TOMS RIVER – Frednia Brodbeck came out to hear the paranormal investigators speaking at the library not just because it was interesting, but because she wanted to know who she is sharing her home with.
One of the former occupants of her home on Island Heights was William Dillon. According to Revolutionary War history, Dillon was a loyalist privateer whose ship was captured and plundered by Joshua Huddy’s men. Dillon complained to the royal governor and demanded revenge. That led to a British force coming to Toms River, burning it to the ground, and taking Huddy away to later be executed.
So, while her house certainly has history, she knows it’s not Dillon visiting her.
“There are children and they only come out this time of year,” she said. “They giggle and whisper. They’re harmless. I always wonder who it is.”
She was one of many people who came to a talk given by Chelsea Lynch and Pat Kibby from South Jersey Ghost Research, a non-profit dating back to 1955 that does paranormal investigations for people.
It was appropriate that the event was held in the Bishop Building, an old building that has a lot of history. These are the kinds of buildings that seem to be home to spirits.
The presentation opened with a half-hour video that showed examples of what they would experience in the field, followed by a question and answer period.
The video showed old, archaic buildings, cemeteries, and other storied places. There was one series of photographs taken in the Burlington County Prison Museum. A silhouette of a figure stood in the middle of the room.
The group also played recordings of what could be voices. At the Smithville Mansion, a voice was recorded saying “inside, come inside.” At Fort Mifflin in Pennsylvania, they recorded “see you, see you in the morning.”
A Class A recording is so clear that everyone agrees on what is being said, they explained. In a Class B, there is definitely language, but not everyone is in agreement on what it says. A Class C is a recording of something, but no one can figure out what it is.
One thing that wasn’t shown in the video was some of the slow parts of an investigation, waiting around for hours for something to happen, the investigators joked.
Some of the language they used was that these were “unexplained elements.” There is a science to weed out the true from the false.
There was a display that explained pareidolia. This is a situation where the brain tries too hard to make sense of a random pattern. For example, finding shapes in clouds. If a cloud looks like an elephant, it’s all in your head. Paranormal investigators have to make sure they’re not doing the same thing. They have to find out if they’re witnessing actual phenomena or if their brain isn’t just filling in the blanks.
Also, they have to understand their equipment so that they know what it looks like when it is malfunctioning. That could give off a false positive. They would also need to know what could just be dust or hair or an insect being photographed at a strange time.
Another case is more psychological. People have called them, saying they are possessed by demons. But, there is a difference between what Hollywood would have you believe is a demon possession versus the genuine article. They would not share these differences, because they don’t want people to mimic this, consciously or unconsciously.
Of course, this led to questions about what the difference is between a ghost and a demon. The presenters said that there are evil spirits out there, causing bad things to happen to people. These spirits were never alive. They’re not looking to cross over. They’re just evil.
While they do cemetery clean-ups and visits of known haunted buildings, most of their cases are personal ones. These are private citizens who have something going on in their home. They are nicknamed “Casper Cases,” because these are usually a friendly ghost.
On the other side of this is negative hauntings. In these cases, something is causing harm to the occupants or damaging property. There’s another group, called Sanctuary Paranormal, that handles the scary stuff. There is crossover among the members, but not everyone wants to handle the scary cases.
As in normal life, some people you encounter are just nasty, Kibby said. “They were nasty in life, and now they’re nasty in death.”
With the epidemic of overdose deaths these days, she said she worried about what some of these souls will be like after they die. Will they stay around here, because they are afraid to move on to be judged? Or would they move on because they don’t want to be part of their old life anymore?
Most of the ghosts South Jersey Ghost Research encounters are just people who don’t realize they’re dead or who are just happy being where they are, Lynch said.
“Personally, people scare me more than spirits,” she said.
What Makes A Haunted House?
People asked questions about why certain houses are haunted and others are not. Does there always have to be history in the building, or have they ever encountered a haunting in a brand new apartment?
Lynch said that the material of the home makes a difference. Quartz or limestone hold in the energy better.
Kibby added that it has to do with the emotions that go into a place. There is layer upon layer of history in a lot of places, and much of New Jersey has Native American burial grounds. Settlers’ treatment of “Indians” aren’t what we were taught in school: “We came, we had Thanksgiving dinner, and then they left,” she joked.
Upcoming Paranormal Events
South Jersey Ghost Research will be at the Plumsted branch of the library at 7 p.m. on Oct. 23. The phone number there is 609-758-7888. They will also be at the Barnegat Branch at 7 p.m. on Oct. 24. The phone number there is 609-698-3331. Programs are free but registration is required. To register, call the branch or visit theoceancountylibrary.org.