Better Them Than Me: A True Ghost Story

My wife Jill and I purchased our home 16 years ago. It was in a brand new development which was previously a wooded area, just down the street from the town library, on one of the only cross thru streets between two major roadways. Originally being from North Jersey, we had agreed that real estate and taxes there were more than we could afford, so we began looking for a house more “down-the-shore” toward South Jersey. I knew I wanted new construction after putting 10 years of sweat equity into my small, pre-marriage, starter home. No more fixer uppers for me. So we began looking soon after my wife became pregnant. We found a nice new development right away and then waited for our home to be built.  

When we finally moved in, our daughter Jamie was 6 months old. We had another daughter two years later and we all lived happily in our new house, right on the ‘S’ curve of our well-traveled “back road.” 

Let me just state that I have always been a believer in spirits and the supernatural, having had my own experiences over the years. My wife however was not at all familiar with that sort of thing and really wasn’t interested in it. As it turned out both of our kids were sensitive to spirit activity. I didn’t exactly discourage them in that regard. 

My younger daughter Samantha (Sam) at about the age of 7 began telling me of seeing two children around the house at various times. She said that there was a girl in old fashioned looking clothes, around her age and a younger boy. I told her not to be scared of them. They were probably just hanging around because they are curious about her and her sister. This went on for a while with no ill effects or occurrences. Though I would constantly find little hand prints and finger marks on the bathroom mirror after I would get out of the shower. The hands were too small to be my kids. At one point I grew tired of cleaning off the mirror and just said out loud that they were welcome to stay but to please stop marking up the mirror. The marks stopped after that.

Awhile later, some other things began to happen. One evening we were all in the family room watching TV. There was a low profile gaming recliner in front of the TV, but no one was in it. Sam and I were sharing the oversized chair, while Jill and “Jamie the Older” were sharing the couch. I happened to look down to grab the remote that had slipped between the arm and cushion of the chair, when Jill said, “Did you see that?” I hadn’t seen anything as I had just looked away. She said the little gaming recliner had just rocked down and up once, as if someone had pushed down on it. Yet no one was near it. 

“Huh” was all I said, not wanting to make a big deal of it. “Sam the Younger” wasn’t at ease with things she would see so I just played it down. Around that time though Sam told me that she had seen an old man staring at her from the doorway between the kitchen and the dining room. She said he was average height with white hair, he had on a dark suit but she couldn’t make out his face. I believed her, but also thought it could be an active imagination as well. Apparently he didn’t like kids that much. 

Sam was always running around the house and I was always afraid she would get hurt so I was constantly telling her to slow down. One time she was chasing her sister around the house and being generally loud, when the master bedroom door slammed in her face, narrowly missing her as she was about to run in. She said there was no one there next to the door. Another time a bag of cookies she was going for had exited the cabinet on its own, before she could reach for it. I told her that it was most likely just one of the kids trying to be helpful. 

Then one day it happened to me.

I had opened the refrigerator door to get something. I turned my back and stepped away for a second when an ice pack landed with a hard thud, feet from the fridge. There was no way that could have just landed were it did with such force. I tried to recreate it but couldn’t. I even tried to slam it down but couldn’t recreate the effect. It left me thinking… If I hadn’t heard about the cookie bag incident I might have just passed it off as a fluke. Maybe I was just imagining things.     

It was at this point I asked Jamie if she had ever seen anything unusual around the house. She said that she had seen a little blonde haired boy looking in the mirror while standing on the toilet. She also mentioned that she had seen an old man leaning over, starring down at her one morning as she slept. She opened her eyes, saw him, then rolled over and went back to sleep. Later on, she wasn’t sure if she had dreamt seeing him. Once Jamie and a friend were hanging in her room. There was a guitar leaning in the corner that she had gotten for her birthday. Both girls came bursting out of the room all freaked out saying the guitar had just strummed by itself.

Another time Jamie was Facetiming with the same friend while sitting on the side of her bed, facing away from the back of her room. The friend asked if her sister was in the room with her. Jamie said she was alone. The friend then told her she just saw a figure move behind her. We didn’t see that kid much after that.

I remind the reader that this was a new construction home. No one had ever lived on the property before us. The last thing I would expect was any kind of spirit activity. Then one night my wife had her own introduction.

