Do you believe in ghosts?

With only a few days to go before Halloween, some New Jerseyans insist they have had actuall experiences with spirits. Others are convinced it’s all a bunch of poppycock.

“There are a tremendous amount of ghosts in New Jersey, from private family homes to businesses to historical sites,” said Laura Hladik Hoffman, founder and director of the New Jersey Ghost Hunters Society.

She is convinced we have a great deal of spiritual activity in the Garden State because “it’s got its lakes, it’s got it’s rivers and then it’s got the Atlantic Ocean. And water, since it conducts electricity, it creates that type of amplifier, if you will, that ghosts can draw off of."

Joanne Emmons, the founder of Paranormal Consulting and Investigations of New Jersey, agrees there are lots of ghosts all over the place.

“People actually live with a ghost for a long time before they even know it, so there’s more here than people actually imagine,” she said.

According to ghost hunter Bruce Tango, one major ghost hot spot is Cape May.

“One of the most active places I’ve ever been in — and I’ve been in a lot — is the Southern Mansion in Cape May, a bed and breakfast,” he said. “It’s very, very haunted. Nothing bad, but there’s a touchy-feely ghost there.”

Tango said once he took the Cape May historical tour and “I was holding the door for people to leave a certain room and somebody put their hand on my shoulder. When I turned around there was nobody there.

I ain’t afraid of no ghost

Hoffman said there’s no reason to be afraid of the vast majority of spirits.

“Most ghosts don’t even know they’re ghosts,” she said. “Typically, I tell people you’re apt to get more injured when you’re hunting for ghosts because you get frightened yourself, you turn too quickly, you twist your ankle, you trip over something.”

For the most part, ghosts don’t really even mean to frighten you. But that’s not true in certain cases.

“The worst ghost you could ever encounter, the most angry, is one that died by beheading," she said. "You know, at the time of death all they know is intense anger for 'How dare you take my head!'”

“The rest of them, they only levitate about a 5 pound bag of flour, so it’s your iPod that goes missing, car keys, and then it reappears. Little annoyances like that.”

Emmons agreed you don’t have to get nervous when dealing with the vast majority of ghosts, but when you do run into a nasty one, you’ve got to be strict.

“We use typical things: verbal control, talking to it, smudge and sage, and a few of the other things we do to curb the activity,” she said.

Smudging is described as burning sage to drive out negative energy and sage or sweet grass to attract positive energy.

Emmons said she used this technique with one ghost that was attacking occupants of a home and “he didn’t go away, he didn’t stop being nasty, but the hitting stopped and the scratching stopped.”

She says talking sternly to a ghost will bring them under control 90 percent of the time.

“Take control, don’t yell at it don’t scream at it, just tell it this is my space now, I do know you’re here, but here’s the rules. You’ve got a house guest, basically. He just won’t pay any rent,” she said. “Give em rules, do it firmly but not with meanness. Don’t try to kick them out of the house because they’re probably going to just stay there anyway. And usually you can work out a negotiation.”

Hoffman believes some people can see ghosts while others can’t because “some people are just more sensitive to it, and then the ghost actually decides who sees it."

"Ghosts can get very good at slowing down their vibratory frequencies, so they can manifest as solid as you and I, and anybody and their brother can see them.”

More often than not, they will target one individual to appear to.

“Some ghosts get a kick out of that,” she said.

“It’s whether they want to be seen by a person in whatever place,” said Tango. “Some people never seem to have experiences, and some people seem to have a lot of experiences. I seem to be sort of like a ghost magnet.”

Tango, a former Elizabeth police officer who’s appeared on the TV show "Ghost Hunters" many times, said besides Cape May, other ghost hot spots in New Jersey include the Union County Courthouse in Elizabeth and the Merchants and Drovers tavern museum in Rahway.

“You don’t have to go far to find some place that’s haunted. I mean they’re all over the place,” he said.

Emmons said another hot-spot is the Monmouth battlefield, and many spirits inhabit other areas where different battles were fought hundreds of years ago.

Hoffman noted the Spy House museum on the Raritan bay in Port Monmouth is considered one of the most haunted locations in the nation.

So why are ghosts hanging around?

“We kind of like to think of ghosts as either crossed-over, like gone to the 'great beyond' and just coming back to visit once in a while, or what we traditionally call spirits that are haunting a place which is earth-bound,” Emmons said.

“Some spirits are here because they don’t want to leave. Sometimes it’s just a fear of what’s on the other side or ending something when they weren’t ready to go.”

Some souls just never want to let go of New Jersey.

Contact reporter David Matthau at

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