Halloween started 2,000 years ago with the ancient Celtic festival that celebrated the New Year on Nov. 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of a cold, dark winter. The Celts believed that on the night before the festival, the boundary between the living and the dead was blurred, making it possible for ghosts to roam the earth. To celebrate that, they built huge bonfires and wore masks, which were typically animal heads and skins. The sacred fire was built to protect them during the winter.
By the seventh century, Christianity had spread in England and Ireland, and put its own stamp on the pagan holiday. Nov. 1 became All Saints' Day, and eventually Nov. 2 was named All Soul's Day. All Saint's Day was called All Hallows, which was taken from the Middle English word Alholowmesse, meaning All Saints' Day. The night before was called All Hallows eve and eventually, Halloween. The tradition of wearing costumes on Halloween came about because people were afraid of the winter and believed on that night ghosts roamed the streets. If you had to go out after nightfall, you wore a mask as a way to fool any ghosts you might encounter while out.
The Brass Rail
Taking you into 2005, there are still ghost stories told and costumes worn. There are even local legends to spook your Hudson County friends. A Hoboken restaurant, the Brass Rail on Washington Street, is said to be haunted by a ghost bride. Legend has it that on her wedding day in 1904, she tripped at the top of the stairs on the second floor. She tumbled, broke her neck, died, and has haunted the place ever since. The original circular staircase is still in the establishment, which has recently been revamped into a lounge on the ground floor.
Bryan Farley, general manager, has worked at The Brass Rail for six years. According to Farley, every October some new investigator comes to see the ghost. Over the years Farley has heard stories about the phone ringing and then no one was there, a tray getting knocked to the ground, and things getting misplaced.
"I've never seen any floating heads," said Farley. "Maybe the ghosts know that I'm really taking care of the place, so they leave me alone."
But he said if anything was haunted, it would be the dumbwaiter that goes to the second floor. People said a former staff member used to hear voices. And the machine never works for more than a few days. According to Farley, the company that came to fix it would say a hinge broke or something because it was old. But they never could keep it working, so now they don't use it.
The Black Bear
Sure, the Black Bear in Hoboken might be a crowded sports bar that packs a crowd on weekends, but according to the barbacks, there are uninvited guests there too. Several of the barbacks who have worked there for seven or more years said that there are strange things that happen when they are alone in the wee hours of the morning, while they finish up their cleaning duties.
One night, Santiago, a barback, heard something on the second floor. When he went upstairs to look, he heard dishes crashing downstairs. Sometimes staff members would just hear dishes crash and other times they would actually break. Another time in the early morning, the staff was getting ready to set up when stuff was thrown down at them from the second floor.
In a related incident, when the Black Bear had different owners and was called Dittos, the staff reported strange things. According to Chris Schwaeble, a former staff member of Dittos, one day he was cutting fruit at the upstairs bar before it was open. He caught a glimpse of a man standing at the top of the stairs in the glass. When he turned to the stairs to tell him that it was closed, he was gone.
A few minutes later, he called downstairs to see what happened to the man, but no one had seen him. Several weeks later, Schwaeble happened to see a picture of another former owner, Ed Harrington. According to Schwaeble, the man on the stairs looked like the man in the picture.
Robbin's Reef Yacht Club
Robbin's Reef Yacht Club in Bayonne is said to be haunted by a former owner's son of the private estate. The story, which is based on actual events, is that the son killed himself in an upstairs bedroom after breaking things off with his girlfriend. He is said to have hung himself and jumped out of the window with the rope around his neck. After the incident, the estate changed hands and eventually was bought by Robbin's Reef Yacht Club in 1946.
While there haven't been any ghost sightings, members report of weird things happening. According to Steve, a member of the private club, a former bartender told him about a strange incident last winter. When the bartender was closing, he saw two people pass by the window that looks out onto the deck that faces the water. The only way onto the deck is from the inside, and the door was locked. When he didn't see them come to the door, he finally went outside because it was snowing and he didn't want someone to be stuck out there.
He looked out and down. There weren't any footprints. Yet, don't think you can look for this ghost without an invitation. Robbin's Reef is a private club for members only. Uninvited folk are not allowed on the private property.
A few more
Arthur's Tavern in Hoboken is supposed to be haunted by several ghosts. According to Rhonda, a bartender, last week there were two parapsychologists who came in to see the ghosts. According to Rhonda, one of them got very upset after going upstairs, and said the upstairs ladies room was haunted.
On Garden Street in Hoboken there is an abandoned house near the corner of Seventh Street. According to local historian Lenny Luizzi, growing up, he heard that the place was haunted by an old woman. The place was boarded up in the late '50s and remains that way. The story told was that if you looked up at the window you would see the old woman who haunts the neglected property.
Sybil's Cave in Hoboken is said to be haunted by Mary Rogers, a young woman whose body was found floating in the Hudson near Sybil's Cave. It was believed that she was murdered even though the case was never solved.
The tower over New Jersey City University is said to be haunted by the ghost of Margaret Williams. The classroom directly under the tower is said to be haunted as well. In the winter the room never heats up, and in the summer the air conditioning doesn't work.
If these haunted spots can't keep you entertained on the holiday, check out Hudson County's other hot spots and go to one of the bars that are having costume parties and drink specials. Please see sidebar for details.
Black Bear, Sat. Oct. 29, starts at 8 p.m. Free admit with costume, $3 drink specials, and prizes for best costume including: $250 Grand prize, runner up wins a membership to Spa H, and third place wins a DVD player.
Busker's, Sat. Oct. 29, starts at 9 p.m. Drink specials and prizes awarded for best costumes including: $250 for first, $100 for second, and $50 for third.
Gaslight, Sat. Oct. 29, 10 to 1a.m. Admission: $40 for guys, $30 for girls and includes three-hour open bar. Prize given for best costume.
Lola's, Fri. Oct 28. Drink specials and prizes. Doors open at 10 p.m.
Lua, Sat. Oct 29, 9 to 2 a.m., $200 per person, includes five-hour open bar. Prizes awarded for best costume including: $500 for first, dinner for two for second, and a bottle of Crystal for third.
McBride's, Sat. Oct. 29. Drink specials and costume contest. $500 in prizes.
McMahon's Brownstone, Sat. Oct. 29, 8 to 11p.m. $30 admission and includes open bar.
Nine, Fri. Oct. 28, 8 to 10 p.m., $25 per person, and prizes given for best costumes.
Oddfellows, Sat. Oct. 29, starts at 9 p.m. Prizes given for best costume including: $250 first prize, $100 second place, and $50 for third.
PJ Ryan's, Fri. Oct. 28, Drinks specials, live music and prizes.
Quays, Sat. Oct. 29, starts at 10 p.m. No cover, drink specials and prizes for best costumes.
Three A's, Fri. Oct. 28, starts at 9 p.m. Drink specials and prizes.
Whiskey Bar, Sat. Oct. 29, 8 to 10 p.m. $2 drinks for everyone in costume. Costume contest for best costume.