The Refugee Spirits of Fort Greene

A Lead Points to Fort Greene

When BKPS received a tip from a member that a church right here in our own backyard of Fort Greene was exhibiting signs of paranormal activity, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church Fort Greene. Photo (© Anthony Long 2018)
Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, Fort Greene. Photo (© Anthony Long 2018)

Passing twice daily when commuting, I often note a large “refugees welcome” sign. It’s always stood out to me, particularly in comparison to the other churches on the same stroll, which are authoritative and more traditional in appearance.

Acting on a tip, I set out from Bed Stuy on a brisk night; the temperature ebbing around the freezing mark. Each step against the wind pained me, as my thoughts slowed to a crawl inline with my pace.

Inching toward the church, I pondered my chances of finding evidence: Not high. Considering never before had I any inkling of this holy site hosting paranormal peeps, tonight probably wouldn’t be the night.

My source duteously informed me of unusual activity that could be paranormal. The report included extreme temperature fluctuations in the general vicinity of the “church sign”, and a sorrowful presence that affected the self-professed empathic reporter greatly.

Being midway through December, this tip that the sidewalk near the church was “physically a bit warmer” than other areas seemed especially curious. When investigating other instances* similar in nature, I found reasonable sources for abnormal events.

* Some ghost hunters say a cold spot is an area of localized coldness, or a sudden drop in ambient temperature. On investigations, they’ll use digital thermometers or heat sensing devices to measure temperature changes to record data.

Finding a cold spot seemed unlikely in the frigid temperatures, with my face unable to register temperatures below 40. After researching, I found a source which indicated “hot hot-spots” were significantly rarer than their cooler counterparts.

Numb to the cold, I stood firm documenting the temperatures of the concrete and church signage, hoping to hit the jackpot; an unexplainable warm-to-the-touch spot.

Temperate gun shows temperature of floor near paranormal hotspot, in Brooklyn NY.
Digital Thermometer Laser Infrared Temperature Gun; or Temp Gun displays reading of 27.5F at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Fort Greene. (© Anthony Long 2018)

Turns out, Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church (located in Fort Greene) has a rich and fascinating history. Founded in the 1850s by abolitionists, today the church’s pastor, Rev. David F. Telfort, continues to dedicate much of his time to issues relating to social justice. The church is known to be a safe and welcoming space for immigrants, refugees, and minorities.

As I investigated the church and its surroundings, I maintained a reasonable level of skepticism. I will say with confidence that I personally didn’t encounter any unusual patches of warmth on the sidewalk or anywhere near the church. However, the morbid sense of longing and sadness did make itself known to me.

I don’t consider myself an overly intuitive person and have never claimed to possess any particular psychic abilities, but my work with Brooklyn Paranormal Society has enabled me to make use of some exciting and innovative new technologies that lift the veil to the other side, in a sense, and expose some of the mysterious happenings we might otherwise fail to notice.

As I gazed upon the architecture, my attention was diverted to my iPhone. The ghost hunting app M2 Ghost Hunter, revealed in rather uncharacteristic rapid succession – three words; supposed communications from the spirits. At first glance, this appeared to be a bleak and somewhat disturbing message.

Reflecting on Fort Greene

Recall the significance of the location. Do your best to visualize Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian in the mid-1800s, its congregation joining together in worship, its abolitionist theology wildly subversive. It’s plausible that tremendous despair and sorrow followed many of the members of this congregation from their former homes.

Such a place could certainly be a conduit for mournful spirits, perhaps those left in a liminal state, unable to safely cross over after an unjust or violent death. Then again, this church was also a place of freedom. It served as a safe haven for human beings deemed by the law to be unworthy of basic rights. It opened its doors to the oppressed, offered them a second chance, allowed them to join in the spirit of redemption.

People of all races broke bread together right here in Fort Greene. Doesn’t it seem just as likely that immense peace and healing also took place on this very spot? Perhaps the spirits left lingering were not trying to communicate their anger or sorrow through the M2, but their joyful liberation.

As I contemplated the strange words revealed to me on my phone screen I suddenly recalled an ancient term well known amongst the paranormal community. The concept of “egregore” originated in the occult, but was repurposed by Gaetan Delaforge in Gnosis Magazine in 1987. He defines it as “a kind of group mind that is created when people come together for a common purpose.’”

The contemporary meaning is less sinister than the original, which refers specifically to a collective psychic entity with the power to influence thoughts. Mind control conspiracies aside, I believe that both definitions could apply in this case.

Possibly, the souls of these parishioners are still crying out for change, attempting to reach the hearts of people still living in Fort Greene. The simple three words conveyed to me through the M2 could be viewed in either a negative or positive light. It all depends on how one chooses to interpret the message.

Gnosis magazine covers.
Gnosis Magazine, circa 1980s.

Anthony Long is the Chief Ectoplasm Officer for the Brooklyn Paranormal Society.

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