Weird NJ Halloween 2016: The Little Girls of Rosendale and The Ghost Of The Old Tavern

(Illustration by Ryan Doan)

The Little Girls of Rosedale Cemetery

The weird incident I am about to describe took place back in October of 1991 following the somewhat recent death of my Aunt Anna. My Mom’s family lived in the Vailsburg area of Newark and when Anna died in 1990 she was buried in Rosedale Cemetery in West Orange.

At the time, I was performing my standard weekend duties of driving my Mom to visit with her other sister, Rose. She was still living in Vailsburg in the original family home where they had all grown up since the 1920’s. I would mostly take care of the weekly shopping needs for both my Mom and her sister as neither of them ever drove a car or had a driver’s license. Although, even without one, my Aunt Rose would still perform her primary shopping via buses, or walking and was actually quite active around her neighborhood. However, my Mom totally relied on her three kids to help her with these tasks since my Dad had died back in 1989 and she was now living in a more rural area of Hillsborough, NJ.

Everything was going along as a normal Saturday afternoon excursion usually did, including the continuous conversation between my Mom and my Aunt in a mix of Italian and English. I suppose they felt this was appropriate with me in the car, or maybe it was just for their own sake of practicing speaking their native language.

One of the stop-offs we had planned earlier in the day was a visit to the cemetery to see their sister Anna’s grave. It was now getting to be a little later in the afternoon following the shopping detail, so we proceeded as quickly as possible to Rosedale Cemetery. We already knew the way to her gravesite due to several previous visits. One minor thing I did take note of was the fuel level in my 1970 Dodge Dart that was getting very low. I knew we would need to get refueled before we got back to Vailsburg later.

Anyway, it was a beautiful autumn day and the large oak and maple trees in the cemetery were all changing to numerous colors and the leaves had begun falling everywhere. We made our way to her gravesite with no problem, driving completely across the cemetery property from the older section. This is the one closest to Orange, off of Washington Street where the only accessible gate was located on that particular day. After paying our respects for a little while, it was now starting to get a bit darker and I realized that we still needed to get back across the grounds and get the gas for the car. Please note that this wasn’t a big deal for me, just something that I tend to remain conscious of when I’m in a place like a cemetery and I was trying to be responsible for everyone’s safety. Both my Mom and my Aunt were in their 70’s at that time, so I didn’t want to put them in a potentially problematic situation of being stuck.

Eventually, we made our way across the small bridge after winding through the maze of narrow roads in the main cemetery and came to the last approach before reaching the main gate. This is a broad meadow-like yard that is filled with huge old tall trees, which made the late day look even darker than it actually was. As I started to climb up the slight incline to the main gate, probably 200 yards away, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye moving quickly across the grounds in and out of the trees. At first I thought I was seeing things, but then I realized that it was two very young girls running directly at our car! It not only startled me, but it quickly silenced my passengers as well. The two of them came right up to my driver’s side and I stopped the car and rolled down the window for them.

What happened next, I will never forget. I said hello to them and the older one who looked to be approximately 10 years old, said “Help Us! Help Us!” in a thin, high-pitched little girl voice. The other girl who was maybe around 6 years old said nothing. She just stared at me with an empty look that was distant and strange. (Now you have to believe that I know what I saw as they were no more than a foot or two in proximity, right in front of me leaning on the car door.) I responded to the older girl and said, “What can I do for you?” She said, “Help Us! Help Us!” again and opened her hand to reveal a piece of torn crumpled paper. She handed it to me, so I took it and quickly read it to myself. It was several combinations of letters and numbers scribbled down in pencil. I knew enough to realize that these combinations actually represented specific “grave numbers” and we were in big trouble…

I then looked back over at the girls and noticed some very odd traits that I will try to describe. The girl who spoke to me was wearing a dirty torn white t-shirt and plain work-like pants, not jeans. Her hands were dirty and her nails, that weren’t too long, were chipped and filled with dirt. Her face was very beautiful, somewhat cherubic, but covered in scratches that were kind of fresh and bloody looking. She had long matted blond hair that really needed to be washed, blue eyes and overall classic European features for a little girl. The younger girl, who perhaps could have been beautiful, wore almost the identical outfit but she was even dirtier than the other girl, with more scratches on her arms and face than her too. For some reason, her face had an almost “gnomish” look to it with the cold, blank stare to complete it. Also, the most prominently noticeable thing about her was a quarter inch round red sore that looked like a pretty bad puncture wound right in the middle of her forehead. She also had long scraggly blond hair like the other girl’s was. They probably were sisters from somewhere…

