As a charming town with just 12,000 residents, New Providence is known for its quiet neighborhoods, some of which have homes that date back more than 200 years. But some of those homes have histories that could be more creepy than charming, including one on Union Avenue that many believe was haunted by a 17-year-old ghost for 100 years.
The home, originally known as the "Crane House," was built in 1750 by an early settler named Joseph Crane. Over time, the home had several owners, including Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Harms, who occupied the house for about 50 years, and now Mary Anne and Cliff Wyonch who have lived there since about 1990.
So what sets this house apart from others in New Providence? Documents found in the New Providence Historical Society claim that a 17-year-old girl haunted this house for more than 100 years.
In the transcript of tape-recorded information from Helene Harms in April of 1971, Harms said the ghost was seen in an upstairs bedroom and heard by various individuals who stayed in a downstairs bedroom.
“We never had anybody stay here that spent the night in this room that didn’t complain the next morning. ‘Who on earth was walking up and down those stairs all night?’” Harms said. “So one day I was speaking to a neighbor of mine and I said, ‘you know, we must have rats in this house because everyone who comes in complains about the noise of people walking up and down these stairs.’ And the man said, “Ah-ha, so you’ve finally heard it.” And I said, “heard what?” And he said, ‘well, there’s been a ghost in that house for over a hundred years, and everybody who’s lived there has heard it.'”
Harms also said a man by the name of Mr. Post, who was a previous owner, slept in the bedroom at the top of the stairs and frequently heard the footsteps on the stairs at night.
“He said he used to listen to this thing coming up the stairs, but it never hit the top step,” Harms said. “He said if it had, he’d been out there with his shotgun, firing.”
Harms said her daughter claimed to have seen this ghost on a few occasions in her upstairs bedroom, usually while she was upset.
“When my daughter was about 17 years old, she was lying up in her bedroom, which is the small room facing out to the back. It has two closets on both sides, closets that are part of the foundation of the house. They were these things that looked as if they were holding up the walls. They were closed up when we came here and we opened them up and made closets out of them,” Harms said. “And she was lying in her room, crying, probably crying about a boy or a disappointment, I don’t know what. When through her tears, she saw a girl in white with black hair; the girl looked about her age, standing at the foot of her bed, also weeping, sobbing with her.”
Harms said her daughter wasn’t frightened and actually thought someone had come into the room, and she herself didn’t think much of it until it happened again under the same circumstances.
Years later, Harms said there was a young, national swimming champion attending Columbia University who came to stay at the house and also saw the ghost in the same bedroom.
“She sat up in bed and as she sat up to look at her, this girl faded back and disappeared into the closet,” Harms said. “She was so fascinated in the thing, so interested in it, that she brought a professor from Columbia [who] spent the weekend here and stayed in that room. Well, he saw nothing. He said there definitely was a presence in this house.”
So where did this ghost come from?
According to an article published in the New Providence High School’s newspaper, Providential, in October of 1981, research into this house has revealed nothing about the identity of the young girl.
And while the Harms and many of their visitors had seen or heard the ghost on numerous occasions, they said they never felt frightened in the house.
“I love this house. Only time and love and care can create an old house like this and I find it exciting that there might be something here,” Harms said in the Providential article.
So, does this ghost still exist?
Mary Anne Wyonch, who has lived in the house since about 1990 with her husband, Cliff, said they haven’t ever seen or heard anything unusual.
“I haven’t, myself; my husband hasn’t. I mean we have tons of people in and out of here all the time and we’ve had lots of cats that have been here,” Mary Anne Wyonch said. “I would think if there were something here that one of the cats would have acted off because they’re more sensitive than humans are.”
Wyonch, who received the complete history of the house from the previous owners’ kids, she said understands that it was Mrs. Harms who usually talked about the ghost.
“But we’ve never experienced anything, I’ve never heard anybody crying or acting strange; I’ve never seen anything,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s because when we came here, we knocked some walls down. We did a lot of different things to the house; so maybe they left, but we never noticed anything to be quite honest with you.”
But while she’s never seen anything, Wyonch said she wouldn’t rule out a ghost ever having existed in the house.
“This is a really, really old house," she said. "It’s from the 1700s. Anything could be possible, but we have never experienced anything ourselves. Like I said, I have lots and lots of company here. Nobody’s ever said anything to me that they’ve heard anything, seen anything, felt anything unusual."
*Editor's Note: This is a first in a series of stories about the ghosts of Union County. So, what do you think? Is there a ghost in the old Crane House? If you have any ghost stories to share, tell us in the comments or email firstname.lastname@example.org.