The final resting place of many prominent Trentonians, the Riverside Cemetery actively promotes Trenton history with its graveyard tours of Victorian-era grave sculptures, such as the angel writing in the Book of Life.

A belief in ghosts and haunted houses is nearly as old as humankind and may be found in every part of our globe, so proclaimed Anton Niedermeier on the front page of the Trenton Sunday Advertiser in the early 1900s.

But the Trenton poet and essayist was not really interested in global ghostly happenings. He was recounting the “weird tales and beautiful apparitions” found in the small towns outside of the capital city.

Then, attempting to head off the skeptics, he added, “Too numerous are these stories and too trustworthy are the sources of a vast multitude of them to consider all of them the creations of hallucination or falsehood.”

Facts remain facts, he claimed, aiming to convince the reader that what he was about to report may be real.

And while the hope to convince is easier said than done, there is a simple fact: Trenton is haunted by ghost stories — found in newspapers, books, and online.

And it’s there that ghosts silently wait to make their presences known.

Ghosts in the news

Ghosts often make their appearance as a good news story. Take the August 7, 1912, State Gazette story with the sensational headline: “House on Cass Street is said to be Haunted — Former Tenants Claim Sheets Were Pulled from Beds and Lamps Turned Down at Night — Mysterious Noise Heard.”

The story speaks for itself:

The “House of Mysteries” is the name given to the two-story brick dwelling at 728 Cass Street, which is owned by Warren A. Quinn, a well known liquor dealer at 708 Cass Street.

The house, it is said, has been infested with ghosts for many years and the spirits have caused considerable annoyance to the different occupants.

But the ghostly inhabitants of the house do not prevent Mr. Quinn from renting it and it was only idle but a few days when a new tenant came along and moved in.

There was a report that the spirit manifestations had determined the owner to raze the building. Mr. Quinn said yesterday that the building would be torn down next spring to make room for three or more modern dwellings.

A newspaper illustration from a 1912 story of a haunted house on Cass Street.

John Nickold and his family recently moved from the house, after claiming that their slumbers were disturbed by the ghosts. Mr. and Mrs. Nickold and daughter, Anna, lived in the house for about 12 years. They recently moved to 744 Cass Street.

Nickold declares that the manifestations were of almost nightly occurrences. Sheets would be pulled off the beds and the lamps left burning at night would be turned down mysteriously and then mysteriously would be turned up again. Footsteps would be heard in the attic during the night and a silhouette of a human being could be seen walking around.

The house has a strange history. Soon after it was built, and many years before it became the property of the present owner, it was operated as a grogshop and Hungarian boarding house.

During a fight in the house it was said that a man was stabbed to death and the murderer fled. The superstitious declared that the ghost of the murdered man haunts the building and is responsible for all the ghostly outbursts.

When seen by a State Gazette reporter yesterday Mr. Quinn said that he had lived in that neighborhood for many years and that he never heard of the house being haunted.

He said that many years ago there was a murder committed on the opposite side of the street next door to where he now lives, but that he had never heard of any ghosts.

A few days ago Mr. Quinn received a letter from a woman spiritual medium in Baltimore. She wanted permission to occupy the house and communicate with the spirits and see what the trouble was.

Mr. Quinn says he will ignore the letter. Yesterday he received a letter from a contractor in Brooklyn who wants the job of razing the building.

In 1959 Trenton Sunday Times Advertiser writer Harry J. Podmore shared Trenton ghost history in his “Best Known of So-Called ‘Haunted Houses’ in Trenton in the Late 19th Century.”

In it he indicated the community’s ready willingness to accept ghosts as real:

Two of Trenton’s famous haunted houses in the years that the town had ghost scares were the Hunt and Armstrong residences.

The former was a spacious frame dwelling in the Sixth Ward. It stood on a large tract with orchard and gardens, bounded on the south by Lalor Street and on the east by Second Street.

It had a setting of shade trees, shrubbery, flowers, and arbors with rambling vines, and was a show place that perhaps dated back to the time the ward was the flourishing village of Lamberton on the Delaware.

