Tag Archives: L’aura Hladik

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

Times Square

Times SquareTimes Square draws people in this life and the afterlife

The most famous spot in New York City has to be Times Square. It’s appeared in countless movies, such as Big, I Am Legend, and Jerry McGuire. Certainly everyone recognizes it as the place to watch the ball drop on New Year’s Eve. In fact, Web cams make it possible to view this legendary location from anywhere in the world all year long.

Times Square draws people from all over the globe, in this life and the afterlife. Case in point: Two Royal Air Force pilots who appeared mysteriously on the corner of 45th Street in Times Square during World War II. They asked Harvard graduate Oswald Reinsen, who was standing next to them on the corner, whether they were in Times Square. He confirmed their location, then began to cross the street. They followed him. Noticing the pilots’ uniforms and their English accents, Reinsen struck up a conversation with them. They told him how determined they were to visit Times Square. Reinsen noticed they kept a close eye on the time, checking their watches habitually every 10 minutes or so. After walking several blocks, Reinsen reached his destination, the Harvard Club. He invited the RAF men to join him, and they gladly accepted.

Times SquareThey enjoyed dinner and “spirited” conversation; all the while, the two RAF men kept checking the time on their watches. Just before midnight, they explained that it had been close to 24 hours since their planes had been shot down over Berlin. As they rose from their seats, they thanked Reinsen for the meal and proceeded toward the exit. Reinsen watched, dumbfounded, as they got lost in the crowd and vanished from view.

The story of a crisis apparition on Times Square

That story may be the most extensive and intense example ever of a crisis apparition. A typical crisis apparition occurs immediately after death. The newly deceased person, without the trappings of his corporeal being, “makes the rounds” by showing up to loved ones as a final farewell. Here’s how a crisis apparition works: You answer the doorbell, and there’s your Uncle Ted. You’re excited to see him and invite him in. Knowing how sick he’s been with cancer, you can’t believe how great he looks and that he is out and about. You make him comfortable on the couch and dash off to the kitchen to make him a cup of tea. All the while you’re chatting at 1,000 words a minute and not realizing Uncle Ted isn’t responding. You come back to the living room with his cup of tea, and he is gone. As you call out for him, the telephone rings. You answer the phone, and your Aunt Betty says that Uncle Ted just died.

Times Square1Most crisis apparitions appear as solid as you and I. Some may speak, but that’s rare. As an example of how solid they can appear, I know of a woman who bumped into the crisis apparition of her father.
She worked in New York City, and her demanding job had her rushing from one meeting to the next. While she was racing to pick up a sandwich and head to the next meeting, she was checking messages on her cell phone. Someone bumped into her, and when she looked up from her phone long enough to give the person a nasty look, she saw her father. He waved to her and vanished in the crowd. She wondered why her father was in New York City, but she continued to rush to her meeting, figuring she’d see him back at her office later. She had enough time to inhale her sandwich, shut off her cell phone, and sit down for the start of the meeting.

After the meeting, she checked her messages and heard a heartbreaking one from her mother that said, “Daddy had a heart attack. He’s dead. I need you to come home right away.” Once home, she learned that her father had died around the time she bumped into him on the street. He had come to New York to wave a final good-bye.

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.

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).

Radio City Music Hall

Is Roxy the ghost in residence at Radio City Music Hall?

Radio City Music Hall opened in 1932 as the largest theater in New York City. It occupied a full city block. What better way to use the piece of property, valued at $91 million, on which John D. Rockefeller had a twenty-four-year lease? Rockefeller sought the help of Samuel Lionel Rothafel to bring this theater to a profitable life in spite of the Great Depression. “Roxy,” as Rothafel was nicknamed, possessed “theatrical genius by employing an innovative combination of vaudeville, movies and razzle-dazzle decor to revive struggling theatres across America,” according to Radio City’s Web site. The rainbow-arched backdrop behind the stage provides the look of sunrise and sunset as seen from the deck of a ship. The balcony represents the ship’s deck. There are no support columns, so every seat is a good seat in this theater.

Complementing Roxy’s showmanship was the interior design talent of then-unknown Donald Deskey, who created the Grand Foyer, along with all the other smoking rooms, the lounges, and the Diamond Lobby. He used basic materials like cork, Bakelite, and aluminum to stunning effect.

