by Walter Bissell
The Spy House Museum in Port Monmouth, New Jersey was originally the home of Thomas Whitlock (aka the Seabrook-Wilson house). Built in 1663, it is thought to be the first house on the Jersey shoreline. Additions to the simple log cabin have changed the house into what is now a three story wood-framed structure.
Over the years, it has been utilized as a private home, meeting hall for the British military and the colonists, a pirates hangout, bordello and a museum. During the American Revolution, Colonial spies kept an eye on the British fleet from its windows. Thomas’s widow converted the house into an inn to enhance its purpose. The British sailors would leave their ships to eat at the inn. Once ashore, a signal would be given to the Colonists who would then attack the unmanned vessels anchored offshore. The Colonists gave the inn the nickname “the Spy House.”
In the late 1960’s the inn was scheduled for demolition, but was spared when “retired concert singer Gertrude Neidlinger and her brother saved it.” They turned the inn into a “hands-on” museum to preserve the natural history of old New Jersey. Some of the visitors to the museum got a whole lot more than they paid for. Not only did they get a good lesson in the natural history of the Shoal Harbor area; they also got a good lesson of the supernatural kind as well. Visitors reported feeling “bad vibes” in certain rooms, particularly upstairs. They felt cool breezes rushing by as they walked down hallways and staircases. Some of them smelled the strong aroma of burning pipe tobacco. They also heard sobbing noises and quite often, caught glimpses of ghostly inhabitants in the museum and on the museum grounds. It quickly gained the reputation of being the most “haunted house” along the Jersey shore. In October 1990, Jane Doherty started ghost tours at the museum. “Thirty different haunting spirits have supposedly been counted and verified” at the museum. The tours continued until 1993 when new owners closed the museum to the public.
The Ghosts of Spy House
The ghost of Thomas Whitlock is said to make “banging and clanging sounds around the old pot-belly stove.” Tom has been called “the ghost that follows you home” by some of the participants in Jane’s ghost tours. “Tom loved people so much he often left the Spy House to follow visitors to their homes.” Some were delighted to have “Tom” as a house guest, but others quickly sent him packing, back to the museum.
The spirit that has visibly materialized the most often is that of “Abigail.” On several occasions, she has been seen at the back upstairs window staring out to sea. The woman wore “a long black skirt with a red blouse with billowy sleeves. Her hair was tied back with a big black bow and she wore a bonnet on her head that was tied under her chin.” Abigail stares longingly out to sea, waiting for her husband’s return. “He was a sea captain who was lost at sea.” Her loud sobs have been heard emanating from the upstairs bedroom, as she continues her mournful watch.
Another apparition that is sometimes seen at the Spy House is that of an evil sea captain, who has been seen sitting on the benches behind the house looking out to sea through his spyglass. “A man named Roger, who participated in a Revolutionary War re-enactment at the museum saw the captain dressed in his uniform in the back upstairs bedroom. At first Roger thought the figure was a man participating in the re-enactment until the sea captain turned his head, frowned and then disappeared right in front of his eyes.”
The ghost of Reverend William Wilson has been seen in the back bedroom. Holy Bible in hand, it is said that he continues to conduct his funeral services. “Attendees of funeral services are seen and heard in the lower rooms. Historical accounts revealed the Reverend Wilson’s wife and mother-in-law died within ten days of each other.” Penelope Stout, once a resident at the Spy House, also shows her ghostly form from time to time. Although she is said to have died childless, her image has been seen in the front bedroom holding a baby in her arms. Penelope is not afraid to interact with people who visit the house.
Another spirit that seems undisturbed by visitors is a woman dressed in colonial attire who routinely walks to and from the fireplace as if tending to her chores. Witnesses claim to feel a cold chill if they happen to stand in her path.
The playful spirit of an 18th century gentleman, possibly a patron of the old bordello, likes to let female visitors know he is present by giving them a quick pinch on the buttocks. Also quite mischievous, is the spirit of a young English boy named Peter. Clad in 19th century shirt and knickers, he reportedly is known to turn off cameras and push the buttons of recorders when a person tries to photograph him.
The ghost of a pirate named Robert who was Captain Morgan’s first mate, a British soldier who also stares blankly over the bay, and young girls that play in the yard are also some of the numerous entities that haunt the Spy House. As one person put it “there seems to be a ghost in every window.”
Ghost Pictures Taken at the Haunted Spy House:
Spy House Museum Ghost Picture (none know - please send us yours!)