Five miles out of the city of Newark, New Jersey the small suburb of Nutley can still be found. In the early years the intersection of Grant and Passaic Avenues were in the middle of nowhere—not a house in sight for blocks around. A gateway led into a field across which a path took you off into the backwoods. Few signs of civilization were visible for Grant and Passaic Avenues.
Looking down through the avenue of overhanging elms of the Vincent United Methodist Church one could see where the elms ended and the firs began—low stunted fi r trees that seemed to have outstretched fingers ready to grab a nervous passerby after dark. One could say it was the perfect hiding place for a ghost.
Elsie and Royal Symonds were always ready to invent a new amusement at the cost of others when their days became boring or fearfully slow. They decided the intersection of Grand and Passaic Avenues would be an ideal lurking place for a ghost and decided the spot was worth developing into a haunt. After all, their home was not too far away from there. It was the nearest house to the corner.
First they told a simple little ghost story. Royal supplied the tale of a wild flapping specter that moaned and shrieked somewhere down in the spooky firs. But nobody else had seen the ghost so it didn’t make the slightest impression on anyone in Nutley—well, not at first.
Several nights later, two young men came across the path in the field leading from the backwoods. They passed through the gateway and headed down through the grove of overhanging elms toward the stunted firs. Clutching a rabbit’s foot for luck and protection they looked up and saw a ghost. It was medium height, very shapely and dressed in white. The draped arms flapped somewhat mechanically as the ghost turned from side to side screaming the most terrifying, blood curdling sounds. The two men fled on foot and soon there was silence in the vicinity of the stunted fir.
The silence did not last long. Humming a tune as he walked along the path came one of Nutley’s most popular unmarried men. Somewhere in the dark shadows of the firs something seemed to whisper that it was “Mr. So and So” on his way to see his special gal. The ghostly arms flapped excitedly and “Mr. So and So” stopped his humming and sank down on the path and looked around. He sat up, and yelled once or twice—the he, too, quickly vanished from the area on foot.
After a few evenings of the “haunting” almost all the folks in Nutley knew about the Passaic Avenue Ghost. Some believed and others did not! One of these non-believers was the Nutley police chief. The sexton of the Methodist Church was walking home from a prayer meeting when the specter decided to scare him. The Sexton was a good man. He sidestepped, let go with a powerful right swing and banged the ghost in the eye. Down it went—a tangled pile of white linen. There were bed sheets dangling over one of those nice plumb wire dummies that dressmakers used to fit gowns for display. The startled Sexton shouted a few words of warning in the direction of the spooky firs and continued towards home.
And that was the end of the Nutley ghost. Caught red-handed with the ghostly wire dummy and sheets, the siblings laughed at the prank they had at the expense of some of the most prominent young people in the town. They had a made a mental list of young men who were mortally afraid of ghosts no matter how brave they looked in the daylight. But they never told just who they spooked—and neither did the victims.
Yantacaw Park and Vincent Cemetery is very close to the intersection of Grant and Passaic Avenues. Keep your wits. You just never know when you might see a ghost or two passing through the pathways.
For more information about Nutley, NJ please visit: www.nutleynj.org