Take a tour of Radio City Music Hall

Radio City Music Hall
Radio City Music Hall

My mother and I took the tour of Radio City Music Hall, which is well worth the time and money. You may take pictures, but no recording of any kind is allowed, so you won’t be able to collect EVPs. I managed to capture an orb in the Grand Foyer. It might be genuine, as none of my other photos contained orbs. The tour lasts about an hour; plan to wear comfy walking shoes or sneakers, because the tour goes from the backstage hydraulics up to Roxy’s suite, which includes climbing stairs and plenty of walking. At the conclusion of the tour, I decided to follow up on the ghost of Roxy story I had read about in other ghost-related books. I asked the guide if he had ever encountered the ghost of Roxy. His answer was simply, “No.” In fact, he remarked that I was the first person who had ever asked him about Roxy as a ghost.

I spoke with Diane Jaust, archivist for Radio City, and she was intrigued by the story, but she said she had no information on Roxy’s ghost. She went into research mode and tracked down former Rockettes and ballet dancers from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Everyone she spoke with said they never encountered his ghost, nor had they ever felt the theater was haunted. I heard from one of the former ballerinas, Janice Herbert. She said, “I called all the dancers I know who performed at Radio City, and the answer to Roxy’s ghost being there was ‘No,’ with a lot of laughter.” My inquiries had yielded nothing, but I’m glad they at least provided some entertainment.

Yet, according to Dr. Philip Schoenberg, founder and head tour guide for Ghosts of New York Walking Tours, Roxy has been seen at 1260 Sixth Avenue in Rockefeller Center “on opening nights . . . accompanied by a glamorous female companion.” Other reports say that Roxy’s ghost, along with a beautiful lady on his arm, has been seen walking down the aisle toward their seats, vanishing before reaching them. Places as old and as rich in history as Radio City Music Hall typically yield some sort of residual haunting or ghost. This is one of those spots that requires the paranormal investigator to take a closer look. Raise the great curtain on the paranormal and decide for yourself.

About the author

L’Aura Hladik, author of Ghosthunting New York City also investigated the Cherry Lane Theater which we invite you to read.   L’Aura Hladik is also the author of Ghosthunting New Jersey and the founder of the New Jersey Ghost Hunters Society.

Cherry Lane Theater

Ghosts perform at Cherry Lane Theater

Cherry Lane Theater
Cherry Lane Theater

This intimate theater, located at 38 Commerce Street, was the brainchild of Edna St. Vincent Millay in 1924. She formed an experimental theater group of local artists in the former brewery and box factory building, which dates back to 1836. Although there have never been any cherry trees along Commerce Street, the theater’s name fosters that notion. The reality is that Millay had named her group “The Cheery Lane Theater” to play on “Dreary Lane,” the nickname of the Drury Lane Theater in London. But a reporter misstated the name as “Cherry Lane,” and that’s what stuck.

Over the years there have been reports of ghosts “performing” at the theater. Sightings include a white mist that forms on the top step of the lobby staircase and a shadowy manifestation that hovers around the hallway outside the dressing rooms. Three former residents of the neighborhood—Aaron Burr, Washington Irving, and Thomas Paine have been suspected as the identity of these phantoms.

Possible ghostly addition to Cherry Lane Theater

Of course, a possible recent addition to the ghostly cast may be the spirit of Kim Hunter, the Oscar-winning actress best known for playing Stella in the stage and screen versions of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. In 1954, Hunter moved into an apartment above the Cherry Lane Theater with her husband, Robert Emmett. Kim’s career was derailed for a short time in the 1950s when she was blacklisted by McCarthy as a communist sympathizer. Hunter was no such thing. She was, however, according to her obituary in the New York Times, “feisty” and “occasionally profane,” with “no use for the trappings of Hollywood stardom that had always eluded her.” Hunter was quoted as saying: “The work itself has been my life. I was never in this for jazzy stardom, and as far as that’s concerned, I’ve never had it. Doesn’t matter to me.” Hunter’s husband died in 2000, and Kim Hunter died September 12, 2002. Maybe she was just too feisty for a final bow and stays active near the other love of her life, the stage at the Cherry Lane.

I spoke with Alex, the theater manager at the Cherry Lane, who has worked there for three and a half years. He said he has not experienced anything paranormal there even though he has been in the theater very late at night. He did say, though: “We like to think that the spirit of Edna (Millay) keeps an eye on the place.  I always say, ‘God morning, Edna,’ or ‘Good night, Edna.’ when coming or going.

