Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Specters of Oom

The Christian College that I attended, Nyack College is situated on the eastern hillside of the Hudson River in Rockland County, New York. It’s a hodge podge of buildings from different eras. Some of the most beautiful structures are the old Tudor style buildings the northern part of the campus. That part of the campus used to be the former Clarkstown Country Club. It was home to one of the most unique and eccentric individuals of early 20th century Manhattan high society, Pierre Bernard- otherwise known as Oom the Omnipotent. He was the founder of the first Tantric society in America the Tantric Order of America and it’s publishing house the Tantric Press. He also founded the new York Sanskrit College in New York City in 1910 and finally the Clarkstown Country Club in 1918. At the time the Country Club’s library was, in its day, the most renowned private library of materials related to the study of Indian philosophy and religion in the United States.

He is called the father of American yoga, being the first to popularize Yoga and Tantra in The United States. His nephew Theos Bernard became the first western Lama and a Tibetan Buddhist scholar after frequent visits to Tibet to study under various gurus and acquired the title “The Great White Llama”. At the Clarkstown Country Club Pierre received visits from a host of New York’s elite and famous, from the Vanderbilts to acclaimed symphony conductor Leopold Stokowski.

But Oom the Omnipotent also had a darker side.

He was a practitioner of sex magic and an avid occultist. In 1910 he was accused of kidnapping two young girls for sexual indecencies. A clip from the May 4th 1910 New York Times article concerning this kidnapping is seen below.

Ultimately the charges were dropped, some say due to very wealthy and powerful connections within the political world of NYC at the turn of the last century. The claims of strange occult sexual practices were wide spread. It was told he would bring prostitutes from the city down the Hudson River and through the large Nyack storm drains to the Country Club in order to participate in some of the more ‘extreme’ rituals. It was rumored some of these women were never seen again.

Pierre Bernard died in 1955 and soon after the Clarkstown estate was purchased by the Nyack Missionary Training Institute, which later became Nyack College. His 80 room mansion became the library and administration building Shuman Hall and the guest house became the Moseley Dormitory.

Soon after the purchase strange things began to happen in these buildings. Lights in administration offices would turn on and off all by themselves. Various objects in the offices of the old mansion would fly off tables.When you would venture in the attic and through the many secret maze of passageways that criss cross around the inner walls of the mansion after hours you would hear strange music and often voices when no one was there. Fetishes and idols from around the world stored in the large attic would move from one place to the other as if they could do so of their own volition. Books in the library would inexplicably fly off shelves and land yards away. Students studying in the many private reading rooms would feel an icy hand on their shoulder or someone whispering in their ear. There is a small handprint as if of a young person in the attic that will not go away no matter how many times it would be cleaned or painted over.

These paranormal activities were not limited to the old Tudor mansion though. The renovated dorm was often the scene of the unexplained and supernatural. There is a room on the second floor of the south wing that is covered in mirrors. Not many want to live in the room for there is a tendency for hideous faces to appear in the mirrors late at night. This room and various others throughout the building are host to strange night visitations by forces unseen who would either sit on the bed and try to suffocate the occupant by laying on their chest or move the bed across the floor with violent force. At least once it was said that a bed levitated. Students in prayer often felt an uneasy presence in many of the rooms, and a few saw ghosts like beings in hallways. There is an elephant that was used for rituals by Bernard buried in the Athletic field and once late at night a security guard swore he heard the sound of an elephant walking and trumpeting in the parking lot. A picture of one of the elephants called "Mom" is below.

The most frequent reoccurring manifestation of the paranormal was nicknamed “The Dark Specter” by generations of security officers. It began to make its appearance in the mid seventies, and it has been sighted numerous times haunting every area of the campus grounds. The Dark Specter’s first appeared to a group of students who had just returned from a late night gathering in New York City. They were pulling up to the main campus center when they encountered a figure in a dark robe standing in the center of the parking lot about 50 yards from the building. He seemed to be waving something in his hand and they heard an odd chanting. Disturbed by this possibly unhinged trespasser they roused the security guard and he approached the person. Despite many hails and requests that he identify himself and his purpose for being on private property so late at night, the figure went on with his ritual and ignored the officer’s pleas. When the guard came within five feet of it and exposed it in the full beam of his flashlight the specter turned around to reveal that there was no face residing in the hood. And according to the witnesses as the guard backed away in fear the unwelcome visitor merged into the darkness and faded away. From then on the Dark Specter would appear every once in a while to hapless students or security in the early morning hours, usually from 2-4 in the morning. A security chief who was a good friend had spotted it in the spring of 1986 walking down a pathway as he was doing his rounds. He called out to the figure expecting it to be a student that was trying to sneak into a resident hall after curfew, but the figure kept walking as if unaware of my friend’s presence. He ran up to it but as he drew closer he noticed that the robed figure seemed to have no feet touching the ground, which stopped him in his tracks. The specter continued on for a few more feet and then vanished into the dark at a shadowy curve in the trail never to reappear on the other side. In 1990 while I was attending the Seminary on campus I was told that there were multiple sightings of the hooded entity. Many encounters of him walking late at night as usual, but there was a strange appearance of it to a group of students enjoying the cool night air on their private balcony on Simpson hall around 2AM. The Dark Specter appeared to float out of the woods behind the dorm and glided down the hillside only to stop and turn toward the five of them as they watched in stunned horror at the apparition. They all began to pray and the vision disappeared about twenty yards away from them. Curiously, dozens of people reported to have woken up at that precise time finding that they were inflicted with massive nose bleeds. Coincidence or was there some dynamic spiritual forces at work?

