Author Rachel Kempster Barry talks LI’s haunted history
Fall is officially here and with that means Halloween is just around the corner. Ghouls and goblins, which can be synonymous with Halloween, are not far from home—especially right here on Long Island. Although the book is geared towards kids, The Ghost of Tales of Long Island, which is written by author Rachel Kempster Barry, will change the way all Long Islanders visit Old Bethpage Village Restoration or the Glen Cove Mansion, which are reportedly haunted.
Q: Can you tell readers a little bit about yourself?
A: I grew up on Long Island and went to Longwood High School. I’m from the Class of 1993. I moved to Madison, NJ five years ago with my husband. I’m a writer and I run my own company, Tuesday Magic Marketing, where I work with authors, bookstores and nonprofits. Working on so many different projects keeps life interesting and busy. In my free time I love to volunteer, read and dote on our three cats.
Q: What made you want to write this book?
A: I loved the idea of writing about Long Island. I grew up in Middle Island in Suffolk County, but I don’t remember learning much about the history of it all. Of course, like every school kid I went to the Old Bethpage Village Restoration and a lighthouse or two, but I wanted to know more. For me, ghost stories are a fun and thrilling way to delve into history.
Q: How long did it take you to write this book? Was the research readily available?
A: The Ghost Tales of Long Island is an adaptation of a terrific book for adults: Historic Haunts of Long Island: Ghosts and Legends from the Gold Coast to Montauk Point by Kerriann Flanagan Brosky. I adapted the stories that I thought would resonate best with kids. I also didn’t want to scare them too much. I was delighted to find so many places in the book that I’d visited growing up. It took me back in time and made me wonder if I’d ever brushed past any ghosts.
Q: There are many haunted places on Long Island in your book. Was there one haunted place that you researched that shocked you?
A: The story of the Culper Spy Ring in Setauket blew my mind. I had no idea that something that historically important, daring and exciting took place so close to my childhood home. It’s rumored that a woman named Anna Strong sent messages by hanging different items on her clothesline. What an amazing detail. I love the idea of a female spy turning the laundry into secret code.
Q: Do you believe in ghosts or spirits? Or were you a skeptic beforehand?
A: I was definitely a skeptic when I started writing the book, but as I told friends and family about the project, so many of them had stories of their own about encounters with spirits. How can I dismiss that? I absolutely believe that the world is a mysterious place full of moments that are hard to explain. I also have always loved ghost stories and horror movies. I love a good scare.
Q: What do you want readers to learn from your book?
A: I hope it inspires readers to learn more about Long Island’s history. Start learning about the place you live—when was it founded? Who lived there before you? Visit your local historical society or ask your local librarian for help. Poke around and you’ll start to have a deeper understanding of the world we live in right now.
The Ghost of Tales of Long Island is available now on Amazon.com as well as your local bookstores.