By Joe Haller, Groovy Reflections Team Member
I grew up in the suburbs of NYC. Not Lawn Guy Land. Rockland County, NY bordering Bergen County, New Jersey. To get from Monsey, NY to Pearl River, NY it was easiest to cut through Montvale, New Jersey along Summit Avenue. Really nice area, but one house stood out. There was no fine-trimmed lawn like all the rest. It was a jungle of brush, small trees, and weeds. The house itself looked haunted. It needed paint. The shutters were hanging off. The driveway was dirt. But the place was occupied.
Rumor had it that a witch lived there. It was 1971. Dark Shadows had just gone off the air. But we half believed in ghosts, witches, séances, parallel time…..all that stuff.
The Sunday News had an article that summer, about a witch in Montvale, New Jersey. She called herself Witch Hazel. Her photograph was stunning. She was a fox, in the vernacular of the day. Too old for me, however. I was only 19 and she had to be old, like 33 or 34.
Fast forward to the summer of 1972. We figured out that the “haunted house” on Summit Avenue had to be Witch Hazel’s house. I filled up my 1971 Duster with friends and my brother Eddie. We were going to meet Hazel. I parked at the corner of Summit and Terkuile, just down the road from Hazel’s house. The five of us walked up Summit and started up Hazel’s dirt driveway. The “haunted house” was pretty far off the road. About halfway back, we heard sirens…..saw flashing lights.
The cops were there! We split up and ran through the jungle, back to the Duster. No good….it was boxed in by police cars. They made me follow them to the station. Witch Hazel was going to press charges for trespassing. She was fed up with gawkers and gapers. We were going to be an example, according to the fuzz.
After about a half-hour of cooling our heels in some waiting room (at least we weren’t behind bars) Hazel showed up at the police station in full witch regalia. All dressed in black, a flowing cape, a black hat but not a pointy one. Since the Duster was mine, I was the driver and ring leader. How was I going to get us out of this mess?
Hazel ranted about how she just wanted to live her life without “unannounced visitors”. She asked me “Why were you there? What did you hope to gain?” I told her I had seen her picture in the paper and was hoping to get a date with her. Then I said “You are even more beautiful in person”. She really was breathtaking, and I meant what I said.
She turned to the police. “Let them go” she said. It wasn’t quite that easy. Otis, Louie, and Bruce could only be released to their parents. So three unhappy parents had to come and get their sons. When the cop called my mother she played the widow card so he released my brother in my custody. End of story? Not quite.
The Montvale police station wasn’t far from Friendly’s in Park Ridge. Hazel said to me “Follow me to Friendly’s. I am going to buy sundaes for you and Eddie.” We followed her, and walked inside with her, She was a stunning sight! A beautiful woman dressed like a witch. She WAS a witch!! EVERY eye in that place was on her, and us. We sat and talked for an hour, enjoying our ice cream. She gave me a ring with a glass enclosed spider. She also said “That was your date. I hope you enjoyed it”. I said “Hazel, I surely did. Let me leave the tip”.
I never saw her again. Took Eddie home, and got screamed at by my mother for being a bad influence on him. He had a blast that night, and saw ME in trouble. A perfect night for Eddie, and a damned good one for me.
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