Captain Hunt was a U.S. naval officer who served in the Mexican War as commander of the brig Porpoise. In later years he was commander of the war ship Levant on which he, his officers, and crew lost their lives when it sank at sea in 1860.

Sometime after 1860, the family of the late Captain Hunt moved from the old residence which for several years remained unoccupied. It was during this period that the residence became known as a haunted house.

A newspaper illustration from a 1912 story of a haunted house on Cass Street.

Its loneliness in a sparsely settled neighborhood gave it a weird atmosphere after sundown. Stories circulated around the town concerning the residence as the abiding place of a spook, that a ghostly form, supposed to be the spirit of the lamented Captain Hunt, had been seen seated at one of the upper windows and also stalking with lighted candle in hand in the orchard as if in search of some lost treasure.

The Armstrong residence, the scene of ghost stories in the late 1890s, occupied a site on West State Street. It was a three-story landmark that set back some distance from the sidewalk.

Unoccupied for years this mansion with its beautiful front yard adorned with trees, luxuriant shrubbery, flowers, and high boxwood hedge, became a place of desolation. Its creepy aspect stirred the imagination of a local reporter who wrote a yarn published for the Philadelphia Press. That brought the old residence into prominence as a haunted house.

Aside from the Hunt and Armstrong residences, Trenton in years gone by had a number of lesser dwellings that had reputations as being haunted.

Two Pennington Avenue houses were the scenes of ghost scares. One was a three story brick dwelling near Reservoir Street and another a frame dwelling which occupied the site of the fire company house, corner of Pennington Avenue and Willow Street. West Hanover, South Warren, Fall, and Bloomsbury Streets, each had a haunted house.

While more pressing and factual news stories eventually overshadowed ghost tales, they didn’t go away — as shown in 1996 when Times of Trenton writer Anne Levin wrote “Tracing the Footsteps of City’s Scares, Scandals.”

Her story focused on the Trenton Public Library’s Trentoniana director, Charles Webster, and his occasional ghost tours in downtown Trenton.

A Trenton resident herself, Levin writes that Webster found a lot of his information by chance, scanning old newspapers and local publications, and was organizing his tour around his findings:

“We’ll talk about mysterious ghosts reported in newspapers of the 19th century,” Webster says (about his downtown tours). “We’ll stop at the intersection of State and Warren streets, where there were repeated sightings of a well-dressed military person on horseback. Everyone told the same story. He rode down North Warren, stopped and turned at State, and motioned as if beckoning men to come forward. Then he took off back up North Warren. It was assumed he was a ghost from the First Battle of Trenton, since that’s where it happened.”

There was (also) the story of a woman who refused to pay rent on the house she inhabited for only one week, because she claimed that a ghost picked up her child and brought him to the third floor.“She moved out,” says Webster. “The man couldn’t rent the house for the longest time because of the story.”

The former Hunt residence at the corner of Lalor and Second streets, haunted by the ghost of Captain Hunt after his death at sea in 1860.

The late Times of Trenton metro editor Harry Blaze also caught the spirit and in 2000 wrote “A Spirited Example of Journalism”:

Mike Ratcliffe, a Times “police beat” reporter and inveterate volunteer firefighter, is forever browsing through microfilms of back editions of the Times in search of old fire stories.

In some of his recent browsing, he found a great story about a fire in Trenton published way back on Feb. 27, 1886 (and) a fire on South Warren Street that was started by a ghost.

Mike also found a slightly earlier report about the same ghost, printed on Feb. 25, 1886.

Our 1886 scribe did provide some vivid descriptions of happenings I’m sure he didn’t witness, but he left out key details, such as the house’s address and the names of the owners, so there’s no way of determining today where the house he wrote about was located.

The first article is about a ghost going on a “painting expedition and frightening the neighbors out of their wits.”

In the past, “Beds are disturbed, dishes overturned, bells rung, weird music played, and all efforts to capture the ghost have been to no avail.”

He opined that a boarder who disappeared — believed murdered, some years earlier — had come back as a ghost to haunt the house.

He claimed a family “unacquainted with the history of the house moved in on Feb. 22 and, after the ghost’s latest spree that night, immediately moved out.”

