In a historic town like Southampton, whose roots stretch back well beyond its founding in 1640, it is only natural for some to know and share the ghost stories associated with many of the centuries-old graveyards and buildings.One resident, Oliver Peterson of Water Mill, is teaming up with the Southampton Historical Museum all this month to give others a chance to experience—and eventually re-tell—their own spooky tales.
An avid ghost hunter in his free time, Mr. Oliver is hosting three such hunts later this month and is inviting interested parties to explore three historical buildings—the Lost Indian Fort and Seaport in North Sea, and the Rogers family mansion and the Halsey homestead, both in Southampton Village—and search for signs of the supernatural.
While he cannot guarantee success, explaining that he has never conducted an investigation of the three structures before, Mr. Peterson said those who tag along will still have fun exploring the grounds of each historic building.
“This is a good thing to do with the Historical Society, because ghost hunting and historical places are linked,” Mr. Peterson said. “They have to be linked, because 90 percent of ghost hunting is boring, and if you’re not interested in the places that you are visiting, you are not going to be happy. These are all fascinating places, so the ghost hunting just becomes another element of appreciating that history.”
According to Emma Ballou, a curator for the Southampton Historical Museum, this is the first time her group will be offering any kind of ghost hunt. She noted that although the homes in question have not been officially searched by ghost hunters before, she recently conducted a preliminary walk-through of the structures with Mr. Peterson, who said he found the potential for ghost sightings.
In a recent interview, Mr. Peterson—a former Press staffer who now does web design for Dan’s Papers—said he is excited for the Saturday afternoon tours, which he will run with the help of his wife, Colleen. He explained that while there are no official ghost sightings documented at any of the three locations chosen, their unique and individual histories are strong indicators of ghost presences. He pointed out that he has heard from friends about several experiences that could point to ghosts haunting the locales.
The first ghost hunt will take place this Saturday, October 12, starting at 4 p.m., at the Lost Indian Fort and Seaport. According to the historical museum, North Sea Harbor has been home to Native American culture for 10,000 years, well before the town’s founding. The earliest settlers of North Sea, according to the museum, formed fishing camps and, in 1639, members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation lived in a fort in the area. By 1650, the area served as a shipping port and boasted a tavern, two warehouses, a customs house and a cluster of farmhouses.
Saturday’s program will take place at the Conscience Point Historic Marker and Nature Walk, which is owned by the museum and located near the end of North Sea Road, just past the marina.
The second location to be inspected for ghosts will be the Halsey House, and that will take place on Saturday, October 19, at 4 p.m. Built in 1666 by Thomas Halsey Jr., the house once stood as part of a homestead created by his father in 1648. The house, now owned and operated by the museum, sits on South Main Street, but was originally on land used as an agricultural field by the Shinnecocks. Since 1666, the building served as the family home for generations of Halseys.
The final inspection, scheduled for Saturday, October 26, also at 4 p.m., will focus on the Rogers Family mansion. In 1648, the Rogers family established a farm at the current Meeting House Lane location. The Rogers family inhabited the house until 1889; whaling captain Albert Rogers also lived in the home for a time.
Each tour will cost $18 per person, and tickets can be purchased through the museum website at www.southamptonhistoricalmuseum.org. Participants are encouraged to bring a digital camera and a voice recorder, as they are often used in ghost hunts.
During the events, Mr. Peterson will explain different ghost hunting techniques, including the utilization of electromagnetic field detectors, thermometers and pendulums.
While he hopes that he and attendees will experience ghost sightings of their own, Mr. Peterson acknowledges that most participants will be skeptical—and they have good reason to be. He explained that not every flicker of light or gust of chilly air is a ghost.
“I keep myself pretty skeptical,” he said. “I believe, but I don’t believe everything I hear or see. But when the temperature drops five or six degrees, and at the same time an electromagnetic field spikes, there is sometimes no explanation. It depends on what you believe.
“I am skeptical—but with an open mind,” he continued. “You can convince yourself to believe anything if you want. Maybe the best way to be is to say, ‘Well, this is interesting.’ But I’m not going to tell you that this is a vision from the other side.”