STATEN ISLAND, NYHISTORY Also known as the Billopp House, this 17th century home holds a significant place in American history. Prior to the first Europeans settling in the area, the land on which the house was built was populated by the Lene Lenape Indian tribe. Mainly this was used as a seasonal settlement for the tribe and provided them with an abundance of food from both the surrounding waters and land. It was also used as a convenient trading base as it allowed access to a significant portion of the eastern seaboard. The prominent bluff on which the property rests also served as a burial ground for the Lene Lenapes and, we have discovered, possibly a more ancient culture that preceded them. In 1676 a British Naval Captain named Christopher Billopp accompanied the newly appointed royal governor of the province of New York and New Jersey, Edmund Andros, to New York. Billopp was awarded 932 acres of land that would eventually become known as the Manor of Bentley. Capt. Billopp was said to have settled a dispute over Staten Island with neighboring New Jersey by winning a wager that he could sail around the borough in one day's time. Successful, he "won" the territory for the state of New York. While a compelling story, this is wholly inaccurate. By 1677, Col. Billopp was appointed Collector of Customs for the state of Delaware. Moving there to oversee his duties, he left his wife in Staten Island to manage their property. In 1680, Billopp constructed the house using fieldstone gathered and mined from the area. As his land holdings had grown to a total exceeding 1,600 acres, the home was eventually enlarged by 1720. Col. Billopp died in London in 1725. By 1702, the Manor of Bentley was run by Billops two daughters Mary and Anne. Mary would marry twice and each time to a member of the clergy. She would remain childless. Anne on the other hand, married Colonel Thomas Farmar in 1705 and kept her residence in the Billopp house. A son, Thomas, born in 1711 would eventually inherit the estate and with his second wife Sarah, go on to have eight children, the oldest of which was named Christopher, after his great-grandfather. Christopher would also assume the family name of Billopp. At the time of the American Revolution, the house was owned by Christopher who by then had risen to the rank of colonel in the British Army. He was commander of the Richmond County (Staten Island) militia before the war broke out and would go on to command a regiment of native loyalists during the war. However, Christopher's brother Thomas (who retained his father's surname Farmar) was loyal to the whigs (colonists) and joined them in their struggle for independence. As hostilities between the Torys (British) and the Colonists grew, it was decided that some sort of treaty be discussed in an effort to resolve the conflict peacefully and avert full-scale war. So on September 11, 1776, Col. Billop hosted a conference at his home that included the likes of Lord Admiral Richard Howe and Founding Fathers of the Declaration of Independence (which had been signed only two months prior to the talks) Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Edward Rutledge.A painting inside the Conference House depicting the meeting between the Founding Fathers and Lord Howe The British felt they were dealing from a position of strength and rightfully so. They were presently under control of New York City, Long Island and Staten Island and seemingly had the military numbers available to soundly defeat the Colonists. Their offer reflected their overconfidence as they tended a proposal to end the conflict if the colonies would simply agree to revert back to British control. Back in Philadelphia, the Continental Congress summarily rejected their proposal and the battle for independence raged for another seven years. During the ensuing conflict, Col. Billopp was twice captured by New Jersey colonial troops who despised him. The first time in 1778, he was incarcerated for nine months and again in 1779 for one month. A year later Billopp saw the handwriting on the wall and began to sell off parcels of his land. The home and 373 acres were sold in 1781 to a Staten Island farmer named Samuel Ward to go along with 850 more that were seized by the southern district of New York at the end of the war. What they did not know was that Billopp had already deeded the land to others, so their "take" would be much less than expected. When the war ended, Billopp joined many other British loyalists in moving to Canada. Two sons, John and Thomas would remain behind and eventually become New York businessmen. Col. Billopp died in St. John's, New Brunswick in 1827. Samuel Ward died in 1813, with his son Caleb inheriting the house. Caleb, his wife Mary and their five children lived there until Caleb's death in 1834. This would be the last individual family to own the home. The house served many purposes after the Wards left. At various points it housed multiple families, served as an inn and became the site of a company that manufactured rat poison. In 1926, the home was deeded to the City of New York and three years later group calling themselves the Conference House Association took over stewardship of the dwelling, an association that still exists today in conjunction with the City of New York Parks & Recreation and the Historic House Trust of New York City. Beginning in the years spanning 1926-1937, an ambitious effort was undertaken to restore the home to its proper condition. The home was officially opened as a museum on May 15, 1937 that is open to the public and accurately depicts life in colonial times.THE HAUNTING OF THE CONFERENCE HOUSE It is said a young servant girl, about 15 years old remains in a second floor bedroom of the home, known as the "children's room", gazing out a window during the summer months. She has also been heard singing love songs in what appears to be another language, seems to enjoy moving objects (including furniture) around the room and makes physical contact with staff and visitors by tapping them on their shoulders. At one point a demonstration of yarn spinning was scheduled in this room and after the props were set up, the house was vacated and its doors locked for the night. The following day it was discovered upon returning that yarn and related materials were tossed about all over the room. Another manifestation seem in the children's room centers around a tour guide who - upon entering the room one day - saw the indentation of a handprint on the bed located there. Stranger still, was the woman's observing the print begin to fade away while she looked on. During a candlelight vigil held on the stairway, where some have surmised the spirit of a servant thrown to her death by Col. Billopp still roams, one candle among the many being held seemed to extinguish itself as it blown out by an unseen force. The remaining candles did not so much as flicker. As the story goes goes, upon his release after his second imprisonment, Col. Billopp accused the girl of signaling colonial troops with a lantern from an upstairs window and vented his wrath upon her. Whether she was pushed or fell down the stairs escaping him is unclear.This is not the only tale of murderous rage or spiteful retribution in circulation however. There are also two related stories that have Col. Billopp stabbing a disobedient (or sexually unwilling) female servant with the poker from a fireplace and that of a nanny named Elizabeth whose had fallen in love with a local farmer, inciting anger in Col. Billopp who felt she had been "stolen" away from him. He immediately put out a warrant for her arrest. Elizabeth would eventually grow despondent over her husband's death some years later and hang herself. It is surmised that at least one of these three women haunt the Conference House. The spirit of Col. Billopp has also been said to wander the site. Perhaps it is he who is responsible for candle sticks that turn on their sides and paintings that are found hanging askew on the walls of the home when no living person has been inside to do so themselves. Another spirit spotted has been that of a British soldier, in full redcoat dress. His ghost was seen by the young son of a Conference House caretaker sometime in the 1970s. The boy told his parents the soldier had woken him from sleep and patted him on his head. At first dismissing the story, the parents were nonetheless intrigued by their young son's all-too-accurate description of the uniform which a Tory soldier would wear in that era. In fact, there have been sightings of numerous British soldiers walking the grounds over the years. A tour guide was approached one night by a pair of teenage girls who asked him if the Conference House had hosted a party of some sort the previous night. Telling them the place was empty at that time, he noticed strange looks coming from both. Upon asking why, he was told the girls had seen a man and woman in 18th-century dress walking hand in hand outside the home the night before.