On Feb. 27 the reporter informs us, “The South Warren Street ghost was on another rampage yesterday and by its antics nearly caused a serious conflagration.”

He said another family “moved into the mysterious house yesterday (Feb. 26). They had heard of the white-faced specter but made up their mind to stand the storm for a month at least. This morning they think differently and will move out.”

Just before dark, a fire was kindled in one of the rooms to warm up the house. This proved a foolish luxury, for the ghost, too, was warmed up, and when the family locked up the house securely and went out for an evening walk, it upset the stove and floated about the domicile in summer clothing, moaning, singing plaintive songs occasionally and kept up a continual banging.

“The family next door smelled smoke. An investigation was made and the door of the haunted house bursted open.” (Yes, he wrote bursted!)

“The neighbors found the stove overturned and live coals scattered about the floor, which was ablaze in several places.”

One upcoming event at the Riverside Cemetery is the Poe Walk: Morbid Curiosities Tour on Friday and Saturday, October 19 and 20. The event takes its name from a grave adorned with imagery from Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven.’

One last example of journalistic reports is from Lisa Grunwald and her article for the March, 1983, edition of Avenue magazine. It was about the Roebling family and featured an interview with Paul Roebling, an actor, son of banker Mary Roebling, and great-grandson of Washington Roebling.

According to this particular Roebling the family that owned several prominent homes on West State Street was haunted.

Paul’s grandfather had a childhood nurse who gradually went insane.

“Instead of consigning her, as was the custom, to the local bedlam,” he says, “the Roeblings set up a room for her under the eaves of the house and they would have a servant take up her meals and clean out the room.

“They took good care of her until she died. But it had been her habit when my grandfather was a child to come into his room at midnight and sit and rock.

“Well, after she died, that would happen anyway.”

Paul pauses, smiles, and says in earnest. “This happened by the way. It’s true. I heard this story at my grandfather’s knee.”

He furrows his brow again and continues. “My grandfather would hear it. He would see it. He would sit bolt upright in his bed because he would feel this presence in the room and the chair would begin to rock. And one hour later, the chair would stop rocking. He would hear her footsteps over the door and the door would close.”

Paul turns several pages in the family album to find a photograph of a hallway with a ladder to the attic.

“This was where they put her,” he says with an echo of “Jane Eyre.” “And it’s a funny thing. But after she died, she was so jealous of the female servants that whenever a woman went up on a ladder to dust the molding, the ladder would begin to shake. They had a great deal of trouble keeping female servants in the house.

Ghosts by the volumes

While the ghosts found in newspaper and journal articles are coaxed into appearing by research, other Trenton ghost stories are easily conjured by just cracking open a book.

Take the 2013 “The Big Book of New Jersey Ghost Stories” and its tale “No Mercy: The Duck Island Killer.”

The story — one of a handful dealing with central New Jersey — connects a series of homicides on that marshy riverside area linking Trenton and Hamilton with the theory that ghosts are unsettled or traumatized spirits.

As authors Patricia Martinelli and Charles Stansfied Jr. write, “Duck Island was well known to local lovers who were looking for a place to hide from angry spouses or irate parents. Shortly after America went mobile in the 1920s, it became the local ‘lovers lane’ frequented over the years by both teenage and adult couples. For some, their search for love was consummated at this isolated spot. But for others, that search came to an abrupt end when the Duck Island Killer struck.”

Jeffrey’s book includes a 1968 tale about a Mercer County College fraternity house in Trenton with shaking beds and footsteps pacing overhead as well as a tragic story from Rotary Island.

The killings started in 1938 and involved two forbidden trysts — a favorite convention in horror stories. The first involved a married man having a parked-car rendezvous with his 15-year-old girlfriend. The two were killed by a shotgun. He died immediately. She lived briefly and uttered a few clues to the police.

The next victims were a married woman and her younger male lover. Again a shotgun was the weapon.

As the police began a search and lovers found other places to meet, the killer expanded his territory to Bucks County, where he gunned down another couple, molested the woman, and stole personal belongings.

