19 Aug 2014
Paranormal Corner: Is that house haunted or just abandoned?
If you happened upon this house in your travels, would you think it's haunted? (Photo provided)
on August 18, 2014 at 8:00 AM, updated August 18, 2014 at 8:13 AM
Let's face it. We've all done it.
You're driving down a dark, back road. Suddenly a dirt driveway appears perpendicular to your path. Maybe there's a broken mailbox barely upright beside the opening.
Just behind this scene is a dilapidated house, nearly hidden by over-grown weeds, broken tree branches and perhaps an old, musty couch some passer-by decided to drop off as trash.
You gaze through the broken glass in an upstairs window and swear you see a shadow pass by.
This building, which was most likely, at one time, someone's home, presents a frightening appearance and automatically you make a conclusion about the situation — the house is haunted.
These days, with the paranormal being so prevalent on television and even in the news, people are quickly ready to tag a house as haunted.
"People are so much more open to ghosts and the paranormal," said Jersey Unique Minds Paranormal Society Founder and CEO Doug Hogate Jr.
But stories of haunted houses go back hundreds of years and every town has its tales.
"In Elsinboro, where I grew up, there's a house called the Abel Nicholson House," Hogate said. "You have to go through the woods to get there. It's barricaded now and I think they may be redoing it, but it's an old house built in the 1700s. Growing up, everyone said it was haunted."
Melissa Dark, JUMPS executive director, said she believes people automatically think abandoned houses are haunted because of the mystery surrounding an empty house.
"I think it's because of the emptiness, the unknown and the darkness," she said. "Why is it closed up? Why does no one live there? Did they move out because it's haunted?"
Hogate said even though many myths and legends surround the Abel Nicholson house, he believes it to be just an old, abandoned property.
"Back years ago, people would go back there and say it was haunted," he said. "There were stories that the KKK used the house and do terrible things there, but it's just an old house that no one has lived in for a long time."
Dark said the same stigma can be attached to a house that has a frequent turn-around of residents.
"When people move in and out of a house quickly, people think it's because it's haunted," she said.
I have lived in my home for approximately 20 years. During that time, between eight and 10 families have moved in and out of the house next door to mine.
This last family was there about seven months and suddenly left one day a few weeks ago.
I found myself thinking, "Is that place haunted?"
Unlike most people, I had the urge to ask the landlord if I could go in with my equipment and see for myself.
"People like the thrill of it," Hogate said, of speculating that a house may have paranormal activity. "We go into places all the time, but people who don't see it on television and are dying for a ghost story of their own."
And while this longing for a paranormal experience may lead seekers to investigate an abandoned property, Hogate, Dark and myself need to stress that trespassing is against the law.
"We get permission for every location we enter," Hogate said. "Trespassing can result in serious fines, a police record or even jail time."
Not only is exploring a supposedly haunted house on your own illegal, it can also be dangerous.
"It's all about safety," Dark said. "You can get hurt going into a building that's not structurally sound."
So, while these broken down, empty buildings may be intriguing, it's best to let your imagination make up the stories and be safe.
"Do No Enter" signs are there for a reason — whether it be due to a haunting or rotting floor boards.
Do you know of a haunted location that JUMPS could research and investigate? Contact Kelly Roncace at firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions.