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Ghosthunting New Jersey

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Bell Mansion – Stanhope

Bell’s Mansion today is a thriving restaurant in Stanhope. Chef Martin Kowalski has created a menu packed with mouth-watering delights. And after taking a seat at the gorgeous bar, built in the late 1800s for the Palmerton Hotel in Pennsylvania, one can enjoy a wide selection of top-shelf spirits. The house itself was constructed between 1835 and 1840 by Robert P. Bell. He was...

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Bell Mansion – Stanhope

Bell’s Mansion today is a thriving restaurant in Stanhope. Chef Martin Kowalski has created a menu packed with mouth-watering delights. And after taking a seat at the gorgeous bar, built in the late 1800s for the Palmerton Hotel in Pennsylvania, one can enjoy a wide selection of top-shelf spirits. The house itself was constructed between 1835 and 1840 by Robert P. Bell. He was wealthy and owned various mills in addition
to being president of the Morris Canal & Banking Company. His mansion’s view of the Morris Canal was the product of fellow Morristown businessman George Macculloch. Many parks still permit public access to this historic, 102-mile canal throughout Warren and Morris counties.

Bell’s Mansion went through several owners after Robert Bell but remained in the Salmon family the longest. Herbert Salmon bought the mansion in 1905 and died there in 1977, at the age of 99. The house fell into decay during the 1980s and 1990s until it was purchased by Bob and Jean Duda in 2001. They went on to create their living quarters on the second floor and designed the restaurant and bar on the first floor.

A few years ago I went to have dinner and investigate the restaurant with a friend of mine, Nichole. As a young girl, Nichole, along with her brother, sneaked into the mansion while it was vacant and decaying. A Stanhope native, Nichole had been at summer camp one year when she heard a girl from a completely different town tell a story about the doll that was supposedly in the attic of the Bell’s Mansion. Nichole and her brother were on a mission to retrieve that fabled doll when they were caught. She said that they got as far as the main foyer and were about to go up the stairs when a caretaker who lived nearby saw their bicycles near the house and escorted them from the premises.

Actually, Nichole was lucky that the caretaker made them leave when he did. The staircase they were about to ascend wasin shambles, and they stood a good chance of falling through it and being severely injured, with no way to get help. Nichole told me the haunted doll story over dinner. Skeptic that I am, I listened intently while classifying the story in my head as an urban legend. But I admit it makes for a great summer campfire ghost story, and it goes like this: One day a young engaged couple came to see the lovely Bell’s Mansion and decided to purchase it to live in after their wedding. The young lady moved in and began to fix it up while her fiancé continued to live at his premarital address. Her fiancé was away on a business trip during her bridal shower, but she received many gifts, one of which was a beautiful porcelain doll. She had the gifts in her car to get them home, but she did not want to damage the porcelain doll, so she kept that on the front seat with her while she drove home. On the way, she swore she heard the doll say to her, “Don’t go through with the wedding! Something terrible will happen.” The bride-to-be wrote this off to being exhausted from the long bridal shower.

Once she was home, she unloaded the gifts into the house and took the doll up to her bedroom. While she ran her shower and prepared to get ready for bed, she heard the doll issue its warning once more: “Don’t go through with the wedding! Something terrible will happen.” At this point, she grabbed the doll and took it up to the attic and left it there. She never mentioned the bizarre warning to her fiancé, and they were married as planned.

They had a lovely ceremony and hit the dance floor at their reception for their first dance as husband and wife. As they swirled around and around, gazing into each other’s eyes, the large chandelier above them came crashing down. They were killed instantly. When Nichole brought up the story to the owners’ daughter, Tracey, she claimed that she had been up in the attic when they were renovating and no such doll was ever found.

Tracey introduced us to her parents, Bob and Jean Duda. They were kind enough to let us into their private living quarters upstairs. I took some digital pictures and captured an orb
in one bedroom. Bob was skeptical of the ghostly phenomena but accepting of the stories he had heard from his wife and his wait staff. In fact, Jean had her prime ghost encounter while seated at the bar one evening with Bob right there. They were talking with the bartender when Jean felt a hand on her upper back. She described it as being a light, open-handed pressure between her shoulder blades as if someone were either trying to get her attention or to squeeze in between her and Bob to place a drink order. She turned around to see who it was and found no one there.

We made our way down to the basement. It has a huge cistern along with storage racks, extra dining chairs, and racks with various canned goods and catering supplies. I managed to capture an orb at one end of this area and again at the opposite
end under the stairwell. The other side of the basement was more peaceful. This was the family’s storage area. Old toys, holiday decorations, and furniture were stored here. I didn’t capture any orb anomalies, but definitely felt the “creep factor” in this area.

