- Karen Edmond
"Dead Man's Corner" A Ghost Story
Hi readers! Today in the spirit of Halloween, I would like to present to you a ghost story. The historic Echo Newspaper est 1904 would share short stories that their readers enjoyed. Today we will kick off that tradition with a ghost story. This non-fiction tale takes place on a historic battlefield from 1778. The location on the British trail correlates with what today is called Kings Highway East." You will find this story nostalgic, funny, mysterious, and thought-provoking. Every couple of days, another portion of the tale will be shared until completed by October 31st. Please enjoy "Dead Man's Corner" a narrative tale by Karen Brittingham-Edmond.
There he stood and walked, pushing through the dark bushes tucked in the backwoods of old "Dead Man's Corner" in Navesink, NJ. Tall and pale quintessential British officer walking as if taking his last breathe yet pushing forward. His red uniform jacket was bright and worn, classic white X design, gold buttons, and strange oval hat with what looked to be fluffy Black puffiness on top (nothing like the British hats shown on TV in the 60's that Paul Revere & the Raiders wore). Yet, there he walked, ….as real as you or me friend—marching wearily to the left of the field until he heard me cry "Daddy! Daddy! There's a white man with a gun!" loudly trying to get my father's attention. My dad initially pulled the car over because he had to relieve himself. My dad left me in the open field and went to the trees next to old grave markers that I would later find out as a teenager in 1978 dated back to the mid & late 1700s.
My father was a strong, swift, and fearless Black man who played football in the army. He was a direct descendant of Riceville folk, but that day, his eyes showed shock, fear, and unbelief at seeing ye old British soldier striding in our direction. To my surprise, while screaming daddy repeatedly to get my father's attention, the strange, tall white, British soldier set his eyes on me and began to walk in my direction hurriedly. He walked not looking like a ghost at all - except for the sadness of his face, which sunk his eyes back so far that they seemed full of dark hopelessness. Yet despite all his hurt and despair, here he came striding in my direction simply because I was screaming in the middle of an old untouched field in Monmouth County, "daddy."
Let me introduce myself. And how this whole tale started. My name is Karen Althea, Brittingham - Edmond. I'm a mother of five children and a grandmother of three. My story is a straightforward narrative of an experience I and my father, nicknamed "Sonny," formally known as William Delancey Brittingham III, shared in the '60s. It was 1968, and I was only six years old when the occurrence happened. It was a hot day, and just like any weekend, my father would wash his car and decide to ride up to Grandfather Rev William Brittingham's house in Atlantic Highlands, NJ.
That day was a typical Indian summer day, as I could recall it. I had just finished playing with friends down the street when I saw my father bounding happily down the steps of our front porch at 209 Ludlow Street in Long Branch, yelling to my mother, "Hey Dinty, I'm going to my dad's for a while!" In which my mother replied, "Alright, drive carefully!"
I asked my dad, "are you going to grandfathers, and can I go?" He said "no," then I pleaded and complained that he takes my siblings and not me, to which he then gave in and said, "come on and get in the car already."
Driving down Ocean Ave and smelling the sea breeze in the back of the car was one of my favorite things. Coasting through Monmouth Beach, Sea Bright, passed Rumson and seeing the Twin Towers atop the hills in Highlands; while Smokey Robinson, the Fifth Dimension, and Stevie Wonder, music played on the radio. It was a perfect fall day.
BROOOM!!! Down Ocean Ave, inside our big white and sky blue Ford with light blue interior. And for once, the entire back seat was all mine! (As a six year old child I felt like I was a princess.) I was a skinny, golden brown, Black girl who, when my mother hot combed my hair, it would bound down to the middle of my back.
Thick long dark brown hair that changed colors per the seasons. As a child, old people would mistake me for being native and ask my mother, "what tribe is she from?" Wherewith my mother would respond that we are "Black folk with some Lenni Lenape & Cherokee blood in us just like most Black people in Monmouth County." And then walk swiftly away, clutching my tiny hand in hers. Mother's response always seemed to puzzle older, white folk, as I remembered as a child; either way, we'd smile and walk away.
Now back to the day of the ghostly visitor.
