Gordon Thomas Ward

Rekindle the Wonder!

inspiring, powerful, and engaging Music, Books, & Presentations

Welcome to the Past
The Tale of Phyllis Parker


Gordon Thomas Ward on lead and harmony vocals, 6-string grand concert guitar, 6-string jumbo guitar, 6-string Nashville high strung guitar.

Background & Inspiration

There is a building in Bernardsville, NJ, that used to be the town library. Built in 1750, it is associated with one of the most famous ghost stories to come out of the time of the American Revolution. You can read all about the history, the story, and the paranormal investigation I’ve done at this building in my book Ghosts of Central Jersey. I had finished reading Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “Haunted Houses” and had a couple lines stuck in my head:

All houses wherein men have lived and died

Are haunted houses. Through the open doors

The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,

With feet that make no sound upon the floors.

I was noodling around with a picking pattern on an Am chord, and just started writing. By the time the song hit the recording studio, I had decided to add the wind sound effect to create the spooky setting for telling a ghost story. I enjoyed weaving together the different guitar parts in this song.


After listening to the song, you may find yourself with some questions. Is the story of Phyllis Parker true? Does her spirit still roam the building that used to be the Parker Tavern? Is the site really haunted? Well...you'll have to read Ghosts of Central Jersey to find out.


In the hamlet known as Vealtown on an evening long ago
In 1777 cloaked in January snow.
The tale is told of love and death where fact and fiction blend.
It’s up to you to seek the truth and see where it may end.

John Parker owned the tavern where his fare and draught were sold
He had a daughter Phyllis, perhaps sixteen years old.
Her fiancé Dr. Byram was a border at their inn.
The stage was set for tragedy as this ghostly tale begins.

General Wayne came up from Princeton seeking shelter in the night.
He walked into the tavern bathed in firelight.
Dr. Byram saw the general and retired to his room,
And the tavern lay in stillness and the ever growing gloom.

The early light of morning found Byram gone away
No one thought it strange until General Wayne exclaimed,
“My notes from General Washington are gone, without a doubt,”
And soon all thoughts turned to the doctor and his whereabouts.

(Chorus) It’s been said, the Parker Tavern’s firesides
Are haunted, and through the open doors
The phantom Phyllis Parker flits and glides,
With feet that make no sound upon the floors.

Wayne was shown a likeness of the doctor by and by.
He said, “His name’s not Byram. It’s Aaron Wilde, a British spy.”
Soon soldiers were assembled, and all were reconciled
To search the town and countryside and capture Aaron Wilde.

Well, they caught him at a crossroad, down yonder half a mile.
He had the stolen papers, so they held a speedy trial.
Wilde’s last request to Parker was to write, “Please bury me.”
And thirty minutes later Wilde was hanging from a tree.

The soldiers cut his body down and nailed it in a box.
Parker kept things quiet to just spare Phyllis the shock.
Soldiers brought the coffin to the tavern’s taproom floor,
And left it overnight, awaiting burial in the morn.


Meanwhile naïve Phyllis waited for her love to show.
She asked about where Byram was, but no one seemed to know.
And, curious about what lay upon the taproom floor,
When all had gone to sleep, she crept outside her bedroom door.

In the silence after midnight, down the stairway Phyllis slid
She pried the nails, cracked the wood, and split the coffin lid
And horrified, to gaze upon her lover lying dead
She shrieked and screamed and went insane… 

At least that’s what’s been said.

Since then, many folks have seen a woman’s ghostly form
Appearing in the halls and rooms, seeming so forlorn.
It’s assumed the ghost of Phyllis Parker does not rest in peace,
But some say there are other souls that yearn to be released.



With feet that make no sound upon the floors.
With feet that make no sound…