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Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Smoke Rise Ghost Story: The Purple Bishop

As read from the campfire at the recent Smoke Rise Beach campout that took place Saturday, July 19th, 2008 - the third Saturday in July - with St. Hubert's Chapel lit up in the distance...

"In the past, there have been many tales of the Purple Bishop, but in fact none of those stories was true. Fortunately, after extensive research and the assistance of old newspapers, the truth has finally been revealed. The following is the true story of vandalism, ghosts, and strange disappearances.

The tale begins with a young priest by the name of Father O'Malley who, in the year 1899, was appointed Bishop of the Diocese of Paterson. One night, while Bishop O'Malley was sleeping, a group of teenage boys entered his church in Paterson and began to destroy the pews, the windows and other religious symbols. When Bishop O'Malley heard his church being destroyed, he ran to the altar. In an attempt to escape, the boys knocked over two candles setting the church on fire. After ten minutes a crowd appeared outside the church and noticed Bishop O'Malley dressed in purple robes exit the front of the church with burned arms and legs, a mutilated face and the cross that had once hung above the altar.

Devastated by the loss of his church and the tragedy that he had experienced, Bishop O'Malley resigned from his position and accepted the offer of a Mr. Kinney, who was looking for a priest and caretaker for the small chapel on his estate that is today known as Smoke Rise. No one knows why, but Bishop O'Malley was never the same and he began to promote an entirely new view of God and preaching. Rather than focus on hope and love, Bishop O'Malley revealed the cruelty and brutality of religion. In so doing, he scared many of the parishioners and especially Mrs. Kinney. Because Mr. Kinney was not satisfied with Bishop O'Malley he did not fully grant the Bishop's dying wish - to be buried under the second step of the chapel, with the mysterious cross he had saved from the fire so many years ago. When Bishop O'Malley died, he was buried in the chosen location, however his cross remained above the altar rather than at his side.

About twenty years ago on the third Saturday in July, three boys decided to camp out at Smoke Rise Beach. That very night they also decided to break into St. Hubert's Chapel. With a sledge hammer and rocks they proceeded to destroy the stained glass windows, knock the heads off of statues, ring the bell and steal the cross that was hanging above the altar. As they were running out of the chapel, one of the boys dropped the sledge hammer on the second step, cracking it open and revealing a hollow space large enough to fit a body. Ignoring the hole, the boys took their boat and the mysterious cross back to the beach, where they slept the night.

In the morning, two of the boys awoke to find that their friend was missing. They found the cross in the woods where their friend has left it. The boys and all of Smoke Rise searched days and days for the missing friend, but his body was never recovered.

The next year, on the exact same date, the two boys went back to their original campsite, to mourn the loss of their friend and to try and make sense of what had happened that night. At around midnight, the boys heard something in the water. They walked to the shore of the lake to see what was there. However, the night was so cloudy that they couldn't see anything. Suddenly, the moon broke through the clouds and in the water they saw the ghost of their friend. Both the boys gasped in horror as the ghost approached them and said:
"Help me find the cross... Help me or I will never rest in peace. The Purple Bishop wants his cross. He will never stop until it is returned to him. Help!"
Frightened, the two boys began to run away. But it was no use and the last anyone heard of the boys was their screams. They were never seen again!

No one ever found what killed the three friends, but every year on the third Saturday in July, it is said that the Purple Bishop returns from the dead, to search for his cross. He will never stop searching until the cross is returned to him and he is allowed to rest in peace at the chapel with the cross by his side."

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This being my first campout, I had never heard about The Purple Bishop. However, it seems that many versions of Purple Bishop stories exist...

I love how particularly relevant to Smoke Rise this version is bringing in Mr. Kinney, St. Hubert's Chapel, the beach and vandals. [Note: our telling of The Purple Bishop included impressive sound effects, some coming from the lake waters...]

St. Hubert's Chapel has seen at least two waves of vandalism. From the booklet on St. Hubert's, we know the following: "In 1957, four teenage boys and a girl from the community broke into the Chapel and destroyed and looted its precious interior. Despite efforts to repair the damaged Chapel and protect it from further harm, thoughtless vandalism persisted. Birds gained access through broken windows and nested in the Chapel's interior. Several efforts were made during the early and middle sixties to reverse the destructive trend. However, these attempts were short lived."

Although a great deal of effort has gone into restoring the Chapel, it is but a shadow of its original magnificence. In upcoming posts, I'll show you photos and share more about the Chapel.

In the meantime, may the Smoke Rise version of the Purple Bishop forever discourage children from vandalism of any sort!


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