I had fallen asleep on the futon in the office while watching TV. It was a bitter cold night in the dead of winter (no pun intended) and it was dead quiet (pun intended). Around 1:30 AM I was awakened by my wife’s desperate knocking on the office door. (I had long ago taken to keeping the lock engaged because ever since the girls were little they wouldn’t leave me alone when I was trying to work. Since the knob would always turn from the inside, even when locked on the outside I just left it that way… but I digress). Anyway, my wife was extremely agitated. She had been sitting up in bed playing a word game on her phone, as she would often do at night when she couldn’t fall asleep. In the otherwise completely dark room she heard the voice of an old man say, right by her ear… “Better them than me.” 

Freaked out would be an understatement. I tried like hell to explain what it might have been. Our house is the first in our development, right along the main road. At night we could hear what was playing on the radio as a lone car would wiz by. I told Jill that maybe someone was walking by while talking on their phone and said that phrase. Because of the quiet and cold outside maybe the sound traveled better than it might have otherwise during the day when other noises would interfere. It was a strange thing to say just by itself, I reasoned. It’s as if it was part of a conversation. However, Jill was adamant that the sound was not only in the room, it was right by her ear. But we both eventually put it aside and over time forgot about it. Then three months later… 

After driving the hour and a half to work and just about reaching my desk, I could hear my desk phone ringing. I got to it in time to answer. 

It was Jill. “I’m not crazy… I’m not crazy!” she frantically repeated. 

Kidding with her I said, “Well you seem a little nuts right now. What’s up?” 

She wasn’t having it. “I am out of here! I can’t…” 

“Ok, ok. Tell me what is happening.” 

Jill was just straightening up the family room after the girls had left for school. There was no one home and the TV was off. She was folding one of the throw blankets, when from behind her she heard the old man say loud and clear “Better them than me.”

Have you ever seen one of those old Hitchcock movies when the person gets that sudden panicked realization and the focus elongates, making the hall a mile long? That’s what happened to me when I heard that. This was too specific to be coincidental. “Not again” I thought.

Jill wanted to leave the house immediately and ranted about putting it up for sale. Then my focus snapped back. “Oh no! This is our house! We’re not going anyway. He is!” I told her to just get out of the house for a while to calm down. Get a coffee and just go for a drive. I would think of something. She felt better after hearing my resolve. I hung up the phone and with head in hands thought, “What the f… am I going to do?”

Moving was not an option. Even if I wanted to, the economy had tanked at that point and even if we could get a decent price for the house, which was very unlikely, I doubted we could get another mortgage at that time. 

I immediately thought of two things. Like many people my age I have many loved ones who have died, including my father, who had passed away two decades earlier. I just quietly said to him, “Dad we need your help here. Gather the troops on your side, get over to the house and GET HIM OUT!” 

Then I thought of my friend Mike.

Mike is one of my oldest and closest friends. Mike has always shared my interest in the supernatural. He is a talented hairdresser by trade, but not many people know that he is also a gifted psychic medium. He doesn’t ever do it for money, but he does communicate with the other side when needed. Well this was one of those times.

However, when I walked through the door that evening I had the distinct feeling that our long-staying guest had vacated the premises. Like that feeling when you have out-of-state relatives staying for the holidays and they finally go home.

I called Mike later on to see if he could shed some light on what was happening. “I’ll tell you exactly what is happening” was his reply. The following is his explanation as best as I can recall:

“This old man died many years before your house was built, while walking along the road where your house now stands. There was a fatal accident as he was walking and he was struck and killed… except he doesn’t realize he died. He thinks it was just a close call for him and that he was just a witness to the accident. He was either drunk at the time or had dementia but he is still confused and doesn’t understand why he’s stuck here. He’s just reliving the event trying to tell Jill how he feels about what he saw… “Better them than me.” But don’t worry about him… He left with your family.”  

“There’s also some kids. A girl and her little brother.”

We got together at the house at Mike’s earliest convenience. He enlightened us on the kids and how they followed us home from one of our outings to one of the historic locations around the shore, when the girls were younger. They were attracted to our kids and just wanted to be with a family again. They felt safe with us. Mike told us their names were Charlie and Hannah. He also mentioned that they were afraid they would be in trouble for the mess they made with the dirt. 

Several weeks earlier I had found dirt spilled on the side room carpet from an old potted plant that had died. There was a spoon laying in the dirt and a hole dug out of the middle of the pot. I was annoyed that my kids would do this, because they were too old to be playing in dirt. Neither one would cop to it, so I just cleaned it up, then forgot about it until Mike mentioned it. There was no way he could have known about that. Also he said it was the girl spirit that strummed the guitar because she was just curious to see how it would sound. 

