Published November 8, 1885
A number of gentlemen who reside in South Brooklyn were having a friendly chat upon various topics a few days ago at Masonic Hall, when the conversation turned upon the subject of supernatural appearances. Several of the party told of strange experiences they had had during their lives, and Mr. Benjamin R. Hicks of Fifth Avenue, related an adventure that was so strange that it made a deep impression upon the minds of his listeners, and was not laughed at as other stories had been. The story he related came to the ears of an Eagle reporter last evening and he sought out Mr. Hicks. He was found busily engaged waiting upon customers at his place of business.
“Do I believe in Ghosts?” echoed Mr. Hicks, as he offered the scribe a seat. “If ever anyone saw a ghost, I did – or, if it wasn’t a ghost I’d like some learned scientist to explain the phenomenon.”
“Will you relate the story of your adventure just as it happened?”
“Well, I don’t mind telling you what I honestly believe I saw, although I don’t want you to put me in any ridiculous light before the public. Several years ago I was engaged in the milk business and delivered milk at my customers’ houses. I had on my list a man by the name of John Day, who lived in Amity Street, near Hicks, and between Hicks and Henry. The family, which consisted of Day and his wife, lived on the top floor of the house, and were people in the ordinary walks of life. My first visit to these apartments was made one Thursday morning, just as day was breaking. The halls were dimly lighted by a gas jet burning in the upper story, and, in order to see my way up the lower flight of stairs, not being used to them, I placed a large stone against the street door to hold it open, so I might have the benefit of what little daylight there was at that early hour.
I started up the stairs, with my milk can in one hand and an empty cover – such as we carry milk in - in the other hand, and was about half way up the second flight when I saw a very old, feeble lady coming down, holding on to the banister for support. No thought of a ghost entered my mind at the time. I supposed someone in the house was up at an unusually early hour, or that possibly someone was sick. I pressed against the wall to let her pass me, and she did so. I saw that she was about 80 years old and very wrinkled. I also noticed that she wore a black dress, a black cap faced with white, and a black shawl. She made no noise as she went by me, and my curiosity being aroused at seeing such an old lady at that hour going out of the house, I turned to watch her, but to my astonishment, she had mysteriously disappeared. There was not a door anywhere on the flight of stairs where she passed me. I went up to Mrs. Day’s door and poured the milk into the pail she had left in the hall to receive it and left the house. I had no thought at the time of having seen a ghost, or whatever you may call it.
The following week I went to Mrs. Day’s to collect my bill, and casually asked her who the old lady was who I had passed on the stairs. Her face turned as white as a sheet and she dropped the dish she held in her hand. ‘Did you meet her?’ she gasped. ‘Did you see her – the ghost?’
I told her just what I had seen and she assured me that life in that house was simply unbearable on account of that same old lady. She said an old woman, the exact counterpart of the one I described, had owned the house years ago and had been murdered by her son-in-law, who secured a large sum of money that she had secreted in the house. He burned her body in the cellar and it had lain there for years until the bones were finally discovered by some men digging in the cellar. As the family were all dead nothing could be done toward bringing the murderer to justice. Ever since the discovery of the bones the house had been haunted by the woman’s ghost. Doors were slammed and opened, locks were unlocked, windows were rattled and unearthly groans heard. She said she had moved into the house only five days before, but, although she had paid a month’s rent in advance, she would lose that and move out."
Published April 23, 1893
This is a ghost story. It may or may not be true. The reader may or may not believe it, as he sees fit. The writer does not care, he makes no affidavits, gives no guarantees, has not investigated and is not absolutely sure that he believes it himself.
Not that there is any desire to discredit Mr. Walter E. Parfitt or Cornelius Ferguson Jr. There veracity is above proof, or rather it is independent of proof and can stand alone and unchallenged.
There is no doubt that they thought they saw what they now think they thought they saw, but the question is whether they really did see what they think they thought they saw and whether what they think they thought they thought they saw was really what they thought.
But they thought it was a ghost.
“We were coming to Brooklyn on a Bath beach and West End train from Bensonhurst, where we reside,” said Mr. Parfitt. “It was early in the evening about a week ago, the sun had gone down and it was twilight. As our train came to Greenwood Cemetery we suddenly saw a light in the cemetery. It was about one hundred yards from us and higher than the tops of the trees. The train follows the side of the fence for over a mile, and during all that trip that light followed along beside us. It was about the size of a football or a human head. Sparks of fire streamed backward from it like human hair. Mr. Furguson discovered it first and called my attention to it. There were five women in our party, and they saw it, too; it was very distinct. Now, how do you account for that?”
“The reflection from a lamp aboard the train.”
“No, it was not that. We put our hands to the side of our faces and looked out in such a way as preclude any possibility of being deceived by reflection.” Mr. Ferguson corroborates Mr. Parfitt’s story.
Published August 29, 1901
For several weeks past a ghost, that of a woman, apparently about 35 years of age, has held forth in the large vacant house on Fort Hamilton Avenue and Ninety-second Street. This ghost, according to the neighbors, appeared about three times a week. One night she was robed in white, stood at an open window holding a lamp, and the next night she appeared all in black. The people living in the neighborhood said that when the ghost appeared her moans were audible at some distance.
Mrs. Many, mother of Patrolman Frank Many of the Bergen street station, lives opposite the haunted house, in the same house with patrolman William Johnson of the Seventy-first Street Precinct and his wife.
Mrs. Many saw the apparition at the window several times. She told her son Frank, but he scoffed at the idea, and paid no attention to the matter at first. Later he spent several nights trying to solve the mystery of the ghost but although he would see her, but she always eluded him.
Then Detective Martin White attempted to clear up the mystery of the woman in white.
For several nights he kept vigil but failed to capture the woman.
The people living in the vicinity were greatly wrought up over the matter. The children would not go past the haunted house, and stories innumerable were continually in circulation touching upon the identity of the ghost.
Night after night residents of the town guarded the house, and they are willing to swear that no one entered or left the premises during the night. And yet the figure robed in black or white appeared.
The news of a genuine ghost haunting the old mansion in which H. Christensen, a wealthy man, who died two years ago, spread like wildfire, and many of the residents began to resurrect the story of the ghost of old Drury, supposed to have haunted the old Town Hall. Then the ghost disappeared for a few days and the excitement abated.
But last night the ghost again appeared and soon the news spread. In a short time there were fully 200 people surrounding the house to see the ghost. They were rewarded, for the woman robed in white appeared at the window, uttered a few mournful sobs and disappeared.
Detective White determined to throw some light on the mystery and broke into the house. He was followed by a hundred men and boys.
They searched every hole and corner of the house, and just as they were about to give up the hunt, White saw a woman’s foot inside the old fireplace. Stooping down, the detective discovered the ghost. He dragged her out into the room, tore away a sheet from the woman’s head, and discovered a trim, but greatly frightened woman. She was a Mrs. John Barrett, who had been making her home at the house, and the ghost business was merely a sham to keep people from entering the house.
And so the mystery of the Fort Hamilton ghost was solved.