Then as lovers began to return to Duck Island, so did the killer — on April 7, 1942. But this time the shotgun blasted couple survived and provided the police with some vital details. And murderer Clarence Hill was soon under arrest and sent to prison, where he died of natural causes in 1973.

“To this day,” write the authors with questionable conviction, “residents no longer meet in secret on the peninsula. It is believed that in death, the ghost of the Duck Island Killer has returned to haunting the spirits of his victims who linger there, still searching for a little love.”

Another Martinelli and Stansfied yarn, “The Phantom Roommates,” is set in more recent times. It involves a College of New Jersey political science major, referred to as only “Tim,” who moves into Trenton with friends to learn more about the state’s political scene. But “shortly after moving into the rundown Colonial-era house, he learned that it have been used as a hospital for soldiers wounded during the Revolutionary War. He and his roommates also discovered that there was an underground tunnel in the basement of the house that apparently had caved in many years before.”

They eventually get caught up with their studies and forget their surroundings until one day when Tim entered the kitchen “and heard the sound of footsteps coming up the basement stairs.”

Then “a figure appeared at the head of the stairs: a barrel-chested man dressed in what Tim later learned was a Revolutionary War officer’s uniform. The man began to curse at him and demanded that he leave the house. Being a sensible young man, Tim did the smarted thing he could think of — he packed his bags and moved out that night.”

The story continues a few years later when three young women rent the same house. The story now focuses on “Amy” who was getting ready to go out on a date one night, looked at herself in her vanity mirror, and “realized the glass was not reflecting her face. Instead, she was confronted by the horrible sight of a man dressed in Victorian-style clothing cradling the body of a young woman in his arms. Since the woman’s dress was badly bloodstained, Amy could only assume the worst. She lowered her gaze, and when she looked up again, the frightening vision was gone. Badly shaken, Amy shared the incident with her roommates, and all three of them agreed they needed to move as quickly as possible.”

Ghosts and students also appear in the story “The Haunted Fraternity House.” It is in the 1971 book “More Ghosts in the Valley” by the late Adi-Kent Thomas Jeffrey, a Bucks County resident whose series of Delaware Valley ghost books helped give her the title “Mistress of the Macabre.”

For this particular story, the year was 1968. The place was a Mercer County Community College fraternity house in an old row home on a side street in downtown Trenton. And the story focuses on “Criss” being inexplicably “roused in the night by his bed suddenly shaking” in his third floor room and hearing the sound of footsteps pacing overhead, even though the attic floors had been removed.

Like the students in the previous story, Criss forgot about the eerie occurrences when he got more involved with fraternity and school events. But one night he “awoke to see a black dove flying from corner to corner in his room” and said, “I could only think someone was sending me a message from the Other Side that night.”

After several such reoccurrences, he told a friend whose “Old World” parents believed that there was a supernatural reason and offered solutions — accepted only after several more episodes of shaking beds, footsteps, moved belongings and clothing, and ghostly appearances, including “the shadowy form of a man hanging. His neck was twisted sideways, the way it is thrown when a noose breaks the neck form a sudden drop.”

Trenton-based tales include the Duck Island killer and a College of New Jersey student’s ghostly roommates.

Jeffrey says all of this caused Criss to take some supernatural action. He got “some salt and threw it behind the door and hung a cross up right where you can see it now,” she reports from the scene.

The young man then held seances conducted by area mediums and gained the testimony of two spirits. One was “a young girl named Martha who described the house as she had known it centuries ago and the Trenton streets with sights and sounds as they had been to her. The other was named Frederick. He was responsible for beating his sister to death in the early years of this century. But to make things even, she was able to slip a little poison into him somehow, so that he died too.”

Despite a few other manifestations of ghostly activity, the occurrences eventually diminished and “most of the life in the fraternity house in Trenton seems to have returned to normal.”

Jeffrey’s “The Big Wind of ’50” in the same book connects to Trenton’s Rotary Island and the final moments of caretaker Arthur Pope.

