Following my earlier post that discussed Charles Dove and his ghost-thwarting league of Edwardian gentlemen, I was delighted to stumble upon a marvellous case of transatlantic parallel evolution. Four years prior to the founding of the English Society for the Extermination of Ghosts, the more cumbersomely titled The Brooklyn Society for the Extermination of Ghosts and Dispelling of Haunted House Illusions was established in New York. The key difference between the two societies, however, was the leaning of the Brooklyn agency towards fraud-busting and the considerably more cogent induction of its members!
The Times, May 21, 1905 .—
The spectres within a radius of a hundred miles of New York might as well quit, and haunted houses still the restless spirits that moan at midnight. Out of Brooklyn has originated the society which is to put an end to belief in ghosts and haunted houses. Its name is almost enough to do the work— The Brooklyn Society for the Extermination of Ghosts and Dispelling of Haunted House Illusions. After having spent several nights in an old Colonial house on Rockaway Road, in the outskirts of Jamaica Bay, the members of the society are about to give their attention to the house in Woodside, Long Island, in which Martin Thorn and Mrs. Nack killed Guldensuppe a few years ago.
The only difficulty the society has encountered so far is the shortage of haunted houses. Letters have been written to real estate dealers in various towns in New-Jersey, Westchester and further up the Hudson, offering to rent all the haunted houses offered. The society has just got track of one in New-Brunswick, which promises some exciting nights.
The membership of the society includes thirty young men between the ages of seventeen and twenty-three, who live in the Bedford district of Brooklyn. None of them believe in ghosts, and they are willing to spend their time and money bringing other people to their way of thinking. If their theories should prove ill founded and a ghost should really confront them, they are prepared to make immediate capture. Every mother’s son of them has proved his bravery and courage by facing some “terrible terror” without flinching. On their ghost watches they parry revolvers and wear dark lanterns.
“We have already put one haunted house out of business,” said the president of the society, William Offerman of No. 277 Jefferson-ave, Brooklyn, yesterday afternoon to a Tribune reporter. The afternoon, it may be mentioned, is the only time one is sure of finding the ghost hunters, for their nights are otherwise occupied.
“It was an old Colonial house In Jamaica Bay, as spooky as you could find anywhere,” continued the youth who knows no fear. “The story goes that a butcher took his life with a razor in one of the upper rooms. People will not live in the house, because they said the butcher came back every night and cut his throat over again. We camped in the suicide room every night for a week, staying up until long after midnight, but there was never a sign of a ghost.
“The last few nights we tried out some fellows who wanted to join the society. A skeleton in the dark hall, rigged up on wires, with electric lights for eyes, was enough to demonstrate that one young man was unfit for membership. He ran all the way back to Jamaica before we could stop him. The other officers of the society are Arthur Pierson, No. 101 McDonough-st., vice- president; Arthur Weygant, No. 645 Bedford-ave., treasurer; Munroe Gallon, secretary., The treasurer, it is said, has plenty of funds to pay rent for the summer on all haunted houses that are offered!