So sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a ghostly trip....
The North East and Midlantic areas along the Eastern seaboard, were the first parts of the United States settled by Europeans hundreds of years ago; and many of those formerly inhabited structures are now historical sites. There’s so much history – and legend - associated with these places – it makes for some great paranormal investigation! Yes, I’m talking about “experiences” that people have had in these buildings or in certain places that just don’t jive with what you would call “normal”, which prompt others to try to find out the causes for them.
Upon my visit to the location of the “ghost hunt”, I was probably sitting in one of the same chairs that George Washington himself sat in, as I was being briefed on what I was about to possibly experience.
It’s really kind of cool when you think about how you are retracing the steps of some of our country’s greats when you tour some of these historical landmarks. So when the paranormal investigator Gordon Ward, a well-respected professional in his field (as well as author, musician, and historian) asked me to go on a “ghost hunt” – I jumped at the chance! I get to do a lot of amazing things in my travels, but usually I don’t go around interviewing ghosts. I wasn’t going to pass up this opportunity!
See, Ward isn’t on one of those trendy ghost hunting reality shows because he’s not about the dramatic. He will double check the facts of legends and tales associated with buildings against dates recorded in bibles and on tombstones. He cross-checks an area to see if trains passing by can knock pictures off walls, or old pipes creaking is really what someone hears, versus an invisible presence. If he can disprove a ghostly presence, he does; and he has. That said, if he can’t explain something, and he uses his cameras and recorders to capture evidence of a supernatural something, you can believe him that it’s the real deal.
Ward was asked to investigate the Schuyler-Hamilton House in Morristown, NJ. A bit of background on the house that was built in 1760: A man by the name of Dr. Campfield and his wife Sarah Ward bought the house in 1765. They had one child. They lived there for 56 years. However, as was commonplace during the Revolutionary War, soldiers and doctors needed places to stay.
Fast forward to the winter of 1779-1780. George Washington’s doctor, Dr. Cochran, resided here with his wife, Gertrude. Gertrude had a sister named Betsy Schuyler, who stayed with them at that house that same winter. (Ah-ha! That’s where the “Schuyler” part of the house name comes from!) Betsy fell in love with the Alexander Hamilton – you know – the Secretary of the Treasury under President George Washington; one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Alexander Hamilton was stationed at George Washington’s headquarters, about a quarter mile away from this house at the time. Betsy and Alexander dated during this time – and spent time at this house, hence the name “Schuyler-Hamilton House”. So this place has some pretty impressive history.
This is a four-bedroom house that’s rather small. It’s amazing so many people PLUS their slaves and the children of the slaves all lived here. Talk about a full house! In 1895 the house was moved from its original location to where it resides now. There was a doctor who owned three acres of land which was devoted to different types of plants that he used for medicinal purposes. The Schuyler-Hamilton House was moved to this land.
Pat Sanftner and Kathy Cruger are the docents for the house now – which means they care of it. Sanftner’s mother used to be the docent, so she’s got a most comprehensive history of the events of this place all in her head, from recent times, dating back to its beginnings.
Sanftner, Cruger, and on prior investigations of this house, Gordon Ward, have all experienced and accounted for “the unusual”. Before Ward was called in, staff had been alone in this house and heard footsteps walking through the upstairs hallway – a clop, clop, clop on an all-wooden floor, from the front to the back of the house, which now has many area rugs strewn about. A photo of Sanftner’s great grandfather in the parlor kept falling down, no matter how many times she hung it back up; and last summer, every time Cruger went upstairs, she heard footsteps in other parts of the house. One time she heard a voice on the stairwell – a child’s voice – and no children have lived in the house since 1820. The house is empty most of the time except for once a week. So it’s restful – not disturbed. Well, not disturbed by humans, anyway.
You know what? If I experienced these things, I might say “Who ya gonna call?”, too. And that’s when Sanftner called Ward, a professional in the field of discovering the undiscovered.
Ward sometimes gets calls from places that presume an unearthly presence. Sometimes the phenomena are legit. Other times – well, you just never know if an establishment is seeking some publicity by trying to gain credibility for being “haunted”. This is why he investigates a site multiple times. Just because you don’t find anything “strange” the first time around, doesn’t mean you won’t on a subsequent visit. At the same time, collection of evidence of the paranormal obtained more than once, does lend one to believe that a presence is indeed real.
