Union’s haunted Caldwell Parsonage

Union, NJ — The Caldwell Parsonage has a long — and haunted — past. Located on Caldwell Avenue in Union, it is an important and indelible part of Union’s fascinating history and, according to some, the players in the drama — although gone for hundreds of years — continue to live on at the historic site.
Before Union became a township in 1808, the area was called Connecticut Farms and received its name from settlers hailing from Connecticut’s farmlands.
The Rev. James Caldwell and his wife, Hannah, who lived at the parsonage with their nine children, spoke out against King George III and the British government’s policies of taxation without representation, unfair religious laws and limited public speech. Caldwell became known as a “preacher of independence,” which angered the British, prompting them to put a price on his head and those of his family members.
As the Battle of Connecticut Farms headed into town in June of 1780, Caldwell told his wife to prepare to leave the parsonage along with the children, and to meet him in nearby Springfield.
But Hannah refused, telling her husband that she trusted in providence and would stay, confident that she would not be harmed. But just hours later, Hannah was killed by a British soldier, who shot her in front of her children. The parsonage was later burned to the ground, and a new Colonial structure built in its place.
Just one year later, in November of 1781, James Caldwell was shot and killed by a soldier.
But the story doesn’t end there. Today, many people claim that the parsonage is haunted, and that James Caldwell still roams the three-story Colonial building.
Paranormal organizations have visited the parsonage and have reported strong EVP — electronic voice phenomenon — recordings that suggest otherworldly presences linger there.
Barbara La Mort, of the Union Township Historical Society, said that hauntings have been reported in recent years. “Over the past few years, individual UTHS members — working alone or in pairs in the house — have heard inexplicable noises,” La Mort told LocalSource. According to La Mort, tenants who live in an apartment in the parsonage have reported the phenomena, too.
According to La Mort, no one can say for certain who the parsonage’s haunted residents may be, but that the spirits could be those connected to its history. “We can’t be sure who they are,” said La Mort. “The UTHS’s mission is to preserve the history of Union. Therefore, many artifacts have been donated to the parsonage. The spirits may be those of people to whom those items once belonged — not necessarily the Caldwell family, families of other pastors of Connecticut Farms Presbyterian Church, or later residents.”
John Riggerio, a paranormal investigator with New Jersey Paranormal, told LocalSource that the kind of tragic past associated with the parsonage makes it ripe for paranormal activity. “That kind of tragedy and that kind of emotion can leave something behind,” said Riggerio.
La Mort said that UTHS members, New Jersey Paranormal members and guests who have attended New Jersey Paranormal events at the parsonage have seen, heard or experienced — through feeling changes in temperature — the presence of spirits.
“No one has seen what people think of as a ghost at the parsonage,” said La Mort. “During ghost hunting there, orbs were recorded on digital cameras and phones. Such spheres of light indicate energy that can’t be explained any other way but as the presence of spirits. Tapping or knocking sounds, as well as voices, have been heard. Over the past three years, New Jersey Paranormal members have conducted investigations, using current technology like EMF — electromagnetic field equipment — and K2 meters to measure energy fields and changes in temperature.”
David Arminio, of Union’s Historical Society, told LocalSource that he believes that he has felt the presence of James Caldwell. According to Arminio, it has happened during ghost tours at the parsonage.
“I asked him if he wanted us to leave,” said Arminio of Caldwell, who claims that the EVP monitors responded heavily to his question. “I left the room for sure,” he said.
In keeping with the parsonage’s haunted reputation, a seance was planned there for Aug. 27, run by psychic Jane Doherty. “This will be the first seance at the parsonage,” said La Mort before the event. “Because a seance is conducted by a psychic — not ghost hunters — it’s a different experience. Jane Doherty will be the conduit for spirits related to the participants and, possibly, for spirits connected to the parsonage.”
Doherty told LocaLSource what she hopes to accomplish at the the upcoming seance. “First, I hope to communicate with a spirit haunting the place, or free a confused or trapped spirit as a result of sudden death,” said Doherty. “Secondly, I hope to communicate with the spirit of loved ones of those attending the seance.”
For more information about the Union Township Historical Society and the Caldwell Parsonage visit www.unionhistory.org.