The mystery at the site of ShopRite Liquors. The horror of watching the Park Theatre burn. A spot in town where many were afraid to walk out of fear.
These are just some of the tales that will be recounted in detail during the Halloween Ghost Walks presented by the Grover Cleveland Birthplace Memorial Association Friday.
The guided tours will begin at the presidential birthplace and will travel west on Bloomfield Avenue with stops at the cemetery at First Presbyterian Church at Caldwell, the former home of Gruning’s ice cream shop and more. The final destination will be The Cloverleaf Tavern, a popular haunt for three-quarters of a century.
James Gardner, a local history buff and skilled storyteller, will serve as a guide for the hour-long ghost walks.
“We are going to give people a flavor of what happened here—what kind of interesting situations or mysterious things happened,” Gardner said.
Major fires, accidents and other calamities will be described, some from recent memory others dating more than 100 years.
“People can look at a structure and say that happened here right here where I’m standing,” he said.
Gardner said many of the anecdotes are based on information published in the book, A Puritan Heritage, by Lynn G. Lockward.
But he and fellow tour guide David Cowell, president of the Grover Cleveland Birthplace Memorial Association, are both well-versed in local history and each will add his own flavor to the tour.
“He’s excellent,” Gardner said of Cowell. “He really knows his stuff.”
Gardner said he will focus not just on the history, but on bringing the tales to life.
“To make it a story you have to embellish it a little bit,” he said. “But I won’t distort the facts.”
Other ghost walk guides include Kelly Gardner, June Cowell, Sharon and Bob Farrell, Gene Dassing and Doug Piazza.
Spots remain available for the 5 and 5:30 p.m. tours; later tours sold out quickly. Tickets are $10 adults, $5 for children under 13 and must be reserved in advance. They may be purchased at the birthplace, 207 Bloomfield Ave., or at local merchants.