It’s October. The air is getting crisp, the leaves are changing color, and it’s hard not to think about Halloween!
There are some people who absolutely love this holiday. The dressing up and getting to role-play your favorite character or alter ego. It’s a bit of a throwback to childhood play, and we could all use a little of that every now and then.
When I think of Halloween my mind instantly goes to ghost stories. And since I’m a storyteller, I thought it would be fun to share some of Asbury Park’s ghost tales – and there are plenty. How many of them are actually true and how many are just fables remains unknown.
My first learning of ghosts in Asbury Park was when I came to work for the Sitar Company. They owned nearly the entire south side of Cookman’s 600 block. Our office was on Bond Street, just below Harry’s Roadhouse.
Some office space above the restaurant Plan B was coming available for rent again, and my manager shared a story about a murder that took place in the building not that long before. Often, when a building or particular space has a frequent turnover of tenants, people tend to blame it on being “haunted” or “cursed.”
True or not? As a real estate person, I can tell you that NOT making significant changes (I’m talking total gut renovation) to a new space after a failed business has left is surely an invitation for further failure to come knocking at your door. I don’t know if that counts as a curse.
What is true is a murder took place in the building in 1997 between the shop owner and a vagrant he offered a job and a place to stay. The shop owner was murdered in the basement. But the story I heard was the murder took place on the third floor. Did the story become muddled over time, or could there have been two murders?
Another well-known host to spirits from another world is the old Harry’s Roadhouse. If you know the location and have been there then you know the most popular and eerie place for strange happenings in the basement, including the women’s bathroom. Harry’s has been gone for over a decade and other restaurants have taken its place, but the newness and changes created from the renovations made by its current owner make me think the spirits are happy and enjoying the visits of its many patrons.
There have been tales of hauntings in other parts of Asbury Park as well. The Asbury Lanes, The Paramount Theater, Convention Hall, the North Beach, and The Steven Crane House. You can read about them, including the two stories I just mentioned, in Kathy Kelly’s book Asbury Park’s Ghosts and Legends.
The story I heard regarding the Asbury Lanes is that one of the regular patrons had left the bar one evening, most likely had a lot to drink, crashed on his motorcycle and died instantly. The accident apparently happened not that far from the Lanes. And, as the story goes: not realizing he was gone, he walked back to the Lanes, sat back down in his seat and never left. I recently spoke with the previous manager, Jenn Hampton about this story. She told me that the team from Paranormal NJ came in to do an investigation. There was some communication with a lingering spirit and it had made a request. “Leave a shot on the bar.” So at the end of each night, they would leave a filled shot glass sitting on the bar in the same spot. Was it the person who had a motorcycle crash? She wasn’t sure. But she told me that “Paranormal NJ had done several investigations at Asbury Lanes, producing some very interesting results, just ask Kathy.”
Since the renovations of the Asbury Lanes, I’m sure things are not exactly the way they used to be, energetically speaking. Although I’ll bet the workers who did those renovations have a few tales of their own to tell. There’s also the story of Carolyn Curtin’s house on Asbury Avenue. An elderly woman who used to live there by herself in the 1980s was murdered by the boyfriend of the girl who lived next door, which I wrote about in Before the Wrecking Ball.
A personal experience I had in those early days of Asbury Park was attending a Medium Gallery Event held at Paranormal Books and Curiosities. The medium was Lee Ann LaRocca from Montclair, NJ. And I have to say, she was impressive. As soon as the evening began she explained that a young teenage boy had been with her most of the day. The event had taken place in the evening, but the entire day even on the ride down to Asbury Park, he kept telling her he needed to get a message to his family. She offered his name and some details about the boy, but nothing. The audience was completely silent.
She went on to offer others insightful information and messages. Again, in the middle of her readings, Lee Ann stopped to talk about this young boy, as he was still anxious to deliver his message. Then she offered some details about his accident: he was riding his bicycle, was struck and killed by a car just a few blocks from his house. Apparently, that was enough…
Shortly after those details were revealed a woman sitting across the aisle spoke up. She said she was a teacher at Asbury Park High School and she had a female student in her class who lost her brother not too long ago, and she was still very distraught over it. The teacher didn’t know the boy’s name, so she didn’t make the connection right away.
It seemed the boy found the person he needed to share his message with. Apparently, he and his sister had a fight right before he left the house and the girl was feeling guilty over the exchange of unkind words. He wanted her to know that he loved her, and that everything was OK. He also knew that his mother was anguished, worried that her son suffered pain as a result of the accident. He wanted her to know that it was very sudden and he was never in any pain.
The entire gallery was in awe of the conversation that was taking place between Lee Ann, the spirit of this boy, and the woman sitting at the end of the aisle. I didn’t envy the task this teacher now had of having to tell her student she had a message for her from beyond the grave. One of solace, yet incredibly astonishing.
Not all these stories are a result of tragic or horrific deaths. My friend Susan McCarthy reminded me of an experience she had when she first arrived in Asbury Park many years ago. At the time, Bruce Donaldson was a well-known real estate broker and agency in town. Susan worked for his partner John Green, who was her manager at Verizon. Wanting a change she moved from Pennsylvania, got her real estate license, and became an agent for Bruce. For a short period, she lived in Bruce and John’s home at 617 7th Avenue in a small apartment on the upper floor. During that time, Susan became very close to John’s mother Betty and her white sheepdog named Emma.
As the years pass, Susan moved on to another place to live and work, and John’s mother Betty passed away. She had been living in an assisted living facility towards the end of her life.
One day Susan gets a call from a woman named Sheila, who lived on Long Island. She wanted to see 617 7th Ave, which was now up for sale. Because Sheila would be traveling a long distance, Susan offered to show her some other homes at the same time. But Sheila only wanted to see 617 7th Avenue.
Susan showed her the house and got an eerie feeling when she got to the third floor. She figured it was probably from the doll collection that Bruce kept up there. After the showing, Sheila asked if anyone had died in the house. Susan told her the house was over 100 years old and it was very likely that someone had died there.
Sheila replied, “No, this is more recent.” She went on to tell Susan that she was a medium. She described a woman in contemporary clothing standing on the landing of the steps with a large white dog. Feeling perplexed, Susan called Bruce and he told her that in Betty’s last days she requested she die at home, and they granted her request. Betty had died in the small apartment on the third floor.
Susan never heard from Sheila again. She was not interested in purchasing a home in Asbury Park. She was just drawn, for some unknown reason, to the house at 617 7th Avenue. Perhaps to give a message, or make sure the home went to a good family. No one knows for certain.
What I find myself wondering, is why some people cross over to the other side and some choose to stay, even if their passing is a peaceful event? I’m not sure if this question is one that has ever been answered. But I do agree with Kathy Kelly: “Spirits are just people, and if you come across one, they deserve to be treated with respect.”
*The restaurants named in this story (Harry’s Roadhouse and Plan B) no longer exist and the present establishments have not been mentioned. But if you know where they are, we invite you to participate in our upcoming contest.