They told Mike how they died in a fire, too long ago for them to remember, in a big house by the water. Also how they lived in fear of the woman their father married after the death of their mother. Mike helped them to get past their fear of their stepmother. He explained to them that she couldn’t hurt them anymore and that there were many loved ones, including their mother, waiting for them and that they shouldn’t be afraid of Mrs. Boylen anymore. I was happy for them to finally be free, but a little sad at the same time because they were leaving.

Mike recommended that I try to do a search online for info on our street. He felt I would find something. When I finally did look online I did find something. There was a link to a Weird NJ article with my town and street name right in the title. In it a guy describes seeing a strange apparition after stopping on our street to relieve himself late at night, many years earlier… 

It was in a wooded area just past the library.

Author’s Note: Names and other identifying details have been left out or changed, as I don’t want our street to become a weird tourist attraction. They’re gone, people…. Nothing more to see here.         

The Ft. Monmouth Heaviness

I worked with my father for a number of years doing construction. We had many jobs at Fort Monmouth including a job at the old hospital—exactly what it was escapes me. But I do remember my father telling me to go down a few halls and through the double doors at the end because we needed more cove base trim for the job. 

I thought nothing of it, but as I was walking there, down the last hall, my chest began to feel heavy, like lead weight heavy, a compression, but I knew I had to go through those doors to get the cove base or else he would be asking me where it was. As I passed through the double doors and into the old OR theatre, the compression was intense and so was the smell of iron in the air. The cove base was against the left wall and it took quite a bit of effort to bend down and pick up the few pieces that we needed. 

As I was there I could tell that something profound was with me, but what it was, to this day I cannot say. If I had to guess, it was the spirits of those souls who laid on those cold tables, the ones who made it and didn’t and those who conducted the procedures. I was in there for so long, transfixed and unwilling to move, that my father had to come and retrieve me. As I left the OR and the hall, the smell of iron dissipated along with the compression on my chest. I don’t think I ever told  him what I felt right at that moment, but I eventually did. 

—Brian Gresh

The Day That 900 MPH “Thing” Flew Over N.J.

The date was September 10, 1951, 15 years before the famous UFO incident at Wanaque Reservoir and four years after the Roswell sighting in New Mexico. The incident we’re referring to is sometimes called “The Fort Monmouth Incident,” as soldiers and radar experts tracked a silver, disc-shaped object as large as a fighter plane traveling 900 miles per hour across Monmouth County before making a 120-degree turn and vanishing out to sea over Sandy Hook.

The Fort Monmouth witnesses said they could not get a lock on the object with the radar because it was traveling too fast, above 700 mph. The world’s fastest speed record for a jet at the time was 735 mph. The radar experts said they had never seen anything like this object before.

A T-33 jet with Capt. Edward Ballard and Lt. Wilbert S. Rogers flying over Sandy Hook also witnessed the craft before it disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean. They chased the UFO for 30 miles (approximately two minutes).

“I pointed it out to Capt. Ballard,” Rogers said, “who suggested we try to follow it. But we soon found it was no use. It was going too fast.”

Ballard said they got as close as 8,000 feet from the object which kept a constant speed and didn’t appear to be “running away.”

This encounter may have been never been known had it not been leaked to the press. It made a major impression with the Pentagon and started the famous “Project Blue Book” report on UFO sightings. Before Project Blue Book, the UFO phenomena was in something the Pentagon called Project Grudge. The Pentagon then decided to suppress further releases from military bases regarding UFO sightings.

In an unclassified report from Project Blue Book, the Pentagon stated that on Sept 10, 1951 two balloons were released from the Evans Signal Laboratory. They were seven to eight feet in diameter and painted silver for radar tracking:

“Experienced balloon observers state that when viewed from certain angles, they appear to be disc-shaped. At 11:35 EDST these balloons would have been at approximately 18,000 feet and would have moved to a position nearly in line with Point Pleasant and Sandy Hook.”

From an Associated Press article at the time:

“I don’t know whether it was a flying saucer,” Lt. Rogers said. “But it sure was something I’ve never seen before.”

The WWII Veteran from Columbia, Pa., was reminded that various units of the armed forces have knocked down reports of “flying saucers” and most have been explained as weather balloons.

“This couldn’t have been a balloon because it was descending,” he said. “And besides, no balloon can travel that fast.”

The Fort Monmouth Incident has been researched and documented as one of the most important UFO sightings of the 1950s. You can read every report from the newspapers and Project Blue Book here: nicad.org.