Ward had already visited the Schuyler-Hamilton House before I came along. He had collected evidence of the supernatural in 2012: 2 EVP recordings – or 2 “sound” recordings if you will. One was of a man’s voice saying “You’re clumsy”, and the other was a woman’s voice saying “yes” in the stairwell, and laughing. (He has the sound bites to prove it.) He obtained a few more recordings on previous walk-throughs of the house, too. One woman’s voice in the attic said “I don’t think so,” when Ward asked the question if slaves were kept up there. Of note, the basement was built in 1895 when the house was relocated; and upon touring it at an earlier date, Ward recorded a whisper of “I’m here in the basement,” too.
Let me tell you – after I walked through this house – I can vouch that there is “something” in that basement. We’ll get to that.
So it was 1:45pm on a Wednesday in May when Gordon Ward showed me his camera, K-II meter (for measuring electromagnetic energy) – which tends to be present in larger amounts when spirits are present, and a sound recording device. No proton packs, no worries of getting slimed.
We all took a look at our battery powered devices – cell phones, recorders, etc. to check their charges. Sometimes when ghosts manifest, they drain the juice from batteries since they require energy to manifest. So I looked down at my phone and it read 98% charge. I was well-prepared for a supernatural syphon of energy. Bring it on!
There were 5 of us who were going to do a comprehensive walk-through of this house. It was daylight. We weren’t looking for the spooky effect. Ghosts can make themselves known at any time of day.
Ward started recording. He had himself, Sanftner, Cruger, one other interested party, and myself all introduce ourselves for the record. This might seem strange at first, but it sets a benchmark for establishing each of our voices. See, after Ward makes a recording of an investigation, he uses software to analyze sound and pick out voice patterns. If “someone” speaks on tape, that is not someone who was physically, and humanly present, he’ll know it, because every single person’s voice print is unique. He would know right away if it was me speaking versus someone from “the other side.”
So what do you do on a ghost hunt? You pick a room to start in and start talking! Seriously, you “interview” the “ghosts”. (I wasn’t kidding!)
We were in the sitting room with the Revolutionary War period chairs, and Ward asked who is in the house. When he did that, the dog started barking next door.
This was the first opportunity I had to use my electromagnetic field (EMF) detector for my iPhone (Mr. Ghost) and I put it to use. When that dog started barking my EMF reading jumped – a lot – to over 200. Normal readings are usually a bit lower than that, unless you are standing near wires or something that runs on electricity or battery power. I was starting to feel like we weren’t “alone”.
Ward didn’t get a response to his question – at least not one that we could hear. Many times a ghost will respond to questions asked but it is inaudible to the human ear. This is why it’s so important to make a sound recording and play it back on a computer. On a computer, you can visually see the wavelengths and patterns recorded to hone in on any inaudible sounds that may be voices. You can also peel apart the voices of the people present, plus weed out any background noise visually.
We went into the downstairs hallway and into the parlor. All of us took turns in asking the spirits questions – if they were there listening. I asked if s/he was the one knocking the photo off the wall. Different people asked the names of the spirits and what year it was, if they were slaves, and if they lived in the house at one point. We asked questions that if answered, would give us clues about who these people used to be.
We couldn’t be sure if the ghostly presences (yes, there’s more than one….you’ll see!) were there because of the land, the house, or objects in the house. Trying to establish a time frame of reference with any answers whispered to us would help us figure out who these people could have been.
The rooms were small, and the downstairs wood floor wasn’t particularly creaky. I had stepped on the boards trying to see if there was any plausible practical explanation for hearing footsteps. When trains passed by from the Morristown train station, I paid attention to see if frames shifted on walls or objects fell. None did. The heat was not turned on, and the water was not running, so there were no hisses and creaks generated by pipes. My mind thought about ways to disprove anything that we might encounter as we went from room to room. I couldn’t disprove a darn thing.
We went from the parlor to the back room and then up the stairs to the very creaky floor of the upstairs hallway. We all took turns asking questions related to the history of the house and if there was anyone there. We didn’t hear anything – at the time. So far the house didn’t seem to give me any creepy feelings. I didn’t have a sense of fear. Cruger said she felt cold upon entering the room in the back of the house downstairs, almost as if you get that feeling of the little hairs on the back of your neck standing up, but everyone remained calm. There was no sense of dread.
We toured each of the bedrooms upstairs. The house looked old; quiet. Maybe a little too quiet. We walked up the narrow staircase to the old attic. I have to admit, this looked like a more likely place to get a case of the eebie jeebies than any part of the house we had been in so far – but – again, nothing jumped out at us. No one screamed.
After walking downstairs again, we walked back into the parlor to see if that photo of Sanftner’s grandfather was knocked down again. It wasn’t. It doesn’t seem like we disturbed “anyone”. Ward was about to wrap up the investigation, when I reminded him that we hadn’t explored the basement yet.