Why not visit the Cherry Lane Theater? You can make a ghostly night out of it and have dinner and a show; the One If By Land, Two If By Sea restaurant (subject of another ghostly tale by L’Aura Hladik) is within walking distance.

About the author

L’Aura Hladik, author of Ghosthunting New York City also investigated Radio City Music Hall.  She is also the author of Ghosthunting New Jersey and the founder of the New Jersey Ghost Hunters Society.

Ghosts at Woodlawn Cemetery

Are there Ghosts at Woodlawn Cemetery?
Join Ghosthunting New York City author L’Aura Hladik on a tour

Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx was founded in 1863. Its 400 acres are easily accessible from Manhattan via trains from Grand Central Station, as well as by car using the Major Deegan (I-87) or I-95. The intention behind the location was to have a peaceful place away from the downtown noise, but not too far away. The original design of the cemetery was based on the “rural cemetery movement” that originated in 1831 with Mount Auburn Cemetery in Boston. However, five years after the cemetery opened, its design was changed to a “landscape lawn plan,” which prohibited fences and encouraged central monuments with footstones. The cleaner, more spacious grounds made cemetery maintenance much easier. A few of the 300,000 people interred at Woodlawn are mentioned in this book—people such as the Van Cortlandts, Herman Melville, and Olive Thomas Pickford. Other famous people buried there include George M. Cohan, Fiorello Henry LaGuardia, Nellie Bly, Joseph Pulitzer, and Thomas Nast. For those of you who appreciate retail shopping, F.W. Woolworth, Roland H. Macy, and James Cash Penney are buried there, too.

Woodlawn offers many free events, such as concerts, walking and bus tours, theater performances, and a tree lighting during the holidays. It’s more than a cemetery; it’s a cultural resource for the Bronx. Photography is allowed in the cemetery as long as you stop by the office upon arrival, present a photo ID, and complete a simple form. I recommend you follow the formal steps in case you capture some amazing paranormal evidence and want to share it on your Web site or in a newspaper article. The cemetery grounds are open every day from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., but the office, where photography permission is secured, is closed on Sundays.

Ghosts at Woodlawn Cemetery
Herman Melville Tomb

When I first visited Woodlawn, the ground was snow-covered and it was difficult to walk around; some of the drifts were more than three feet high. So I went back in early March of 2010 with Dina Chirico, my team leader at the New Jersey Ghost Hunters Society. Dina is a great navigator, which helped tremendously; she read the map and directed me while I drove. The first grave I was determined to find was that of Herman Melville. What writer could refuse the chance to pay respects to one of the greats? I certainly couldn’t. According to the map, Melville’s grave was located in the Catalpa section of the cemetery. We drove over to it and parked.

Dina and I employed a “divide and conquer” strategy to find the grave: she started at one end of the section, and I went to the other. I had my digital audio recorder running the whole time I was searching. I noted on the recording the date, time, and weather; I also took some photos while searching. As I started up a small incline, I saw what appeared to be a baby’s grave. I said into my recorder, “a little . . . it looks like a little baby grave. Born January 2, 1871, died . . . I can’t make out the month . . . seventeenth of 1872.” When I reviewed the recording, right after I said, “looks like a little baby grave,” I heard the voice of a woman whisper, “Yeah.” I know it’s not my voice because I was speaking at a normal conversational volume, and the EVP interjects so closely after my previous word, it’s impossible that I could have said it. I know it’s not Dina’s voice, either; she was so far away from me at the time that she had to yell to ask if I had found Melville’s grave yet. I shut the recorder off so I could yell back to her that I hadn’t. I didn’t know I had captured an EVP until I got home and reviewed the recording.

Dina and I reconvened at my car and reviewed the map once more. She knew we were close to Melville’s grave, and she became even more determined to find it. We started out again, and Dina found it. Honestly, I was expecting a huge monument for someone like him, but it was a simple, modest headstone. Little rocks and trinkets left by previous visitors sat atop the headstone. There was also a handwritten note that said, “Thanks. You changed my life.” Dina and I waited quietly around Melville’s grave for a bit, recording for EVPs. Then we left to find LaGuardia’s grave.

