Princeton University has produced world leaders, top business professionals and every type of genius. And when these brilliant men and women pass away, they often come back to a place they loved, making the university and surrounding town one of New Jersey’s hottest ghost haunts.
“The Rockefellers, the Ford family, all that big money was at Princeton,” said Mimi Omiecinski, owner of the Princeton Tour Company. “Princeton had boys attending from the wealthiest families — Vanderbilt, Carnegie — and all were there when it was a boys’ school. And at an all-boys school, can you even imagine what they got up to in their undergraduate years? There is no way they’re not coming back. There’s just no way!”
On Halloween, those interested in history (and ghosts, of course) can have a chat with some of Princeton’s most famous spirits as part of Princeton Tour Company’s ghost tours. The tours take guests through campus, visiting hot haunting spots that have been authenticated by experts. The enterprising ghost hunters are given equipment (like the kinds you see on Ghost Adventures and the like) and instructions on how to talk with the dead. Not scary enough? They’re also locked in the famous Princeton cemetery — where President Grover Cleveland is buried.
“We use EMF meters, dowsing rods and thermal meters,” said Omiecinski of her equipment, which measure magnetic fields, help pinpoint areas of ghostly activity, and measure changes in temperature, respectively. “We’ve got folks who are trained and teach visitors how to ask questions and interact with, what we hope is, the other side. It’s certainly unexplained activity. We don’t know if it’s ghosts or angels or time travelers. But we do know something’s there. It’s very rare for me to go to a location and not feel something.”
Students and Soldiers
Omiecinski believes most of the ghosts on Princeton University’s campus are happy former students who have come back to relive the glory days.
“During a Princeton reunion, you see 105-year-old men riding in the golf carts to lead the P-rade. Now if these men can make it a point to come back when they’re 105, after they pass to the other side, of course they’ll come back to see their old dorm, or maybe visit the place where they first fell in love.”
But Princeton’s history isn’t all school work and shenanigans. The campus was also the site of a Revolutionary War battle. “There was an actual battle on campus during the war that happened right after Washington’s crossing,” said Omiecinski. Nassau Hall was used as British barracks, and American soldiers — with the help of some heavy artillery fire — persuaded them to surrender. (A dent from a cannonball remains in one of the exterior walls of Nassau Hall!) Of the battle, Omniecinski said: “Many of those soldiers died violently and the bodies had to be buried very, very quickly.” And the spirits of those who die violently often remain behind.
All The Feels
If you go ghost hunting in Princeton, you could cross paths with the supernatural and not see a thing. Instead, you’ll feel it.
“We had a private group of folks that were really into ghost hunting and some of the people could see ghosts, others could feel ghosts,” said Omiecinski. “A woman in the group could take on emotions from the spirits. She kept taking on very severe sad and happy emotions. It was very taxing for her.”
The varying ghosts at Princeton made for a complicated, conflicting encounter for the empath. Says Omniecinski: “The sadness came from the spirits of the Revolutionary soldiers. At the same time, she felt the Princeton University students. You have these people who passed away, but still love their alma mater. So there’s this extreme sadness and extreme happiness, and she felt it all. She was taking on all these emotions at once. It was very difficult to watch.”
Breaking the Ice…with Spirits
So you’ve got your digital camera and you’re ready to seek out some ghosts. But how does an intrepid ghost-hunter reach out to the ghosts of Princeton? First, grab your dowsing rod (you can get one on Amazon. Seriously!). Then, “you ask yes or no questions,” said Omiecinski, who has successfully talked with deceased family members using the technique. “We teach the visitors to ask questions just as you would on this side. You want to say, ‘If you’re here with me now, will you please cross the rods.’ You must be very polite. It’s like being at a cocktail party. If it happens, and the spirit reacts, you say, ‘Thank you so much’ and you give the spirit a lot of positive energy.”
And don’t worry about looking foolish. “You feel a little crazy doing it, but if you’re doing it right and your intention is there, it’s remarkable how many people have experiences on the tours.”
The Truth Is For Adults Only
If you plan on signing up for a Princeton haunt, Omiecinski cautions that you make sure you stick with a PG-13 tour if you’ve got kids — or are easily frightened. “The stories can be horrific. A man was skinned in Princeton and they sold his skin as wallets. That’s unnerving for a child to hear. But, on the flip side, there are sweet stories. We know James Madison haunts campus. So we have both the grisly and the nice.”
The last public ghost tour is offered this Halloween, but private ghost hunting events can be scheduled year-round. For more information, visit PrincetonTourCompany.com.
Want more tales of spooky, eerie happenings around New Jersey? Then check out the rest of our Haunted NJ series:
Cape May’s Ghostly Hotspots
The Jersey Devil
The Seabrook-Wilson House (aka, The Spy House)
The Overbrook Asylum
Hero (Top) Feature Image: © Val Roy Gerischer / BestofNJ.com