The batteries and buildings of Sandy Hook’s Fort Hancock, above, are the setting for a nocturnal ghost-walk sponsored by the American Littoral Society Friday night. Middletown’s fabled “Spy House,” below, hosts a Thursday night lecture on the legendary Jersey Devil.
Here in this history-haunted neck of Olde Monmouth, the Halloween season offers several spine-tingling opportunities to share some of the more curious legends and lore of the Garden State, in settings that range from well-lit modern facilities to those shadowy corners just off the beaten path.
Out on the farthest-flung fringes of the Greater Red Bank Green, for starters, sits the historic Seabrook-Wilson House — nowadays doing duty as the activity center of Bayshore Waterfront Park (Port Monmouth Road at Wilson Avenue in Middletown Township), but still spoken of by locals as the “Spy House,” a repository for centuries’ worth of tales centering on Revolutionary-era skullduggery and the various apparitions that bump in the day and night.
While the 18th-century home’s stewards at the Monmouth County Park System shy away from such tall-talk these days, they’re not above synching up with the spirit of the season — and this Thursday evening, the monthly Nature Lecture Series takes a mischievous turn with a free presentation on “The Real Story of the Jersey Devil.” A Park System naturalist will examine the many possible origins (and purported eyewitness experiences) that swirl around South Jersey’s signature contribution to the study of crypto-zoology and fantastic folklore, in an hour-long session that commences at 7 p.m. Take it here for more park-related details and directions.
To L’aura Hladik Hoffman (right), the bridge-and-tunnel nexus of New York and New Jersey represents a commute through the portals of an other-dimensional realm — and, if one is inexperienced in the ways of the paranormal investigator, the toll you’ll pay just might be your last shred of sanity. Fortunately for the rest of us, the veteran spectre-inspector and head of the New Jersey Ghost Hunters Society will be waiving the ferry-fare to the other side when she visits Middletown Public Library on Thursday evening to serve as spirit guide for a free presentation on “Ghosthunting New Jersey and New York City.”
Sponsored by the Friends of the MTPL, the 7 p.m. multi-media lecture in the community room will draw from both banks of the river as the author examines some of the most memorable accounts from two of the volumes in the America’s Haunted Road Trip series. It’s a panorama of paranormalcy that ranges from Colonial-era haunts to a particularly poltergeist-infested outlet of the Charlie Brown’s restaurant chain — and it’s recommended “for adults and children over 11 only.”
For more than 70 years, it stood as a stalwart sentinel, protecting lower New York Harbor and the northern Jersey Shore from hostile invaders by sea. Between its founding in 1898 and its decommissioning in 1974, the U.S. Army base at Fort Hancock was a center of activity on the northern tip of Sandy Hook. But in the creeping shadows of the post-summer season, the decaying bayside buildings of Officers’ Row and the imposing concrete ramparts of the old gun batteries sit silently awaiting decisions on their rescue and ultimate repurposing.
One of just a few beacons of light at the present-day fort, the Hartshorne Drive headquarters of the American Littoral Society offers its annual opportunity to take a rare nocturnal look at this uniquely preserved locale — “where ghosts have been known to linger” — with a Friday-night walking tour that’s illuminated by “Spooky Tales and Ghosts of Historic Fort Hancock.”
The annual presentation (conducted by the nonprofit organization that regularly hosts nature walks, educational seminars and other celebrations of our local coastal environment) sets sail at 7 p.m. from the society’s offices at Building 18; attendees are encouraged to dress for the weather (and for walking), with the added incentive of cider and snacks served at the conclusion of the tour. Cost is $5 per person, while reservations can be made (and questions asked) by calling (732) 291-0055.