By: Katharine Clark
Fieldsboro is a small community, with only about 600 souls. Situated between Bordentown, NJ and the Delaware River, it was once called “White Hill.” It was a prosperous area, with a healthy boating business bringing commerce from Bordentown and Perth Amboy. It also had tanners, iron workers, and wealthy property owners such as Robert Field. (White Hill was officially renamed Fieldsboro after his family in 1850.)
White Hill Mansion, one of Field’s last holdings, is at the center of Revolutionary War history. The American fleet laid anchor just off of Field’s wharf. There, Washington ordered barges and frigates to be burned in order to avoid British capture.
Robert himself held anti-British sentiments. He mysteriously drowned in the Delaware on a return trip from Pennsylvania. This left his wife Mary, a determined and clever woman, to raise their three children and manage their holdings during the Revolutionary War. She was visited by Hessian officers, American officers, and endured several raids by the British. (Neighbors accused her of hoarding revolutionaries.) She managed to keep her home, and her family, intact through the hostilities.
Robert’s son married Abigail Stockton, daughter of Richard Stockton, whose signature adorns the Declaration of Independence. During his occupancy of the house, he created the mansion we see today by connecting his father’s house to a neighboring one. The house passed out of his family’s hands in 1804.
David Bruce took up residence in 1832. Bruce was the inventor of several typeface styles. In the mansion’s attic, he developed Rimmed Roman. It was the prototype of what is now Times Roman. Also in the 1800’s, patterns for pottery machines were developed here.
The Crossley family resided in the home during the late 1800’s, Archibald Maddock Crossley being, perhaps, the last person born in the home. He is considered the father of the opinion poll. In the early 1900’s he introduced the Crossley rating system. He was a contemporary of Gallup.
The mansion has worn many faces, including a bordello (in the attic), and was a bit of a speakeasy during Prohibition. Heinrich and Katrina Glenk ran the house as a German restaurant with a bar. There are even rumors of tunnels from the house to the river right behind the property, for the import of illegal liquor. There are many stories that surround White Hill, but one constant appears to be the presence of spirits of some sort.
Folks have been reporting supernatural activities for quite some time, such as voices on the main staircase, and shadows in the basement. I was anxious to see what type of results could be gathered by an established ghost hunting team. I had done my share of ghostly detective work in the 70’s, when infra-red cameras and tape recorders were the “high tech” of the day. White Hill Mansion would see a parade of more advanced equipment.
I met up with the New Jersey Ghost Organization, and their founder Karen Timper, on a warm June evening. My actual experience of the manor would be limited to the first floor due to my mobility issues. With me were my medical team of Bob Oberholtzer and Maureen Gilligan. They were there not only to assist me, but to serve as First Aid should the need arise.
I was functioning not only as a journalist for this visit, but also as a psychic. My intention was to compare my impressions with the team’s results, after the fact.
From the moment we entered the first floor, I sensed a woman standing on the stairs–but only for a second. After the local docent gave the group tour and told about the history, I was wheeled through the various first story rooms. After that, I was stationed near the main staircase, in front of the DVR screen. It was connected to 4 cameras, placed in the most active areas of the building, so I could observe any activity.
Things began slowly. Bob had gone through the house, on my behalf, taking photos. He focused on areas I only saw in my mind, particularly one second floor bedroom with a mirrored fireplace. Not much was captured by Bob’s camera, except for one shot in the kitchen. An unusual shadow cuts the image on the left. There was no one behind him at the time. His camera strap was not in the shot. (Also, the shadow is somewhat transparent, not solid.)
Karen took a full spectrum shot of the fireplace room from the hallway. There is a definite dark obstruction at the bottom of the entrance. Was it a type of psychic barrier? We didn’t review the photography until after our investigation. If we return, it would be interesting to take additional shots.
As team members split into twos, Bob, Maureen, and I settled in front of the screen. We were soon joined by Karen. Our eyes didn’t leave the screen, which was fortuitous. As we watched, a large, silvery orb floated in a straight line from the left to the right of the camera’s view. It was in an upstairs restroom referred to as “The Red Bathroom” due to its now peeling wall color. It did not re-occur, but it was close enough to the lens, and moved steadily enough, to discount any possibility it was dust or an insect.
After having investigated the area surrounding the mansion, and the upper floors, the majority of the team migrated to the basement area, still equipped as a restaurant and bar. Meanwhile, my medical team and I continued to man our post. With the DVR set up near the stairs, I continued to get fleeting glances of a woman in white. At one point, both Maureen and I heard footsteps on the landing. Maureen also detected the sound of a child’s running feet overhead. When I asked if she was certain, she pointed out that as the mother of several children would recognize the sound. Also, she kept picking up on the name “Mary”.
As yet another team member went down to the basement, I turned to Maureen and said, “They need to be very cautious on the steps. Someone is going to get tripped.” Less than 20 minutes later, an investigator came back to the first floor, bleeding. She had tripped and injured her leg. She claimed she wasn’t pushed, and felt nothing strange around her. She had just been “clumsy”.
While Bob took the first aid kit and went outside to tend to the wounded, I asked team leader Karen if it were possible that the investigator stumbled on something she didn’t, or couldn’t, see? Karen confirmed that she, herself, had caught a glimpse of a shadow person near the stairs. This, as it turns out, had been reported before. So, it begs the question: human lack of attention, or otherworldly interference?
There was one additional phenomenon viewed on the DVR towards the end of the investigation. I was closely watching the screen for activity in areas now empty of investigators, when the basement camera caught my attention. There was a sudden burst of light, complete with a silver aura effect. It was similar to a silent firework explosion. While I was still trying to puzzle out what I had just seen, it happened again. This time, Bob and Maureen saw it as well. As we watched, we observed an investigator approach the camera. “He must have noticed something too,” I commented.
I was wrong. He merely adjusted the camera to a different angle. No one downstairs saw anything amiss – nor were they taking photos at the time.
So, what did the team capture? As mentioned, Karen caught an intriguing photo of the fireplace bedroom, and saw a shadow person near the basement steps. Also in the basement, a cold spot was reported by the team. Starting with one member, it slowly moved clockwise from person to person.
When the group was lively and vocal, all three of their KII meters responded by lighting up in the red zone. When the team was quiet, the meters were equally silent. Apparently, the spikes also occurred when the name “Mary” was mentioned.
How did we stack up against other investigations? I reviewed the reports of other groups after the fact. Although no one saw a woman on the main staircase, a woman’s whispered voice had been heard speaking French. One group reported seeing a bride. Although the woman I saw was in white, it was hardly a bridal dress. It more closely resembled a white nightgown. Plus, she was barefoot. In the attic, laughter was reported. We detected nothing, Footsteps, both adult and children, have been heard coming from the second floor. Maureen and I experienced both.
So, who really walks the empty halls of White Hill? Its it the original lady of the house? A former pub owner? Children long gone? Or is it something a bit darker? Perhaps a shadow man hiding in the recesses of the basement, watching the forgotten tunnels to the Delaware.
I would love to return to the mansion for another look. This time, I would try a different tactic; one more spiritual than technical. With singing bowls, incense, and an experienced medium or two, it would be a good alternative means of getting into the “spirit” of White Hill Mansion.
The Friends of White Hill Mansion are working to preserve the old home. Check out their website at: www.whitehillmansion.com to find videos, more photos, history, open house dates, and a chance to donate or become a member.
About the author:
Katharine Clark is the author of An Irish Book of Shadows, Things Your Elders Never Told You, and co-creator of Graven Images Oracle. Follow her blog at: www.irishelder.blogspot.com
Photos by Bob Oberholtzer and Karen Timper