Ghosts at Woodlawn Cemetery
Fiorello La Guardia Tomb

Fiorello LaGuardia was mayor of New York City from 1934 to 1945. He was a short, rotund man with a high-pitched voice, but full of fire and conviction. He did not like the shame and negative stereotypes the mob had brought to Italian culture. LaGuardia put it best when he said, “Let’s drive the bums out of town.” He had Lucky Luciano arrested, and he went after Frank Costello’s slot machines with a sledgehammer. It was a media event when the slot machines were dumped onto a barge to be taken away from New York City. Dina and I found LaGuardia’s grave much more easily than Melville’s. By then it was getting late, and we couldn’t hang around to conduct an EVP session. Dina took some pictures of the grave before we left the cemetery. Judging by how effortlessly I captured an EVP while walking around Woodlawn Cemetery, I am sure there are more to be found on a return trip. I wonder what Joseph Pulitzer, “father of journalism,” has to say these days.

Garibaldi-Meucci Museum

Is the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum haunted by the spirit of the rightful inventor of the telephone?

From Ghosthunting New York by L’Aura Hladik

Garibaldi-Meucci Museum
Garibaldi-Meucci Museum on Staten Island

Located on Staten Island, the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum houses historical displays and artwork and hosts Italian cultural classes. The museum also provides ghosthunters with paranormal activity to explore, but to fully understand it, we must get to know the two famous Italians for whom the museum is named. Guiseppi Garibaldi is known as the George Washington of Italy. He fought for the unification of the twenty Italian city-states. Sadly for him, his hometown of Niza ended up becoming Nice, France, when the final borders of Italy were determined. In addition to fighting in Italy and being exiled, Garibaldi fought in

South America in support of Brazil’s war against Spain. It was in Brazil that he met the love of his life, Anita. They married and had four children together. Later, Garibaldi fought for Uruguay when it was invaded by Argentina. In Uruguay he was given a red shirt to wear, and this became the uniform for his fellow soldiers. They were known as “the Red Shirts.” Eventually Garibaldi returned to Italy with his wife and children so that he could fight once more to unite Italy. The Catholic states’ army overwhelmed Garibaldi’s men, and he was condemned to death. His wife had died during the battle; therefore, he left his children with his mother and fled to America to escape execution.

Antonio Meucci was born in Florence, Italy, and attended Accademia di Bell’ Arte (the Academy of Fine Arts), where he studied chemical and mechanical engineering. He met his future wife, Ester Mochi, when she was a costume seamstress at a local opera company where he was working as a stage technician. They married in 1834, and in 1835, they moved with the opera company to Havana, Cuba. They stayed in Cuba for fifteen years before relocating to America in 1850. The home they rented, built ten years prior in 1840, eventually became the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum. Meucci was a prolific inventor. In fact, he had a prototype for an electromechanical telephone when Alexander Graham Bell was only two years old. Although Meucci couldn’t explain electricity— he was an inventor, not a scientist—he did discover that sound, encoded as electrical impulses, would travel over copper wires. In 1854, Meucci used his “teletrefono,” as he called it, in his Staten Island home. The device allowed his wife, who was ill and bedridden, to call from her bedroom to his workshop if she needed something. In 1860, Meucci didn’t have the $250 necessary to secure a patent for his device. However, his lab partner at the time, Alexander Graham Bell, did have the money. Bell also had a powerful businessman named Hubbard as his future father-in-law. The well-connected Hubbard called in a favor or two that allowed his future son-in-law to submit for a patent for a tweaked version of Meucci’s invention. Bell’s design didn’t work, yet he was allowed to correct and resubmit his application, and within three weeks the patent was granted. Even today, such a quick turnaround for a patent is unheard of.

Garibaldi-Meucci Museum
Inventor Antonio Meucci’s Tomb

Curiously, Meucci’s paperwork and designs disappeared from the patent office around the time Bell was submitting for the patent. Meucci spoke only broken English, which cost him dearly in the effort to protect his business interests. He was truly taken advantage of by Bell and other big names of the day. For years, Meucci contested ownership of the telephone patent. Sadly, he died in 1899, before his case against Bell could be heard by the Supreme Court. But in 2002, the U.S. House of Representatives finally acknowledged Meucci as the inventor of the telephone.

