Tag Archives: Ghosthunting New Jersey

Theater Superstitions and Traditions

Theaters are rich sources for paranormal phenomena. Before you venture into a theater to start hunting, it’s important to know a bit about theater traditions, superstitions, and folklore. L’Aura Hladik, author of Ghosthunting New York City, shares with us one of ten theater superstitions.

Never say “Macbeth”

MacbethNever say “Macbeth” in a theater. It’s traditional to avoid uttering the word “Macbeth” inside a theater. Actors, stagehands, and theater patrons refer to the play as “that Scottish play,” and they call its leading-lady character “Lady M.” If one does say “Macbeth” inside a theater, he must promptly exit the theater, spin three times counterclockwise, spit, swear, and then knock on the theater door and ask to be let back in. If that “undoing” ritual is not conducted, the curse of Macbeth will bring bad luck, leading to accidents on set and catastrophes in the lives of the performers and staff. Granted, Macbeth has more swordfights than most other plays, which in itself increases the chance of accidents. However, there are many stories of theater personnel thinking the superstition was silly and subsequently suffering the consequences with minor accidents and bad luck.

There are various theories about the Macbeth curse. Some say that the lines Shakespeare wrote for the three witches are actual incantations, and that therefore each performance of the play casts forth spells and curses. Others believe Macbeth is cursed because, being a crowd-pleasing production, theater owners would stage it as a last-ditch effort to save a struggling theater. Sadly, within weeks of the play’s performance, the troubled theater would be out of business anyway; thus The Tragedy of Macbeth became a “kiss of death” production.

L'Aura Hladik
L’Aura Hladik

In her book Ghosthunting New York City, L’Aura Hladik visits more than 30 legendary haunted places, all of which are open to the public—so you can test your own ghosthunting skills, if you dare.

About the author: L’Aura Hladik Hoffman is the author of Ghosthunting New Jersey and Ghosthunting New York City. She is also the Founder and Director of the New Jersey Ghost Hunters Society.

About the series: America’s Haunted Road Trip is a one-of-a-kind series of haunted travel guides. Each book profiles 30 haunted places that are open to the public. The author visits each place, from inns and museums to cemeteries and theaters, interviewing people who live and work there. Also included are travel instructions, maps, and an appendix of many more places that the reader can visit.

Photo credits
Photograph of Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth, based on an 1888 production, Folger Shakespeare Library Digital Image Collection.
By Window & Grove (photographer) [CC BY-SA 4.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

Ghost Hunting 101

Ghost Hunting 101 with L’Aura Hladik

L'Aura Hladik
L’Aura Hladik

For those new to the research of ghosts and the paranormal, here is a list of terms used frequently throughout this book and the paranormal research community.

Orb or Orbs—These appear as balls of white light that can be translucent or opaque. Sometimes they appear to have a hue or color, either red or blue. In most cases, orbs are determined to be the result of the digital camera taking a picture of dust, pollen, or an insect. In most cases, the orbs show up in pictures but are undetected by the photographer’s eye.

Ectoplasmic Mist or Vapor—This anomaly is an amorphous cloudy or smoky appearance in photos. This mist shows up in photos, even though the photographer doesn’t see any obstruction or interference when taking the photo.

Vortex (Vortices-pl.)—This anomaly appears as a tornado or funnel-shaped mist in photos.

Full Body Apparition—The ultimate capture for a paranormal investigator, full body apparitions can appear as solid as you and I or as a shadow or pile of dust in the form of a human. They can be seen with the human eye as well as in photographs.

EMF (Electromagnetic Field)—The device, an electromagnetic field strength meter, is used to track the EMFs during an investigation. It is theorized that a spirit or ghost will cause a fluctuation detected on the meter between 0.2 to 0.4 milligauss.

EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena)—Typically, the spirit or ghost’s voice is not heard with the human ear but is picked up by either digital or analog audio recorders. The movie White Noise dictated the accurate definition of EVP but instead portrayed ITC—Instrumental Transcommunication. (ITC—voices of the spirit world are supposedly captured by having one’s camcorder record the white noise displayed on one’s TV set.)

Residual Haunting—This is the effect of a traumatic or emotionally charged event leaving its mark in time so as to play itself over and over. Some residuals are audio only, some are video only, and some are both audio and video. Residual haunting is non-interactive with the living or the surroundings.

Ghosthunting New Jersey
Ghosthunting New Jersey

About the author:  L’Aura Hladik’s interest in the paranormal started in childhood and culminated with living in an actual haunted rental house when she was in the eighth grade. In 1993, she officially began hunting for ghosts; in 1998, she founded the New Jersey Ghost Hunters Society, which is the largest organization of its kind in the “Garden State.”

In addition to ghost hunting, writing about ghosts, and presenting her findings to schools and libraries over the years, she’s also appeared on the nationally syndicated talk show Montel Williams, as well as local cable shows and New Jersey’s own radio station, 101.5 FM.

L’Aura’s ghost research takes her beyond the borders of New Jersey to other states—even other countries, such as Ireland. Yet the “Jersey Girl” always comes home to her favorite haunt. One of L’Aura’s most prized possessions is her 1983 Cadillac Fleetwood, affectionately known as Jezzabelle.

