It turns out the Jersey Shore is home to more than sun, sand and sea: it’s also home to tons of spirits. The Paranormal Museum in Asbury Park shows off all the spooks (well, most of them anyway) the shore has to offer.
The museum is on Asbury Park’s main drag and located on the second floor above Paranormal Books and Curiosities, a bookstore and shop that’s been around since 2008 and is stocked with volumes on everything from witchcraft to astral projection to ghost pirates, plus incense, talismans, crystals and other occult tools.
To see it, you’ll have to snag tix in advance online for a scheduled guided tour. These run Saturdays and Sundays at 12:30, 2 and 3 pm (you can call to schedule a private tour, too). If you manage to squeeze in a date night with the kids, test your bravery at Night at the Paranormal Museum, a special guided candlelit tour that happens after the shop and museum close for the night. These are only occasionally scheduled, so keep an eye on the calendar (this month’s is on October 18).
There’s a lot to explore once you’re there, and you’ll get all the deets from an enthusiastic local guide. Learn the legend of the Jersey Devil upon entering, and take in the many drawings of the winged beast that haunts our home state’s Pine Barrens. Ask about the stained glass window that you’ll spy to your right upon entering the tour: it sometimes gives off a strange yellow glow only some can see, despite having no light source.
Head upstairs to come face to face with artifact-based exhibits like Famous Haunts of the United States of America, where you’ll cover ground from the Salem Witch Trials to the Civil War (and why President Lincoln might’ve had a premonition about his own death); Haunted Dolls, all of which were donated by families who no longer felt comfortable having the toys in their homes; the Ouija Wall, full of boards that came to the museum from original owners that felt unsafe having them (there’s even one hand-drawn board that was made by a little girl who, of course, scared her mother half to death when she came upon her DIY creation) and the Ritual and Occult section, which the museum advises not everyone enter due to the overwhelming negative energy some feel from some of the artifacts.
You’ll also find famous relics and historical objects, most notably the Singing Couch, which has the positive energy and lovely singing voice of a woman passed (ask to listen to a recording of her singing!), and a prison door from Ohio State Penitentiary, where more than 300 men burned alive in 1930 after guards abandoned them during a fire (this is the inciting incident for prisons making cell doors open all at once automatically rather than individually and manually).
After your museum tour, explore the bookshop downstairs. You can even buy your own ghost hunting equipment to search for spirits on your own. If you don’t want to commit to your own gear, use the equipment available in the museum to scan the room for entities (that’s right, the museum has a friendly resident child ghost who’s always in the mood to play).
Events and experiences are also a huge feature of the shop and museum. In The Salon, you can get a front-row seat to theatre performances, book signings and lecture discussions (next up is A Christmas Carol, performed by Dickens himself). Psychic readings by two staff psychics are also available on Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays and by appointment. Our associate editor got a one-on-one with Frank St. James, who channeled late relatives, laid out tarot cards, read her palms and more. Readings go from $20-50.
If you’re eager to connect with the beyond, opt for the Monthly Seance: Beyond the Veil. Guests 16 and up can score a seat at the table for $30 a head and see what spirits come through the facilitating medium for about two hours. Private seances are also available for booking (10 people minimum), too.
If you want to see the dark side of Asbury Park, a 90-minute ghost tour is the way to go. Snag tix ($12/adults, $10/kids) for the Ghosts & Legends Downtown Tour, about AP’s haunted history and formation, or the Ghosts of the Boardwalk Tour, a moonlit walk on the boardwalk that covers the secrets behind the City by the Sea.
The Paranormal Museum is located at 621 Cookman Ave. in Asbury Park. Tickets for the standard museum tour are $10.68 for adults and $8 for kids. Each tour is about an hour long. For more info (or to book a psychic reading!), call 732-455-3188, or head to paranormalbooksnj.com.