As I looked at the two of them, the smell of earthen hume-like odor came up into my face. I glanced over at the fuel gauge, out of habit and it was pegged below “E” worse than before. I didn’t want to panic, but I knew I had to do something. All this was happening very quickly and they were now pulling on the car door gesturing to get in with us. The one girl kept saying, “Help Us! Help Us!” I knew this would not end well if I let them in the car with us, so I said the only thing I could think of at the time, that the “grave numbers” they were looking for were located across the small bridge behind us and I pointed to the other side of the cemetery where we had just driven from. I handed the paper back to the older girl and she took it in her hand and crumpled it up again. I then told them that we had to go and they needed to get away from the car. They both stared at me with a look that I cannot really describe. I can only say that it is emblazoned in my mind forever! Then they did as I requested and started to walk and then eventually run, again away from the car.

I started driving up the slight grade which now seemed like a mountain, as I eased up on the clutch carefully trying not to stall out. I slowly proceeded about 50 yards up the road toward the exit gate but I kept an eye on them in my rear-view mirror. They ran down toward the bridge and went behind a large oak tree as I continued onward toward the gate. I didn’t wait around too long, but long enough to see that they didn’t come out from behind the tree.

Following this incredibly weird encounter, I went directly to a gas station and finally got the fuel we needed so desperately. When we arrived back in Vailsburg I realized that no one had said a word all the way back from the cemetery. This was more than strange as my Mom and her sister Rose were exceptional talkers. We entered the kitchen at 11 Sunset Avenue and my Mom broke the silence by simply saying, “Those poor souls”…


Follow-up to the incident:

First of all, several questions come to mind…like, what exactly is it that we experienced that day? Were these the spirit images of two dead young girls that appeared to us so we could help them find their way back to their rightful resting places? Were they two very wise-ass kids who thought they could scare the crap out of visitors by acting weird on a late afternoon in October? If so, they should have received Oscars for their performances. Or could we all have imagined what happened? I don’t know for sure, but I do know that it did happen! The other weird thing is that I wasn’t really scared during the encounter at all. It was only later that it hit me what had actually happened. Then I got freaked out by the fact that these girls looked as human and alive as anyone else, so I wondered if this had ever happened to me before and I never noticed. Yikes!

In the years that followed, my Mom and my Aunt didn’t ever talk much about the incident unless I brought up the topic at a family gathering. I think we were all traumatized by it and I even stopped bringing it up with them eventually. However, I did tell several friends about it over the years and many were shocked by the story. Others probably thought I was exaggerating, or smoking something at the time. What I would really like to know is if anyone else had experienced any kind of contact with these young girls at Rosedale Cemetery. Perhaps someone might recognize the descriptions of them and offer some insight into this bizarre event that took place almost 20 years ago? I have only gone back to the cemetery a few times since this incident. Most all of them were for funerals of my relatives including my Aunt Rose who died in 2001. The others included my Uncle Matthew and his wife Sally also in the early to mid 2000’s.

However, more recently I finally did decide to go back and see if things had changed in Rosedale Cemetery and maybe this little girl sighting was all a figment of my imagination. This past October of 2009, I managed to convince a good friend of mine to accompany me on a revisit to the fateful location of the sightings. We made a day of it and started in East Hanover to see my parent’s grave who are both now at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery and then we eventually made our way to West Orange to check out the scene at Rosedale. We arrived in the middle of the afternoon and everything seemed to be the same as it was years ago. After finding all the family gravesites and paying appropriate respects, we decided to take a slow cruise through the whole cemetery and take photos of various points of interest. The guy who went with me, Bill is an artist and photographer, so he was totally absorbed with the surroundings and we took our time going through the various sections of the grounds. All was well and quite normal until we passed through the very old section near the main gate (not far from where the little girls were many years ago), from that point, Bill himself has provided the following account of the incident: We were sitting in the car with the windows down and I got a chill up my back. I checked to see if the AC was on by putting my hand against the dashboard vent and then I asked Jerry if it was on. He replied no, why would it be? I then put my other hand out the window to see if the temperature outside had suddenly dropped but it was warmer outside the car. I didn’t think much about it until the next morning when I woke up. I am usually most cognizant at this time of day and this event was the first thought in my head. I realized that it must have been significant for such a trivial thing to be pestering my memory. I can still feel the chill behind my neck; it was as though pure Freon rose out of the floorboards. It hit me just then that we had had an “encounter”. Creeped me right out…


