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Home East Brunswick Sentinel EB News Ghost hunter discusses haunted spots in New Jersey, New York

Ghost hunter discusses haunted spots in New Jersey, New York

Ghost hunter discusses haunted spots in New Jersey, New York

SOUTH RIVER–Equipped with photos, audio recordings and PowerPoint slides, ghost hunter L’Aura Hladik Hoffman spoke about haunted places in New Jersey and New York.

Hoffman is the founder and director of the New Jersey Ghost Hunters Society, which is the largest paranormal investigation organization in the state, Hoffman said.

More than 35 residents attend her presentation at a recent meeting of the South River Historical and Preservation Society at the South River Museum.

Hoffman published “Ghosthunting New Jersey” in 2008 and “Ghosthunting New York City” in 2010 as part of the “America’s Haunted Road Trip” book series.

Starting off her presentation in New Jersey, Hoffman talked about the Bernardsville Library, the Hermitage, the Burlington County Prison Museum and the Seabrook Wilson House also known as the “Spy House.”

Bernardsville is located in Somerset County. In 1777, when Bernardsville was known as Veal Town the building was once a tavern that was owned and operated by Captain Parker where his daughter Phyllis helped him run the tavern, according to Hoffman. 

Traveling to Morristown to deliver important documents to Gen. George Washington, Gen. Anthony Wayne decided to stay at the tavern for a night. Wayne woke up the next morning and his satchel containing his documents were missing, according to Hoffman.

With help from Parker, Hoffman said Wayne discovered that Phyllis’s fiance Dr. Bryon stole his documents and was, in fact, Toury Spy Aaron Wilde. Once Wilde was found, Wayne discovered that Wilde had stolen his paperwork and hanged him without giving him a fair trial, she said.

Not knowing her fiance was killed, Hoffman said, “During the night [Phyllis] snuck down with one candle and goes into the kitchen and saw [a] big suspicious box on the counter and she found a nice sharp knife … and she started chopping away at the wood and she finally got enough wood removed and saw her dead fiance’s face. She let out a horrific scream, collapsed and it was said after that she wasn’t quite right. … That is what we call a residual haunting, it locked itself in time.”

Having a history dating to 1740, the Hermitage Museum is located in Ho-Ho-Kus and was originally owned by Aaron Burr and Theodosia Prevost. In 1847, Elijah Rosencrantz brought the property and had his architect renovate the house, according to Hoffman.

Hoffman said Rosencrantz’s wife, Mary Warner Rosencrantz, had a daughter named Mary-Elizabeth Rosencrantz, who became the last surviving member of her family. In 1943, her aunt died, who had a servant named Kate Zahner. Zahner was displaced so she came to live at the Hermitage. 

In 1970 Mary-Elizabeth died and in her will she left all of the Hermitage and its five acres to the state, saying she wanted the state to turn the house into a museum. Five days after Mary-Elizabeth’s death, Zahner passed away, according to Hoffman. 

Hoffman showed a photo of a full body apparition that looked like the ghost of a little girl that was captured on the front lawn of the Hermitage.

In 2005 when the New Jersey Ghost Hunters Society was having its annual ghost kick, Hoffman said, “I took everybody up to the Hermitage for a Friday night kickoff investigation. … [Once] everyone is investigating this woman comes up to me and shows me her camera and says, ‘What is that?’ and said, ‘My God you got a full body apparition.’ I have been doing this since 1993 and I have not captured a full body apparition. This was the first time this woman ever had her camera in a ghost-hunting capacity.” 

Remembering a portrait of a little girl with shoulder length curly hair that would sometimes hang in the Hermitage, Hoffman said she discovered the ghost was Mary Warner Rosencrantz.

The Burlington County Prison Museum was opened in 1911 and was built to hold only 40 inmates but by the time it closed it had 100 inmates, both male and female. There were seven hangings on the property, the last one taking place in 1906, according to Hoffman. 

In each cell, an inmate would have a small cot to sleep on and a little fireplace for heat; however, in the dungeons that are located on the second floor of the prison, inmates were chained to the floor naked with no heat or cot, according to Hoffman. 

While taking a self-tour around the prison, Hoffman said, “I went into the warden’s house, I looked around and I made my way back through the breezeway and the minute I stepped foot on the landing in the prison … I was hit in the face with the smell of cigarette smoke. Well, I remembered Joel Clough, he was a murderer who only after days he was hanged, the prison guards were smelling his cigarettes’ smoke coming from the dungeon. Luckily, I had my digital audio recorder running and played the [Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP)] and it said ‘committed no crime.'”

Seabrook Wilson House, also known as the Spy House, located in Port Monmouth, is a 350-plus-year-old structure. The house is considered the number one most haunted place on the eastern seaboard and is in the top five for the United States, according to Hoffman. 

Hoffman said previously, a reverend who had three children used to live in the house. Tour guide and psychic Jane Doherty said visitors often see or hear the three children during her tours.   

Moving on to New York, Hoffman talked about the Manhattan Bistro, the Morris-Jumel Mansion, the Merchant’s House Museum and the Martin Beck Palace Theater.

The Manhattan Bistro back in 1799 was the Manhattan Water Company. Right around the corner on Spring Street, there was a boarding house where Guiliana Elmore Sands lived with her aunt and uncle who ran the boarding house, according to Hoffman.  

Hoffman said Sands was infatuated with Levi Weeks, a boarder who lived at the house. On Dec. 22, 1799, Sands agreed to go on a sleigh ride with Weeks, but when Weeks returned to the house, Sands was not with him. Weeks claimed he dropped her off at the house before returning to his brother’s house. After a few weeks, Sands’s body was discovered in a well, Hoffman said.

It was determined that Sands was strangled to death and Weeks was arrested and put on trial for her murder. Weeks’s brother hired a legal team comprised of Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr and Henry Brockholst Livingston. In the end, Weeks was found not guilty. 

After the trial, the ghost of Sands would appear pointing toward the well. Today, the well where her body was found is actually in the basement of what is now the Manhattan Bistro, according to Hoffman. 

Hoffman said she interviewed the bistro’s current manager, Thomas King, who told her about the series of paranormal instances that have taken place over the years. 

“Every time he would stand at the maitre’d stand he would start feeling this cold, wet, clammy sensation on his arm. … Well, one night he saw one of the bus boys standing by the maitre’d stand wiping his arm [and] looking up at the ceiling. … He walks up to him and asks him ‘What are you doing?’ and the guy says, ‘I don’t know I feel like I am being dripped on.’ … That’s when it dawned on [King] the maitre’d stand is directly above that well. So, when the ghost of Guliana is standing next to you, you feel that wetness because of the well.” 

Hoffman said the bistro always experiences electrical problems, plumbing problems and even the women’s bathroom stalls mysteriously locking. 

The Martin Beck’s Palace Theater opened in 1913 and was a notable place were entertainers would come and perform. One of the theater’s famous performers was Louis Borsalino who was a wire walker and a member of the Four Casting Pearls, who fell to his death after an act on stage.

“It left this weird omen with the theater, so if you ever walk into the theater and you hear [Borsalino] screaming as he falls to his death, that’s actually a good thing – it means good luck is coming your way – but they say if you walk in and you see him fall to his death, death is coming for you,” Hoffman said. 

Hoffman said various paranormal things occur at the theater, including visitors seeing a ghost of a cellist playing music.   

For more information about the NJGHS, visit www.njghs.net/njghshome.html.

Contact Vashti Harris at vharris@newspapermediagroup.com.