Author and historian Kerriann Flanagan Brosky finds that, today, more people believe in ghosts than not.
“We are all at different stages in our journey and if it’s not your time to believe, it’s not your time,” she said.
A rather succinct answer for nonbelievers, but Flanagan Brosky is too busy investigating paranormal behavior and writing books about it to worry about skeptics.
She has just released her third book of ghost stories, “Historic Haunts of Long Island: Ghosts and Legends from the Gold Coast to Montauk Point.” The book, which includes an investigation of three historic buildings on the Cutchogue Village Green, features 20 of the best ghost stories from her two previous books, plus 10 brand-new ones.
“The idea behind these books is to promote history first,” Flanagan Brosky said. “I always say I’m a historian first and a ghost investigator second. I want to focus on places that are still around, that people can visit with the hope of preserving them.”
These days, Flanagan Brosky does most of her investigating with medium and paranormal investigator Joe Giaquinto, who helped her examine the Cutchogue site.
THE OLD SCHOOLHOUSE, CUTCHOGUE
The first location they visited was the Old Schoolhouse, built in 1840. Here they used a “ghost box,” which Flanagan Brosky described as a transistor radio manipulated to stream through stations. Using the radio’s energy, spirits pull words from stations to create a sentence. She said that’s how Giaquinto channeled someone by the name of Mr. Travis, who they believed once taught at the school.
“Joe asked the spirit how long he was there,” said Flanagan Brosky. “The spirit said the number 5, but is this place haunted? No, it’s not rumored to have a ghost.”
THE OLD HOUSE, CUTCHOGUE
A second building, the Old House, built in 1649, turned up only pictures of orbs, or round balls of light seen in photographs. Flanagan Brosky believes orbs are dead people who are connected in some way to us or to places.
“We all travel with our own orbs or spirit bands,” she explained. “I once photographed the whale room at the Museum of Natural History and there were thousands of orbs. They were people connected to the people visiting the museum.”
WICKHAM HOUSE, CUTCHOGUE
The last investigation took place at the Wickham House, built in 1704 and not to be confused with the Wickham Farmhouse. It has been described as being the most active at the Cutchogue site and employees there have reported slamming doors and moving shutters, as well as a strong sense of being watched.
“There was a sense by many that it was the spirit of a woman,” said Flanagan Brosky. “Since they did renovations on the house it has calmed down. Many times, construction can create activity if there is a ghost in the house. There’s definitely energy there, nothing horrible or scary, just stuff that sensitive people may pick up on.”
A more gruesome North Fork story sometimes associated with the occult concerns the Wickham Farm murders. In 1854 James Wickham and his wife, Frances, were murdered in their bedroom by a disgruntled former employee wielding an ax. He was eventually caught and hanged for the crime. The farm on Main Road in Cutchogue is still owned and operated by the Wickham family and there has been speculation that it is haunted. Flanagan Brosky wrote about the case in one of her earlier books.
“I interviewed owner Tom Wickham and he had not experienced anything,” she said. “It could be more of a legend due to what happened, because the current family has not experienced anything.”
But that wouldn’t preclude her from including it in her collection.
“Our goal is not to prove or disprove,” said Flanagan Brosky. “Our goal is to put the information out there and let the reader decide what they want to believe.”
SYLVESTER MANOR, SHELTER ISLAND
Another East End location that’s been associated with stories of the paranormal is Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island. One tale claims that Captain Kidd, a rumored pirate, murdered two shipmates on the premises, who some say now haunt the grounds.
“Captain Kidd was genuinely involved with Sylvester Manor,” explained Maura Doyle, the manor’s historic preservation coordinator. “He took goods from the manor to market and would take a consignment fee for doing this.”
Another more mythic tale involves the devil on the East End. The story claims there are three large stones on the East End: one in Orient, another in Montauk and the third at Sylvester Manor. All three stones bear a similar mark or depression that appears to be a footprint. According to the story, God forced the devil out of Long Island and satan left by taking three giant steps — in Orient, on Shelter Island and finally in Montauk — before disappearing into the ocean.
“I found out recently that the stone from Orient is now at the Brooklyn Museum. I’d like to find out if that’s true,” said Doyle. “Ours is still here out by the windmill.”
“Historic Haunts of Long Island: Ghosts and Legends from the Gold Coast to Montauk Point” is available in stores and at Amazon.com. For more information visit kerriannflanaganbrosky.com.
This story was originally published on October 20, 2015. Flanagan Brosky and Giaquinto will speak Sunday, Oct. 23, at 3 p.m. at the Shelter Island Historical Society at 16 Ferry Road, Shelter Island.