An Investigation of the Paranormal at the Museum

For many, thinking about ghosts and spiritual entities isn’t just a seasonal thing, it is a year-round activity. This past summer we were contacted by Ron Hilgers and Bradley Maurer who wanted to conduct a paranormal investigation at the Museum.

For three hours, starting at 9pm, Director of Education and Public Programs, Jennifer Patton, led them and their team of investigators around our galleries, offices, and storage spaces, to see what they could find. During the investigation, nothing came close to leaving a streak of white in Jennifer’s hair, but by the end of the night, there were definitely some moments that had no rational explanation. How did a stationary video camera turn off on its own when fresh batteries were just put in? Was it just coincidence that a voice from a spirit box immediately responded to our questions of what year it was?

This past month, the Museum staff finally listened to the audio recordings Ron and Bradley had analyzed and it seems that Fraunces Tavern holds a fair amount of paranormal activity within its walls. Although not apparent to the human eye or ear, the investigation captured some intriguing EVPs and mysterious EMF readings.

So why would a place like Fraunces Tavern hold this kind of phenomena? When it comes to older buildings, Ron believes that more paranormal activity are likely to occur due to their history over time. For Fraunces Tavern specifically, the EVPs suggest that 54 Pearl Street is a place that entities enjoyed visiting during their lifetime and either left a residual presence or is still a present entity that responded directly to our questions. Ron, who has been investigating the paranormal for over 20 years, is very interested in coming back to do further investigation in the Long Room. We’re excited to find out what else could be revealed during their next visit!

You be the judge of whether or not ghosts or spirits of the past linger in the Museum.

Are you dead or alive?


What year is it? (Jennifer says that she heard the response more clearly when she was there that night than in this clip.)


I kill. I pray.


A clip not from the spirit box. When questioning the paranormal, it was dead silent. But when we listened to the audio afterwards, there’s tapping that we definitely didn’t make or hear ourselves. What do you think we heard?


Another clip not from the spirit box, asking about the British occupation in the city. Quietly, somebody or something says, “It was awful…” 


The man walking through the gallery is an investigator. As soon as he leaves the empty gallery, the lights go out without any explanation and come back on a couple minutes later.


Ron Hilgers can be contacted at

“Rating the Attic: A Crowdsourced Exhibit”


August 23rd, 2013 to August 29th, 2014

With the leadership of Columbia graduate student (Museum Anthropology) and former Museum intern, Josh Levine, this exhibit debuts the Museum’s maiden voyage into the world of crowdsourcing. It is  an experiment in aesthetics. Twenty one objects were chosen from the Museum’s collection and put to an online vote using After four weeks of voting, 5547 votes were received! Exhibited in the Loeb Gallery are the top ten pieces, which includes a 1774 mezzotint, A New Method of Macarony Making that depicts the tar and feathering of the colonial Customs Officials.


“William Floyd’s House of Revolution” Exhibit


Opening July 4th: “William Floyd’s House of Revolution”

William Floyd - Logo 1 Version 2

This photographic exhibit debuts the first artistic collection documenting the Old Mastic House, which is part of the Fire Island National Seashore on Long Island and was the home of William Floyd, an American revolutionary and signer of the Declaration of Independence.  Together with fellow rebels like George Washington, Floyd served in the first Continental Congress in 1774.  His great grandson was Frederick Tallmadge, the second president of the Sons of the Revolution which owns and operates Fraunces Tavern, and the grandson of Washington’s famous spymaster Benjamin Tallmadge.


For Floyd, it was so dangerous to be on Long Island – a time when it was militarily occupied by the British – that he and his family fled to Connecticut.  The British took over Old Mastic House and used it as a barracks for their troops.  The Floyds returned seven years later and restored the plundered homestead where he later entertained visits from fellow rebels (and Presidents) like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.


Remarkably, Old Mastic House was continuously occupied by Floyd’s descendants up until 1976 when it was donated to the National Park Service.  For over two centuries, the house itself marked America’s rise from a colony to a nascent republic developing its place in world politics and culture.  Indeed, the house grew with new rooms as the nation expanded with new states.  And like America’s motto – e pluribus unum – the house stands as one unified historical home amongst many evolving styles in architecture, furnishings, design and technology.


In 2013, the National Park Service commissioned New York artist, Xiomáro (pronounced SEE-oh-MAH-ro), to create the photographic collection of the 25 room homestead.  Xiomáro uses photography to interpret historical sites – particularly those within the National Park Service – where iconic American figures lived and worked to pursue their vision.  He is a Visiting Artist at Weir Farm National Historic Site and his work has been exhibited nationally.  “My goal is that, after seeing these collections, viewers will feel compelled to visit the parks where they, too, can examine these leaders and explore the ideas that shaped our culture.”  His collections can be seen and purchased at his website: — a free souvenir print can be requested at the site.

This exhibit will run from July 4th to January 1st, 2014.