Andrew J. Parker died “suddenly” at the age of 63 in September 1885 in the village of Pelham, NY. For most of his life, he worked as a chemist, and in Pelham, he had been the manager of the Neptune Powder Mill, a dynamite company. As an employee of a dynamite manufacturer, he lived much longer than anyone of that time would have figured; as it was a volatile and dangerous trade. But he was lucky to have survived and retired to spend time with his family. News reports at the time never explained exactly how Parker died, but not being blown to pieces was perhaps the most unexpected part of his demise. As with all deaths, Parker had a wake, and then a funeral before being laid to rest at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.
But, this was not the last people would supposedly see of Andrew J. Parker.
Starting sometime in early November of 1885, residents in Pelham began reporting sightings of an apparition holding a lantern in the vicinity of the building near the Baychester Depot where Parker died. Those seeing the alleged spook could only surmise it was Parker himself, as he was the only recent individual to have died on or near the premises.
Nothing was confirmed until James Montgomery, a former employee of the Neptune Powder Mill and who had worked with Parker, got an eyeful of the apparition for himself. He heartily and loudly confirmed that the lantern-wielding ghost was definitely Andrew J. Parker.
Perhaps the most interesting part of this story comes not from the ghost itself, but from those living to tell the tale of it. The very James Montgomery who identified Parker in spirit form spent much of his time in the nearby Baychester House Hotel, where the other patrons did not believe his story upon his multiple recounts and goings-on about it and the other patrons would taunt him about it. In retaliation, Montgomery dared anyone to stay in the house where the spook is thought to reside overnight. If they could survive the night they would get a $50 reward.
Suddenly, the entire situation became about Montgomery, his bet, those who would not meet it, and the potential farce of it all even if sightings did continue through late 1885.
“The ‘spook’ stories continue to interest the people of Baychester and City Island, and in order to test the spunk of the community James Montgomery has deposited $50 with Mr. Jacobs, the proprietor of the Baychester House, to be paid to any one who will submit to being locked in the house in which A. J. Parker died, and which is said to be haunted by his ghost, from 11 o’clock p. m. till 4 a. m. Thus far there are no callers for the prize.”The Yonkers Statesman, Nov. 18, 1885, Vol. III, No. 621
We still have this to consider: Were there no takers because no one took James Montgomery seriously and thought the ghost a creation from the drinks at the bar or were the people of Baychester too terrified to spend the night in the house of a real spook and meet the dead Andrew J. Parker face to face?