As noted in previous Downtowner story on the Trenton’s islands on the Delaware River, Rotary Island was a summer camp for city children. While a caretaker lived there all year and attended to the camp needs in the summer, he would also take a winter job on the mainland and travel to and from the island via a cable boat.

But, as Jeffrey’s story notes, on this fateful night of December 5, 1950, things would never be the same.

As usual Pope called his wife, Grace, to say he would soon be at the mainland side and ask her to put on the light for him to navigate across the water.

When she told him that river was too wild. He said he was determined to come home and to turn on the spotlight.

Grace then went down to the “large, empty community hall and switched on the spotlight, which bathed the steps outside in a white glow.” Then after watching for some time, “her eyes picked up the outline of the barge, lifting and plunging through crashing waves of water as it surged forward towards the island.”

Grace soon “made out the figure of Arthur, straining against the force of the wind, pulling like mad at the tow rope.”

And “then she saw it happen, quick as a whip strike. The cable rope plucked out of the rope eye holding it and smashed into her husband’s head, sending him spinning off the raft and into the swirling black waters around him. Grace stifled a scream and ran to the phone to call the Trenton Police and Rescue Squad.”

The story then recounts Grace’s wait for help, her hope that Arthur had somehow survived, and her recollection of another tragedy when “only five years ago when the Popes’ baby boy was lost in a fire. A fire that destroyed their Trenton home, upholstery shop, and all their belongings, taking the life of their precious Jimmy.”

A neighbor saw Grace was distraught and took her to St. Francis Hospital where she lay on an emergency room table, alone, waiting for a doctor. Then there were the footsteps.

As Jeffrey notes, “It was Arthur. He was dressed in his khaki army jacket with his much-used paratrooper boots neatly laced over his ankles. His wavy-chestnut-toned hair fell softly over his forehead and his blue eyes looked straight at his wife.

“‘Oh,’ exclaimed Grace, “you made it! Oh Arthur, I’m so glad! I was so worried. You know you had me scared to death!’

“Arthur stood beside her and smiled down at her. Grace wondered but didn’t wish to take the time then to ask how he could be bone dry. There wasn’t a drop of moisture on his clothes.

“Arthur’s voice, easy-going as usual, came to her like a casual spring breeze. ‘You should know I’m always all right. Can’t imagine why you’d be worried over me. I’m happy as can be. Why wouldn’t I be? I’m with Jimmy and everything’s wonderful!’”

The story ends with Arthur Pope leaving and closing the door

Grace Pope — also known as Grace Walker — eventually became a well known Bucks County and Trenton area medium and appears in at least three tales in Jeffrey’s “Ghosts in the Valley” book series.

That includes the ghost story “The Man at the Stairway.” It takes place in 1945 when “Grace and Arthur Pope moved into the brick house on North Stockton Street in Trenton and reopened their shop — right after the fire that killed their child” (Jimmy in the previous story).

One day Grace was working in the shop and heard her two-year-old daughter’s footsteps upstairs. She then spotted a man at the bottom of the steps looking up. Then a few seconds later, the man was gone.

At first Grace shrugged it off as a customer who had come and gone or perhaps someone playing a joke. But, as Jeffrey notes, “Grace Pope was a woman of acute sensitivity in the world of the sixth sense, and she felt deeply that the person she had just seen was no ordinary man” — one seemingly searching for something.

The story continues to describe similar situations: Grace working in the downstairs shop, the girl upstairs, and an elderly man with “thin, parchment-pale face” and “soulful, deep-set eyes” appearing at the bottom of the steps.

Eventually Grace had a realization. “That man appeared every time her little girl was near the top of the steps! He was afraid for the child’s life — afraid that she might fall down the stairs.”

The Popes installed a gate at the top of the stairs, and the ghost sightings subsided, unless the gate was left open.

Then “one day Grace Pope began to ask around the neighborhood about the family who had lived there before them. One neighbor had known them well. The father of one of the spouses lived there with the family. He was a kindly old gentleman of whom everyone was fond. Then a tragedy occurred. One night when the old father got up he must have lost his bearings in the dark. He fell down the flight of steps and was killed.”

