Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Haunted House on Delaware Street

131 Delaware Street illustration by the late Narcissa Weatherbee
131 Delaware Street illustration by the late Narcissa Weatherbee

The following tale originally appeared in the booklet entitled Ghosts of Gloucester County compiled by Virginia Joslin and published by the Gloucester County Cultural and Heritage Commission in 1987. Wonderful illustrations (see above example) by the late Narcissa Weatherbee, a local Woodbury artist of some renown, appear throughout the book. Reprinted here with kind permission.
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Woodbury is the county seat of Gloucester County, and its only city; modern of course, with its hospital, its surrounding shopping plazas and malls. Although Broad Street, the main street in town, is dotted with specialty shops, historic sites and small businesses, the heart of the city and its subsidary tree-lined streets still retain the flavor of a provincial country town. Old Colonial homes stand interspersed with larger Victorian mansions, both giving way to newer houses further from the town center. There is a sense of quiet, of permanence, and of community pride.

The House on Delaware Sweet

Close in, on Delaware Street, stands a neat stucco house, with a lovely center hall and a stairway curving up to the third floor (a simpler, cleaner architectural version of the Ashcraft house in Mullica Hill) Not as widely reported to be haunted as the Glassboro dormitory house, it is, nevertheless, “the house on Delaware Street,” which the townspeople like to talk about and ponder over when the subject of ghosts is introduced into a conversation.
Several years ago, upon questioning members of the family who were at that time living in the house, we learned that the sections of the house involved in the occurrences were the master bedroom, the front hall at the first floor level, and the staircase between the second and third floors.
According to the family, they had been living in the house for several months (they were not quite certain of the exact length of time) before anything unusual happened. Then one night the husband and wife were in bed in the master bedroom. The family pet, a large dog, who was trained to sleep on the floor at the foot of the bed, began to whimper and tremble. He jumped into the bed and tried to burrow under the covers between his master and mistress. With a few sharp words, the man ordered the dog from the bed; and the dog lay for the rest of the night with its head under the bed, trembling and whimpering as though frightened.
Everything was quiet and normal for a period of time after this and the incident was forgotten. A few weeks later, the husband and wife were in bed again one night when the wife heard a bumping noise. Thinking that her husband had gotten up for some reason and had stubbed his toe or something, she reached across the bed to see if he was still there. He was sound asleep. She sat up and turned on the bedside lamp to see what had caused the sound. She looked around and saw the hand mirror from her bureau lying in the middle of the bedroom floor. As she sat there, puzzled, still too sleepy to think clearly, the hairbrush slowly sailed over and landed on the floor next to the minor. At this point, she woke her husband and they got up to check the windows to see if there was a wind blowing strongly enough to blow these items off the bureau to the center of the room. There was no draft. The room was large; and she felt that if the mirror had been blown off the bureau, the glass would probably have been broken.
As is usual in these cases, all was quiet for quite a long time after this, and the incident faded from their minds. Several weeks later, the husband and wife were in bed, settled down for the night, when the husband suddenly sat up.
“There is somebody in bed with us!” he said. They each rolled out of their respective sides of the bed and turned on the light.
“You know,” one of them said later, “when two people sleep in a double bed, if there are sags in the mattress, they are down either side. But, as we stood there that night, we could see the perfect imprint of a form in the middle of the bed — even the hollow place on the pillow where a head should have been.”
This is the most dramatic phenomenon they experienced; but there were other significant occurrences, as reported by the lady of the house:
“There is something about that downstairs front hall,” she said. “I remember one time in particular, my husband had gone upstairs to take a nap after lunch. It was a sunny day. The living room was bright and cheerful, so I stretched out on the sofa to read a book. The dog lay on the rug by the side of the sofa. I heard a man clear his throat in the hallway. The dog got up and trotted into the hall. I looked up from my book, thinking that my husband had gotten up from his nap. I waited for him to come into the room. When he didn’t appear I called; but he didn’t answer. I went out into the hall to see what was keeping him. The dog was sniffing around, very confused. The hall was empty. I. tiptoed upstairs and quietly opened the bedroom door; my husband was sound asleep. But, both the dog and I heard a man clear his throat in the hall –and we both responded to it.”
“Also,” she continued, “I will be working somewhere in the house, sometimes in the kitchen. I will hear the front door open and hear someone call ‘Yoo-hoo!’ I hurry to greet what I expect to be a neighbor coming to call. The hall will be empty and the door will be locked. Nobody could have walked in. We have tried, but we can’t explain any of these things.”
The daughter of the family, an artist, had her studio on the third floor of the house, where she also slept. She reported that she would often hear whispered conversation on the staircase at the second floor landing late in the night.
“The words are almost understandable, but not clear enough to determine the gist of the conversation,” she said.
The whispers were identified as male, and there seemed to be two entities. The conversations were sometimes intense, almost like two people arguing. When she would go to investigate, however, the whispers would stop.
(In the phenomenon of whispered conversation, it is a common characteristic that the words are almost intelligible. The gender of the whispered voices is always identifiable, but the words are described as “just beyond being understood.”
In order to try to capture a whispered conversation, we have taken cassette taping equipment into a situation, to he turned on when the conversation was heard. However, except for one instance, we have gotten only static. Static in a haunting occurrence is, unfortunately, usual. It has been our experience that a tape recorder, when taken on a research interview, will play back, with perfect clarity, initial conversation; however, when carried into the room or area which is reported to be haunted, it will immediately go blank or will be filled with such static that the tape will be useless.)
The house on Delaware Street has changed hands a number of times and so has known a number of different families.
At one time, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Talley lived in the house and, according to Mary Ruth Talley, their experiences began the first night they were in residence.
“Even though all our furniture had not arrived, and the electricity was not turned on, or the telephones connected, we decided to sleep there so that we could make an early start on all there was to be done the next morning.
“We went to bed that night (in the master bedroom). We were both sound asleep. Suddenly, the window shade snapped up with a great cracking sound. We got up, fixed the shade and went back to bed.
“Shortly after this, the phone rang. We were surprised, as we knew the phones were not yet connected. My husband answered the phone, but the only sound he heard was heavy breathing. He hung up and we went back to bed, thinking that although we could not make outgoing calls we could perhaps, receive incoming calls and that somebody was playing a joke on us. Not long after we had settled down for the third time -- the phone rang again. My husband, again, groped around; and this time went downstairs to answer the phone there. As before, there was nothing but heavy breathing. He hung up and once more we settled down. We finally slept.
“The next morning the telephone man arrived to connect the lines.”
‘Is there any way we could have received an incoming call last night?’ I asked.
“The man looked at me as though I were not quite bright.
‘What do you mean, lady?’ he asked and he held up the stub of the telephone wire, which was lying loose, nowhere near an outlet.”
The mysteries remain. Who called the Talleys - from where -- and how? Who are the visitors who come into the downstairs hall? Who whispers on the stairway? Most of all, who was in the bed?
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Joslin, V. (1987). Ghosts of Gloucester county. (pp. 30-33). Cultural and Heritage Commission Gloucester County.

2 comments:

Jacks said...

Creepy!

william flowers said...

My Father live in this house in the late 1960s to the early 1970s.I have several stories of my own while staaying there including digging up a tumbstone making a underground fort.I was 12. From what ive learned there was a Hessian Cemetary there that was moved to Derpford.They lrft a few behind or they didnt like being disturbed .a believer