Four Years Strong, Nosferatu Remains a Favorite October Tradition

By Greg Caggiano, AHHS Board Member

When our October events committee decided to expand spooky programming throughout the entire month four years ago (rather than just the last two weekends), we thought we would begin with a movie. But it could not be something ordinary. We thought why not attempt a screening of the silent classic Nosferatu, but with live musical accompaniment? This would be easier said than done. Who would provide the music? We were fortunate to have so many talented musicians at our disposal thanks to our monthly "Music at the Mansion" series. Following a unique performance featuring instruments not in the norm in the summer of 2016, I approached Cody McCorry (of Thank You Scientist and We Used to Cut the Grass) to see if he would take on the task of scoring the 90 minute horror film. He enthusiastically agreed.


Along with his friends, fellow band-mates, and also regulars of our music series (Daimon Alexandrius, Jon Francis, Mike Noordzy, Ben Karas, and Kevin Grossman), they attempted the herculean task of playing 90 straight minutes of music in synchronization with what was seen on the screen. Instruments featured aside from the usual violin, percussion, and keyboard included a theramin, accordion, guitarviol, mellotron, and saw and bass (among others). The first three years of performances also included a visit from A.J. Merlino, who would drive in from Reading, PA with his massive antique cimbalom (a type of concert dulcimer weighing hundreds of pounds that had to be loaded onto a pickup truck) which added to the spookiness. 

The first year sold out before we could blink. We had only one showing. It was met with rave reviews. The feedback was so overwhelming that we had to repeat it the next year and add a second midnight. The first screening of the second year also sold out, and while the midnight one did not, it attracted a rather large group of die-hards who wanted the rare opportunity of seeing such a film in the haunted ambiance of the Strauss Mansion Museum at the stroke of midnight. The next two years, we maintained the two showings, but made them a little earlier, such as at 7 and 10 PM.


Even four years later, they continue to sell out. Now, in 2019, we attracted our largest combined audience across two sold out shows. Why has it been so popular? It could be that Nosferatu is becoming the preeminent early October tradition in our area. People know about it and expect it. They start asking about it months in advance. The other reason is that it attracts repeat customers because Cody changes the lively score every year. It is amazing to hear the variations that he and his band-mates come up with.

The first year we tried this, following a standing-ovation performance, I asked Cody how much preparation went into scoring this silent film. He responded that he watched it only once, took detailed notes about the scenes and timing, and told the others to follow his lead. For someone such as myself who is not musically inclined whatsoever, I found this astounding— a real mark of talent. These guys are true pros, and we are reminded of this every year. We are grateful that they keep wanting to come back! 

Nosferatu kicks off our October schedule annually. It also helps us with much-needed fundraising for the Strauss Mansion Museum. You can expect it back again in 2020. Just do not wait to register once we announce it, because it will surely sell out yet again.

I would like to thank the following people for making Nosferatu possible: Sponsors Kunya Siam Thai Restaurant, the Blue Bay Inn, Carmen and Doug Craner, and Atlantic Cinemas (for providing free popcorn to our guests). Musicians Cody McCorry, Daimon Alexandrius, Jon Francis, Ben Karas, Kevin Grossman, and Mike Noordzy. To Audra Mariel and Ken Frantz for providing food and refreshments to the volunteers and musicians. Lastly, to Lou Fligor, Patty Bickauskas, Lynne Petillo, and Patrick Osborn for their help behind the scenes.

Is the Strauss Mansion Museum Haunted?

By Greg Caggiano, AHHS Board Member

That is the question I was left pondering when my team and I finished our first paranormal investigation of the Strauss Mansion Museum back in August of 2013. It was a quiet night with only limited experiences. Despite this now-126-year-old building having everything you could want in a “haunted house”, I was still skeptical. In my first ever visit a month before that, I walked into the Tower Room on the third floor with one of my devices and the word “tower” came up on the screen. But that could have been a coincidence, right? All I knew was that I wanted to return to see if this place was truly haunted.

By October of 2013, I had become a volunteer, participating in the annual lantern tour. Then in January of 2014, I officially joined the board of directors. One of the first ideas I had was to expand our paranormal programming throughout the year and not just be limited to October. Along with co-board members and friends, we founded a new group and YouTube web-series called Ghosts on the Coast. Joanne Dellosso, Roy Dellosso, Lou Fligor, and myself became the new committee which our current acting-president Ken Frantz nicknamed “Greg’s Ghost Adventures”. 

