Montclair is a beautiful, peaceful town full of quiet streets and a pleasant atmosphere, so it’s hard to imagine it as a place of haunted houses and spooky ghost stories. But like any old town with history and local legends, we have our own collection of haunted locations. Did you know that Montclair State University is considered one of the country’s most haunted colleges? Or that Tierney’s is home to what is deemed “The Death Chair?” Many of the town’s rumored hauntings also happen in the privacy of many historic homes. Read on to explore all the haunted history that Montclair has to offer.
The Ghosts in Tierney’s Tavern
The history of the Montclair area where Tierney’s Tavern is located goes back to the time of the Lenape Indians who called this region home. In the late 1600s, Dutch and English settlers moved into what was then known as “Frog Hollow.” The rich farmlands attracted immigrant families from all over Europe, including the Tierney family, who once farmed the land in this site.
Tierney’s originated in the 1920s as a candy store across the street from the now well-known tavern at 137 Valley Road. When Prohibition began to wind down in the 1930s, Edward and Frank Tierney, two enterprising Irish brothers, procured a license to sell “low alcohol” beer, less than 3.2% alcohol content. By 1934, the Tierney brothers had been granted a permanent liquor license and soon moved to the current location. Thus began the Tierney’s Tavern that Montclair locals know and love.
It is said this ripe history is behind the hauntings at Tierney’s, many of which happen in the bar’s “after hours.” Many patrons have heard voices and whispers. Bartenders have stories of footsteps above them on the second floor when the building is empty of customers. Reports also include the distinct tinging sounds of bottle caps hitting the walls, though none are ever retrieved by staff, and several employees have witnessed seeing a dark shadow figure in the downstairs bar.
Tierney’s is home to what Weird NJ has dubbed “The Death Chair” because of Finn Tracey’s unfortunate heart attack, which resulted in his death. He was a regular who sat in the same seat near the tavern’s jukebox.
In 2013 Beaufort Paranormal did an investigation of Tierney’s. Watch the whole investigation – watch here.
The old Irish pub fully embraces its haunted history and has been open to visitors and ghost hunting investigations. It wouldn’t be a bad place to spend Halloween night, just pull up a chair and ask the bartender.
Montclair State University’s Haunted Dorm
Hawks Crossing is one of MSU’s oldest college dorms. It is located on the upper slope of Clove Road and has been the site of local legends and hauntings since the beginning. It was built in the 1970s under its previous name of the Clove Road Apartments, Hawks Crossing was given a facelift in 2019 to modernize the buildings. But don’t be fooled: this unremarkable dormitory is rumored to have been built on a Native American burial ground. Though this has yet to be proven, there is evidence of Native artifacts found on campus and from former history professor Thomas Moore “that the land had once been inhabited by the Lenape branch of the Delaware Tribe.”
Many of the students who have lived in the dorm believe it to be haunted, describing unaccountable noises, lights dimming and flickering without explanation, and shaking of doors and cabinets.
Watch video Interviews of MSU students from Wired NJ here.
Other Haunted stories on the MSU campus via Quora:
“My freshman year, I was dorming in Freeman. The second I walked in, something was off, but I shrugged it off. On Friday nights, my roommate would play video games with his friends down the hall, and I would stay in to watch reruns of Living Single. I would get the vibe that a muscular man who was at least 6′3 wearing Native clothing was glaring at me. I would ignore it but it was every time I was alone. So I knew I wasn’t going crazy. Also, at The Village, if something breaks and nobody knows how, the residents don’t get charged because it’s so common. When I was a freshman, a senior told me how her friend saw a Native American man staring at her while she was sleeping, the shower door being smashed to pieces while all the residents were sleeping, doors closing, things being misplaced, a cold breeze even if the window is closed, etc.… the school is built on a Native American burial ground, and there’s a cemetery across from the campus.”
“I have had a few experiences of the paranormal kind during my time here at MSU. Freshman year, in Bohn Hall, I lived on the 12th floor, and my roommate and I were about to go to sleep when we heard creaking as if a door was opening across the room. She had locked her wardrobe closet because the door would never close. We ignored it the first time, but when we heard the creaking a second and third time, we both sat up and realized the closet door had opened all by itself. My second experience was also in Bohn Hall during my freshman year. My friends and I were watching a movie when all of a sudden we heard knocking on the window. Mind you, I was still living on the 12th floor. So, why and how would there be knocking ON THE WINDOW when we were that high off of the ground. Since then, I have not experienced anything out of the ordinary; however, some of the Weird New Jersey magazines have many more ghost stories that took place in other buildings across campus.”
For more haunted MSU accounts, see here.
Montclair Haunted Homes – Stories From Locals
When asked via Facebook if any Montclair locals had stories of hauntings in their own houses, there was a consensus that some of the old homes in town had strange happenings. What follows are a few of our favorite stories.
“Our house ghost, Harold, likes to open latched cupboards, knock paintings off the walls, and turn on the basement lights. My cat likes to hang out with him in the basement and in the parlor (where the cupboards that randomly open are located). Our house was built in the 1700s, and Harold (or another ghost?) is documented in a chapter of a history book that discusses the house.”
“I totally had a ghost when we moved in! We called him the Marlboro man. He smoked and never came off the 3rd floor! We saw shadows. Never came past the stairs down the 3rd floor. My husband would come home and ask me if I’ve been smoking.”
“Our first cat used to suddenly stop what he was doing and stare at something that no one else could see. We always joked that he was looking at a ghost. Sometimes there was a sudden cold draft in the room when that happened. Our nanny claims she saw a lady dressed in 19th-century clothes once. Our house was built in 1879. I have never been scared in our house. I feel like there is a good presence there. When I saw our house for the first time, I immediately felt safe and at home. I walk around at night with the lights off. I think the spirit of the house is grateful, that we have cared for the house with great love for the past decades. (And if anyone after 2070 ever makes an open floorplan out of our house, or paints it pink and gray, I’ll come back and haunt them).”
“We were redoing our bathroom and from a hole on the ceiling falls the first edition of “Jo’s Boys” signed by [Louisa May] Alcott herself (I have the book for proof). I know why this might have happened – there is apparently a reasonable explanation- but I do also believe in spirits.”
“Man, I never talk about what we went through. Had a team cleanse this house, it was bad.”
“We bought our house four years ago, and it was built in 1957. Before we moved in, we hired a painting company to strip all the wallpaper off the wall and repaint it. This portrait was over the mantle behind the wallpaper. I kind of joke that it looks like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo, but secretly it gave me the spooks.”
“[The] First week in our new house, built in 1892, I dreamt that a woman came to our front door, tried to open it but couldn’t. She stood there for a while, puzzled. She couldn’t understand why she couldn’t get into her own house. Then she left. I think about her a lot…”
So, what about your own home or apartment in Montclair? Do you have a spooky story to share? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.