When there’s something strange in the neighborhood, who are you gonna call? Dr. Herzog — Hoboken’s OG Ghostbuster! In 1894, Hoboken resident Dr. Herzog became fed up with the myriad of ghostly allegations in Manhattan and decided to take matters into his own hands in a tale that reads like a cross between a Ghostbuster prequel and a Scooby Doo whodunit. Read on to learn of Hoboken’s OG Ghostbuster.
In March of 1894, Dr. Herzog commuted from his home at 901 Washington Street in Hoboken to his office at 208 East 14th Street, in Manhattan.
Lately, even getting to work had become more difficult — for Dr. Herzog had to battle through throngs of spectators hoping to get a spectral glimpse of a real ghost.
The ghost in question had reputably begun haunting a drug store on the northeast corner of 10th Street and 2nd Avenue, across from St. Mark’s Church, in Manhattan.
At first, the ghost was reported to simply throw down boxes and bottles in the cellar. But soon crowds began to see the spirit become physically manifest as the specter danced about the cellar, visibly “cutting capers.”
The Sun described the spooky allegations:
Everybody who wanted to could have a chance to see him, for the entrance to his cellar is outside on Tenth Street, and there is a glass door. Some people reported that they had seen him ride around on a broomstick, another that he rode on a misty deer, and another that his ghostship got angry apparently, pulled his head off and threw it into the furnace, and then sailed out over St. Mark’s steeple and disappeared.
As claims began to mount, Dr. Herzog became more and more annoyed by the preposterously ghoulish claims — for Dr. Herzog was (as The Sun described him) “a scientific man.” He decided once and for all to “raise, lay, capture, or discredit the ghosts of East Tenth Street.”
Dr. Herzog approached the druggist, Mr. Denicke, who occupied the haunted building on 10th Street and 2nd Avenue.
“I want to see the ghost…I must stay until midnight.” Dr. Herzog demanded, but the wary Mr. Denicke initially declined. Eventually, Dr. Herzog was able to persuade the druggist under the auspice of actually being a spiritualist hoping to see the ghost.
That night, Dr. Herzog was locked in the cellar at 11 o’clock, and Mr. Denicke went to bed in the store.
Sure enough, at midnight, things began to drop and smash in the cellar. A policeman brought two girls down the outside steps to listen when Dr. Herzog shouted at them: “Go back!” The girls and policeman mistook the Doctor for the ghost, and they ran away.
The following morning, when Dr. Herzog was released, he ascended the cellar stairs carrying a colossal tomcat and declared that he had uncovered the mystery. Not only had a tomcat become trapped behind a wall, but Dr. Herzog had determined that “Mr. Denicke was his own ghost.”
Dr. Herzog detailed a series of wires engineered to throw down boxes and bottles and he reproduced the phantasmic sounds by blowing in the registers of the heating pipes. The final, unidentified sounds had come from the trapped tomcat wrestling behind the lathe of a wall.
Like a Scooby Doo villain unmasked, Mr. Denicke came clean and explained that:
About three weeks ago…a man named Secora was here talking about spirits. He believed in them. I tipped the wink to a well-known theatrical manager…and he began chaffing Secora. Finally, a bet of $20 was made that Secora would not dare to pass a night in the cellar. Secora took the bet.
A $20 bet in 1894 was no small wager — amounting to roughly $715 in today’s currency. When it looked like Secora might win the bet, Mr. Denicke pulled the trip cord, and down fell the boxes and bottles as Secora ran away and Mr. Denicke won the wager.
When asked about the ghost, Denicke said: “Cats, I guess,” and added a wink, “I sleep here every night, but the ghosts don’t bother me.”
Reports of Dr. Herzog’s ghost-busting ran as far away as San Francisco and Sydney, Australia. In recognition of Dr. Herzog’s international ghost-busting celebrity, perhaps Hoboken should rename 901 Washington Street to “Ghostbusters HQ?”