Ghosts on the web

While Trenton ghost tales used to be only shared by word of mouth — going from neighbor to neighbor or barstool to barstool — today’s tales are going digital.

Among several websites containing information regarding Trenton spirits is Among its numerous tales from all over the nation is the 2015 “Ghost Story: Family Terrorized by Haunted Object in Trenton, NJ.”

Written by the site’s Chicago-based co-founder and ghost investigator, Jacob Rice, the story focuses on a Trenton single mother of a special needs child terrorized by a haunted object.

Notorious Trenton psychiatrist Henry Cotton

While Rice changes the mother’s name to protect her identity, he openly mentions Boston-raised folklorist and researcher Christopher Balzano, author of the book “Haunted Objects.”

According to Balzano, haunted objects include “mirrors, dolls, jewelry, and furniture — things used by the previous owner. But any household item could be cursed or used in black magic rituals” — or just something that holds the energy of its former owner.

Rice says haunted objects can lie dormant for weeks, months, and longer. If there’s no disturbance, the owner will never know about its paranormal nature. Many times, moving the object to a new place will be the trigger.

This particular story starts in early November, 2014, when a family friend gives the woman’s son a Civil War-era bell.

“In our case, the first supernatural activity started about two weeks after my son got it,” says the mother, called Megan. “At first, chairs started to move around our den. Even more — and stronger — activity started to happen as time went on.”

Then after a month, the spirit became more dangerous. “Whatever the spirit was, it shoved my son and knocked him down. It also smashed the wooden chairs in the den and threw cutlery around the kitchen,” said Megan.

Saying that she originally thought that the activities were related to a poltergeist or a disruptive spirit sometimes connected with the energies of an adolescent. She also reached out to websites claiming expertise and contacted Rice.

“We put together a timeline of events as well as the characteristics of the poltergeist,” said Rice. “At first, it did look like a poltergeist haunting, but the activity builds slowly with a poltergeist. The spirit’s activity was too intense and fast. That made me believe the family had a haunted object in the house.”

He said they traced the events and discovered their timing related to the arrival of the bell.

Rice then asked Megan to use a compass to test the bell for magnetic energy and use a digital recorder to detect electronic voice phenomenon (EVP).

“The compass’ needle spun out of control when Megan touched it to the bell, a clear sign of a haunted object. She also captured an EVP saying, ‘Need home,’” writes Rice.

Rice directed Megan to the Ghostly Activities link for haunted objects and remedies. There she found instructions on how to use salt to make a “spiritual cleansing” to neutralize the bell and then took the bell to a cemetery where she buried it.

The result, writes Rice, “Megan and her family have not experienced any haunting activity since that time.”

While Ghostly Activities features stories written by co-founders, other websites are a type of community bulletin boards for paranormal experiences — several from Trenton.

An illustration from Cotton’s book about the removal of body parts to cure mental illness.

“I’m glad there is someone out there that I can tell my story to. I don’t know what is going on, if it is a spirit of my loved one or a haunting,” says a writer identified only as stweety105 on the website The Shadowlands.

That is a 23-year-old site “devoted to informing and enlightening visitors on such topics as ghosts and haunting, mysterious creatures . . . and many other unsolved mysteries.”

The writer reports about moving into a house and having “this eerie feeling someone was watching me,” lights flickering, footsteps without a physical presence, a cat refusing to go in the basement, items disappearing and reappearing, and her son having sightings of “a white haired man with a white body.”

The posted message ends with, “I can’t explain what all of this means. My godfather died in 1992, so I thought I was him. This all happened in Trenton in 1998. I don’t understand why he would wait until then. If you could give me any information as to what this may be, I would appreciate it.” There was no indication of a response.

The website Ghosts of America has several short postings regarding contemporary Trenton ghost stories — although there are no dates, website information indicates that its ghost postings started around 2000.

According to the site’s owner, Stratus-Pikpuk Inc., it is one of the company’s most popular, and input is judged very strictly on quality or a type of plausibility. And the current crop of Trenton ghostly activity seems consistent with past ones.

“I work on Jersey Street behind Lalor Plaza,” writes Bridget, “I sometimes stay after 5 p.m. to get things done or come in on a Saturday.”

