A Ghost Story?

Fleming Castle

I received an e-mail from someone after reading my “Not About Terri Schiavo” post. The person said there is no Heaven or Hell. When you die, you’re gone. Journey over. It made me think a little and I decided to respond with this post.

When I was living two doors down from the Fleming Castle on Bonnell Street, in Flemington, NJ, back in the late 70s, I had several experiences that you could call strange. One night, while lying in bed, I was trying to doze off when suddenly I heard the front door opening. At that time, I lived alone and my bedroom was the first one up the stairs. I heard footsteps, not heavy, walk across the room and start up the stairs. I was sure I had locked the door. I waited until the steps came almost to the top. There was no way I was going to let an intruder near me. I jumped out of bed and at the same time I turned on the light switch, I kicked into the air at my target. There was no one there. OK. The possibility of it being a dream was true, but I’ve never dreamed like that. I wasn’t on drugs. I hadn’t been drinking. While quite alert, I still heard the footsteps coming up. I know I heard the door open. It was frightening. What was it? I don’t know. When I first moved in, I heard voices coming from the kitchen a couple of times. It stopped whenever I entered the room. No one was outside talking. Those, I just ignored and thought nothing of it, until…

When I started seeing Maryen, but before she moved in, we were going out for the night to hear a friend, Ken Yard perform in a band in Easton, PA. Ken and his girlfriend, Nancy, were living with me at that time. They had left hours earlier. We stopped at Maryen’s and then mine to get changed. While I was in the bedroom looking through my dresser, Maryen went down the hall to the bathroom. She left the door open. The downstairs door opened and up the stairs walked a female. I assumed Nancy had come back for something because she walked right into their bedroom. They should have been hours away. When Maryen came to my room, she said that Nancy was home. I said, yes, I know, I heard her. When I had glanced out of the corner of my eye, I saw a shadow walk by. Maryen saw the same thing.

I yelled, “Hi, Nancy!” There was no answer. We walked into their room. No one was there. I looked under the bed and in the closet. Nothing. I would have shrugged it off again, but Maryen heard and saw the same thing as I did. I never brought up the notion of spirits in the house to her before. I mean, we hadn’t been together that long. I didn’t want her to think I was crazy. Was that strange? Or were we? We never experienced anything again.

About a year or so later, I ran into an author and locally renowned historion on Flemington and Hunterdon County. When I told her of my incidents, I piqued her interest. She researched the address. Later, she told me a seven year old girl had drowned in a well out back hundreds of years ago. The well was long gone. At one time, the house was part of the Fleming Castle estate, most likely a barn, erected after the castle was built in 1756.

I had always been skeptical about ghosts until those experiences. I can’t say for sure that I believe in them, but, I won’t say that I don’t, either. I think what I’m trying to say is that if there is even a remote possibility of the existence of apparitions, then there is also that chance of an afterlife.

Chief Tuccamirgan grave marker on Bonnell Street

The following is excerpted from the Hunterdon Herald, a publication for the Hunterdon County Cultural and Heritage Commission. Although not related to the above article, the comments section of this post reflect an interest in Chief Tuccamirgan and John Philip Case.

In the family burial ground of the Case (formerly Kase) family in Flemington stands a large marker in honor of Chief Tuccamirgan.

Case CabinWhen the Case family came here from Germany in the early 1700’s they settled along Tuccaminjah Creek – now known as the Mine Brook in Flemington. Not far from Philip Case’s log cabin lived a group of Indians whose chief was Tuccamirgan. Peaceful by nature, the Indians helped cut logs for the white settlers’ houses. It is even said that they hollowed out gum tree logs so that the Case babies could have cradles.

Legend tells us that Tuccamirgan’s wife had no children and would help the Cases care for their little ones. In this strange land the Indians were so helpful to the Case family that they all lived peacefully as brothers.

When good Chief Tuccamirgan died in 1750, he was buried in the Case family burying ground, which is located along Bonnell Street today. His grave is marked by a stone monument large enough that it can be seen for a long distance. It was put up in 1925 and reads: “In Memory of the Delaware Indian Chief, Tuccamirgan.”

To read about the Dvoor Farm and the Hunterdon Land Trust Alliance (HLTA), please go here.

©2005 David B. Knechel


25 thoughts on “A Ghost Story?

  1. Dave –

    I stumbled upon your posting while doing some research on a property in which I resided alone and owned, having sold it only a few years ago in 2004.

    My house was also on Bonnell Street in Flemington. Part of my property backed up to Chief Tuccamirgan’s memorial spot. I experienced many strange things and sensations in this house when I lived there. In fact, the morning I closed on the home, I sat down on the bottom stair in my living room after the movers finally left, and suddenly felt a horrible sensation of depression and just absolute hopelessness – I never felt anything like it before and could not understand what it was or why I was feeling it.

