“If ghosts were as plentiful in fact as they are in newspaper columns white-robed shapes and people who can be seen through would be almost as numerous as stray cats. It is astonishing what a quantity of ghost stories are in circulation among the journals of the country.”-White Plains Eastern State Journal, April 23, 1887
Five miles from Sleepy Hollow as the raven flies, or ten by highway, is a stretch of road where the Piermont ghost terrorized two villages in March and April of 1887. We cover a lot of reported ghost sightings in these pages but this one stands out for the regularity of the ghost’s appearances and the number of people willing to go on record with descriptions of it. It was by all reports a towering specter of a ghost—eight feet tall, fearsome, bullet proof, as stealthy as it was tall, more than a match for man or beast.
But back to that lead paragraph. Eastern State Journal compiled seven reports of ghostly appearances from around the United States and one from England, including the gargantuan specter that haunted the road from Piermont to Sparkill in 1887. The paper went on to say “Those who have been scared declare that it is fully eight feet in height, pale as the driven snow, and as noiseless as death. It makes its appearance between the hours of eleven at night and two in the morning.”
Not only did the Piermont ghost keep regular hours, it kept an unusually public presence along a half mile stretch of road from Haddock’s Hall to David Kipp’s store at the Erie Railroad grade crossing in nearby Sparkill.
Counsellor Gowdey Meets the Piermont Ghost
The Rockland County Journal investigated the appearances, interviewing prominent local citizens and publishing results in its March 26, 1887 edition. Lawyer William E. Gowdey was more than willing to go on record with his personal observations of the ghost. Perhaps a little too willing.
Just a few nights before he was interviewed by a reporter, Gowdey allegedly got within three or four feet of the apparition. “I have had considerable experience in the line, and the happiest moments of my life are when I can go at midnight into a cemetery and walk around in the place where ghosts are supposed to be raised. This Sparkill ghost is a genuine spook; I know whereof I speak, for I have seen it.”
Noticing the reporters skepticism, Gowdey continued, “You needn’t look at me so suspiciously for I am a temperance man and have not taken anything.”
In its March 20, 1887 edition, The New York Times alluded to Gowdey’s concern. The Times wrote “When his ghostship was first seen it was claimed by nearly every one in the community that the few who saw him has mixed too much Piermont beer with Sparkill whisky. But now the scare had assumed a different phase, and the ghost is seen by Prohibitionists and members of the various Piermont churches.”
Justice Slocum Tracks the Piermont Ghost
Moving from lawyer to judge, the reporter turned his attention next to Justice Slocum. The honorable Slocum declined to give his opinion to Rockland County Journal. However he had the appearance of grave seriousness about him when approached. He was later observed walking the stretch of road where the ghost had appeared, which the newspaper speculated was solid evidence he was searching for evidence of the apparition. Or was it? The reporter noted it would follow up on the judge’s investigations at a later date.
The Piermont Ghost Walks no More
Alas, the ghostly appearances came to an abrupt end on a Thursday night in late March. A well-known person, who wished his name withheld from the newspapers, encountered the Piermont ghost at or near the stone bridge at Sparkill. The New York Times reported, “The man picked up a good-sized stone and hurled it at the object, striking him a pretty hard blow. The spook became angered and clinched with the man. The gentleman proved too muscular, however, for the spectre, and grasped it by the throat. The ghost, in a human voice, begged for mercy.”
The Rockland County Journal put the matter to rest, reporting that “Our friend promised not to tell who he was, providing he never attempted to do this ghost business again.”
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