That, however, is when things get odd. That includes the sound of men talking down the hall, a man singing songs from another era, and books dropping near her workstation.

And while she has only experienced the sounds and lights coming on, she says coworkers have seen apparitions appearing in offices and then disappearing.

Another poster, Rich, says he lives in Chambersburg and was seemingly roughed up his sleep and woke up to find “my pinky and ring fingers of my right hand were somehow bound together with a white hair.” He adds his brother hears voices around the house and recently the kitchen light popped and went out while the basement door began to shake. He concludes his post with, “My Uncle Billy and my Aunt Judy lived at 951 Genesee Street between the early 1980s and 1986 and that house was extremely haunted. The stories that he tells to this day! Hand prints all over the walls, a knife that was stuck into their bed underneath. As kids we would dare each other to go upstairs and stay in the bathroom for 30 seconds. It was a very scary house.”

Then there are other short postings about a haunted house on Anderson Street, the ghost of a murder victim muttering and wandering beneath the bridge on Bridge Street, a mirror showing a violent act, and a Hamilton Avenue corner where a ghostly scream can be heard at night.

The whopper among whoppers

No matter how they appear Trenton ghost stories seem to show several patterns or commonalities. That includes ghosts chasing renters, murder victims looking for peace, Revolutionary War figures still engaged in battle, and mirrors holding violent images.

Yet a recurrent story in newsprint, books, and websites indicates another pattern. And the repeated mentioning of a specific place points to Trenton’s biggest hot spot for ghosts: the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital.

The reason? Dr. Henry Cotton.

As a reported in a New York Times article about the 2005 book on Cotton, “Madhouse: A Tragic Tale of Megalomania and Modern Medicine,” the doctor, “who presided over Trenton State Hospital from 1907 to 1930, was obsessed with what seems today an utterly bizarre theory of insanity — so obsessed that in applying it, he managed to kill hundreds of his patients and permanently maim thousands more.”

Furthermore, says the NYT, “Many poor souls, it later emerged, had to be ‘dragged, resisting and screaming,’ into the operating theater. Informed consent did not, apparently, come into play.”

Although there is a growing number of newspaper articles and books about Cotton and TPH, there are also a good number of online postings about TPH haunting.

But it’s Rice, of the Ghostly Activities website, who again weighs in on this very Trenton matter.

Since TPH is an active care center with security guards patrolling the grounds during the day and night, Rice says it is difficult to run a ghost hunt at the facility.

However, he reports, “Most paranormal researchers have captured or glimpsed the following ghostly activities: Doctor Cotton’s apparition (by sight, not photographed); ghosts of patients with missing limbs (by sight, not photographed); disembodied voices, but no clear EVP; and orbs.”

Rice reports that only disembodied voices and orbs happen often, but investigators “need to be skeptical. The buildings are old and decaying. That creates a lot of dust and bugs fly by all the time. Ghost orbs should have a solid white, gray, light blue, green or pink color. If they are semi-transparent and seem to have texture, then they are pollen, dust, or a bug.”

Since it is an active center that contains houses some of New Jersey’s most criminally and violently insane, Rice says EVP evidence can be elusive and may pick up ambient sounds.

“Most ghost hunters have had subjective experiences on site,” writes Rice about TPH.”This includes cold spots, paranoia, uneasy feelings, and phantom touches.”

Where to look? Rice says, “It’s better to focus on the abandoned buildings on the site. If we had to pick, focus on the Forst Building, the lab, and buildings in the Women’s Ward. The lab is a no-brainer. This is where Cotton committed his evil malpractice and that trauma would imprint on the space. The Women’s Ward may also be a good spot because of the disproportionate number of women operated upon.”

With its legacy of evil practices, physical and spiritual pain, and reports of ghostly phenomena, it is no wonder the site gained New Jersey’s top spot in Cosmopolitan Magazine’s 2017 list of the each state’s most haunted spaces. “Victims can still be heard screaming in the halls,” the editor wrote about the site.

And they weren’t screaming about ghosts — just something factual, frightening, and truly haunting.