We arrived at grandfather's house in Atlantic Highlands in no time. Grandfather, Rev Brittingham, was smoking his pipe and, of course, listening to the baseball game on the radio. He had a TV, but he always preferred to listen to baseball games on the radio or see a game live at the park. When the Negro League would come to Atlantic Highlands in the past.
Aunt Tink was in the kitchen cleaning, cooking, and fussing as usual. She was a secretary Mon-Fri in NY and her only time to thoroughly clean house was on the weekend. My older cousins were out playing. Great Aunt Jenny Carter had just gotten in from work after checking on our Brooklyn family. I sat amidst the chattering and grown folk talk, for the first time in my life without my siblings. Although I didn't understand a word of what they were talking about, I remembered feeling privileged for being there. Drinking ice-cold Coca-Cola's and munching on as many Lays potato chips that I wanted to (without having to share with my twin sister Karla!)
The hours ticked by with laughter and giggling, and "do you remember when's?" Suddenly, the grandfather said, "Sonny, how about you go down and get us some steamers at the fish market?" With grandfathers, first announcement of sending my father to the fish market brought in a ton of requests.
Aunt Tink started with, "Hey Sonny, pick me up some Porgies & Red Snappers,"
Great Aunt Jenny jumped in and said, "Yeah, and bring back some flounders and croakers.
This then led Aunt Tink to go to the back door steps and started yelling out the back yard to Boobie, my cousin with
"Tell Beverly Sonny's getting ready to go to the fish market, so if she want him to bring back something better, let us know fast!"
Under his breath, my father said, "aw, shit, now the whole town is going to put in orders," and chuckled in his humorously asthmatic laugh.
That was Atlantic Highlands back in the day. My father said that when the Brittingham's first arrived here in NJ, they had brought a plot of land the size of the block they resided on. And over the years, recently freed Great-great grandfather Rev Brittingham provided land so that family members could have a place to live once they managed to get out of Delaware, Maryland, or Virginia. With the help of his cousin Julia. Before mentioned places where the Brittingham clan once called home. And owned land. Grandfather's father was a famous horse carriage racer throughout the south in the 1880's.
Elderly folks used to say that every Black family from Atlantic Highlands or Navesink, once called Riceville, were all related. I don't know if that's true or not. But I found that in the 60s, the Black community had a commodity of spirit, caring, and faith, but I digress. We went to the fish market heading toward Highlands, and the market was bouncing with fish. Everybody knew Daddy. Fish man yelled out, "Hey Sonny; they got you again?" (laughing all the while out loud.)
The fish man was chubby and jolly - and his workers moved swimmingly, taking orders from customers and cleaning fish. The different dialects of workers made their chattering sound like music in the air. The fish man let my father know that "most of the order was already put together" by the time we got there - because grandfather called it in to help out dad. (Grandfather was always doing stuff to make things a little easier for my father.) Fish man said, "Rev Brittingham said to bring back a case of Miller or Bud." Wherewith my father sarcastically said, "well, at least I got one good thing out the deal." His words made the Fish man's workers laugh.
We zoomed back to grandfather's house, where the fish fry commenced. The house was smelling good, and the steamers were delicious. Neighbors and friends were stopping through. Grown folks had their beers - and I had my cokes with plenty to eat, good company, and old-time jazz music playing in the background. All was well in our little world until Dinty, my mother, called. We left Long Branch around 1:00 PM; It was now 7:00 PM.
For some strange reason, the phone rang extra loud that day at grandfather's house, which made us all stop what we were doing and stare at the phone. It rang again shockingly louder then before, wherewith my grandfather walked quickly over and picked up the phone. We all were silent because the phone had a strange ringing-like alarm, which made us all pause.
To be continued
The Echo since 1904 "In concern of the negro."
DEAD MAN'S CORNER RICEVILLE NJ
A peculiar recollection took place in 1968 at the historic Monmouth County battleground called "Dead Man's Corner." Located in now what is named Navesink, NJ. Reference https://monmouthtimeline.org/battle-of-the-navesink/
Above picture references: Sapphire of the Amos & Andy Show - Amos and Andy vintage pic - Classic 1968 baseball game - Classic picture of a Fishman at market - Vintage picture of Grandfather Brittingham II, plus beloved father William Brittingham w/mother Cythia Rock-Brittingham, beloved Aunt Tink aka Wilhemina Brittingham-Lawler plus African American culture of the 60's