The basement – with a low ceiling, and only one light bulb to illuminate the way because the main light was not working – was where I wanted to go. What was I thinking? This is the part of the movie – I mean adventure – when you are sitting there and should be yelling at me “Don’t! No! Don’t open that door! Don’t go in there!”
Yes, I was the crazy main character that did. But I had back-up! (Hey, if you’re going to go in a dimly lit basement, who better to go with than a pro!)
Ward and the three other women explored the underpinnings of the house with me. Sanftner turned on the one light bulb at the opposite end of the dank cellar, and that’s exactly where I headed. For some reason I was possessed to ask the “presence” to flicker the light if it was there. You know what? The light flickered. Ward saw it happen right after I made the request. (Remember, spirits need energy to manifest. They gravitate towards electrical sources…)
The basement was one of the areas of the house where Ward had previously recorded a voice, too.
I then asked what the spirit’s name was, and honestly, this was the first time, I had a semi-creepy feeling during the entire time we were there. Both Ward and I didn’t record any unusual EMF readings on our devices, though. I had later asked him if EMF’s are always an indicator of a supernatural presence. He said no. Sometimes you can see or hear or feel paranormal activity and your EMF readings will not jump off the scale.
The EMF meters are just a possible indicator. Sometimes the voices coincide with EMF fluctuations, and sometimes they don't.
“I have gotten great EVP when the meters are flat...and I've also recorded no voices when the meters were going nuts. EMF spikes don't equate to ghosts being present, but when they are, they often (not always) change the EMF fields. In the end, the meters are just another tool that is helpful in indicating the possible presence of an entity,” explains Ward.
A few days later I received an email from Ward after he had time to review his recordings made that day we toured the Schuyler-Hamilton House. Guess what? We were not alone. Ward obtained two voice recordings that did not belong to any of us humans who were on the ghost hunt that day. I’ve attached them to this blog. The best way to listen to them is on high volume, with headphones on.
The first evidence of a spirit in our presence is captured in the “Hello” file. You’ll hear Ward’s voice requesting the spirit to “Take a walk for us…in any room, just walk around so we can hear you.” Soon after, in a whisper, you will hear a faint “Hello”. It truly is ghostly. The “hello” is what investigators call a Class A/B whisper. It’s very faint and is easier to depict visually, or listen to with a good pair of headphones on. The first time I played the file I didn’t hear the “hello”. But on the second or third try, full volume, with headphones, I heard it.
If you are looking to being impressed more, check this second sound file out, also recorded on the same day. This was recorded in the basement – the room that creeped me out – the same place where I asked the ghost to flicker the single lit light bulb above my head - and it did. You’ll hear a “Thank you” very clearly, spoken by a woman in a high-pitched voice. This type of recording is a Class A voice, according to Ward; it’s clear, loud, and distinct.
You’ll hear Sanftner say “We’re doing a major electrical overhaul of the house because…” (and her voice coincidentally trails off) as you hear a different womanly high-pitched voice say “Thank you.” You can’t miss it.
Ward was impressed and finds these two recordings “amazing”. So do I. We didn’t hear these voices while we walked through the house. Perhaps because we were distracted by background noise, or our ears just didn’t hear them at the time. As I mentally retrace my steps through the house and know exactly where I was standing at the time these words were spoken, it gives me chills after-the-fact. We were not alone.
Right now it’s still a mystery as to who these voices belonged to. Maybe they belong to spirits just passing through; maybe to former residents of the house or the land. Ward is still investigating this house and hopefully after he compiles all of the evidence and recordings, he will be able to piece together and solve the puzzle of this “haunted” house.
A great way to find out about historical New Jersey haunts is to take a look at Gordon Ward’s book (available in hard copy, and becoming available as an eBook Summer 2013):
Ghosts of Central Jersey: "What ghosts roam within the historic sites and buildings of Central New Jersey? How accurate are the traditional stories? From the shadowed woods of the Somerset Hills to the dappled banks of the Delaware River, Ghosts of Central Jersey delivers a rich mix of factual history and the sound investigation of ghostly phenomena."
Also available Summer 2013 is Ward’s latest novel: Tracing Infinity: Bridging the Gap between Earth and Heaven (available in soft cover and eBook): "Tracing Infinity takes you on an exploration to discover God’s immersion in our lives. The clues are all around us! We just need to learn to see the holy breadcrumbs, the evidence of the Infinite, on life’s paths. Find out how the Divine touches us all on our incredible journeys."