On tap in that first year was a public paranormal investigation fundraiser for the spring. I had experience with such events at a different museum I worked at previously. This would be a limited event where Joanne and I would give a brief lecture on ghost hunting, Roy and Lou would give the group a history tour of the museum, and then we would allow people to explore and investigate either on their own or with us. This event became so popular that we had to add two more nights and also private group investigations for people who wanted to come back with their families. We wanted to make the Strauss Mansion accessible to all who dared investigate it. 

It was during this time that I discovered the answer to my initial question. After hearing countless stories of past experiences from others, I had some of my own. They started to mount, and rather alarmingly so. That first year was abnormally active. As a seasoned investigator who knows that 90% of paranormal investigations yield little to no results, we had one thing after another happen. There were disembodied voices, shadows moving, footsteps on upstairs floors when we knew no one was above us, items being moved around on their own (including a piece of furniture dragged several feet), and perhaps most shockingly, a picture frame flying off the wall in the parlor in front of 40 people in mid-October 2014 when I was giving a lecture on our evidence findings. 

The identity of a spirit we communicated with quite frequently was learned. His name was Bob and he lived in a third floor apartment back in the 1970’s when the mansion was being used as unsanctioned low-income apartments. He told us he died in the bathroom in that apartment and also a little about himself, such as a love for Bob Dylan and rock music. As it happens, shortly after finding this information out, we discovered his name and a famous lyric from one of Dylan’s songs written in graffiti on one of the walls in the apartment. It had previously been hidden by a stack of boxes and was unknown to us.

We conducted seances using a Victorian wine glass method (I want to point out that none of us are psychic), added more gadgets to our arsenal, and gained more experiences with each investigation, both the public ones and private for ourselves to collect stories to share at future events. By that same fall, I had already written a book about the strange goings-on at the museum which is available in our gift shop (100% of the proceeds benefit the AHHS), but the best of all experiences were still to come.

Following an intense investigation on Halloween night 2014 which had also followed one of our lantern tour events, we had our most chilling encounter. Available on YouTube for your viewing (strong language warning!) is a shadow captured moving around in the second-floor bathroom window. This evidence remains our best visual to date and despite constant efforts to debunk and re-stage what happened, we have yet to garner the same results, indicating it was genuine paranormal activity. Subsequent episodes offering explanations and insight prove this incident more bizarre than we originally thought. It may be humorous for you to hear how unnerved we are. The night was simply one for the ages between a seance at midnight and a slow build-up of other events that month, including the picture frame flying down two weeks earlier. In more than 150 videos spanning many locations, there is only one where we are visibly scared, and it was at the Strauss Mansion.

As I said, 2014 was an abnormal year. You can learn of more experiences by coming on one of our ghost tours (currently sold out for October 2019 but we have a waiting list) or public investigations we offer throughout the year. Since that time, paranormal activity has been steady in the museum, though there are periods of dormancy. I always remind people that no matter how haunted a location may be, we cannot just direct the spirits to come out whenever we want. Sometimes, it is when you least expect it. Just last year, when I was filming a Vlog episode in the library with another one of our co-investigators Patrick Osborn, a shadow was seen moving on the bookcase behind us. Unknown at the time, it was pointed out to us by a viewer on YouTube. 

We continue to encounter new spirits and learn of new identities. When our newest team member Patty Bickauskas joined Ghosts on the Coast a couple of years ago, she brought with her a focus on EVP recordings, which we previously put aside in favor of using a radio communication device called the SB-7 “Spirit Box”. Many of her excellent recordings from 2016 to date are available on YouTube along with a multitude of videos featuring the Strauss Mansion. I invite you to check them out and see and hear for yourself.

Our ghost hunting group is not affiliated with the Atlantic Highlands Historical Society, but we work together closely for fundraising events. Since 2014, I estimate we have raised more than $25,000. All of our team members are either board members or active volunteers. We love the ghost hunting, but we love and appreciate the history more. As a historian, I have long felt that a study of the paranormal goes hand-in with a study of history, because if done right, it can give us a glimpse into the past. The Strauss Mansion is open on Sundays from 1-4 PM from April through December and hosts a wide-range of events every month. Please come for a visit. You never know who — or what— you might encounter. 

