top of page

Haunted National Parks: The Ghost of LT Halyburton

HMS Assistance 1781

The HMS Assistance

"It was a dark and stormy night. We were standing on the deck. The ship was sinking..." (Remy Charlip, Reprinted 2010). Yes, this is a tale of storms and a shipwreck, of death and its aftermath. So come with me back to late December 1983, to Sandy Hook, New Jersey, a unit of the National Park Service (Gateway National Recreation Area), for another tale in the Haunted National Park Service series.

The Halyburton Memorial

The area it occurred in is near the Lieutenant Hamilton D. Halyburton Memorial. This memorial marks the general location where LT Halyburton of the British Navy and 13 shipmates lost their lives. At just 20 years of age, LT Halyburton and his men were aboard the barge of the HMS Assistance, searching for deserters that had commandeered the ship. They arrived on December 31st, and were soon caught in the mud during a ferocious winter storm. Two days later, on January 2, 1784, the weather cleared and the bodies of 13 of the crew washed ashore on a beach at Sandy Hook; the remaining sailor's body was later recovered. At least one account indicates that the sailors were frozen in the mud while attempting to reach shore during the storm.

The Lieutenant's mother, Katherine Hamilton, the Countess Dowager of Morton, erected "a fine monument of marble" in honor of her only son.

Everyone that works at Sandy Hook knows about the monument and most know the story of how LT Halyburton and his colleagues died. For me, I had not given much thought to it, although there had been many ghost stories circulating about "the Hook," as we called it. In this case, I passed this spot every day at least twice and knew little else about it.

The Halyburton Memorial

One day, while talking about the spirits that haunt the Hook, a co-worker told me that his wife had experienced something very unusual while driving past the area of the memorial very late one night. She was a late shift Emergency Room (ER) nurse and, exhausted, was driving home and apparently began to fall asleep at the wheel. She awoke with a start, and, not sure what was happening, looked around in front of and in her car. Quickly, she noticed something in the passenger seat -- there was a Naval Officer in full dress uniform, and he was speaking to her. He seemed to be trying to get her attention, to wake her up. He had appeared just in time to prevent her from having a terrible accident.

LT Halyburton Communicates with Me

My experience with LT Halyburton was quite different, but it happened in that same stretch near the memorial. In December 1983 (which, oddly is 200 years to the month from the date he died--31 December 1783), I was driving off the Hook, for what I thought would be the last time. It was the second time I had worked there and I was sure I wouldn't be returning (I was wrong about that!). Since I was moving, I had the vehicle packed with my belongings and was a passenger; my husband at the time was driving. But I was unprepared for what happened next. Being flip, I made the comment that I was leaving for good, and said, "Goodbye, Halyburton!" as we passed the memorial. Immediately, my telephone - an old rotary phone sitting on the floorboards near my feet - began ringing. The phone rang 2 full rings, as if it were receiving a regular call. Shocked, I looked at my husband and said, "Oh my god, should I answer it?" Well, I did manage to pick up the receiver (it had the phone wire wrapped around it), and said, "Hello?" The phone was dead- no static or noise. But to me, the message was clearly an acknowledgement that spirit was there and heard my goodbye. It still chills me thinking about that day.

Phone Calls from the Dead

Have you ever heard of phone calls from the Dead? If you haven't then you would be just like me. Until I received that one. That changed everything! If you're interested in reading about them, there is a book entitled, "Phone Calls from the Dead," by Robo and Bayless. While it was published in 1979, it contains compelling evidence of the existence of these phone calls, which often come from people close to us and most commonly, that we don't know are dead just yet. Recently, there have been a lot of reports of cell phone calls and texts from the dead or recently passed, so this phenomena continues to be a prevalent spiritual encounter. There is also a new book out entitled, "Telephone Calls from the Dead," published in 2012 that updates the literature on this type of spirit communication.

Receiving a phone call from spirit was an amazing experience I hope to have again someday - and I certainly hope you are lucky enough to experience it, as well. Please be sure to join me on my next Haunted National Parks adventure!

Carol Pollio, Ph.D. Director and Lead Investigator

Biography: Dr. Pollio has worked and lived in national parks since 1977, when she began her career at Gateway National Recreation Area. Her first experience with spirit was at that park, sparking her interest in and belief of the paranormal. Now retired, she is finally able to tell the many paranormal stories she has experienced and been told first hand as an insider in this incredible organization. Her own intuitive gift made itself known during her pre-teen years through a variety of experiences, including clairvoyance as primary, clairaudience, and clairsentience. Dr. Pollio put those experiences aside and chose instead to pursue a career in science, eventually obtaining her Ph.D. in Environmental Science and obtaining the rank of Captain (O-6) in the USCG Reserve. Dr. Pollio also served as a Professor in academia for more than 20 years. She now chooses to write about, investigate, and help others using her inherent psychic abilities. She currently is the Director of Intuitive Investigations®, a spirit rescue and paranormal investigation organization and has been a member of Maryland Paranormal Research as a lead investigator. Intuitive investigations® serves Delaware, Maryland, and the D.C. metro area. She currently lives in Milford, Delaware.

Disclaimer: National parks and refuges are federal property. This series does not approve nor give permission to anyone to enter national parks or refuges without any required permits or permissions. Many parks also include hallowed ground, such as battlefields, memorials, cemeteries, and sites of mass casualties. It is not this author’s intent to encourage unprofessional or unethical behavior on these sites or to suggest visiting them in any other manner than by legal and ethical means.

Cited Sources and Interesting Information:

To read the New York Times news article dated September 6, 1908 about the reinterment of these unfortunate sailors, click here.

The Loss of the HMS Assistance, Dan's American Revolution Blog, May 18, 2015.

Sandy Hook, New Jersey Revolutionary War Sites, HAMILTON DOUGLAS-HALYBURTON MEMORIAL page:

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
RSS Feed
bottom of page