L’Aura Hladik is the author of Ghosthunting New Jersey where you can find 34 tales about the scariest spots in the Garden State.

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Kids and Ghosthunting

L’Aura Hladik Hoffman shares with us her view on Kids and Ghosthunting

L'Aura Hladik
L’Aura Hladik

As parents we strive to raise our children with good manners, good moral compasses and positive self-worth. As a ghost hunter, well, it gets a little trickier to raise a junior ghost hunter. Over the years, parents have approached me and inquired about bringing their child to one of our NJ Ghost Hunters Society’s monthly meetings or joining the organization so they could go on the cemetery hunts. My knee-jerk response was always, “no.” However, I would see the disappointment in the parents’ eyes and then inquire, “How old is your son/daughter? What’s their maturity level?”

Here’s the thing: children have a much brighter aura – the light body that surrounds the human body. “Newbie Ghosts” may mistake this bright aura as “the light” and follow it and unwittingly attach to it. Thus, little Johnny brings home a stray ghost from that jaunt in the cemetery.

On the flip-side, ghosthunting is a painless and enjoyable way for youngsters to learn History. Take a child to Gettysburg (Pennsylvania) and watch them glaze over with boredom while taking an auto-audio tour of the Battlefields. However, tell them to pay attention to the historical information for use on tonight’s ghost hunt of the same Battlefields, and witness the difference in their attention level.

It’s also a great way to develop a child’s scientific skills of research, documentation, and empirical testing. Any ghost hunter will be the first to admit that data review is the natural cure for insomnia; however, it is an integral part of the ghost hunting experience. Kids learn patience and develop their ability to see a project through to its completion simply because they’re so intent on hearing that Class A EVP from their audio recordings or spotting that full body apparition on their video recordings.

As for the best age to start your child ghost hunting, I say 11 or 12 years old – again depending on their maturity level. Metaphysically speaking, a child’s aura is “sealed” by age 7, meaning their Third Eye Chakra is closed down. The imaginary friends, who probably weren’t so imagined, have gone away by this age. I add in the four or five years to make sure they’re capable of handling the equipment safely.

About the author: L’Aura Hladik Hoffman is the author of Ghosthunting New Jersey and Ghosthunting New York City. She is also the Founder and Director of the New Jersey Ghost Hunters Society.

 

Laurel Grove Cemetery

Last week L’Aura Hladik shared with us her story about the White Lady of Branch Brook Park in Newark, NJ. This week enjoy her tale about the second White Lady roaming the Garden State: Annie of Riverview Drive in Totowa.

The Laurel Grove Cemetery at Totowa’s Dead Man’s Curve

Laurel Grove Cemetery
The author with her son Trent in Laurel Grove Cemetery

The road runs between the Passaic River and Laurel Grove Cemetery and features a sharp bend in the road, affectionately called “Dead Man’s Curve,” where people say Annie was hit by a truck while walking home from the prom and dragged for fifty feet near the guardrail.

I first went to Laurel Grove Cemetery in 2000 as part of a New Jersey Ghost Hunters Society cemetery hunt. I had permission for our group to be in the cemetery. I can’t stress that enough to readers who want to jump in their cars and head out to a cemetery at midnight to get permission first. Even better, explore the area during the day, and then get permission from the caretaker or, if it’s a Catholic cemetery, monsignor. It’s also a good idea to check in with the local police department beforehand to apprise them of what you’ll be doing. If there are houses around the cemetery that you’re investigating, homeowners may call the police to report flashing lights and seeing vehicles and people in the cemetery after hours.

Our Totowa group was small and manageable. I reviewed the protocols for paranormal investigating while everyone signed the waiver sheet. We synchronized our watches and agreed to search for Annie’s grave and meet back at the front gate in one hour. A couple people came with me, and the others went off on their own. We covered a lot of ground within that hour. I remember taking one orb picture at a mausoleum. Other people captured some orb shots at various locations in the cemetery, but nothing stellar. EMF and temperature readings were normal. No one reported collecting any EVPs, and Annie’s grave eluded us.

After an hour we convened with the other part of the group, and I took attendance to make sure everyone was accounted for. One gentleman suggested we drive the length of Riverview Drive to see if Annie would appear. I agreed since our cars were all facing in that direction anyway. I knew the street would bend down to the right to follow the Passaic River, make a sharp turn and continue back out to the main road. I stressed to the team that we were only going to make the trip once. It was a residential area, and I didn’t want our caravan to be a nuisance.  We got in our cars and made our funeral-procession-paced drive down Riverview. As we were passing the cemetery on our right and the Passaic River on our left, I put my passenger window down and hung out a little to take pictures. I call this method “drive-by shooting.” I didn’t capture anything of a paranormal nature, but I have to say that it is a creepy road to drive along.

Once we were back on the main drag, we made the traditional stop at the first diner we saw. With digital cameras we were able to review and compare our cemetery hunt pictures over coffee and fries with melted mozzarella cheese and gravy. There were some interesting orb shots, but no full-body apparitions and certainly no Annie appearance. I asked whether anyone saw the blood-red paint on the guardrail that supposedly marks where Annie was hit and killed the night of her prom. Everyone admitted it was too dark to see any paint, if it was there. The eerie red paint is part of the legend that Annie’s father returns here on the eve of the anniversary of her death to repaint the guardrail.