Greg Caggiano has served on the board of directors of the AHHS since 2014. He is an instructor at Brookdale Community College where he lectures on a variety of historical topics including the American Civil War, the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, witchcraft and the inquisition, the history of liquor, Prohibition on the Jersey Shore, and New Jersey legends and folklore. He also works as a field guide for Brookdale’s Ocean Institute on Sandy Hook, which focuses on local marine life, maritime history, and the history of Fort Hancock.

The Baseball Game of the Century...the 19th Century

By Greg Caggiano, AHHS Board Member

Members of the Monmouth Furnace

Members of the Monmouth Furnace

On a muggy Saturday afternoon, the home team Monmouth Furnace fell to the Hoboken 9 by a score of 19-7 in a full nine inning “base ball” game at Fireman’s Field in Atlantic Highlands. The high-scoring affair was witnessed by a lively crowd who never had a shortage of entertaining plays at their disposal. 

Under the sometimes sweltering August sun, the Furnace looked to be “cooler” in their white uniforms, adorned with a black cravat. The Hoboken 9, meanwhile, were dashing in their black pants and white shirts with a blazing-red “H” patch pinned to their chests. 


Hoboken jumped ahead early with three “tallies” (runs) in the top of the first inning and never looked back. While the Furnace countered with two in the bottom half of the inning and fought hard all game, they were not able to overcome their adversaries, who were a bit more fleet of foot. Hoboken’s lead of 6-5 after two was the closest the Furnace would come to tying the game. 

Both teams exhibited exceptional gentlemanly conduct towards one another. There was plenty of joking, chatter, and complimenting that carried on throughout. The umpire, in full coat and tails and top hat called the game from beside the plate. With most balls being put in play, there were not many “warnings” issued, which was lingo for “balls and strikes” at the time. 


The Furnace rallied for two tallies in the sixth inning to cut Hoboken’s lead to only four. However, the frame ended with a sparkling double-play turned by the boys of the “9”. They then tacked on eight more tallies over the next three innings to close out the contest. The teams then shook hands and posed for photographs. Each captain also addressed and congratulated each other, including Monmouth’s captain Russ McIver noting that Hoboken was the first opponent they ever faced many years ago and still had not beaten them. Monmouth did however win last year’s Atlantic Highlands match 10-6 over the Elizabeth Resolutes. 

Historical Society board member and organizer of this event, Alice Kupper, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Charlie Clark provided musical accompaniment and Michael O’Keefe served as the emcee, keeping the crowd entertained and informed of the score. Pre-game children’s activities for prizes overseen by Patty Bickauskas and Greg Caggiano included a sack race, water balloon toss, and corn hole. A basket raffle, assembled by Carmen Craner, was also held benefiting the Society with winners announced following the completion of the ninth inning.

Box Score:

Hoboken        3 3 1 1 1 2 2 3 3    19

Monmouth      2 3 0 0 0 2 0 0 0     7

A View from the Strauss Mansion

By Greg Caggiano, AHHS Board Member

Partly visible from the second floor window of the Strauss Mansion is the other "summer cottage" on the hillside built by the architect/builder team of Solomon Cohen and Adolph Huntera. This one dates three years earlier to 1890 and was named "Maple Lawn" by its original owner Michael Montanye.


Like Adolph Strauss, he was a businessman who worked on 49th street in New York City and would have traveled here via the ferry with a staff of servants. Montanye and Strauss were two of many "49ers" who called the hills of Atlantic Highlands home, at least in the summer.


Click here for more information about Maple Lawn.

Babe Ruth and Baseball in Atlantic Highlands

By Greg Caggiano, AHHS Board Member

On October 26, 1926, an exhibition baseball game was held at a ballfield in Atlantic Highlands off of Valley Drive. The home team was the Highlanders. The opposition was a visiting team of major league stars, retirees, and hopefuls, which would “barnstorm” around the country in their off-season. While crowds were sure to gather at any display of America’s national past time involving stars, this occasion was different. The pitcher for the opposition tossed three innings, allowing three runs. There was nothing standout about that, but in the batter’s box, he went four for five with two homeruns. The crowd went wild as he circled the basepaths. And why not? For that man was none other than Babe Ruth.

The Jersey Shore has a rich baseball tradition. So much so that Ruth participated in a contest in Bradley Beach less than two weeks before coming to Atlantic Highlands. The following year, he played a game in Asbury Park. Our town alone had two baseball teams, the Highlanders and the Alerts, the latter of which developed future major leaguer Sterling “Dutch” Stryker. He was the most prominent resident of Atlantic Highlands to make it to the big leagues. There, his career was short-lived, as he pitched in only 20 games over two seasons with the Boston Braves and Brooklyn Robins, winning three. His minor league career was more extensive, as he went a respectable 113-97 in 348 professional games.

