I had some great times at Asbury UMC, some of them were a bit bizarre and a few were paranormal.
The Pastor that I worked with had a young teenage daughter who loved spooky stories, and I told her some of the strange experiences that I have had over the years while I worked with her and the other kids in the Youth Group. After a few months the other Pastor asked me not to tell these tales to her anymore. He thought they might be having an impact on her.
And it was beginning to frightened him.
For she was beginning to see ghosts in the
I could have dismissed this as youthful fantasy if there were not so many other stories to back up her claims.
Many of the older members of the congregation told me that some of the older graves whose occupants and coffins had long ago dissolved into the earth were plowed flat and paved over for the widening of Asbury Road. The old wooden crosses that once marked their graves had become indiscernible wooden posts and were discarded by the crew working on the road. A few weathered pieces of marble tombstones were tossed aside as well for the road widening project. These aged graves were no longer remembered and their families long gone. And the remains of the former occupants which were too minuscule to see were scattered and pounded into the earth under the asphalt.
The older members always talked about this incident with pity and disdain, but the State was in control of the project. Even though the tradition handed down from generations within the church told that there were graves at those locations, the State said there was no real evidence to support that claim since there were no bodies or coffins to be found. So the project proceeded as planned and the earth was leveled and paved.
Within a few years sightings and strange happenings went on in the cemetery and the old church building.
The Pastor would come to the church Sunday morning only to find all the doors unlocked, even though he had been there the night before and had secured the building before leaving. Visitors in the building late at night would swear they heard bells ringing somewhere, but the source was never found. Candles would seemingly light themselves at the Altar. Hymnals used by the choir were often found in the back of the church instead of the front where the choir had left them. Only later did someone remember that until the end of the 19th century the choir area was actually in the back of the church- in the area to where the hymnals had been inexplicably moved. One lady told me that during a church dinner in the early 1950s she had noticed a strange old lady in Victorian clothing sitting alone at a table drinking tea. She turned to the Pastor to ask who the visitor was and as they both turned to where she had been seated there was no one there. There was however a spoon on the table, but no tea as well as no Victorian garbed lady.
But the most frequent occurrences of the paranormal occurred in the graveyard itself. Passersby traveling on Asbury or
In 1965 the old church building was torn down to make way for a new facility that was completed in the 70s. While the new building does have its occasional unexplainable occurrences (strange sounds, lights on and off for no reason) it cannot compare to the activity at the former church edifice. The church parsonage stands next to the graveyard and the top northeast bedroom has a window peering out at the lawn full of century old headstones.
That was the bedroom of my coworker’s daughter. She was seeing things from her bedroom window at night. I asked her what exactly she had been seeing. She swore that she would see different people standing in the graveyard late at night. There was an old man in work cloths of a different era that would just stand in the cemetery staring out over the hillside above the airport runway. He would just disappear and reappear out of nowhere. There was also a lady that she repeatedly saw walking back and forth in the graveyard with flowers in her hand who seemed to be made out of mist. Her translucence would vary every time she was observed. And the young girl told me that a few times in the summer she would be jarred awake in the middle of the night by the laughter of a child coming from the cemetery. Only one time had she seen anything after hearing the laughter, late one evening she beheld a little boy in lederhosen running back and forth between the tombstones. He ran behind one large marble slab and never appeared coming out the other side-he simply vanished.When I asked some of the elder parishioners about these apparitions that the girl had experienced there were a multitude of responses.
Some gave names to the specters, for they had been around for years having been claimed by various families.
Others dismissed it as tricks of lighting or pranksters fooling around in the graveyard at night.
I stopped telling her my own stories, but she did not stop seeing these nightly other worldly visitors and telling others about them.
I never saw any of these spectral visitors myself, although I did have some strange occurrences in my office. Things would disappear and appear elsewhere. One of my walls was an old sliding partition that only opened from my side. I often found it opened a crack, and I was the only one with a key to my office to access the inside latch of the partition.
Then again I did have a lively group of youth back then. They even wrote my Alma Mater and claimed to be my widow. You see I had died in 1997. Imagine my surprise when I received the condolence cards from fellow College Alumni later that year after my service at the church was complete. It wasn't until around 2003 that I convinced the Nyack College Alumni Association that I was still alive.
But the most unexplained thing I ever encountered at Asbury UMC had to do with the living . Arriving early one morning to ready the gym for the youth group I opened the gym storage closet only to find a drunken wino passed out on the closet floor. He scared me half to death. All the doors and windows had been locked with the only exception being a small window over the kitchen’s dishwasher one foot high and two foot wide that was six feet off the ground on the inside and well over eight feet off the ground from the outside. He must have really needed a place to sleep it off for the night. But he wasn’t an apparition unless there are ghosts that smell like MD 20/20 and run away real fast when they see a frightened minister. If anyone has encountered any such entity please let me know. But I think the only spirits on the premises that morning were rotting a liver.
Too bad, I’d like to have had tea with that old Victorian lady. Make mine Earl Grey.
Until next time,