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.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Ghostly Matron of the Manor Club: Even a Ghost Whisperer's Nightmare!

Halloween week is here!  It is a special week among the favorites of young and old in what once was the Manor of Pelham.

The Manor of Pelham has ancient roots.  Its recorded history is more than 360 years old.  Beyond that, archaeological records establish thousands of years of prehistoric human activity in the region.  It thus should come as no surprise that ghostly Pelham spirits abound.

I have written of the many ghostly Pelham spirits repeatedly.  Indeed, I have collected such stories for more than sixteen years.  (At the end of today's article is a bibliography, with links, to the many articles.)

With a history as ancient as that of Pelham, it is easy to imagine spirits as the stuff of musty legends retold for hundreds of years.  Some such Pelham legends have, in fact, been retold for nearly two centuries.  Others, however, are not so ancient.  Indeed, some recount events that have happened in our midst.  They recount happenings that have occurred as we have gone about our ordinary lives, raising our children, improving our town, and learning more about our history.

Today's article is an example of such a Pelham ghost story.  It is a story that is only days, not centuries, old.  


The members of the Manor Club in Pelham Manor were excited.  The Club's "Evening Section" hoped to arrange an entertaining program in celebration of Halloween 2015.  It planned to hire an experienced Ghost Whisperer to explore whether there might be any ghostly aspects of the historic clubhouse that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Such Ghost Whisperers, made famous by a television supernatural drama of the same name that ran on CBS from 2005 until 2010, are said to be psychic mediums who are "receivers of paranormal communications."  

The Manor Club's Evening Section established a working committee to determine if such an event would be possible.  Members of that committee found a well-known Ghost Whisperer in the region.  The medium made clear, however, that before he could agree to host an investigation of the clubhouse Halloween week, he first would have to visit the building to assess it.  With time running short, members of the committee readily agreed. 

At the appointed time, the medium appeared at the Manor Club and began the investigation.  What happened next promptly became the stuff of legend, adding to the already rich history and lore of the storied Manor Club.  Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog tells the story of "The Ghostly Matron of the Manor Club:  Even a Ghost Whisperer's Nightmare!"

Brief History of the Manor Club

The Manor Club, located at 1023 Esplanade in the Village of Pelham Manor, is a cultural, civic, and 501(c)(3) organization.  The Club had its beginnings in the 1870's.  It was not, however, organized formally until January 10, 1882. 

The clubhouse that stands today is not the original clubhouse.  Today's clubhouse opened in 1922.  On May 12, 2014, the Manor Club clubhouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places (Reference No. 14000207).  The National Park Service Web site page devoted to the Manor Club is located here.  The full file reflecting the listing is located here.

I have written much about the history of the Manor Club on countless occasions. Near the end of today's Historic Pelham Blog Posting I have included an extensive list of articles (with links where available) to prior articles on the topic.

The Beloved Mrs. Secor, President of the Club for 26 Years

For a quarter century, a woman named Joan Elizabeth Klink Secor, was one of the most beloved residents of Pelham Manor.  She also was the driving force behind, and leader of, the Manor Club.  Joan Secor was a social and cultural force in Pelham Manor. She lovingly devoted much of her adult life to the success of the Club.  She nurtured both the Club and its members tenderly and with great attention. 

Mrs. Secor, as she was known to many, became president of the Tuesday Afternoon Club in 1900.  When that Club merged into the Manor Club (which became a women's club) in 1914, she served as president of the newly-merged institution as well.  She stablized the finances of the Manor Club.  She presided over the fund-raising for, and the construction of, the new clubhouse that is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  She grew the Club and oversaw it as it became an important part of the social fabric of the Town, a role that it continues to play to this day.

Mrs. Secor retired from service as president of the Manor Club after 26 years in May 1925 when she departed for California to live with family members. Mrs. Secor died suddenly in her home in San Francisco on Saturday, July 23, 1932.

Mrs. Secor was a loving, intelligent, prim and proper gentlewoman with a patrician air and a philanthropic demeanor.  Beloved by all, she carried herself with dignity.  She was responsible for implementation of the club rule that stood for many years banning alcohol.  Out of her love for the Club, she was a stickler for rules.  Consequently, she managed the Club during her tenure as President with love, care, and -- when necessary -- an iron fist.

A beautiful oil portrait of her, painted by George Brehm, still hangs in the assembly room of the Manor Club.  Via that portrait, Mrs. Secor's ever-watchful eyes take in all that occurs in the Club she loved and oversaw for more than a quarter century.   

Oil Painting Portrait of Mrs. Joan E. Secor,
The Watchful Eyes of Which Have Presided
Over the Manor Club for Decades from Its
Position in the Assembly Room of the Manor Club.

The eyes of Mrs. Secor's portrait have endured many societal changes since 1925.  Members now include women with breath-taking careers outside the home.  No longer do the Club's members don white gloves when they leave the home.  The days of beautiful, formal bonnets and hats are gone, replaced by common sense fashion and even, "gasp" (as Mrs. Secor would say), pants or knee-length skirts worn by members.  The eyes of Mrs. Secor's portrait even seem to cringe a bit when Club members walk in wearing their coats rather than carrying them or, heaven forbid, carrying their umbrellas rather than leaving them where they belong.  Yes, things are different now.  There is even loud and boisterous laughter among members, as well as the occasional interruptions of smart phones (whatever those are, at least in the eyes of Mrs. Secor).  Perhaps worst of all, these days the portrait of Mrs. Secor must suffer even the indignity of presiding over members who beg pardon to go to the bathroom rather than to go "powder the nose."  Yes, things are very different now.  