Nichole and I concluded the night was a success. She was thrilled by the fact that her childhood dream of exploring the mansion had finally become reality. She covered every inch of the mansion, save for the attic. Amidst patrons, waiters, bar room music and general restaurant chaos, I captured two orbs with my camera; that was impressive.

In September of that same year, my team from the NJGHS and I went to investigate Bell’s Mansion more formally. We were being filmed for a local cable TV show called Neighborhood Journal. This time we met the Dudas there on a Monday evening,
when the restaurant was closed. It was a hot and humid Indian summer night, with camera lights making it even hotter. Thankfully, we got through that part rather quickly and got down to ghost-hunting business. The TV crew interviewed Matthew Lott, a server at the restaurant. He told them about the night he was cleaning off some tables in the Canal Room after closing. The room used to be a porch but was enclosed to serve as a dining room. As he was cleaning this particular table, he looked up through a window to the adjoining small dining room, and he saw a woman sitting at a table staring out toward the parking lot. He watched her for a good ten seconds and then entered the dining room to ask her to leave since the restaurant was closed. By the time he reached her table, she had disappeared. The only way out of the dining room was the very doorway he had just passed through. He didn’t see or hear anyone go by him or down the hallway. She simply vanished. He came out of the dining room and was very shaken. Bob recalls that Matt was “as white as a ghost.” Yes, Bob added the disclaimer “no pun intended.” Bob noted that he’s had several other busboys witness this female ghost and turn in their aprons abruptly, without another job to go to.

We needed to re-create this scene for the television show. One of our team members, Sherry Irish, was kind enough to let me put up her hair and dress her in the costume that best brought to life the ghostly image that Matt witnessed. Prior to filming Sherry’s debut as a female ghost, NJGHS technical advisor Brian Sandt recorded some unusual EMF readings in this dining room. Team member Dina Chirico took pictures of Brian while he was scanning with the EMF meter. In one picture, a small orb appeared right next to the word “ghosts?” on the back of Brian’s NJGHS T-shirt. Team member Gregory Irish also photographed this orb along the floor and two others by the fireplace with his digital camera. For a paranormal investigator, it’s a mark of achievement when more than one device picks up an anomaly concurrently.

We concluded the investigation and spent the next several days reviewing our data. The orb pictures could not be disqualified as dust or pollen. There were several frames before and after each of these orb shots that had no such anomalies. No EVPs were collected.
Many people have made the pilgrimage to the Haunted Mansion in Disney’s theme parks. Bell’s Mansion is not as holographically infested but is definitely not as pricey to get into. It’s well worth the trip for a great meal and a chance to dine along with a real ghost. Bon appétit!

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781578603268
  • Publisher: Clerisy Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2008
  • Series: America's Haunted Road Trip
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 966,950
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

Welcome to America's Haunted Road Trip xi Introduction 1 Ghost Hunting 101 5 Northern New Jersey 7 Chapter 1 Roxana: The Ghost of Mead Hall 8 Chapter 2 Ladies in White 15 Chapter 3 The Ghost of Rose City 21 Chapter 4 Lambert Castle 27 Chapter 5 The Whistling Swan Inn 32 Chapter 6 The Stanhope House 37 Chapter 7 Bell's Mansion 44 Chapter 8 Shades of Death Road and Ghost Lake 49 Chapter 9 You're a Good Ghost, Charlie Brown 55 Chapter 10 Washington Theatre 63 Chapter 11 The Yellow Frame Presbyterian Church 70 Chapter 12 The Changewater Murders 77 Chapter 13 Ringwood Manor 85 Chapter 14 The Hermitage 90 Chapter 15 The Ghost of Centenary College 98 Chapter 16 The Publick House 105 Chapter 17 Haunted Hobart Manor 111 Chapter 18 The Halls of Morristown: Acorn Hall and Macculloch Hall 117 Chapter 19 The Bernardsville Library 124 Central New Jersey 133 Chapter 20 The Fox and Hound Tavern at the Lebanon Hotel 134 Chapter 21 The Spy House 139 Chapter 22 The Ghosts of Scotch Plains 149 Chapter 23 Pattenburg House 155 Chapter 24 The Raritan Library 162 Chapter 25 Blood Lane and Suicide Tower 167 Chapter 26 Welcome to the Hotel Belvidere 174 Chapter 27 Harry's Road House 182 Chapter 28 Bus Crash Ghosts 190 Chapter 29 The Ghost of Baltus Roll 194 Chapter 30 The Proprietary House 199 Chapter 31 Liquid Assets 207 Chapter 32 The Cranbury Inn 213 Southern New Jersey 221 Chapter 33 Burlington County Prison Museum 222 Chapter 34 The Cape May County Historical Museum 230 Ghosthunting Travel Guide 235 Ghostly Resources 243 Acknowledgments 249 About the Author 250
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