I lived in Moseley Hall, the former guest residence of the Country Club from 1984 until 1988, and I visited the library frequently while in College and Seminary. As just I reported, one my best friends was the chief of Campus Security; so I had privy to places most did not at all hours of the night. I have first hand accounts of all of these incidents. I also saw quite a bit of these activities, from idols moving from one place to another when you turned your back to the music and voices from nowhere. I never did encounter the Dark Specter though. Some of us were ghost hunters long ago before it became the popular pastime it has become today, and we explored all of the buildings hoping for a personal encounter with the paranormal. We were granted our wish on many occasions. A few friends and I actually saw a demonic spirit physically take form in the top floor of the Seminary building; the scene of many of the sex magic rituals in the 1930s and 40s. It is something we will never forget. It appeared as a misshapen dark mass of a creature that mixed the characteristics of a humanoid and a frog. It, like the Dark Specter dissolved into the darkness as we confronted it and began an Exorcism. While at the time we were novices who had just begun training with such entities, it was hands on training as to how to deal with such malicious spirits. And it was training that some of my friends were able to utilize in paranormally active Mission fields across the globe.

But the paranormal would happen at the oddest times. One night after traveling the Eastern Coast with a drama company my friend Jim and I were the only ones in the building, and as I walked to my room I heard the door of my room close violently and a strange face peer out from one of the rooms. I thought it was my friend playing a prank with a mask and as a joke had locked me out of my room. But when I arrived at my room the door was open and my friend was soundly sleeping in his bed. He was never one to miss gloating after a practical joke, and I was a bit unnerved.

The buildings have repeatedly been blessed and exorcised, but the incidents continue to happen.

Did Pierre Bernard unleash something dark that will not die at the Clarkstown Country Club by strange rites and rituals? Or are the ghosts of the Tantric former occupants at odds with the conservative Christian residents who now populate the buildings?

I have no idea, but I know what I experienced on the banks of the Hudson years ago. In talking with current students, it still happens today. Good for them. If you are going to have an occupation that ventures in the realm of the spiritual, you ought to at least meet a few spirits along the way.

Until next time,

Pastor Swope


cc said...

WOW. Great account sir, thank you!

Julie said...

Fascinating! I think this "hands-on training" is much more valuable than the accounts of attempted exorcisms that you posted previously. I definitely believe that Bernard summoned some nasty spirits that reside there to this day, and perhaps even created a vortex, which would explain the continued appearances after exorcisms of the buildings.

cryptidsrus said...

You have led a life most of us only dream of, Pastor.

Jeez, you've had a lot experiences. Enough to last a lifetime. I'm sure I could sit and listen to your stories all day long. Good show.

As usual, good post...
Keep it up.
I meant that, too.

NickJones said...

Yoga...Tantra...sex magic...hypnotism...occult rituals...sounds like we had our own home-grown Aleister Crowley! I wonder if they knew (of) each other, or corresponded.

"It appeared as a misshapen dark mass of a creature that mixed the characteristics of a humanoid and a frog." Very Lovecraftian, that.

Has anyone thought to remove those mirrors?

Barry said...

Wow, a much more exciting place than where I went to college at the U of T.

There the only thing to fear was an irate professor whose deadline for the submission of papers had passed.

Collin said...

I'm the best friend of one of the sons of a prominent person in the college, in fact his dad might be the president of it now I'm not sure. However I used to live on campus when my dad was getting his pastoral degree, we lived on campus housing. Anyway my friends family moved into on of the houses near the buildings, in fact it was right next to the cafeteria building. Before they moved in a group of prominent people from the college, including my dad, went into the house and performed an exorcism of sorts I guess it could be called. While they were there a person got pushed down the stairs by an unseen entity. I'm honestly not surprised, that town and the college campus can get really creepy. I also hear there is a series of tunnels that Pierre created underneath the campus, can anyone back me up on that? I wasn't aware that the halls were once part of his country club though. Anyway I now live in Texas but whenever I visit my friends from Nyack every summer I always stay in that house, the one my friend lives in... it's really creepy. But so far no paranormal activities have taken place there since the day it was investigated to my knowledge. But just the thought that I am somehow connected to that house and campus is somewhat frightening.