Back To The First Ghost Whisperer

The Ghost Whisperer walked the quiet hallways of the clubhouse.  "Indeed," he said, "spirits are present."  
He continued, saying "some spirits are supportive of the club's efforts to become more modern.  However, one spirit is upset because there have been so many changes in the club, in the lives of the Club's members, and in the very Village within which the clubhouse stands."  White gloves are gone!  Women are engaged in breath-taking careers outside the home!  The standard rules of etiquette by which society forged its way in the 1920s have evolved into standards of etiquette the spirit no longer seems to understand.  Clothes are different; cars are different; language is different; all is different.  

The Ghost Whisperer said that the spirit was anxious about the changes, was not happy with the Ghost Whisperer walking through the clubhouse, and did not want a Ghost Whisperer there for fear it would bring members' attention to the spirit's presence and its manipulation of events.  "Mrs. Secor's spirit," the Ghost Whisperer declared, "is so upset with the presence of a Ghost Whisperer and modernization of the club as well as the societal changes that affected the Club's members, that it is interfering with my psychic faculties!"

A week after his visit, the Ghost Whisperer called the Manor Club's chair of the planned event.  He said he would not be able to participate.  The committee members wondered if the Evening Section program scheduled for Halloween week would have to be canceled.  

Finding a Talented Ghost Whisperer

Ever industrious and always diligent, the committee members knew that they could not let down the members of the Club.  What is Halloween without such entertainment?  They charged a club member with the task of finding another Ghost Whisperer hoping they could stage the program as originally planned.   

Research quickly uncovered other Ghost Whisperers in the region.  One seemed particularly intriguing and especially talented.  A club member called her to discuss the event.

The call was only a few weeks ago.  During the call, a second Ghost Whisperer was enlisted.  She said she was intrigued, but wanted more background information.  As the conversation continued with a description of the planned event and its proposed date and time, the call disconnected abruptly.  There seemed to be a little noise as the call ended.  Was it static, or a hiss? . . . . 

No problem, of course.  Only a quick call back would be required.  That call, however . . . . failed.  Several more . . . . failed.  In fact, days of efforts to reach the Ghost Whisperer. . . . failed.  It was beginning to seem as if any effort to arrange a Ghost Whisperer was, well, cursed. . . . . 

Persistence, of course, pays off. The club member was nothing if not persistent.  After diligent efforts, she was able to connect with the Ghost Whisperer who was fascinated, intrigued and, most importantly, unintimidated by the spirit of Mrs. Secor, the Ghostly Matron of the Manor Club.  The new Ghost Whisperer agreed to lead a ghostly tour of the clubhouse.

Your Chance to Connect with The Ghostly Matron of the Manor Club

On the evening of Wednesday, October 28, 2015 -- two days from now -- the Evening Section of the Manor Club of Pelham Manor will present "Ghost Whisperer Tours the Manor Club" with Joan Carra, Psychic Medium, at 7:30 p.m.  You can join members of the Manor Club for an evening with psychic medium Joan Carra, a practitioner and teacher at the Wainwright House, Rye, New York.  She will connect to the spirits of The Manor House and the spirits coming through audience members.  Joan has been featured in WAG Magazine and in the Greenwich Times.  To attend, please RSVP as soon as possible by calling the office at 914-738-1528 or by emailing to TheManorClubOfPelham@GMail.com.  Cost of the event is $10 for members of the Manor Club and $20 for non-members.

Based on what already transpired, the evening tour with Ghost Whisperer Joan Carra Wednesday night will most certainly be a memorable one likely to add to the ghost lore of Pelham and its beloved Manor Club.  

Joan Secor in an Undated Photgraph.

*          *          *          *          *

The clubhouse of the Manor Club is an historic building with a storied history.  As noted above, I have had the privilege to write much about that history.  For a few examples, see:  

Bell, Blake A., Early History of the Manor Club, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 20, May 14, 2004, p. 12, col. 2.

Tue., Dec. 13, 2005:  The Manor Club's First Clubhouse Built in 1887-1888

Wed., Dec. 28, 2005:  The Mystery of the "Manor Club Girl" That Set Pelham Tongues Wagging in 1913

Fri., Aug. 4, 2006:  Early Images of the Original and Current Clubhouse Structures of the Manor Club in the Village of Pelham Manor, New York.

Mon., Feb. 15, 2010:  Early History of the Manor Club in the Village of Pelham Manor.

Thu., Sep. 25, 2014:  The Manor Club's Celebration of its Golden Anniversary in 1932.

*          *          *          *          *

I also have collected ghost legends relating to the Town of Pelham for more than fifteen years.  To read more examples that now total in the dozens, see

Bell, Blake A., Pelham's Ghosts, Goblins and Legends, The Pelham Weekly, Oct. 25, 2002, p. 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., Archive of HistoricPelham.com Web Site:  Pelham's Ghosts, Goblins and Legends (Oct. 2002). 

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

Fri., Oct. 31, 2014:  Ghosts in Pelham! Yet Another of Many Accounts of the Haunted Cedar Knoll.

Mon., Sep. 08, 2014:  In 1888, The "Ghost of City Island" Upset the Town of Pelham.

Fri., Jan. 17, 2014: The Phantom Bell Ringer of Christ Church in Pelham Manor.

Fri., Jan. 30, 2009:  Article Published in 1901 Detailed Ghost Stories and Legends of Pelham.

Mon., Feb. 19, 2007:  Another Manor of Pelham Ghost Story: The Whispering Bell.

Fri., Aug. 18, 2006:  The Ghost Gunship of Pelham: A Revolutionary War Ghost Story.

Wed., May 03, 2006:  Another Pelham, New York Ghost Story.

Thu., Oct. 13, 2005:  Two More Pelham Ghost Stories.  

Wed., Oct. 14, 2009:  1879 News Account Provides Additional Basis for Some Facts Underlying Ghost Story of Old Stone House in Pelhamville.

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