Article by: Michelle McKay
Original photo (edited): By Onorland (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons
This is an interesting poltergeist case that involved a brick being thrown through the window while the home was surrounded by police.
Located at 136 Clinton Avenue in Brooklyn, NYC, this Christmas haunting occurred during the Victorian era in 1878. The source of the reports can be traced back to a New York Times article published December 20, 1878. Kudos goes out to Nick Carr, a movie location scout in NYC, who came across this gem in the archives.
The headline for the article read:
“Door-bells rung, doors rattled, and a brick thrown through a window — a vain search for small boys”
The bit about searching for small boys doesn’t surprise me. Victorian era ghost hunting often entailed the search for “small boys” to rule out trickery. Even the great ghost hunter, Harry Price, made note of it.
During the time of the incidents, the house was owned by a gentleman named Edward F. Smith.
One evening, Mr. Smith heard his doorbell ring. He got up to answer the door, but nobody was there.
He returned to the sitting room, and the doorbell rang again. Just as the first time, no one was at the door.
This carried on throughout the evening, accompanied by the sounds of rattling, banging, and kicking from the two rear doors, which were said to have occurred “with great vigor”.
He concluded that the incidents were likely caused by wind, and he retired for the night.
The next evening, the rappings and doorbell ringing returned. They continued to plague the home every evening for two to three weeks.
“A watch was placed at each door and a guard placed in the yard. It was of no use, for the doors rattled and pounded just as violently, and the bell rang with all its accustomed loudness.”
Mr. Smith sprinkled flour and ashes along the approach to the front door in hopes of tracking the intruder’s footprints. But, alas, the doorbell was rung and no footprints were discovered.
Wanting to put an end to the unearthly harassment, he contacted local police.
On the eve of Monday, December 16, 1878, Captain McLaughlin and Detective Prieo of Brooklyn’s Fourth Precinct paid a visit to the house with the goal of discovering the source of the ghostly shenanigans.
Almost immediately upon arriving, the officers were greeted with the hellish pounding and bell ringing that claimed the home as its own. This carried on until 10:00 p.m. that evening.
Unable to determine the cause, or make any arrests, the police left and returned the following evening. However, once again, no cause was found and the talented spook was free to continue its eerie rappings and otherworldly bell ringing.
The next evening, on Wednesday, December 18, the police Captain stationed officers around the perimeter of the damned house, while he and the detective stood inside the house by the door. With everybody in position, they waited.
“In a moment or two the bell rang violently and several heavy blows were struck upon the door in quick succession.”
This was quickly followed by a large brick smashing through the dining-room window.
Although the house was surrounded by the keen eyes of police officers on alert, no culprit was seen.
Word of the haunted house spread quickly. Hundreds of people were found standing outside of the home when the New York Times reporter arrived on the Friday evening.
The reporter dodged his way through the crowd and knocked on the front door.
A boarder at the house, Mr. R. B. Thomas, answered the door and informed the reporter that Mr. Smith was “prostrated with nervousness” and could not be interviewed.
The boarder also told the reporter that Mr. Smith was
“inclined to lay it all to some evil spirit which had a grudge against some occupant of the house.”
WARNING: Do not trespass! Permission from the location owner must be granted to investigate this location!
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Michelle McKay is a Canadian paranormal investigator of 30+ years. Former TV host: Destination America, Discovery, A&E. Founder of ColdSpot.org. Her great-uncle, Henry McKay, was a pioneer UFO investigator and the first director of MUFON Canada.