—Maybe the little girls finally got their car ride after all?

Jerry Benz





The Ghost Of The Old Tavern (Before The Library)

Would You Have Walked Into That Room?

Hi guys. Kate Philbrick here, with some additional info on the Bernardsville library/Vealtown tavern.

Back in the 1980s I worked at Morristown National Historic Park, which included the Wick House/Jockey Hollow area and Washington’s Headquarters at the Ford Mansion in Morristown. And I’m sure I’m not the only former employee who can tell a few ghost stories about the Park’s locations! But right now it’s the old library in Bernardsville I’m writing about.

When that was my stomping ground, the library was active and already host of legend and stories. Over the years I had many discussions with library employees about their experiences, and also witnessed a figure myself through the windows there when the library was closed: a woman walking along a row of books in the far room.

According to the library folks, Phyllis (the resident ghost) eventually committed suicide by hanging herself from a tree in the tavern yard, driven mad by her grief.

One variation of the tale tells of a miniature portrait she carried of her love, and how he seemed to have quit the area for a brief while just before his demise. In this version it was Phyllis herself who found the box after the party of men left, and pried it open to make the tragic discovery. Makes the story even more tragic, but after 200 years of activity, there was plenty of ghostly activity to keep anyone on edge.

Prior to the building’s use as a library, it was rented out for residential use. One young couple, with an infant child, lived there briefly. The woman and baby were on the second floor, home alone one night when the ghostly activity apparently ramped up. She heard the front door open, and called to her husband who was expected home. There was no reply, and instead the sound of shuffling and a loud thump, like something heavy was set on the floor. More shuffling and the door closed. Then, nothing.

Naturally, she was concerned, and crept downstairs to see if the door had blown open, hit the wall, and maybe leaves had blown in. She found the door closed and still locked, and no sign of anything out of the ordinary. Convinced she was just nervous in an unfamiliar place, and that it had all been boards settling or tree branches, she went back upstairs.

Not long afterward there was the distinct sound of creaking wood from the room below, then a crash and a woman’s blood-curdling scream. At that point she grabbed the baby, flew down the stairs and straight out the door without stopping to look around. Her husband found her waiting outside, refusing to go back in.

There are plenty of other stories from former library employees to add to the legend, including finding piles of books off their shelves, piled neatly in tall stacks, and other unexplained activity. My personal favorite tale came from an employee who had her own experience, when locking up one night.

As usual she checked all the rooms, both floors, closed windows and lights and had said good night to her co-workers. She was skeptical of ghost stories and was not afraid to be in the building alone. Locking the front door, she went down the walk and out of habit looked back to be certain she had not missed any lights. To her surprise, she saw a window on the second floor was wide open, though she could have sworn she secured everything moments before. Mumbling over the inconvenience, she went back up the walk and onto the porch. She knew if she didn’t go back and close the window, the police would call her later and she’d have to come back and deal with it then. She opened the front door and stopped in her tracks.

Even without hitting the lights, she realized she wasn’t in the library. The darkened room in front of her was all wrong. There were walls, doors, things in the wrong place—and other things that should have been there, weren’t—it was not the same place she had just left. A very weird feeling came over her, and she suddenly felt sick. Then she took a step backward onto the porch, slammed the door shut and wasn’t even sure she locked it before tearing out of there.

The police never called about the window, and it was found shut the next morning. Not your typical ghost story, but I think it’s even better than wandering spirits. Makes you wonder what would have happened if she had walked in—would you have? Is it possible it was the ghost of the old tavern itself? No doubt the place will continue to attract the curious as well as paranormal investigators for many years to come!