MONTVILLE, NJ – Musician, author and apparitionist Gordon Thomas Ward spoke at the Montville Township Public Library October 28 to the delight of library patrons.
“I’ve been investigating the paranormal since I was seven or eight years old,” Ward told his audience, “because the house I grew up in was haunted.”
Ward recounted growing up in a house in Bernardsville in which visitors saw figures in the house, objects moved, and unusually loud noises could be heard downstairs when occupants were upstairs.
“My mother and I would often hear people walking around on the second floor when we knew when no one else was at home,” he said. “At night, we would hear muffled conversation going on downstairs when we were upstairs. It would happen four or five times a week, three or four times each night. When we started to walk downstairs, it would get softer and softer, until we reached the first floor and it would stop.
“I got interested in ghosts when I was eight years old and I was standing at the head of the stairs with my family. We were listening to the voices downstairs, and I turned to my father and asked him what they were. He replied, ‘I don’t know.’ And that’s when I got interested in ghosts. If my father didn’t have an explanation, I wanted to find one,” he said.
Ward explained that there are three types of phenomena: poltergeists, residuals and apparitions.
“Poltergeists are not like you see in the movies. We think they’re a living person’s energy that can create knocking sounds or move things. When it’s determined whose energy is affecting the environment and its removed, the noises stop,” he said.
“Residuals” are images or sounds that are locked in place and repeat the same actions.
“It’s energy that’s impressed in an atmosphere, and when someone with enough psychic ability picks up on it, they experience it,” he said.
“Apparitions,” stated Ward, “Change and do different things. There’s a consciousness attached to them.”
Ward showed the audience various types of equipment used for collecting data, including using a recorder to collect “electronic voice phenomena.” He said that eighty percent of the time, ghost hunters are able to record at least one voice answering their questions. He played several such recordings to the audience, evoking chills.
He stated that some people claim that photos showing orbs in them are simply dust particles in front of the lens. He showed a photograph of a room after he fluffed up some throw pillows, and the photo showed many such orbs.
“I didn’t open the gates of Hell,” he joked, “I just punched two pillows together.”
Morristown-Washington Irving Link
Ward stated it’s possible that author Washington Irving collected the idea for his story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” while conducting research for a book he wrote about George Washington in Morristown.
“Nearby is The Great Swamp, and there’s a path there called the ‘Devil’s Den.’ People say they’ve seen a headless horseman riding through the woods there. Legend has it that three Hessian soldiers were killed near the path, and one with an almost severed neck rode his horse into the Swamp, never to be seen again. What I do know, is in the cemetery near the church where Irving was doing his research is a gravestone that says right on it that it was purchased by ‘Ichabod Crane’!”
And despite what viewers may think, the ghost hunting “reality shows” are untrue.
“I have friends who went to sign contracts with the ghost hunting TV shows, and it says right in the contract they have to fake evidence. Those shows are entertainment! They don’t have to film in the dark – voices will happen when there’s light, too. They film in the dark to be creepy.
“But ghosts are not here to scare you. I think they’re just people without skin. I’ve never encountered an evil ghost,” Ward concluded.
To learn more about Ward’s book Ghosts of Central Jersey: Historic Haunts of the Somerset Hills and other titles, go to http://www.gordonthomasward.com/