On the evenings of October 17th and October 24th, Moorestown residents reported seeing a dark clad figure roving about the streets. With only the faint light of a lantern to guide it, this visage traversed areas where the town’s other worldly dwellers are known to inhabit. Like the “Poe Toaster” paying its annual respects at Edgar Allan’s grave, this personage makes his yearly appearance along Main Street. This notable is local ghost hunter Joe Wetterling.
Every fall, Mr. Wetterling hosts the Historical Society of Moorestown’s Ghost Tour. This year, coronavirus restrictions prohibited the Society from conducting in-person trips through macabre Moorestown. As the event has become an October tradition in town, they determined not to cancel it. Organizers found a solution that allowed them to present a 2020 Ghost Tour while ensuring spectator safety. This annual excursion took place via Zoom.
The online platform allowed Mr. Wetterling and the Historical Society more flexibility. Instead of taking the audience through the familiar haunts of downtown Main Street, they visited areas not explored during preceding tours.
The 2020 Ghost Tour became two separate outings. Mr. Wetterling accompanied by Mickey DiCamillo and Julie Maravich took viewers along sections of East Main Street on October 17th and Chester Avenue on October 24th. In an appropriate homage to gothic horror tales, this one began at a castle.
On the evening of October 17th, they started out at Briedenhart Castle. Now the Lutheran Home, this building served as the residence of Flexible Flyer sled inventor, Samuel Leeds Allen. The Victor Talking Machine Company founder, Eldridge Johnson, lived in it next. While not the site of ghostly activity, the setting provided an excellent location to begin a journey into the unexplainable.
Locals know Stokes Hill as a fun location for winter sledding. The site has also drawn unearthly visitors to its grounds.
A three-day snowstorm affected the South Jersey area during mid-January 1909. On the morning of the third day, a resident of one of the nearby homes surveyed his property. He found hoof shaped prints in the snow. After a short distance, they stopped. This incident added Moorestown to the map of Jersey Devil lore.
The woods at the bottom of Stokes Hill have their own paranormal history. To battle the scourge of smallpox, local Native Americans developed an unusual means of treating it. A patient would be placed in a box with steaming hot stones. Once removed, the person would be lowered in a frozen creek. Some people claim they can still hear their screams echoing through the woods.
Many houses on East Main Street are breathtaking to behold. One such building has that effect for a different reason. Mr. Wetterling shared the story of one such Gothic Victorian home. During the early twentieth century, no one occupied it. Legend suggests that teenagers broke in and held seances there. This led to the tradition of adolescents holding their breaths when walking past it.
Paranormal activity that affects multiple senses occurs in the gray stone house with the year “1889” chiseled on top of door frame. Mysterious noises sound through the rooms. Residents have heard footsteps in the front stair case. The chain at the front door has rattled.
Dr. Stokes once lived there. Mrs. Stokes sat in a chair looking out the East Window to await his return from house calls. People who’ve lived in the home have heard creaking floor boards in the same place.
Several people who lived in the home reported seeing the ghost of an old woman. One could even smell her perfume. Others claimed to smell a cigar’s aroma when no one was smoking.
Those who’ve participated in the Ghost Tours know that the buildings on Main Street are rife with unexplainable phenomena. This year, Mr. Wetterling showed that other parts of town aren’t isolated from strange occurrences.
The Collins family built a home on Chester Avenue in 1901. Some of its former residents may still inhabit the building.
In the late 1970s, a contractor working on the property saw a little boy playing on the stairs. Several days later a landscaper witnessed the child in driveway. On both occasions, the owner’s son wasn’t home.
A psychic lived in another home along Chester Avenue. The woman predicted: “Two months nigh, I shall be laid upon the sod.” Her prophesy proved prescient. She passed shortly thereafter. Subsequent people who’ve lived in the home have claimed to see her manifest as a glowing white light on the front lawn.
Entities don’t just remain in dwellings. Some take their hauntings on the road, even those with rails.
The train tracks through town became the topic of a September 5, 1857 New York Times article. On a dark evening, the train’s engineer observed a figure on the rails. He attempted to stop the train, but couldn’t do so before colliding with it. Once the train did halt, he searched the surrounding area. He didn’t find anything.
A few nights later, residents walking by the tracks witnessed a seven-foot black clad figure hovering over the rails. As they approached it, the object turned around and flew away.
These weren’t isolated incidents. One-quarter of Moorestown’s residents thought they saw something mysterious in the area.
Comparable to the ephemeral appearance of the Jersey Devil, sightings of the railroad track entity suddenly stopped.
Mr. Wetterling concluded the evening with the sine qua non of all Moorestown Ghost Tours. He took viewers inside the original town jail built in 1876. The Zoom format allowed those watching to join him inside each cell including the rear “drunk tank.” With the additional light he, Mr. DiCamillo and Ms. Maravich provided, those watching could read the graffiti on the walls. They could even see the “pin-up girl” an inmate drew during his 1952 incarceration.
Mr. Wetterling described himself as a “retired” paranormal investigator. He said that most inquiries resulted in finding “reasonable explanations” for events. The times he hasn’t have led to some fascinating tales about Moorestown’s haunted history.
The thought of a Halloween season without a Ghost Tour terrifies one even more than listening to one of Mr. Wetterling’s stories. Thanks to him and the Historical Society, one of the community’s great October traditions continued even in these frightening times.