The Haunting at the Absecon Lighthouse

Oct 27, 2010

By:  Krista Doran

P1090590I have always been intrigued by the paranormal.  To me, it just seems impossible that when we die, that’s it.  I believe that we all have energy that lives on beyond our physical being.  Some people refer to this energy as different things such as ghosts, spirits, a haunting…whatever the term, I believe it exists.  To what degree however, is a whole different story.  There is so much about the supernatural world that we just don’t understand and especially during this time of the year, we are all reminded of the possibility that spirits could indeed exist.

Because of my interest in this topic, our Editor and Chief here at the Out On The Town, Mike Vagnoni asked me if I would be interested in doing an interview with an organization in Philly called Olde City Paranormal (OCP).  Of course, I jumped at the chance to learn more about what they do.  OCP is a professional paranormal group whose main objective is to help educate people that may be experiencing unexplained activity in their homes or place of business.  Rather than feed into the stories, OCPs goal is to find a logical explanation for what some people may be experiencing.  To do this, OCP uses the same type of equipment you see on popular TV shows, such as EMF Readers, infrared cameras, motion detectors and K-II Meters.  OCP does not charge for their services.  The members of OCP are every day, working class people who strive to give their clients the answer to the question, “Is this place haunted?”

I contacted the founder and head ghost hunter, John Levy to discuss exactly what they do.  John, who is also a Philadelphia police officer explained to me that it is very important to the group to try and provide some sort of help, especially to families that have been experiencing “unexplained” phenomenon in their home.  They have done many investigations and each one is handled completely different, depending on the situation.  John said that many things people may believe to be paranormal are often easily explained.  For instance, exposure to electricity often imitates the “eerie” feeling one may get when entering a room or can even play a part in optical illusions, John explained.  A home they have explored in Mayfair has had them back a few times; still with no real logical explanation of what the family is experiencing.  “The kids have seen dark figures in their rooms, the house is always cold and during our investigation, we witnessed a shadowy figure move from side to side, completely blocking out the kitchen window.”  They were unable to recreate this activity or provide a logical explanation as to what it could be.  The team will be going out again soon to try and debunk what everyone has experienced, but so far no luck.  Could this home be haunted?  Do ghosts really exist?  Since they had another investigation coming up at the Absecon Lighthouse in Atlantic City, John invited me to come along to experience what they do.

There is quite a bit of history surrounding the Absecon Lighthouse.  The structure was built in 1857 in Atlantic City’s inlet section, under the supervision of Army engineer George Gordon Meade, who later went on to fame as the Union General who won the Battle of Gettysburg.  The decision to build the Absecon Lighthouse came because of the many prior shipwrecks that caused a significant amount of deaths along that particular area.  Because of this, the inlet was eventually was given the name, The Graveyard Inlet.  Many who have witnessed activity at the lighthouse do not believe that only one soul haunts the structure, but rather several and among the list is a British soldier from the Revolutionary War period. Several people have spotted a soldier in uniform on top of the lighthouse, in his spotless red and white uniform and musket in hand.  Why would a British soldier be haunting the Absecon Lighthouse?  Well, it could be the fact that in 1779, a whole ship of British soldiers perished in that same vicinity.  The King’s troop transport ship, Mermaid, was en route to New York from Nova Scotia, when their ship was knocked off course by a raging snow storm.  The ship crashed on a sandbar, killing 145 soldiers and crew members.  Is it possible that the British soldier is there trying to warn others of a death so grim?

On our way down to the Absecon Lighthouse, I was a little nervous but excited at the same time.  I wasn’t sure how I would react if I actually saw something with my own two eyes.  Knowing me, I would scream like a little girl!  Luckily, my husband Rick, who agreed to come along, kept me calm. First, we decided to stop at the Atlantic City Bar and Grill, which is owned by our friend Gino Garofalo, for dinner.  The lighthouse was just a few blocks away on S. Rhode Island Ave, so we stayed there until the OCP Team called to tell us they had arrived.  When we got to the Lighthouse, it was still day light.  I had researched some of the tales prior to heading down and according to the records, strange things have been happening at the lighthouse, dating back to 1905.  The first account of many years filled with tales of paranormal activity, was of one lighthouse keeper who claimed to have spotted the infamous Jersey Devil at the very top of the tower.  Since then, employees and visitors have experienced things such as eerie laughter coming from the lighthouse, the scent of pipe and cigar smoke, unexplained footsteps, doors opening and closing and even partial apparitions have appeared.

After reading about some of the stories, I was ready to experience it all with an open mind.  As the crew was setting up their equipment, Rick and I walked the 248 stairs to the top of the lighthouse, taking pictures along the way.  When we first entered the lighthouse from the main structure, the air immediately changed.  The best word I can use to describe it would be “airy” but not in the sense that you may think.  It felt as though air move all around and sort of enveloped me.  As we climbed all 248 steps, I still felt this air around me.  “It’s an old, round, cement building that probably has areas where air and wind can wisp through the structure,” is what I kept telling myself.  It did not feel heavy or threatening in any way, but it was definitely there the whole time.  Onward and upward we climbed until we reached the top of the lighthouse.  The views of Atlantic City, on such a beautiful and clear night were quite spectacular.  We sat there for about 30 minutes, walked outside along the deck that surrounded the lighthouse and as we came back in, it was very quite.  Just then, I heard a strange clanking sound, which seemed to be coming from the landing just below us.  I walked half way down the steps and looked to see if anything was there and I saw nothing.  I went back up to the observation room and looked out the window, and the whole team was standing outside at that moment.  It was then that I realized that other than me and Rick, the lighthouse was completely empty.  We walked back down the 248 steps and I told one of the team members what we heard.  They told us that this is one of the sounds that people often hear and no explanation has ever been found.

