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Fire alarms from beyond the grave?


A 1911 Packard fire truck, the industry standard of its era

A strange series of midnight alarms baffled firemen from Bloomfield, New Jersey, in October of 1911. For weeks, members of the Bloomfield Fire Department in Essex County were called to respond to midnight alarms, only to discover that there was no fire at all-- just a securely locked firebox which showed no signs of tampering. The mystery deepened (or was perhaps finally solved) when the firemen discovered a bizarre connection to three local cemeteries.

The following is a story that appeared in the October 20, 1911, edition of the New York Times.


Something Sends Fire Calls

Several times in the last few weeks the Bloomfield Fire Department has been called to answer midnight alarms, only to find no trace of fire, and the firebox from which the alarm was sent securely locked. This puzzled the firemen, because while anyone can open the boxes to send in an alarm, with the key attached, no one except the Chief or one of his assistants in the department can close a box after the alarm.


On Wednesday night the mystery was finally solved. At midnight an alarm was sent in from Box 48 at Belleville Avenue and Oak Street, and again the firemen found no fire. All was plain sailing, however, in the solution of the mystery after that. One of the firemen, who may be even a better whostologist than he is a fireman, discovered that the fire box in question was only a short distance from the Bloomfield Cemetery; another added that as the bird flies it was less than a quarter of a mile from from the Sacred Heart Cemetery; a third discovered that it was equally near the Glen Ridge Cemetery. And then finally to add the last needed touch of conclusive evidence, just as the group of firemen were discussing the strange affair in front of the box, the bell tolled one, two, three, which means "out".


Frank Wissner, one of the firemen, says he saw a ghostly apparition in white sound the back taps and disappear. The disappearance, in fact, seems to be agreed upon even by those who didn;t see the appearance. Fire Chief Bernard F. Higgins says he does not believe in spooks, even if he can't, just at present, account for the false alarms.

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