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Other Side

Our columnist shares an experience that had her and some friends just a doorknob away from a Victorian ghost.

by Patricia A. Martinelli
Photography by Second Life Marketplace

New Jersey doesn’t hold the title of most populated state in America anymore. But it can still lay claim to a sizeable number of supernatural beings who have haunted the region since the days of the indigenous people who first lived here.

Today, I’d like to share my own ghost story with you, which happened more than 50 years ago. It was a night when some friends and I almost opened the door to someone—or something—from the other side.

You have to understand: I have always been interested in the unknown. As a gawky teenager, growing up in the “Age of Aquarius,” I was fascinated by tales of the Jersey Devil and other spectral creatures that haunted the dark.

One night, some friends and I decided it was time to hold a séance to see if we could find a few answers from what lay beyond the grave. Jean had the perfect setting—her second floor bedroom in the aging red brick Victorian that she shared with her parents. The adults were going to be out late that night, so the timing for a séance seemed perfect.

We arranged to meet at her house after supper that night, along with two other friends, Angie and Bonnie, who shared our interest in the occult. We arrived to find that Jean had set a small round table with a white tablecloth and a large white candle that burned brightly at the center. After everyone was seated, the decision was made that I would call upon the spirits, as I was the most well-versed in how to proceed.

As we joined hands, I took a deep breath and softly called out, “Are there any spirits present?” The only response was the flicker of the candle. The second time, the candle still flickered but there was a deepening stillness in the room. I decided to switch things up a little by calling upon some of the occult names I knew. As I spoke the words “Are there any spirits present?” in a more forceful tone, the flame on the candle suddenly sparked about six inches higher. In the silence, we heard three footsteps on the other side of the French doors at the back of Jean’s room.

Staring wide-eyed first at each other, then at the doors, we were shocked to see the handles start to turn. I heard Jean gasp and when I looked back in her direction, she whispered, “You don’t understand! There’s no floor on the other side of those doors. My father started renovating that space years ago and never finished the job!”

Trying not to panic, I whispered back, “It’s time to go!” We pushed back the chairs as quietly as possible and I spoke a closing prayer in my head. After snuffing out the candle, we raced for the door.

As we stumbled down the stairs and out the doors, Angie invited Jean for an overnight visit once they dropped off Bonnie. With a sigh of relief, she jumped into the back of Angie’s car and off they sped into the night. I drove home quickly, trying not to dwell on what had happened but my thoughts kept returning to what had been on the other side of those doors.

We never mentioned the subject again, although I have occasionally shared the story with friends over the years. It’s virtually impossible not to think about, especially when I’m riding through town at dusk past the aging red brick Victorian that really hasn’t changed much since that night.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Patricia A. Martinelli, a native of Vineland, is curator of the Vineland Historical and Antiquarian Society. She has authored 10 books related to New Jersey history, including Haunted New Jersey and The Fantastic Castle of Vineland: George Daynor and the Palace Depression.