Ghosts of New Jersey: The real stories behind these haunted places
Since moving to New Jersey, I have heard of thousands of tourist attractions I have to visit. A few of my favorites are going to a show at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park in the summer, hiking the Delaware Water Gap in the spring, and finding historic small towns like Lambertville to discover.
I am on a mission to uncover what is new in New Jersey. I want to discover the weird and odd sides of New Jersey. So my first mission is to find the spooky side of New Jersey.
I grew up loving the stories of haunted mansions and ghosts in the window, so I set out to find some places in New Jersey visited by some ghoulish guests.
The first stop on my trip is Mount Holly to release the vengeful prisoner of Burlington Prison.
The building was constructed in 1811 and meant to house only 40 inmates. At its peak, the prison held 100 convicts, and a few remain confined there for eternity.
During the 155 years of operation, many people died, inmates and workers alike. One prisoner, in particular, Joel Clough, was executed in public at a crossroads a few miles from the prison. Reports say his body rests in the corner of the prison yard where a large tree now stands.
Before Joel's execution, he made an escape attempt that got him put into the maximum security cell called the "death cell." That is where you can find Joel when you visit the prison. Joel is known for moaning and following visitors around the museum, now standing in the prison's place.
He first made his presence known in 1999 when the remodeling project began for the museum. He was known for stealing tools and leaving them elsewhere, making unusual noises, and showing up as apparitions. During investigations, researchers found several pieces of evidence in the form of electromagnetic indicators, or orbs and anomalies caught on film.
The next stop on my trip is Wayne, NJ, to visit the Phantom Dog of Terhune Memorial Park.
In 1847, an esteemed author named Albert Payson Terhune purchased an estate in Wayne, New Jersey, to keep as his summer home but moved in full time in 1912. During his time at the Terhune Estate, he started breeding Rough Collies. When that venture turned successful, Albert opened the Sunnybank Kennels on his property, where he continued to breed and sell collies to local animal lovers.
Though Terhune only had purebreds, there was one special canine with whom he had a special attachment. Rex was a mixed breed collie/bull terrier with a scar on his head that was in the shape of a star that only elevated his uniqueness to Albert. Rex adored Albert and never was too far away from him, and over time visitors would note how much Albert would appreciate Rex, solidifying their strong bond.
The bond was so strong that it was maintained after Rex’s passing, as visitors to the property would report seeing him sitting at Albert’s feet or wandering the property. Though Albert would never see Rex’s apparition, people who did see him would report seeing the image of a dog that was so lifelike that he was often mistaken as the real Rex after his passing.
After Albert’s passing in 1942, the estate fell into disrepair and was sold to the state of New Jersey to be repurposed into a public park, Terhune Memorial Park. If you visit the park, you can find graves for many dogs that once lived in the Kennel. Rex’s grave is unmarked, but many visitors report seeing him still wandering the property.
I continue my journey to my final stop, communicating with the benevolent spirits of the Big House. I am going to visit Allaire Village in Howell, New Jersey.
Today New Jersey residents know this place as a historic living park, Howell Park, where visitors experience what life was like in the early 19th century with volunteer reenactors dressed in costume.
The tour guides tell the story of James Peter Allaire. A philanthropist, engineer, and businessman who purchased the land that would be the Howell Works. Allaire purchased the land in 1822 but relocated his family there in 1832 due to the cholera outbreak in New York City.
He was very fearful for the health and safety of his family, specifically his wife, Frances Duncan, who was ill once before with what they thought was Tuberculosis. When they arrived, Allaire moved his family into the large farmhouse known as the “Big House.”
Allaire brought his family to the fresh air, but it didn’t seem to help his wife as she passed away in the Big House in 1836. Allaire was said to have grieved terribly over his wife and tried to move back to New York, but he had a period of bad luck and fell into financial distress. In 1851, Allaire retired to the Big House with his new wife Calicia and son Hal. They lived there for the rest of their lives, and the land ended up deeded to the state in 1941.
Three prominent spirits hang around the property. The first is Allaire’s wife, Frances Duncan, who wanders the mansion at night. Due to her residence and Allaire’s second wife, Calicia, it is common courtesy for volunteers to bid farewell to the ladies of the night before they close.
The final prominent spirit that wanders the property is Hal, Allaire’s son, known for his poltergeist activity of moving books, playing with candles, and opening locked bookcases. The stories of all the ghosts on the property are told by tour guides when you visit the park, and you may encounter one of them yourself.
Kayla May is the promotions and marketing assistant Townsquare Trenton.