October Ghost Jaunts on the Jersey Shore

Strauss Mansion NJ
The Strauss Mansion, Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey | Photo: Mary Ellen Landolfi

When I was in second or third grade,  sometime in October, the county library came to my grammar school to present a program on haunted places in Monmouth County, New Jersey. I sat with my classmates in the dim auditorium as the librarian clicked through a series of slides (On a slide projector. This was 1972, kids.) She narrated the slide show with stories that took place within a few miles of our school. A ghostly woman in 19th century formal wear waiting for a horse and carriage on the corner of Broad Street and Sycamore Avenue in Shrewsbury. Persistent bloodstains in two prominent Revolutionary War locations, including the nearby Allen House historic tavern. Pirates, murder and general mayhem all along the Jersey Shore. I was instantly hooked.

Since then, I’ve collected ghost stories from nearly every place I’ve visited. My skeptical husband and children will attest to the fact that I’ve dragged them to ghost walks and cemetery tours up and down the East Coast, from Plymouth, MA to Savannah, GA. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit a couple of the world’s most famous haunted locations, including The Tower of London and Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

But the local stories have always been my favorites, and as I continue to meet other local paranormal enthusiasts, I keep adding to my list of local ghost tales, legends and haunted locations along the Jersey Shore. The best part about this time of year, from October and Halloween and right through the Christmas season, is many of these locations are open for events, both historic and ghostly.

Among my favorite historic and possibly haunted places to visit in Monmouth County are:

Old Tennent Church and Cemetery, Manalapan, NJ – Built around 1750, Old Tennent Presbyterian Church is still an active parish and one of the oldest in the nation. It also played a role in the Revolutionary War, and is literally yards away from where the Battle of Monmouth was fought. The church was used as a field hospital during the battle, and a blood stained pew can still be seen. Both the church and cemetery are said to be haunted by Revolutionary War soldiers.

Allaire Historic Village, Allaire State Park, Farmingdale, NJ – This “living history” museum was the location of the Howell Iron Works in the mid-1800s. Several buildings on the historic village are said to have unexplained phenomena, and at least one local paranormal group has investigated there. Many seasonal events are held here during the year, including Haunted Halloween events  in October as well as Christmas Lantern tours in December. Allaire Village is located in Allaire State Park and is open year round.

The Strauss Mansion, Atlantic Highlands – Built in 1892 and now home to the Atlantic Highlands Historical Society, The Strauss Mansion is one of a number of historic Victorian mansions located on Prospect Circle in Atlantic Highlands. There are documented reports of a haunting involving a deceased former tenant who may still reside in his upstairs apartment. The AHHS does not shy away from their ghost stories and offers a variety of ghost tours, haunted houses, and paranormal investigations alongside more traditional historic events throughout the year. Greg Caggiano, a writer,  AHHS Board Member, and producer of a local paranormal show, Ghosts on the Coast, wrote a book chronicling some of paranormal events at the mansion.

Historic Shrewsbury, Broad Street and Sycamore Ave., Shrewsbury, NJ. – There are several notable historic properties at the four corners in Shrewsbury, including Christ Church, founded in 1702, the Shrewsbury Friends Quaker Meeting House founded in 1672, and the Allen House, built in 1710. Tours of the locations are available throughout the year, but the best time of year to go is during the holiday season for the historic lantern tour. The main story associated with the area concerns The Allen House, which operated as a tavern  during the Revolutionary War, and was the site of the 1779 Allen House Massacre, essentially a skirmish between Loyalists and Continental Troops.

I drive past the four corners in Shrewsbury at least once a week, and even now, if I’m stopped at the traffic light, I always look to see if there’s elderly woman in Victorian clothing, waiting for her carriage.