Paul Rentz said...

Yes, I've heard the 'tunnel' stories too, but it's never been confirmed. What is true is that in the library (Shuman Hall) there is a stairway that doesn't go anywhere. The story was that Oom thought that evil spirits would get lost there and die. He was one strange dude! I was student in the late 60's, early 70's.
Besides the mirrored room (which freaked me out when I first saw it through a crack in the door- the multiple mirrors made it look like a mile across as you looked from mirror to mirror to ....) was a room on the back that had a cork floor. It was dirty- and no way to clean it, so we bought a wool rug to cover it. We'd get such static build up that we'd never walk into the room in the winter without a key in our hand to discharge our selves. The key would glow on the end! About three to four inch sparks would fly when you came near anything metal.

Anonymous said...

You and your readers might be interested to know about my new book, The Great Oom, which is published today by Viking. See reviews in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal and also this sunday in the New York Post. Robert Love

Philip said...

I can't address what happened in the room you mention, Robin, but the old mansion that was/is the library was never owned or used by Bernard (Oom the Omnipotent). It was built in 1930 by the wealthy widow of Jacob Wertheim and purchased by the college in 1954. There was no tunnel between the mansion and the Clarkstown Country Club. This is repeating a lot of the erroneous rumors that we heard there as students in the 1980s.

Anonymous said...

i went to Nyack in the spring of 92 and again in 95-96

i HAVE BEEN IN the tunnels under Mosely. and have gotten all the way to where they collapsed them and baracaded them.

also on a side note pastor swope my brother, sister in law and 2 cousins where at nyack in 84-88 mark and becky are my brother and sister in law ( i wont say there last name for their sake)

Anonymous said...

Posted by anonymous: My ex-husbnad & I were students at Nyack College in the early 1960's. At that time there was a small cicular sunken & mostly enclosed (by tall bushes)garden to the south of Shuman Hall and directly off a porch. In the center of the garden was a defunct fountain. Two or three stone steps led down into the garden from the rear of the house.
One humid azalea/apple blossom-prefumed night in spring of 1964, my fiance & I were standing face to face on these steps kissing.
Suddenly I looked over his shoulder across the garden to see an extremely tall (at the time I guessed 7 feet) white translucent apparition that seemed to be watching us intently although there were no features apparent. I whispered to my partner to turn/look, did he see what I was seeing? --and he affirmed that he did see it.
As we watched (too scared to budge at this point)the unusually tall being began to turn toward the Hall. As it did a 2nd much smaller entity of the same translucency appeared next to it. Together the two silently glided toward the porch of Shuman Hall & disappeared--at which time my fiance & I took off moving as fast as possible away from the darkened Hall & back toward Christie Hall. We expected to be ambushed be something unspeakable as we had to pass the front of Shuman, but thankfully nothing appeared.

When we got back to Christie our first thought was that we could have seen another couple out that late evening, but on checking the sign-out book we found only one other couple "abroad" that night--both short people.

Anonymous said...

So I go to Nyack College now and I live in Simspon hall.I don't think any of these thing happen now expect the boys in Moseley would all have bad dreams and it would be the same dream.

Anonymous said...

...attended the school and lived in Moseley (both the new wing and the old wing) from mid to late 90's.
...yeah, there were areas beneath Moseley, (kind of a basement sort of deal) that had been used as a make-out room over the years, but it was all sealed up by then... (an RA and I were talking about it... you'd find valentines candy and underwear... (Nyack is a -very- conservative school... strict 'thou shalt not' policies about not doing annnnnything remotely 'tantric,' --but it was full of kids who, knowing the Lord or not, could be fraught with horn, (so to speak,) and any area that was out of the eye of others, was convenient.

...oddly enough, from the mid 90's up to... possibly present day, the denomination became obsessed with 'Deliverance Ministries' (basically casting demons out of Christians,) and it was seen as a cutting edge therapy tool with counseling (less counseling sessions if you just do an exorcism and cast the demon out.)
-wrought havoc on the student body, emotionally... and was a real mess theologically.
--As I lived at the campus (in Moseley) year round for those years, and was always there, Pardington, Simpson, and the Admin. Building... as an older student, I was not aware of any unusual spiritual activity... (other than, Spiritual Emphasis week) and the odd practices of those practicing that particular counseling method.

The whole thing about elephants and devil worshipers up off in the hills? was known to be rumors handed down by upper-classmen...
...though, a few years back, the newer building they had 'SkyManor' or something, blew out all the windows on it's second floor, when maintenance was fixing something and had a gas leak...