Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Phantom Bell Ringer of Christ Church in Pelham Manor


I thought that over the years I had uncovered every conceivable "ghost story" ever concocted in the annals of Pelham history as I have tried to entertain the youngsters of our Town and Villages.  I have written extensively about such legends and have published quite a number of articles on the "topic" particularly around the time of Halloween. 

For a few examples, see:

Bell, Blake A., Pelham's Ghosts, Goblins and Legends (Oct. 2002).  

Bell, Blake A., Bibliography of Pelham's Ghost Stories and Legends (Oct. 2002).

Bell, Blake A., Pelham's Ghosts, Goblins and Legends, The Pelham Weekly, Oct. 25, 2002, at 1, col. 1.

Bell, Blake A., More Ghosts, Goblins of Pelham, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 43, Oct. 29, 2004, p. 12, col. 1.

Bell, Blake A., More Ghosts and Goblins of Pelham, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XV, Issue 40, Oct. 13, 2006, p. 10, col. 1.

Now comes a new potential "ghost story," published in 1890.  It has overtones of a previously undetected "ghost" story involving the bell steeple of Christ Church.  

Setting the "Scene"

The year was 1890.  The Town of Pelham encompassed an area from beyond today's Pelham Bay Park and City Island to the northern reaches of the sleepy little settlement then called "Pelhamville."  Neither the Village of Pelham Manor nor the Villages of Pelham and North Pelham had yet been incorporated.

Although people were beginning to populate many areas of today's Town of Pelham at the time, the population remained widely dispersed and concentrated around four principal locations:  City Island, Bartow-on-the-Sound once (located along Shore Road), the Prospect Hill and Esplanade area, and Pelhamville north of the New Haven Line tracks.  The gorgeous little Christ Church sanctuary still stood -- at the time -- somewhat distant from these small concentrations of local populations, although there were a number of residences near Christ Church at the time.



Christ Church Steeple and Bell as Depicted in the 1848 First Edition of
Bolton's History of Westchester County, Vol. I.


The Events

For some time that year (1890), the bell in the steeple of Christ Church began to ring at about the hour of midnight to the consternation of a few residents living nearby.  

The rope used to ring the bell was removed.  Still the bell rang at the midnight hour.  The area providing access to the bell next was secured.  Still the bell rang at the midnight hour. 

Suspecting a prank, efforts were made to capture the offender.  Those efforts failed.  Still the bell rang at the midnight hour.

Finally, a local Pelham Manor resident offered a substantial $25 reward for the arrest of the disturber of his dreams.  It is not now known, however, whether thereafter the bell still rang at midnight . . . . . . . . 

It seems that the Phantom Bell Ringer of Christ Church was never caught.  Listen carefully as the clock strikes midnight . . . . 

See Who Rings the Bell?, The Statesman [Yonkers, NY], Sep. 19, 1890, p. 4, col. 2.

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