Whether or not you believe in the existence of the paranormal, there is one truly mystifying presence that dwells on Asbury Park's Cookman Avenue with a palpability that cannot be denied, a rogue spirit who's indelible impression on the Jersey Shore -- and beyond -- is best described in one word: supernatural.
Fixtures of the Asbury Park cityscape since arriving last year, Paranormal Books & Curiosities and its proprietor, Kathy Kelly, have wakened a proverbial sleeping titan of art, literature and history aficionados literally the world over.
"I believe in keeping an open mind when it comes to ghosts; I'm certainly no skeptic,'' said 43-year-old Irene Glass, a Paranormal regular who currently resides in Long Branch but has previously resided in locales ranging from Birmingham, England to El Dorado County, California. "But, even if I didn't believe, simply as someone who loves books and loves art, I'd still say that (Parnormal Books) is one of the most fascinating little shops I've ever stepped a foot inside.''
Kelly, an admitted skeptic, has been investigating and researching anamolous claims for more than 20 years, and on Friday, June 13, 2008, unveiled her veritable goldmine of paranormal-themed books, movies, art, clothing, supplies and myriad "curiosities'' defying
The shop also serves as a hub for ghost-hunting classes, seances, palm readings, paranormal investigations, guest lectures, book signings and year-round ghost tours.
"My thing is this: I believe in the possibility of many many things, but I also believe that our experiences are way more complicated than people let on,'' Kelly said. "There's a woman that works for me who's a witch. Now, I don't mean witch as in cauldron and pointed
hats, more that she's grateful to nature for what nature brings to her; she believes in karma, that you get what you give. To me, that's pretty straightforward stuff."
"It's the same thing with the Jersey Devil. Someone comes in and says, "I don't believe in the devil.' OK, what do mean by that? Like Santa Claus? Because the word "devil' is used, they refuse to accept the idea. But if I say to them, "What if I say to you there are 50,000 acres of Pine Barrens, it's bigger than Yosemite. And if I were to say to you, it's a crane that mutated, and there's a breeding population down there, is that possible? I find that what a lot of people do or don't believe in, all comes down to semantics."
Kelly, of Bradley Beach, recently unveiled her latest venture, the Paranormal Museum, located adjacent to the store, which is now presenting its inaugural exhibit, "Jersey Devil: Expedition of 1819.''
"I've always said that ghost stories are the gateway drug to history,'' Kelly said. "We tend to focus on the high notes when it comes to history, but it's really the everyday people that leave the biggest mark.
"If you can get people interested in their history, you can get them to invest in their future, to stand somewhere and say "Wow, if something of importance happened here, and I'm here now, than this place matters, and what I do here matters. And if what I do here matters, and people are going to remember it, then I better make it something worthwhile."
Halloween night, Paranormal Books and Curiosities and Asbury Lanes will team up to host Bloodlust Ball, featuring music by DJ Jack the Ripper along with a live burlesque show, carnival, sideshow performers and a costume contest.