P erhaps there is a cosmic disposition toward loving ghost stories when you enter the world on Halloween night. Or maybe I just like the thrill of the haunt. Either way, I've been reading and collecting stories of the paranormal since I was a child.
My cracked-spine copy of The History of Witchcraft has my name and 9th grade homeroom number scrawled on the inside front cover. Not that anyone likely wanted to steal it - or get too close to me. My copy of Dennis Bardens' Ghost and Hauntings was published in 1965 - although I didn't buy it until 1970. I chuckle at words underlined in red (to be searched in the dictionary) and a draft of a classified ad scrawled on the title page that I later ran in the Hershey Area Merchandiser for $1.05. It said:
Have you ever seen a ghostly apparition? If so, write it down and contact me, Stephanie Hoover.
I posted my home address and received a number of letters from folks who, I'm sure, had no idea they were writing to a kid a couple years away from a driver's license.
That book, like The History of Witchcraft, still sits on a bookshelf in my living room and is consulted more often than I can count.
And so, one day many years back, when I happened upon a small book entitled Ghosts in the Valley there was little chance that I would leave the store without it - especially after seeing the photo of the author, Adi-Kent Thomas Jeffrey, on the inside back cover. She was a striking blond, her cheek resting on a perfectly manicured hand, a long strand of pearls gracefully falling about her neck. It was, after all, 1971 when the book was published so her coiffed hair and gracious style were fine examples of how classy women of the day presented themselves.
I remember looking at that photo and thinking: if someone like HER can research and write ghost stories, maybe I wasn't as big an oddball as I believed I was. It was as if I had found a kindred spirit - albeit one older and much better dressed.
Adi-Kent Thomas Jeffrey was a Bucks County native. She graduated from the prestigious Barnard College for women (from which other successful ladies such as Martha Stewart also matriculated.) She wrote for several newspapers, including a stint writing a column in the 1960s called "It Happened in Bucks" for the Bucks County Courier. Most of her columns were historical in nature, including such topics as the story of the Liberty Bell, histories of southeastern Pennsylvania city halls, and a piece about how the New Year's Eve tradition of ringing bells began.
When Jeffrey first published Ghosts in the Valley it was a small, stapled, simply produced book. The cover was black (although mine has faded to a somewhat brownish burgundy) and the word "ghosts" was embellished in an attempt to make it look creepy. It was sub-titled "True Hauntings in the Delaware Valley." With the exception of the already described author's photo, the book was all text. But it was not the book's appearance that mattered to readers - it was the well-written content. In the first year of publication, more than 40,000 copies were sold. Over the last four decades there have been ten more printings of this volume.
In 1973, Jeffrey released More Ghosts in the Valley. Two years later her book The Bermuda Triangle hit the New York Times best seller list. Published by Warner its cover price was $1.75. Reviews and mentions of the book appeared in newspapers across the country with one Arkansas writer remarking that Jeffrey - even though discussing one of the most mysterious places on earth - was careful to mention that the number of disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle were minuscule compared to the total number of ships sailing through it. It was this candid and intelligent approach to her topics that made Jeffrey a popular speaker.
Newspapers of the day announced her public appearances by telling readers that the "Mistress of the Macabre" was scheduled to speak at one locale or another. Three-hundred people turned up for an appearance at a Ridley Township library where she demonstrated divining rods and discussed her view that many people have gifts such as ESP but keep quiet out of fear of ridicule. She also told the group this: "I don't believe any spirits ever come back. Spirits are projected thoughts that come from the mind."
In the early 1980s Ms. Jeffrey created a new business venture: The Ghost Tours of New Hope. More than 30 years later these tours still attract crowds and it is because of Ms. Jeffrey that New Hope is today a prime destination for ghost hunters and paranormal researchers.
In 1990, while working on the final installment in her trilogy of "haunted valley" books, Ms. Jeffrey died. But her daughter, Lynda Jeffrey Plott, is determined to see that her mother's writing is not forgotten.
In 2011, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Ghosts in the Valley, Plott re-released the book with a more illustrative cover and the addition of photographs and other design elements. She gave More Ghosts in the Valley a facelift as well. The stories were not updated, nor do they need to be. Topics include the bloody curse of Blackbeard, spooky happenings at the Bucks County Playhouse, and the sad tale of the lonely vigil of a dog once owned by anchorwoman Jessica Savage whose untimely death occurred in New Hope.
Adi-Kent Thomas Jeffrey and I may have come upon our love of the unexplained at different times in our lives - but come upon it we did. For her intelligence, curiosity, courage and wit, Hauntingly PENNSYLVANIA™ salutes this intrepid researcher and author. In the words of her daughter Lynda, if Adi-Kent Thomas Jeffrey can't make you believe in ghosts... no one can. 💀