By Lauren Feldman
LI resident recounts experiences with the supernatural
Spirits, specters, and ghouls, oh my! Regardless of ethnicity or religion, the concept of ghosts — the soul or spirit of a dead person that is believed to appear to the living — is incredibly divisive. Believers emphatically recall their encounters and the strange circumstances they experienced, while skeptics eagerly attempt to debunk them. But what causes an individual to cross the divide from skeptic to believer? For Gary Jansen, it was his very own haunted Long Island home.
The Rockville Centre native grew up never believing his mother — a devout Catholic — when she claimed that their family house was haunted. “My dad wasn’t so sure, I wasn’t so sure,” he recalled. “My mom was a believer in angels, spirits, demons. My dad was a very pragmatic Lutheran guy, only believed in what he could do with his own hands. So they would have these spats back and forth; my mom would feel like there was something in the house, and my dad would write it off.”
The family moved into the home in the late ‘70s, and while Jansen noticed the doorbell ringing of its own accord, or the sounds of footsteps which echoed when no one else was around, he did not think much of it. Even his mother’s uncanny ability to predict future events and tragedies, while spooky, did nothing to convince him that there was more to this world than there might at first appear.
When Jansen moved back into the house in 2001 with his wife Grace and their son, he had no idea the journey upon which he was about to embark. Then one day in 2007, he encountered a strange physical sensation in his toddler son’s bedroom.
“I opened my son’s drawer to get him some socks, and as I was reaching in, I got that strange sensation that someone is watching you… I jerk around, and there’s no one there.” The feeling was unsettling certainly, and odd. “It was something I never felt before… As I went to leave the room, I felt this strange electrical surge course up my spine.” Trying to shake it off, Jansen went to give his son the socks. This was only the beginning of increasingly weird phenomena the house would offer up. In fact, over the next three days, he felt that same spark every time he entered his son’s room.
The incidents increased in frequency, and Jansen also began to catch the lights flickering, and strange noises rocking the house. At the time, he did not tell his wife, who was going through a difficult personal matter.
A few weeks later, Jansen was sleeping in his son’s room, when something happened that wrenched him onto the track of becoming a believer. “I woke up suddenly, and I could see the [bathroom light] in the hallway. But I could also see this shadow starting to creep into the doorway. And I’m thinking, what the h*ll?” As the shadow inched further and further into the room, Jansen felt breathless, like there was a great weight on his chest. Trying to force out words, he managed to shout “Jesus Christ” and suddenly, the weight was lifted. His temporary relief was disrupted by his son’s toys, which all began to make noise and move around.
Jansen’s son refused to sleep — or even enter — his bedroom. After a particularly distressing attempt, Jansen confronted his wife about what he had been experiencing up there. To his surprise, Grace was also having odd experiences.
While still a skeptic, Jansen agreed to contact a medium. She confirmed detecting spiritual activity in their household, and even mentioned someone Jansen hadn’t thought about in a long time. “My mom told me one day that we have a ghost, a woman who lives in the house. ‘But you don’t have to be afraid,’ she told me. ‘This is a nice spirit, and she doesn’t want to harm us.’” Jansen’s mother would see the woman wander back and forth, from their front room window to the front door, almost as if she were looking for something.
Sure enough, the medium inquired into this woman, unprompted, and hearing another person confirm the presence of the woman was world-rocking for Jansen, who felt badly that neither he nor his father had believed his mother at the time. The medium promised that this woman was benevolent, as Jansen’s mother had, but said that there was another spirit, a dangerous one, who had recently joined the home and was potentially the cause of the strange activity the family had been experiencing.
Over the course of the next few months, Jansen and his wife would follow through on a process of cleansing his home of spirits. He wrote about this journey in his book, Holy Ghost, and reports that he has not noticed spiritual energy in the home since. Jansen’s sustained supernatural experiences fully converted his view from skeptic to believer, and he has continued his research into the paranormal. He acknowledged that in this world, there are just as many fraudulent reports as there are genuine ones. “Of course there’s been a lot of frauds and fakes,” he said, “But there are also just some things that I can’t explain.” While the overall consensus is out as to whether or not ghosts exist, Jansen at least has been convinced.
Local Historical Places
Whether or not these places are haunted is up to interpretation, but here are some local places with years of history behind them:
Glen Cove Mansion, 200 Dosoris Lane: According to Long Island Haunted Houses, “The gorgeous site has lingering ghosts, including that Mr. and Mrs. Pratt, once owners of the property. Rumor has it that a smiling old lady (believed to be Mrs. Pratt), has been spotted in a chair in the corner of a room, as well as a man dressed in a suit (believed to be Mr. Pratt). Staff members have also experienced strange paranormal occurrences, including a shower that kept turning on and off by itself and a bartender claimed to see a woman in a white dress.”
Raynham Hall, 30 West Main St.: In 1740, 23-year-old Samuel Townsend purchased the property now known as Raynham Hall. The home would become the center of Oyster Bay’s Revolutionary War history, as Robert Townsend, a revolutionary spy, was one of its inhabitants. Today, Raynham Hall houses a museum, and spirit tours take place there often.
Milleridge Inn, 585 N Broadway: Over the course of decades, guests and staff of Milleridge Inn have claimed to have witnessed unexplained phenomena like doors closing, baby cradles swaying, chairs rocking, full apparitions manifesting, phantom touches and many other paranormal activity. There is a child’s footprint permanently marked in the hardwood flooring on the second floor, which staff claims it continuously reappears, even after the floor has been stripped, sanded and buffed, for many years.
Sweet Hollow Road: According to Long Island Haunted Houses, Sweet Hollow Road is the site of several ghostly legends. “Some say you can still see a lady in white walking along the side of the road, and that she will jump in front of your car when you pass.”