for about two weeks, and then give recommendations to the client.

All of this, at no cost to the client. Kibby explained that the organization runs on fundraising, donations, and the time and resources of the team members.

If the team confirms a presence, they typically recommend the homeowner attempt to live in harmony with whatever human presence may be there. That is, if it’s non-threatening.

The team instructs the client how to communicate with the presence, and how to set boundaries, such as ‘don’t come into my bedroom,’ and ‘don’t scare my house guests.’ “Being assertive but non-combative is important,” said Kibby.

Kibby pointed out that the team doesn’t encourage the entity to “cross over.” “We’re not sure what’s on the other side, and we don’t feel we have the right to do that,” she explained.

When asks if a threatening or malevolent presence is sometimes detected by the team, Kibby answered that it is unusual, but sometimes happens. “We have a special team for that, called Sanctuary Paranormal.”

The sanctuary team attempts to diminish or remove the entity from the home by understanding how it started and its intention.

To send the hostile spirit packing, they will sometimes incorporate the religion of the presence or homeowner, such as integrating Native American spiritual practices or performing a Roman Catholic house blessing. “Methods that create positive intention and energy are used,” Kibby elaborated.

As seen on TV, ghost hunting teams use a lot of fancy equipment. But what’s it all for?

Audio recording devices are used to catch EVP (electronic voice phenomena). These sensitive devices catch low-volume sounds or voices that cannot be heard by the human ear.

Cameras are set up using ultra violet and infrared lighting, as both are light spectrums outside the normal visual range of the human eye.

Electromagnetic field meters are used to detect energy from a non-manmade source, and static electricity meters detect movement that cannot be seen.

Electromagnetic field generators create EMF fields and can detect if they are broken by something walking by, and motion sensors detect changes in infrared heat (such as body heat).

Lastly, gauges measure ambient (air) temperature and laser (contact) thermometers measure the temperature of a surface (such as a wall).

When asked about video cameras, Kibby said that sometimes the team does run video to catch elusive apparitions, but it’s very difficult, and she hasn’t seen that yet, personally.

Although the team relies on this sensitive scientific equipment to help detect a presence, Kibby asserted that the team members themselves are the most important tools.

“The human body is the best indicator of potential paranormal presence. It is the combination of all five senses plus a psychic impression that gives the investigator an interpretation of what may or not be there,” she explained.

When questioned about the necessity of psychic ability when working for the team, Kibby responded that there’s a huge range involved. “Our belief is that everyone has some level of ability, whether it’s a feeling of dread or of something watching you. It’s a sense that we’ve not been able to define yet except for ‘psychic.’”

Kibby emphasized that there’s a huge range of psychic ability involved, and that experience certainly helps. “From being an investigator, you learn from what your body is feeling and what it means.”

Bodo Otto House in Mickleton

Although many haunted places have been mentioned here, more reported hauntings pepper the area, including Revolutionary War era Death of the Fox Historic Inn in Mount Royal (where supposed Tory hangings occurred), and Bodo Otto House in Mickleton.

Death of the Fox on Kings Highway in Mount Royal.

As the days gets shorter, the nights get colder and the leaf blowers sing their deafening tune, why not partake in some haunted stories of ominous places, both near and far?

South Jersey Ghost Research can be reached at www.hauntedhelp.org

Mullica Hill Ghost Walk tickets can be reserved at www.harrisonhistorical.com

By Colleen Woods-Esposito

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