    Throughout the year, many things happened, I tried to ignore them for the most part. Though sometimes I would speak out loud and let whatever or whoever was there know that they could stay as long as they didn’t hurt me.

    I finally moved out and sold the home after just less than a year, after I’d had a vivid dream that included someone being beaten with a brick, and another unknown individual in the dream yelling the initials “W.P.” to me repeatedly. A few weeks later, I was digging up a sealed off fireplace in the basement, and several bricks fell out of the opening that did not match the fireplace brick or the house brick. They looked like old fired clay bricks from the 1700 or 1800’s with a terracotta hue – beautiful bricks, so I decided to brush them off and save them. As I turned one over, it had the initials “W.P.” on the other side of each of them.

    I moved out three days later and sold the house only 8 days later. I’ve never been able to forget that episode or any of the episodes I experienced at that house.

    It was a shame because I was initially so in love with the house and adored it for its historic charm and solid brick exterior (and some interior). I’d done a lot of work inside to restore some of the rooms to a more historic representation. I was sad to leave it, but too scared to stay – it was just a nagging feeling that something wasn’t right in the house, and it wasn’t going away the lomger I stayed.

    When I saw your post about your own Bonnell Street encounters, I wanted to contact you to find out if you knew any more history of the properties on that street? All I’ve been able to find are the more documented findings related to John Case and to William Penn and his sons (in fact, I always wondered if Penn was the W.P. initials on those bricks…).

    Please feel free to email me at [deleted] if you have any additional info or can refer me to other contacts.

    Thanks so much.

  2. Hi, Mandy –

    Your comment got stuck in Akismet Spam and almost got tossed when I cleaned it out. Fortunately, I saw “Dave” as the first word and stopped right there. I don’t know why it went to the spam folder to begin with, but I’m glad I caught it.

    I guess you could say there’s a lot of history in Flemington. My two best friends are from there. Stewart Bacheler’s grandfather was Stangl (of pottery fame) and he is related to the original Case family. Frank Foran’s father and grandfather were state senators and the family owned the now defunct Foran Foundry, where Liberty Village now stands. The Foran Manor (part of the diocese) is on land you’re probably familiar with. All of that land, including the Route 12 circle and the Dvoor Farm was owned by (German) John Philip de Kasse, which he changed to Kase and later Anglicized to Case.

    I know of no lengthy visits by William Penn to Flemington, if he ever really stayed there at all. When he purchased the land in 1712, he was living in England. He left the colonies in 1701, never to return. When Case purchased a tract in 1738, deeded by Penn’s sons, Thomas, John and Richard, he befriended Tuccamirgan. That’s what puzzles me with your dream and the “W.P.” on those bricks. I researched as much as I could to find a William Penn connection and found none. Your house was probably built in the late 1700s, early 1800s, knowing where the cemetery is located and the housing surrounding it, yet by then, Penn was already dead and gone. I searched for any connection between W.P. and bricks and came up with nothing. Now, my guess would be that the original fireplace was covered up some time later. Manufactured as early as the 1890s, terra cotta blocks and bricks were most common in the first quarter of the 20th century. Consequently, the bricks could have come from anywhere, but I doubt if there is a Penn connection. The “W” could be the family name and the “P” could just mean “Pottery” like “SP” for Stangl Pottery and “FF” for “Foran Foundry”. A lot of times you’ll see a stamp and abbreviations of that sort are not uncommon at all. Remember, the NY Subway utilized a lot of terra cotta bricks and construction began at the turn of the 20th century. There must have been lots of brick companies employed and some may have trickled into parts of NJ.

    My instinct tells me you are a very perceptive person. Most people go about their business never sensing a connection with an afterlife or any other sort of paranormal behavior. I’ve had several experiences that some might consider weird. As a matter of fact, I have a category here that describes some of those events, including “I saw a man named Bill one day” and “My Mind Was Dead On That Day”. Some people have that unexplainable gift that can, at times, be considered a curse. It doesn’t always work that way, either. The Union Hotel is said to be haunted. I bartended there in the late 70s – early 80s and felt nothing. No spirits of any kind.

    I think your dream fits into the category of paranormal. To dream of someone being beaten by a brick and hearing another individual scream, “W.P.” is just too amazing, given the fact that you discovered those bricks soon after. That and your other experiences is downright spooky. In the meantime, I just talked to my friend, Frank, and he wondered if you ever saw a headstone in the cemetery with a name that had “W” and “P” in it. Considering the long history of Flemington and the generations of deaths, it’s hard to pinpoint who it was you came into contact with and what message was trying to be conveyed. Down the street from you, an acquaintance also had weird experiences and couldn’t explain them. He moved out, too. Any unnatural death could have occurred at any point in time. Did you ever look into the house’s past, like who might have died there or nearby?