A Creepy North Arlington Dump Story

Back in the early ‘80s (the good old days) I was in a punk rock band based in North Arlington (N.A. to those who know). One day after rehearsal, the band decided to take some band photos in the Kearny dumps. As we explored trashed items to snap pictures in front of, we would show each other cool trash artifacts we found. One of our guitar players found a very eerie, creepy, black and white possibly 1920s era photograph of what appeared to be an open casket propped upright, with a corpse in it. The corpse appeared to be a father; standing on each side of the casket appeared to be possibly his two sons who were very much alive. We were all into horror, etc., but everyone present—except for the band member who found it—thought the photo was just to eerie. I remember him saying that the photo was really cool and that he was going to hang it in his locker in school. There was just something that was too creepy about that photo! Anyway, sadly, that night or possibly the next night, this guitar players father died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack. I recall discussing the coincidence of the photo and the sudden death with the other band members after we heard the news-but it was never mentioned again. I have no idea what became of that photo. 

—N.A.-ties.

The Mystery Of The Red-Headed Sailor That Was Buried Upright

On May 1, 1914, a road crew grading Sheridan Avenue in Seaside Heights made a grisly discovery. As they raked out the dirt, laborer Watson Mathis, son of Seaside Park mayor Charles W. Mathis, saw what looked like a pile of red hair, and upon further investigation found a skull underneath the titian locks. Attached to the cranium was a complete skeleton standing straight up under the sandy surface of the road.

The story was first related in the New Jersey Courier, which reported that shoes and bits of its clothing were still evident on the cadaver, but had “crumbled when exposed to the air, all but the soles.”1 The stranger’s death perplexed the observers, who could “form no opinion as to who the man may have been or how he got there,”1 but they agreed that considering the vertical position of the body, the victim must have “walked into a bank of quicksand after a storm and had been unable to get out.”1

The story ended there with no further information as to what happened to the body until 1963, when an expanded version was published in C. Byron Wortman’s book, The First Fifty: A Biographical History of Seaside Heights, New Jersey, in an interview with Seaside Heights Borough superintendent, Vernon G. Casler.

According to Casler, he was working as a laborer the day the skeleton was uncovered and witnessed the event. The then-14-year-old recounted seeing the bones, bleached white by time. He also saw remnants of the man’s clothing, which looked like “sailor’s garb,”2 and some “rusted metal that appeared to resemble a belt buckle of the type pirates were always pictured as wearing.”2

Casler also solved the mystery of what was done with the remains after the county coroner agreed that there was no foul play involved, and that the bones were likely that of an ancient sailor whose untimely death came when a sinkhole formed under his feet, swallowing him down into the earth. In an unusual move, a man named Clarence Anthony, a Seaside Heights fireman at the time,3 decided to bury the bones in the area of the fireplace under the foundation of a new house he was building nearby.2  According to Casler, the house no longer existed, but as far as he knew, the property had not been disturbed, and “the red-haired pirate [was] still in his resting place, where he was deposited 50 years ago.”2

Of course nearly another 50 years have passed since Mr. Casler told his tale, so it is not likely that the foundation of the Anthony house still remains on the property, but a search for the grave of the unfortunate sailor is currently being conducted. Should his remains ever be found, he will be given a proper burial. 

—Steve Baeli

The 1987 Sleep Zone Mystery Of Camden County

A weird thing happened along the Atlantic City Expressway in 1987. The five-and-a-half-mile stretch of toll road that runs through Camden County saw a mysterious series of 10 fatal accidents, seven of which were caused by drivers becoming drowsy and falling asleep behind the wheel. There were 12 deaths: the highest fatality record of any year. Most of the accidents originated in the westbound lanes, and occurred during daylight hours and in clear weather with little traffic, according to police and highway officials.

New Jersey highway authorities recently released a report stating that there has been a 20-year low in fatal accidents along the state’s highways. Maybe the 1987 Sleep Zone was caused by weary Atlantic City casino gamblers coming back from an all-nighter, or maybe the Indian curse of Rt. 55 in Deptford had moved a little north for a bit.

