In 1885, another ghost story rooted in Long Island history made the newspapers.
After a rest of five years on the Centreville Race Course, just south of Woodhaven, and men and women congregate every night to witness the strange sight. His ghostship appears promptly at a quarter to ten o'clock and departs at twelve minutes after eleven. There is a good deal of speculation as to whose ghost this is.
So who was the apparition? It seems the story of murder was true.
On October 1, 1866. a "celebrated trainer" was shot at the Centreville Course. His name was Robert Walker and he'd gone out to exercise his horse.
The horse returned with an empty sulky, and Walker's servant went to look for him. There he met Leonard Brown who told him he just found Walker's body lying on the track. He was still warm and blood spurted from a wound to his left temple.
Dr. Belden from Jamica examined the body and found a small pistol ball inside the dead man's cranium. A man working at the track told the coroner that about the time of the murder he saw two men dressed in dark clothes running from where the body was found.
One of the theories for the murder was a business deal gone bad. Walker lent a large sum of money to a friend in New York as a security of certain oil stocks which were found to be worthless. They had a violent quarrel and Walker threatened to expose him. The man said, "you shall rue this as long as you live, and that won't be long."
A second suspect was a man named Alfred, recently employed in Walker's stables to look after a horse belonging to Mr. Boles from Newark. Mr. Boles fired the man after Walker told him about his illicit affairs with the servant girls around the hotel.
Another theory for the motive was connected to Walker's skill as a driver. Perhaps he was killed to prevent him from participating in recently announced races on the Union Course.
Robbery seemed not to be the aim of the crime since $102 in "greenbacks" were found in Robert Walker's vest pocket, along with his gold watch.
There were no footprints around the soft earth where the body had fallen.
On October 9, 1866, Robert Martin was arrested on suspicion of being the murderer of Robert Walker. He was formerly a hostler in Walker's stable. Martin who was supposed to be somewhere else, within a few minutes of Walker's death came to the hotel, ordered breakfast, which he didn't eat and left to deliver a horse to Newton, New Jersey. He acted very nervously.
He stopped at John Suedider's and said Walker was dead after being kicked by a horse. At this moment he had not seen the body or known of the man's death, which intrigued the detectives who eventually arrested him. Martin had a very bad reputation and everyone appeared to be afraid of him.
In a strange twist, Coroner Curtis thought to let him go on $500 bonds for his appearance.
On October 15, the inquest held into the murder concluded that evidence was deemed insufficient to justify the detention of suspected parties. The murder was never solved.
Could this be the reason the ghost haunted the race course?
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by Marlene Pardo Pellicer