    You really piqued my interest. In my spare time, I will continue to research this phenomenon you experienced and let you know if I find anything. That “W.P.” thing has really got me puzzled.

  3. Well where should i start ahh.When i first moved into my house I assumed nothing of it until one day my brother ran and jumped on me and said im scared im scared i said what and he pointed in the air and said do u see that.I said no there is nothing there he said its tuching me .
    Another time my tv kept on turning on and off e mail me if u think there is a ghost in my house

  4. Dave,

    I just came across your post. I am a current resident of Bonnell St, also not far from the small cemetery where Chief Tuccamirgan is buried.

    Quite to the contrary of the other poster, I have always found the street to be very peaceful, and free of any residual dread or creepiness. In fact, the cemetery, with its old crooked tombstones, has a large potential for creepiness, but it simply isn’t for me.

    Out of curiosity, which house did you live in? You can email me if you don’t want it publicly known…

  5. Hi, Steve –

    I don’t mind telling you where I lived. After all, it was 30 years ago when I moved to 1 Bonnell Street, on the corner of Park Avenue. There are two sides to the house. I lived in the small part, closer to the Fleming Castle and had to move out when the house was sold to the Mann family. I don’t know if they still own it, but it was a very nice house. My old girlfriend from the early 70s, Lois Deemer, lived in the house in between me and the castle. Of course, that was years before I moved next door. Her parents, Fred & Amy Deemer, owned that house for a number of years, but I don’t know who owns it now. A portrait I did of Lois in 1975 is on my Flickr site.

    I lived there when I sold advertising for the Hunterdon County Democrat and its sister publication, the Delaware Valley News. I still correspond occasionally with the editor, Rick Epstein, a truly great guy. I believe Maryen still works there.

    Frank Foran is one of my best friends. You may be familiar with the Foran name. His late father is Walter, a state senator until his death in 1986. He used to live a couple of houses up and across the street from me. I couldn’t tell you how many poker games I played in his basement, sometimes until morning, when neighbors were out mowing their lawns.

    Stewart Bacheler is my best friend since childhood. His great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather, John Philip Case, is buried right next to Tuccamirgan. That land was the Case family burying ground. Tuccamirgan died in 1750. Six years later, John Philip joined him.

    Here’s an interesting twist. Stewart’s former wife, Janice Armstrong, is the curator of Fleming Castle. Their daughter, Jessie, is dating Kevin Tan, just named captain of the U.S. Men’s Gymnastic Team for the Beijing Olympics.

    You are right. Flemington, and Bonnell Street in particular, is a very peaceful place. Whatever was in that house where I resided never bothered me at all. What it was, I’ll never know for sure, but I know the experiences were real.

    Thank you, Steve, for leaving a comment and for reminding me of my wonderful years in Flemington.

  6. Dear: A GHOST STORY?

    My name is Elizabeth Valentin my partner and I have $25,000.00 to give you so that you can adapt my novel into a comic book and
    feature film. If you are interested with this offer please do contact me as soon as you can.

    Elizabeth Valentin/Writer & Editor
    146 Olympia Blvd., 1st floor
    Staten Island, NY 10305
    Email: xorangehalloween@yahoo.com
    Phone: 1-347-740-5434

    Sincerely yours

    Elizabeth Valentin

  7. I’m awake, but I’m watching the Sunday morning news/entertainment programs: the Today Show and then, CBS Sunday Morning. I’m not a comic book illustrator and I have never adapted a story into screenwriting form. I do know an excellent illustrator, though.

  8. Well, Elizabeth Valentin, I will forward your info on to a very talented comic book artist I know. As far as being a screenwriter, I’ve never done that, but I know someone who does. The only problem being that he’s somewhat flaky.

  9. Hi Dave and Ina~~would that be corny flaky?

    I knew a ghostie one time who just loved corn flakes ’cause I heard the crunching. I knew the spirit was not eating Rice Krispies as there was no ‘snap’ ‘crackle’ or ‘pop’…

    Dave~~an old sleuth sent you an email.

  10. Ina ~~hey maybe we can write the script. All that money is tempting. I may crawl back in the bottle with the genie…he is a cutie.

  11. The money goes to David, ok? I don’t want to be a kapitalist 🙂 I can do dialogues, you put the scenes in the right order in place and such?

  12. When you get home and have told all about the visit to the doc, please tell me what happened with this deal. I am dying to know. And I don’t want to haunt you as a ghost 🙂

  13. My pleasure, Kathi, and thank you. I can’t say whether anyone else ever experienced anything, but the owners (when I lived there) never saw or heard a thing. They were on the other side of the house, though – the newer side.

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