Case Study: The Governor’s House, Staten Island, N.Y. – November 20th, 2009

In November of 2009, NYPS members Jason Stroming, Laura Pennace, Jimmy Bricks, and Stacey Conway investigated the Governor’s House at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center on Staten Island, N.Y.

The Governor’s House

Governor-House (1)The Governor’s House sits on the grounds of Sailor’s Snug Harbor, located on the North Shore of Staten Island. Founded in 1801 by Captain Robert Randall, it was built as an institution to care for “aged, decrepit and worn-out” seamen. It opened in 1833 and was the first home for retired merchant seamen in the history of the United States. Snug Harbor was treated as a self-contained community and was overseen by a governor. Captain Thomas Melville, a retired sea captain and brother of Moby-Dick author Herman Melville, was governor of Snug Harbor from 1867 to 1884. The facility officially closed as a home for sailors in the 1960s and it was declared a landmark in 1965, opening to the public 10 years later. It is estimated that thousands of sailors died on the grounds of Snug Harbor in its over 130-year history.

The Governor’s House as we know it today is not where the actual governors lived, however. The home for the governors was torn down years ago, and what is known today as the Governor’s House was probably where a member of the governor’s staff lived, most likely his treasurer.

The Stories

Many employees and former residents of Snug Harbor have reported strange activity across the grounds. The Governor’s House is used primarily for film shoots now, but up until fairly recently a number several different security guards lived in the attic, which was converted into an apartment, equipped with a full kitchen and bathroom, as well as a large bedroom and living area.

Multiple people have reported seeing a “Lady in White” in the northern attic window as well as moving around in the immediate area outside of the house. Those who have lived in the Governor’s House attic will not divulge too much of their experiences. Some have had no issue living there, and others have stayed only very briefly.

Our Experiences

Now, we have to be honest – we initially came to the Governor’s House not expecting to experience much. The house itself has a kind of spooky look to it, and before we stepped inside, we felt as though perhaps the overall appearance is what gave it the “haunted” feel.

We here at NYPS rely heavily on rational explanations and reasonable doubt anytime we experience something that may be paranormal. Generally, if something happens, the first thing we try to do is figure out how it could have just occurred naturally. We rarely rely on personal experiences and always want to back things up with corroborating evidence captured either visually or with audio.

We mention this because what happened at the Governor’s House that night completely threw us for a loop, and in some way or form affected a few of us for weeks afterwards.

We caught nothing strange on video. We caught a few EVPs here or there, though nothing amazing. EMF levels were normal – hovering right around the zero mark for most of the investigation.

What we did experience, more or less, was the unmistakable feeling of “get out.”

When we first set up equipment, Jimmy walked into the second floor southwestern bedroom (when you are facing the house from the front, it is the bedroom on the right hand side on the second floor). He immediately came out and called over to Laura, who was nearby positioning a digital audio recorder. Asking what she felt when she walked into that room, Laura walked in and stopped.

Jimmy said it felt like showing up at a party you’re not invited to, and everyone turns and stares at you. Laura said it felt like the room had a giant balloon in it and it was inflating, pushing her out.

The static in that particular room was different – everything in that room felt different. And unwelcoming.

Everything we experienced that night came from that room:

Jason saw a shadow person peek down from the top of the doorway. This exact event was also experienced in 2011 by a separate individual in the Governor’s House who knew nothing of Jason’s story.

Laura felt what seemed like a cold hand brush down the right side of her face.

Every team member experienced dizziness and static electricity in the Governor’s House. It was stronger on the second floor and strongest in that particular room. EMF fields were normal in the room and checked repeatedly throughout the investigation.

Interestingly, we had some spikes with our K-II meter in that bedroom as well. We’ve used the K=II meter on every investigation we’ve done and we rarely see it spike and have never been able to use it as an interactive tool (such as what’s seen on Ghost Hunters). The spikes occurred not during our EVP sessions, but whenever one team member talked about wanting to leave the house. As we were all uncomfortable in the house throughout the investigation, a few times we mentioned that we were thinking about leaving (due to the discomfort). Each time we said this the KII spiked. When we realized it was happening and tried re-creating it, we were able to.

We stayed for as long as we could, investigating for approximately five hours. For weeks afterwards several team members reported having nightmares about being in the Governor’s House. Those who had nightmares initially didn’t share this fact with anyone else on the team, making them independent events.


NYPS has returned to the Governor’s House for follow-up investigations multiple times and we have never experienced what we did that first night. “Strange feelings” don’t account for much for us as a team in terms of evidence, but the feeling that night was unmistakable and felt by everyone. We are not counting it as evidence, however.

We’ve kicked around several theories as to why we felt what we did that night. We came up with a couple that seemed feasible, though since nothing has been scientifically proven about the paranormal, our theories are based merely on our understanding of how things should work, but not necessarily on how they actually work.

Paranormally, if there were an intelligent being or spirit (intelligent meaning able to interact with people and have an understanding of what is happening) on the grounds of Snug Harbor, it would understandably want to be where no people typically are. The Governor’s House at this point was rarely used, and the house itself is semi-secluded from the rest of the grounds. If it is something that has the ability to change locations, but is tied to Snug Harbor itself, it would make sense for it to “hide” in the Governor’s House. Perhaps it was hiding for awhile, until we came in, and now perhaps it is elsewhere on the grounds.

Historically, the house is quite large, and at one point, occupied by a wealthy family. The house was built around the same time that the Spiritualist Movement was very popular. We conjectured that it was possible – though we admit there is no way to verify this – that the house may have been used for séances.

“Spiritualism was mainly a middle- and upper-class movement, and especially popular with women. U.S. spiritualists would meet in private homes for séances, at lecture halls for trance lectures, at state or national conventions, and at summer camps attended by thousands.” – From Wikipedia.

While we doubt the actual effectiveness of the séance itself (the séance being a precursor to the modern day Ouija Board), we believe that if a group of people allowed themselves to believe an entity could enter the home, that it would, in effect, be like a huge “WELCOME, GHOSTS!” sign on the house, inviting in spirits and beings (and who knows what else).

 At any rate, it was an eventful evening for us, and one I don’t think we’ll ever forget. We are grateful we’ve had the opportunity to come back to Snug Harbor many times to investigate not only the Governor’s House, but the Matron’s Cottage and Cottage B as well.