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Ringwood Manor

Ringwood, New Jersey

Ringwood Manor

Light mist settles over a lake, creating a scene at once fantastic and eerie in an historic site in New Jersey.  At the edge of the lake sits a man, melancholy and silent, waiting for the sun to rise.  Across the vast yard, a strange indentation reminds visitors of something macabre, as it’s just about the right size to be a grave.  Standing on the lawn, a mansion sits more than two-hundred fifty feet in length, at once beautiful and imposing in its expanse.  And though there are conflicting stories as to what exactly roams the halls, all who have walked within agree that history is alive between these walls, and this house holds a special distinction, not just because of its place in history, but because it is haunted.

There are hundreds of places in the world where spirits supposedly walk.  When questions are raised about the origins, there are vague stories about brutal deaths, unhappy residents, and the occasional Indian burial grounds.  Still, such stories must have a source, as without such, there would be no basis for the legends.  There are other theories as to why places are haunted, such as personal attachment or even the content of iron in the soil.  Occasionally, however, there appears the reason for the stereotype, where the cries of ancient Indian holy land and iron ore ring true.  Such a place is Ringwood Manor.

History
While the town of Ringwood, and the manor house that bears its name, has its origins prior to the Revolutionary War, the land has a history that predates that of the nation.  Archaeological digs have discovered that, in fact, the land was once inhabited by Native Americans with large sections dedicated to treatment of their dead.  These “Lenapi” regarded the land as special, a magical place, where energies provided powerful links to the spirit world.  It has been theorized that the area’s iron-ore rich soil created an area of powerful natural magnetism that contributed to records of supernatural phenomena here. 

By 1740 colonists had arrived, building a blast furnace and a large iron-works on the land, smelting and mining the rich ore.  It was here that the first Ringwood Companies were built by the Ogden family.  The area grew to a large town, centered around  three forges, grist and saw mills, stores, farms and homes. 

Just prior to the American Revolutionary War, the forges were under the management of Robert Erskine, a German inventor and engineer.  The property and manor had been mismanaged, leaving Erskine to struggle through financial difficulties.  However, when the war broke out, he soon found himself to be the most trusted map-maker of the colonies.  He contributed more than two hundred maps to General Washington and the cause before coming to an untimely demise at the hands of pneumonia in 1780.  His wife continued holding the properties in his stead, though doing so poorly. 

By 1807 the house was sold again to Martin Ryerson, who demolished the structure and rebuilt it.  He profited by making shot for the army in the war of 1812, expanding the house as he did so.  He sold the property in 1854 to Abraham S. Hewitt, who, along with his wife, began the task of turning the manor into their summer home, enlarging the structure even more.  When it was done, it contained fifty-one rooms, more than enough for their five children.

In 1864 the youngest of the Hewitt children, Eleanor Garnier Hewitt, was born.  She, along with her sister Sally, founded a museum of common things and continued to live at the manor until her death in 1924.  When the property was left to the State of New Jersey by Erskine Hewitt in 1936, people began to notice strange things happening. 

Nell

Ghosts
There are as many disagreements as there are stories as to the identities of the restless souls in Ringwood Manor.  However, one thing everyone agrees on:  Something still walks the halls and grounds, and sometimes it isn’t happy.

There are stories that are told about a half-Negro, half-Indian servant named Jackson White who roams the halls in misery.  Another tells of a serving girl who was beaten to death in a second floor room.  Neither of these stories, however, seem to hold water as those who work there claim to know the actual identity of the resident ghosts, of which there are three.

The first apparition appears in the early mornings, sitting on the lake shore.  He has been witnessed by dozens, all of whom claim that it is the colonial mapmaker, Robert Erskine.  His remains may rest on the grounds, but his soul continues to walk the path from the lake to the house.

Another phenomena comes from the legend of a vast unmarked grave of French soldiers, rumored to have been interred on the grounds.  Witnesses claim to hear voices, speaking in French, in the area near Erskine’s grave, where the soldiers are said to be buried.

The most persistent manifestation, however, is that of Eleanor Hewitt.  "Miss Nell," as employees and locals call her, seems to dislike visitors.  She has been known to follow people, move objects, and even steal things from employees.  She is always accompanied by a cold patch of air and the heavy scent of flowers, most commonly lavender or roses. 

Famed paranormal researcher Hans Holzer visited Ringwood Manor with a psychic.  During his visit, the psychic made contact with three separate entities, including Eleanor.  "Miss Nell," it seems, didn’t take kindly to Holzer’s presence, nor to the intrusion of any who enter her home.  According to those who’ve experienced the wrath of Miss Nell firsthand, she takes exception to the endless parade of tourists, and doesn’t take kindly to her home being displayed improperly. 

Present Day
Because of its role in American history, the Forges and Manor of Ringwood are open to visitors.  Tours run daily, for those who wish to enjoy the architecture, but due to the nature of the interior of the home, photography inside is not allowed.  Camera flashes would, over time, fade the delicate fabrics, ruining them for future visitors.  As for Miss Nell and the others, employees and visitors alike say the hauntings continue to this day.

Best Times/Places
The best times to experience one of the hauntings really depend on what a person is looking for.  The French soldiers tend to talk late at night, whispering in their native tongue and moaning in pain in the darkness.  Erskine, however, is most commonly sighted during the morning hours, his face sad as he sits alone on the shore of the lake.  Miss Nell, however, seems to spend most of her time on the second floor, near her former bedroom.  Though she does move throughout the house, moving statues, dress-maker dummies, and chairs, most people feel her unwelcoming presence upstairs, usually preceded by a whiff of flowers and a cold wind.  For more information, visit their official website.

See you in two weeks!

- Scott A. Johnson

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Jon Condit

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