A few months later, on a Sunday afternoon, my then-husband and I were in Totowa with our hearse, Baby, to attend a Cadillac car show at the Brogan Cadillac dealership. There were many classic Cadillacs, but ours was the only hearse. After the show, we headed for Riverview Drive and noticed some splattered red paint on the road, but did not see any on the guardrail. I figured this was the act of a teenager wanting to spook his girlfriend on their midnight ride home. Of course, I think we spooked the oncoming car even more as our twenty-two-foot-long hearse came around the corner of “Dead Man’s Curve.” In May 2008 I went up to Laurel Grove Cemetery to take a daytime picture of the entrance sign. Afterward, my sons and I hopped back in my car to make the drive down Riverview and look for the red paint on the guardrail. Sadly, the road was closed for construction. The site looked like an additional bridge was being built across the Passaic River. Oddly enough, this new bridge appears to start where Annie ended. Who knows? This may be the beginning of another legendary ghost-girl-on-the-bridge story.

L'Aura Hladik
L’Aura Hladik

About the author: L’Aura Hladik, is the author of Ghosthunting: New Jersey and Ghosthunting: New York City. L’Aura has been officially ghost hunting since 1993 and founded the NJ Ghost Hunters Society in 1998, which to date is the largest paranormal investigating organization in New Jersey.

As a paranormal investigator, L’Aura has stayed at the famously haunted Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville, LA. Other ghost hunting explorations have taken her to Chicago, Savannah, and New Orleans. Internationally, she’s investigated several Irish haunted castles, most notably Leap Castle (County Offaly, Ireland).

 

The Lady in White

While we are sure that every state has a ghost story about a lady in white, New Jersey boasts two lady spirits clad in white: one in Branch Brook Park and the other on Riverview Drive in Totowa.

Today L’Aura Hladik, author of Ghosthunting New Jersey tells us about the Lady in White of Branch Brook Park.

Lady in White
Branch Brook Park Lion

Branch Brook Park in Newark is 360 acres of beautifully designed gardens and more than 2,000 cherry blossom trees. One can take a leisurely walk along the four miles of park. There are two three-ton stone lions, once affixed to the headquarters building of Prudential Insurance Company in downtown Newark, that stand watch over the trout-stocked lake.

Several stories surround Branch Brook’s Lady in White. The first is that she and her new husband were on their way to the park to have wedding photos taken when their limo hit a patch of ice and skidded into a tree, killing the bride instantly. A variation of that story says that in 1976 a bride and groom were on their way home from their wedding reception and the chauffeur decided to take them through Branch Brook Park. He lost control of the car on the sharp turn and the car slammed into the tree. The bride was killed, but the groom and chauffeur survived. Weeks after this crash, two other crashes took place at this same location. Another popular story has the white lady on her way to the prom with a date in the park. He lost control of his car in heavy rain and hit the same tree. The impact killed the girl, but her date escaped with minor cuts. Regardless of the discrepancies, each story says that the Lady in White lingers near the tree that caused her death. Some feel that she is warning drivers of the dangerous curve in the road. Others think she waits for her prom date to come back for her.

Lady in White
Branch Brook Park Tree

On a gorgeous spring day, I took a ride to Newark to search cherry blossoms, I couldn’t find the tree of the Lady in White. I did see a couple trees with strange markings on them that could have been there to serve as an indicator of her tree, or simply a tag by the county park’s official for pruning. At the south end of the park, I saw a tree with a rather odd indentation on its trunk consistent with being hit by a car. This tree, however, is no longer near the road because the county rerouted the road due to a dangerous curve near the tree. I photographed another tree, one close to the road, as an example of how the Lady in White’s tree would have appeared prior to the road’s rerouting.

A little background research also revealed that in 1895, much of the park was originally a swamp called Old Blue Jay Swamp. Inhabitants of the surrounding tenements drank this impure swamp water, which contributed to Newark’s cholera epidemic in the 1800s. As a paranormal investigator, I suspect that the Lady in White was a product of former swamp gases and other atmospheric conditions like fog and humidity. However, the appearances of the Lady in White in Branch Brook Park seemed to subside once the road was redirected away from the fatal tree.

If you like this ghost story check back next week to find out about the the Lady in White at Totowa’s Dead Man’s Curve or pick up her book Ghosthunting New Jersey.

L'Aura Hladik
L’Aura Hladik

About the author: L’Aura Hladik, is the author of Ghosthunting: New Jersey and Ghosthunting: New York City. L’Aura has been officially ghost hunting since 1993 and founded the NJ Ghost Hunters Society in 1998, which to date is the largest paranormal investigating organization in New Jersey.

As a paranormal investigator, L’Aura has stayed at the famously haunted Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville, LA. Other ghost hunting explorations have taken her to Chicago, Savannah, and New Orleans. Internationally, she’s investigated several Irish haunted castles, most notably Leap Castle (County Offaly, Ireland).