So how were Garibaldi and Meucci connected? Garibaldi arrived in New York shortly after the Meuccis had moved into their home on Staten Island in 1850. Meucci insisted that Garibaldi stay with him and his wife, and Garibaldi ended up living with the Meuccis for six months—although the plaque above the entrance says he lived there for four years, probably because he returned to Italy in 1854 to continue the fight for unification. The house was moved to its present location in 1907, and a pantheon structure was built over it to convert it to a temple paying homage to Garibaldi. The pantheon was removed in the early 1950s because it was deteriorating. When you enter the house today, you’re actually coming in the back door; the house was rotated when placed on the property so that the sign announcing Garibaldi as “Hero of Two Worlds” would face the street. Meucci and his wife both died in residence at this house and are buried on the property. It’s possible that the rightfully disgruntled energies of Meucci may account for the otherwise inexplicable banging noises sometimes heard there.

The staff at the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum experiences cold spots and banging noises
Garibaldi-Meucci Museum
Bonnie McCourt, publicity coordinator at the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum

I spoke with Bonnie McCourt, publicity coordinator at the museum, and she said that she has yet to experience anything paranormal there. Her boss, Nichole, the museum director, is relatively new to her post and has not encountered anything unusual there either. Nichole did say, however, that her predecessor had experienced cold spots and banging noises and was once pushed by an unseen hand as she ascended the stairs on her way to her second-floor office. Nichole suggested I speak with Amy Raiola, Founder and Lead Investigator for the Staten Island Paranormal Society. I did just that. Amy first investigated the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum in 2006. She told me that initially her team tracked a cold spot that moved throughout the museum. In fact, just after they entered the museum, it felt so cold that they decided to check the furnace. One woman on the team opted to run back to her car to retrieve her coat while the remaining team members inspected the furnace. By the time she got back into the museum with her coat, the place was hot—not just warmed up, but hot. Amy confirmed the furnace and heat were working properly. They realized that the cold spot moved around the museum, causing the furnace to run hotter than normal to compensate for the varying spots of extreme cold. Once the cold spot moved on, the space would revert back to being “extra toasty.” The team also obtained photos of orbs and various EVP recordings.

Investigation at the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum
Garibaldi-Meucci Museum
Antonio Meucci’s Death Mask

In 2007, Amy and her team played host to Chris Moon of Haunted Times magazine and his Ghost Hunter’s University. The investigation at the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum incorporated the “Spirit Com” communication device Moon developed based on Thomas Edison’s original designs and ideas. Amy said it sounded as if voices from “the great beyond” were communicating via the “Spirit Com,” but that no words were discernable. “It was very faint or garbled sounding,” Amy said. As the night wore on, several members of the team left the site to get something to eat. Amy and the remaining seven investigators continued their work. After a while, they called it quits and began packing up their equipment. Just as they had gotten everything packed and ready to be hauled to their cars, they heard a loud bang from upstairs in the library.Amy described it as the sound of a large television falling off its stand.

The investigators rushed to the foot of the stairs. Amy was about to go upstairs to inspect, but she refrained, thinking it was probably one of the other investigators who was hiding up there and would jump out to scare her. Another team member volunteered to go upstairs. When his foot landed on the third stair, they heard a woman’s voice emanating from the top of the staircase, just outside the door to Garibaldi’s room. The woman’s voice was loud enough to be heard by everyone, but she was mumbling, so her words were not clear. Amy and a couple other investigators ran to their equipment cases and grabbed what they could. Chris Moon, with his audio recorder, was the first one upstairs. Amy followed with her camcorder. Amy said her video camera was working perfectly as she went up the stairs. As she approached the library, one of the investigators called out, “Matilda, is that you?” (Amy informed me that, over the course of their research, they had discovered the name “Matilda” in the museum’s paperwork.) Chris Moon’s audio recorder captured the ghostly woman’s response: “Yes.” Right after that EVP, Amy’s camcorder displayed lines across its screen and then shut down; it has not functioned since.

The day I went to the Garibald-Meucci Museum was not the best time to attempt to record for EVPs, though I tried. The offices on the second floor were full of activity such as phone calls and a radio playing in the background. I heard a loud crash, but it was not a paranormal one; it was merely a stack of files on the edge of a counter falling to the floor. Amy invited me to investigate the museum with her team the next time they go there. I simply cannot refuse. I want to know if Meucci’s restless spirit is wandering there. Is he unaware of his posthumous recognition as the inventor of the telephone? Could the ghost of his wife be the mumbling woman at the top of stairs? Either way, Meucci should be proud . . . talk about a long-distance call!