Ghosts ready to talk at Princeton battlefield

in ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT/LOCAL by
Photo Illustration: Matthew Grant Arnold

A fear of the dark is rooted in a fear of the unknown. Tapping into that fear of the unknown is an easy thing to do when standing on the Revolutionary War battleground in Princeton, NJ. The sound of feet crunching over fallen leaves, the shine of the full moon lighting the way, and the realization that around 50 soldiers are buried under the ground beneath your feet is enough to send a shiver down anyone’s spine.

I joined 90 people of all different ages at Princeton Tour Company’s first ever ghost hunt at the Princeton Battlegrounds on Saturday, September 29. Owner Mimi Omiecinski led the tour with the help of her parents and several local historians.

Energetic and excitable, Omiecinski asked participants to focus on the soldiers on both the American and British sides because not choosing sides and treating the energies with respect is the most effective way to illicit a response from the other side.

Halfway through the tour, participants were given ghost hunting equipment including electromagnetic field readers, or EMF, thermometers to measure changes in temperature, and dowsing rods.

Originally used to locate water underground by feeling out energies, dowsing rods were the most effective means to communicate with the other side. By simply holding them at arms length and asking a spirit to cross or uncross the thin metal rods, an answer can be gleaned.

“Cross the rods if you’re a British soldier,” I asked my rods and then patiently waited with the rods grasped firmly in my hands. I wasn’t waiting long; the rods moved in front of me, crossing almost perfectly over each other.

I hear you naysayers saying it’s just the wind, or I did it myself. However, when the rods are in your hands, there is a clear distinction between holding them too loose and they move on their own, or when they are firmly held and something else is moving them.

After spending a few moments with a spirit, asking if he was at peace and with his family (he was) and if he was a fan of his king (he was not), I realized I had been left behind.

Catching up with the group, we ended up near the pillars where soldiers were suspected to be buried. Here is where I brought out the therma-meter, scanning for changes in temperature. Suddenly, the meter read 14 degrees and I began trying to communicate.

I asked the spirit if he could change the meter’s reading from 14 and bring it down to read 10 degrees. After a few moments, the numbers steadily began falling until it finally reached 10 degrees. The number stayed there until a fellow hunter walked in front of the reader and brought the temperature up to around 45 degrees.

At the end of the tour, we were taken to the Quaker House and able to walk through the cemetery behind it. At this point, I wasn’t able to communicate with anyone there but the hairs on the back of my neck were still standing up from the spirit at the pillars.

Participants in the ghost hunt were charged $20, 25 percent of which will be going toward the restoration of the Thomas Clarke house, a building used as a hospital for British and American soldiers during the war.

Propelled by a fascination with the personalities of Princeton and the desire to have something to do while her son was in school, Omiecinski started Princeton Tour Company in 2006. Other than their weekly ghost tours of Princeton’s campus, the company offers walking tours of Princeton as well.

The company originally began as a bike tour group, but that venture didn’t pan out. About two years into the business, guests started mentioning that Princeton’s campus might be haunted. Then The Nassau Presbyterian Church offered the company access to the cemeteries. Guests could then go to gravestones of prominent figures in the cemetery.

“I don’t care who you are and where you come from, that’s a decent ghost tour,” said Omiecinski.