Stryker participated in the Ruth showcase, agreeing to pitch three innings for the Highlanders. The other two pitchers to finish out the game were future Hall-of-Famers Waite Hoyt and Herb Pennock. Such a concentration of star power was not unheard of in Atlantic Highlands. While not sports-related, this was right after an era of the town’s history that saw its use as a playland and summer getaway for New York City’s biggest and brightest citizens and stars, including world-famous Shakespearean actor Robert Mantell and Fritz Leiber Sr.

While someone of Ruth’s magnitude would garner considerable attention if visiting a small town like Atlantic Highlands today, we must consider the era of such an event. Like today with entities such as the paparazzi, superstars had every move they made observed and made public. When it came time for the wealthy to arrive at their summer homes, notices were published in local papers telling of how many suitcases they arrived with and what they were wearing. The same can be said of Babe Ruth in his arrival, as there is a newspaper article devoted entirely to him stopping his car to get gas at a station in Eatontown. There, he was mobbed by fans who just wanted to catch a glimpse of baseball’s greatest slugger.

Sterling “Dutch” Stryker

Sterling “Dutch” Stryker

The exploits of Stryker featured well in local papers. When he pitched in the major leagues, his hometown made sure to give him some ink. As he traveled the country, bouncing between the majors and minors, the love could be felt. He was one of the “leading semi-pro pitchers in North America” commented one reporter, and a “knuckleball specialist” by another. Even when he retired, his pursuance of a career as an insurance salesman was reported on. This was a time before most athletes of all sports would be financially set for the remainder of their lives following their careers. In some instances, players even had a job they worked in the off-season to make ends meet.

Stryker was involved in another major exhibition game in town. Years earlier, the Alerts hosted stars from the then-New York Giants, Chicago Cubs, and New York Yankees. The papers fail to mention which pros were involved.

But all roads continue to lead back to Babe Ruth. In just one single afternoon, he managed to take the small, unassuming (at least in a professional sports sense) town of Atlantic Highlands and turn it into a baseball mecca. A game involving only Herb Pennock would have been newsworthy. The same could be said of Waite Hoyt. But both of them in addition to Babe Ruth? Now, that is just legendary.

Perhaps more importantly than the game itself was a fostering of interest with the area’s children. A talk given by Babe Ruth to the students of the local elementary school was also scheduled. However, there are conflicting reports on when this actually happened. One newspaper notes that the talk was supposed to happen before the game, with Ruth arriving at 1:30 PM that day. Another makes mention of the talk seeming to be happening after the game, noting how the contest ran late. Ruth would then have needed to make a mad dash to the school after-hours.

In any case, this was a moment for all involved to remember for the rest of their lives. With the social media, globalization, and connectedness we have today, it is perhaps hard to imagine the sheer astonishment such an event would have created. Babe Ruth, the singular power hitter figure of his day, the man who every boy who picked up a baseball bat wanted to be, was in Atlantic Highlands. The game between “Ruth and the Stars” and the Highlanders ended in a 7-7 tie. This was due to a lack of light at a time when baseball was played only during the day because stadiums and fields were not electrified yet.

The only known photograph of the baseball field in Atlantic Highlands.

The only known photograph of the baseball field in Atlantic Highlands.

The immediate, practical result of this game was the manager of the Highlanders, Herbert H. Hunter, personally offering Ruth $25,000 (the equivalent of almost $350,000 today) to accompany him with a team of stars to tour the country the following year and do just what they did in Atlantic Highlands, Bradley Beach, and Asbury Park. While such tours continued for Ruth and others like him, there is no record if Hunter was his manager.

For the town of Atlantic Highlands, life went on. But it is incredible to imagine the effect this had on the common fan. Before televisions, and even before radios were commonplace, the only way to follow a team was to read the paper or go to a game personally. This was more difficult back then. Here he was, the mythical Babe Ruth in our town. Think of the baseball players who were born that day, who got to witness the awesome, unequivocal power of this ballplayer. The dreamers whose longings became reality. The stories which were told generation after generation. More than 90 years later, there is still cause to write about it: the single, solitary afternoon that Babe Ruth came to Atlantic Highlands.