The team had all of the cameras set up in some of the active hot spots of the lighthouse.  I had a Zoom digital recorder with me and was ready to explore.  We formed 2 groups; I was on one team and Rick was on the other and wouldn’t you know it, my team was going back up to the top of the lighthouse!  So I again began my climb, all the way up the 248 steps.  My legs were like jello by the time I got up there!  I don’t know how those lighthouse keepers did it.  Heck maybe that is what killed some of them!  I was lucky to be with the team leader and co-founder, John Levy and investigator Glenn Orwan.  As we sat along the cold and rounded walls of the observation room, I tried to think of what it was like for the lighthouse keepers.  It seemed to me it would be a lonely life, sitting up there, alone in that perch waiting for ships to come by.  Lonely or not, this was a very important job and I imagined the men who would have been there protecting the inlet and the sailors who counted on them.  At this point, it was dark outside and all the lights were off.  We were sitting in the dark, inside a structure with documented stories of a haunting and I thought to myself “Am I insane?!”  John began a sort of dialogue to help draw out any spirits, just like you would see on any of the TV shows.  I also chimed in, which was kind of cool because just as I said, “Hello, my name is Krista and I came here to learn about you today,” a slight shadowy figure appeared to the right of my line of site.  I stopped and looked right at John and without saying a word; he said “I saw it too.”

We stayed in place for about 45 minutes and then decided to make our way down, staying in constant communication with the other team members via walkie talkie.  John and I started down the spiral stairs when one of the other team members radioed us, asking us to stay put.  They had also spotted a shadowy figure and they had it trapped between us and where they stood a few flights down.  Not even 2 minutes went by when we heard someone yell “What the hell was THAT???”  John radioed down to see what happened and Gary (one of the team members) who was wearing a baseball cap had the cap knocked off his head!  He was clearly shaken, as we went down to where they were standing.  Once we were all down on the landing, the shadowy figure they saw was gone.

My team’s next task was to go outside to the oil house, where the keepers used to gather to smoke their pipes and cigars and drink their hooch.  One of the members carried in a contraption, that he called a “ghost box.”  We all sat inside on the floor of this dark and old stone building, with this ghost box in the center.  We were told that the ghost box is used as a way to communicate with the spiritual world.  It is used for linear sweeping of the AM or FM bands to form “white noise.”  If you have ever seen the movie White Noise, then you have an idea of what I am talking about.  The purveyor of the ghost box was supposedly a young man by the name of “Chris” who was believed to be an ammo runner in the Revolutionary War.  Chris was gruesomely decapitated while running ammo to the next site.  Glenn Orwan, one of the investigators was leading the session and began to ask Chris questions.  We were amazed that every time Glenn or any of us asked a question, we did get a relevant answer.  In fact, as we sat in the room, we kept hearing someone say “Steve? Steve. STEVE” This went on for several minutes.  Co-founder and Tech Manager, Steve Rotondi, who was in the oil house with us at the time, got very emotional as we kept hearing, “Steve.  Steve.  Steve.  Steve?” After a few minutes of this, he had to leave the room.  Later, he had explained that his Uncle who had just passed away would always call his name, several times in a row, just like that to annoy Steve.  Glenn and the rest of the team, continued to ask questions and we kept getting answers.  We got to a point where so many voices started to come through that it all sounded jumbled, so we decided to stop.  Just then, the room became very cold, which was quite strange, considering there were several people in the 25’ x 25’ room for about 45 minutes.  If anything, it should have warmed up.  It was just then; I got a whiff of, what certainly smelled like a pipe.  It was very strong at first, as if someone in the room was smoking.  It only lasted about a minute and then it was gone.

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The stories that have been told about the Absecon Lighthouse are not the kind of stories you hear of some other places that warn of impending doom for anyone that enters.  It is believed that whoever or whatever still resides here is more of a residual type of energy, rather than an intelligent haunting.  There was definitely a light feeling there but not something that would be scary or evil.  The activity that I witnessed, as well as some of the other team members, certainly validates what others have seen, but I personally do not think anyone needs to be frightened about going inside.  The Absecon Lighthouse is a part of the rich history of that inlet of Atlantic City and is one of the oldest lighthouses in the US.  It is intriguing and quite interesting and I would recommend exploring the lighthouse to just about anyone who can withstand the climb.  The lighthouse is open for all types of events in the summer such as Full Moon climbs which correspond with the calendar’s full moons, themed events, pizza parties and even sleep-overs for scouts.   On October 30, they will be hosting “Ghost Stories & Lighthouse Climb” where you can visit the Absecon Lighthouse for the “true” ghost stories that prompted a visit from Sci-Fi’s popular show, Ghost Hunters!  For a full description of events, as well as all the stories about the lighthouse, visit their site at www.abseconlighthouse.org.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the members of Olde City Paranormal, John Levy – Founder/Lead investigator, Steve Rotondi – Co-founder/Tech Manager, Bill Fritz – Assistant Tech Manager/Investigator, Michelle Smith – Case Researcher/Investigator, Laura Rotondi – Investigator, Glenn Orwan – Investigator and Gerry Colon – Investigator. We had a great time learning about the paranormal, and what OCP does to help people.  If you think you have some sort of paranormal activity in your home or business, do not hesitate to contact OCP by sending an email to oldecityparanormal@yahoo.com.  They will help you get the answers you seek.

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