In this blog, we share the story of the ghost of Gracie Talmage, who along with other apparitions, is said to have roamed the halls of the old Blawenburg parsonage since 1847. Gracie’s husband, Rev. James Romeyn Talmage, was the second pastor of Blawenburg Reformed Church, serving from 1836 to 1849. They were the second family to live in the parsonage across Georgetown-Franklin Turnpike (County Route 518) from the church. Rev. Talmage had been a local monthly lecturer and Bible recitation leader in Blawenburg, Cherry Valley, Mount Rose, Rocky Hill, and Stoutsburg before receiving the call to serve Blawenburg Reformed Church.
We will also share an unexplained image from Blawenburg Church and let you be the judge.
This old postcard shows the church and parsonage circa 1906. Also note the sheds for horses and carriages beside and behind the church. If you look closely near the front corner of the parsonage at ground level, you can see the side of Blawenburg Tavern.
When you have a house that is almost as old as the village, there are bound to be tales of unexplained events. Dick Van Zandt remembers tales about the apparitions in the old parsonage from when he grew up on the Van Zandt farm in Blawenburg.
Sandy and Ann Rose bought the old parsonage back in the 1970s and were told by a local realtor that there were "historical incidents” of apparitions in the place. They didn't think much of it and were not believers in the paranormal. However, one night after they went upstairs to bed, both heard sounds at the piano. Sandy walked down to their living room, but saw or heard nothing more.
Some nights later, the same thing happened, and the results were the same—nothing to observe. But the following morning, as Sandy was getting dressed for work, he felt an extremely cold sensation as he stood at the foot of their bed. Ann came into the room and felt it, too. Shortly, there was a wavering, translucent image of a woman in early American garb in front of them. The apparition stayed there for a few moments before disappearing, and then the room instantly warmed again. Sandy told me they subsequently did some research and found that the wife of an early Blawenburg Church pastor had died in child birth.
Apparitions, A Firsthand Account
Leslie Rose grew up in the old parsonage and provided this firsthand account of her many experiences with Gracie and other apparitions.
When I was four, we moved to the old parsonage in Blawenburg, NJ. My room on the top right as you look at the front of the house was very active. I had a light show in there almost every night. Little orbs of light chased each other through the room, and flashes of light would wake me up.
There was a lady ghost named Gracie that my entire family, as well as some of the family friends, saw several times. Grace Talmadge is buried in the cemetery in Blawenburg. Gracie would play the piano down in the living room at all hours of the day. Both of my parents saw her form as a full-body apparition at separate times. I saw her nearly every night, standing just in my bedroom doorway. My father once saw just the top half of her appear slowly in front of him as he sat on the edge of his bed. He said hello and she faded away again. Once my mother was on the phone in the same room and saw a woman in the hallway, standing there and staring at her. She let the person she was talking to know there was something going on. One Christmas in the mid-70s, we had a bunch of family friends over for a party and one of my friends started up the stairs to use the bathroom at the top of the landing. He stopped and asked us who the lady was walking up the stairs in front of him. All three of us girls had some sort of living things in our bedroom closets. I was terrified of them. We'd play hide and seek in the house and whatever was in Lisa's closets would reach out and grab me, and the one in Margaret's closet held the door shut on two occasions so I couldn't get out. The one in my room would just open and shut the door several times a night and slam it open and shut at random. I put a water-filled gallon jug in front of the door to prevent it from opening and would wake up to find the doors standing open, the water jug still in place.
Footsteps paced around my room at night, stopping by the side of the bed. Once I was lying in bed reading and heard heavy footsteps on the floor of the attic above my room. They stopped right above me, and I ran out of the room and down the stairs. There was a sense of at least two spirits in the house. Gracie was peaceful; the others weren’t.
The house was very eerie if you were in it alone after the sun went down. I would catch movement out of the corner of my eyes, the doors everywhere around you in the house would slam open and shut, and voices could be heard talking to one another. On several occasions my name was called out in one of the other family members’ voices, even though I knew I was alone.
Calming the Ghosts Dick Van Zandt remembers a tale about an exorcism that was supposedly conducted in the parsonage. “They hired an ‘exorcist’ who came to the house,” he said. “After that, they heard or saw nothing more. I remember Sandy telling me the story at the Blawenburg Firehouse and still being quite shaken by the experience even though it had happened many years before.” Leslie said that the exorcism story was just a rumor.
Barb Reid remembers the story of how the Roses calmed down the apparitions. “I think it was Ann Rose who put flowers on Gracie Talmage’s grave after a number of sleepless nights in the parsonage because the ghost was playing the piano,” she said. “Once she put the flowers there, the ghost settled down.”
Leslie confirmed Barb’s story. “The laying of flowers on Grace Talmage's grave DOES quiet the activity down. It's what Mom and Dad came up with to see if that would work, and it did. Doors didn't slam as often.” You could say the roses calmed the apparitions and the Roses!
Are the apparitions gone? Leslie reports, “When my parents sold the house in the early 2000s, the new owners called them a few months after the sale and asked if the house was haunted. Yes. Yes, it is.”
An Unexplained Image
When this ominous picture of Blawenburg Church was placed on Facebook, people began wondering what the image in the second-floor window on the right side was. It looked like a gigantic image of a person. Speculation began. Was it the ghost of John Calvin, a pioneering theologian who promoted the reformed church movement in the Reformation? Could it have been an old pastor from the church still around to keep his eye on what was happening? Was it shadows from a nearby tree? What or who do you think this image is? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below.
Blawenburg Church before a storm. Note the image in the second-floor window on the right. An enlarged image revealing a human-like shape appears on the right.
1. Leslie Rose is a paranormal investigation hobbyist who lives in Massachusetts. She shared comments in this blog that will appear in her book about her paranormal experiences.
2. Blawenburg Cemetery was a location for a Halloween movie called Cry Baby Lane, a 1999 Nickelodeon made-for-TV production. Pure fiction, it tells the tale of the ghosts of conjoined twins—one good and one evil. See Blog 26, Halloween Horror at Blawenburg Cemetery for more details.
3. The Talmage grave site
The tombstone reads: In memory of Grace S. Talmage, wife of Rev. J. R. Talmage who died January 31, 1847, aged 31 years, 8 months, and 26 days. “Weep not for me, but be also ready.” Flowers have been put on this grave site at least two times that we know of in recent years.
4. The old parsonage was sold on May 25, 1950 to Henry Gordon for $12,750. The church then bought the house next door, which is the current parsonage.
Email with Leslie Rose
Email with Dick Van Zandt
Email with Barb Reid
Cochran, David W. Blawenburg Reformed Church, 1832-2007, 175 Years of Faith and Hope, Blawenburg, Blawenburg Reformed Church, 2007.
Parsonage and church–old postcard
Church image–Jeff Knol
Talmage tombstone – https://www.findagrave.com/
Copyright © 2021 by David Cochran. All rights reserved.