The Story of The Moving Headstone

A little before noon on April 21, 2017 I was at work in Newark on Wheeler Point Road near Avenue I where there’s a freight train bridge. While I was waiting and walking around talking on the phone near the bridge, I started looking at these broken-up rocks on the side of the road, which I’ve noticed before but have never paid much attention to. As I was on the phone I noticed that the bigger rock had an odd shape because the top was kind of round and it reminded me of a headstone, so I decided to flip it over with my foot, and lo and behold there were words written on it. I decided to flip over three other pieces that were ‘the same color and resembled the first piece and put them together. Its a headstone that reads, “In Memory of Sally daughter of John and Rhoda Osborn who died April 22nd 1802, 4 Years.” 

A friend suggested to look online so I did some research and found that Sally was, I guess, a nickname and her actual name was Sarah. Sally (Sarah), her father John, her mother Rhoda, her sister Rebekah and Sally’s grandparents from her mother’s side, Zophar Baldwin and Rebekah Baldwin (Ward) all have a headstone together in Bloomfield Cemetery. I also learned that Sally’s grandparents from her father’s side, Elias Osborn and Hannah Osborn (Gray), are buried in Union, at Connecticut Farms Cemetery.

I found it kind of weird that I stumbled upon this headstone almost exactly 215 years from the day Sally (Sarah) passed away. For now, oddly enough, the headstone sits in my garage and is a pretty interesting conversation piece. Now as for where the headstone has been for 215 years, where it came from after all these years, and how the hell it ended up in Newark near a freight train bridge will remain a mystery for now and maybe forever. 

Tito Zeballos

My Encounter With the Jersey Devil, 2009

It’s been 23 years now but I’m ready to expose myself and accept the jokes. I saw the Jersey Devil when I was 14, while hunting on my own for the very first time! It was 8-10’ tall with an even bigger wingspan! I was pumped so I thought my mind was playing tricks on me.I went back to camp and didn’t tell anybody what I saw earlier that day, fearing I’d be picked on until we went to sleep. 

It was about 2:00 AM and we were sleeping in tents, except for one guy in our group who fell asleep outside by the fire. From inside our tends, we heard what sounded like 1,000 women screaming. The guy outside ran into our tent, having seen what I saw the day before. He was white as a ghost, and holding an ax as if ready to chop whatever tried to chase him into the tent! The 20 guys at our camp grabbed shotguns and EVERYONE including me fired into the woods where we heard branches breaking. Then nothing! I believe it took flight. We fired over 100 shotgun rounds of buck shot. We inspected and tracked where we fired in the morning and found nothing! We did find branches on the pine trees about 14’ up broken off clean! Not dead, still sticky and white. Although only the one guy saw it, we ALL HEARD the horrible screams! It wasn’t an owl or any other wildlife that compared to the sound and volume of this thing. It was the Jersey Devil. The guy was crying and just kept saying over and over, “You should have seen its eyes.” He claimed that they were ACTUALLY GLOWING RED. I swear this to all be true on both of my daughters’ lives!

It looked like the scene from Predator, the movie when they all blindly open up on the jungle and branches are falling and shells are flying through the air, so much gun smoke being because it was freezing out. I’m shaking right now and my heart is PUMPING. It was something that I will never forget. The Jersey Devil is real! Is it something in this world or ghostly? I hope to know one day. I know what I saw and there are 20 other guys who also know what happened that December night in the Pine Barrens. 

The sighting was south of Lacey Road but north of 532 in Watertown. Just a few miles west of the GSP. I never heard or witnessed anything like it in my life in the Pine Barrens, and I grew up out there, spending every free minute in the woods riding quads, hunting, shooting guns, etc. And I was there with some badass old timers who claim they have seen the devil from afar. They were scared! 

All I can tell you is It was really tall because it broke branches 14 feet in the air when we surveyed the area come dawn. We believe it somehow flew away that night  because there were no tracks. They just disappeared. I don’t think it’s a living creature but one straight from hell! It explains how it disappears and doesn’t get hit by one bullet from hundreds fired at it from just out of sight.

I have found prints out in the Barrens. Single sets of horse-like hooves. Unless there was a horse walking on two legs, it was the Devil.

We would hear this creature every once in a while in the middle of the night let out screams. It was the most horrific sound that a person could imagine! 

I NEVER since that day go out in ANY WOODS unless I’m fully armed.

I don’t expect anyone to believe me except the other men that were at that hunting camp that night who all emptied their shotguns into the woods, feeling around their pockets for more shells to reload! And the poor guy who fell asleep outside by the fire held that ax very still with a death grip on it. He would not set it down! 

 I just wanted to share my honest-to-God-I-swear-on-my-kids-life true story! It’s out there! 

Mike Superiorhomeandwatertreatment

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