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Dead by Dawn: A D&D Adventure Inspired by a Real-Life Haunted Mansion

[Drinks Potion of Thundering Voice] *ahem*

Greetings Count Lowl, Barawyn the Beguiling, Briarstone Witch, Dead Arthur, and all other esteemed ghosts and ghouls of Kreischer Manor. Can everyone hear me OK? Good, you know how I am when it comes to that accursed mute button!

I didn’t call this meeting to get sign-ups for the upcoming Eerie Potluck. Nor do I wish to talk further about last week’s controversial Haunted Raffle.

Furthermore, there will be no more discussion of the marketing slogan for this year’s spooky ice cream social: “Treats so cold, they’re chilling.” I understand your various complaints, but the t-shirts have been printed and there is no turning back now.

No, I – Lord Balthasar – have called this meeting to order to discuss an unfortunate circumstance: My sources tell me that a party of paranormal investigators are on their way to Kreischer Manor as we speak.

Please, please. Everybody. Hold your laughter. Especially you, Dead Joey. I understand this doesn’t sound like a very pressing issue. I know that we’re old hats at haunting and spreading insanity is in our bones, especially yours, Professor Rattle-Bones.

But this visit is different. The paranormal investigators are quite competent this time and generously outfitted with Holy Water, garlic, and the like. That means we can’t do the thing we always do, where the investigators wave their torches slowly throughout each of Kreischer Manor’s 90 rooms and two sub-level dungeons before turning to leave, satisfied there’s nothing there, before finding one of us RIGHT BEHIND HIM!

Sorry, I didn’t mean to shout. I just get so excited about jump scares. And I just knew that would get the blood pumping! Figuratively speaking, of course. Except in your case, Madam Blood.

Indeed, we must step up our game far beyond the simple jump scares that have served us in the past. You all know “Dead by Dawn” is the slogan of Kreischer Manor and no one knows this better than Sleepless Maddy, who was instrumental in those marketing efforts.

So, if Kreischer Manor plans to live up to our slogan – and I do hope that each of you can levitate to this occasion – then this adventuring party needs to be turned undead before the morning’s first light. Now get out there and give them hell!

The Haunted History of Kreischer Mansion

Balthasar Kreischer brought his brickworks operation from Germany to Staten Island in the mid-1800s and the accompanying economic boom was so successful that the area soon became known as Kreischerville. The elder Kreischer then used his wealth to build twin mansions on a hilltop along Arthur Kill Road for his two sons.

Sadly, Balthasar died just a year after they were completed, which is perhaps for the best, given what followed. The brick factory his sons inherited burnt to the ground. The economic blow was devastating and their fortunes soon fell, leading one of his sons, Edward, to shoot himself in the right temple in the parlor of the mansion that stands today.

Superstition began to surround he ornate gothic mansion and all manner of ghost stories were told about the house. There have been sightings of a woman wearing Victorian-era garb sitting on the porch of the home and Edward’s weeping, distraught wife Frieda is among the ghosts people have claimed to hear at the mansion over the years. In fact, people have spotted the ghosts of both Edward and Freida Kreischer roaming the grounds.

There have been multiple reports over the years of people seeing a young boy who is believed to have been one of Balthasar’s other sons. And a child’s footsteps are often heard on the second floor. Caroline and Balthasar had a son, Henry, who died at age 6. But the boy may also be one of Balthasar’s children born to his second wife, Mathilda, after Caroline died from complications during Edward’s birth.

Author Lynda Lee Macken wrote about the supposed hauntings in her book Haunted History of Staten Island: “Patrons and staff observed odd goings-on. Loud banging noises were heard, and an unseen force liked to slam doors. Pictures flew off walls. Cold spots and icy drafts were felt. All classic signs of a ghostly presence,” she wrote.

Just about anything German became taboo during World War I, so the name of the neighborhood was changed to Charleston, and most traces of the family was scrubbed from public record, including a stone monument at a nearby church that publicly thanked the Kreischers for their work in the community and contributions in building the town.

At this point our story includes a pole, perhaps the famed 10 foot variety from D&D of yesteryear. In the weeks before Frank Fresca was killed execution-style, he allowed the FBI onto his property so they could fish evidence out of his marina – specifically, a metal pole investigators believed was used to eviscerate the body of a mob murder victim.

A decade prior, Fresca took a short-lived attempt at turning Kreischer Mansion into a restaurant. Now the 66-year-old Fresca had been openly assisting federal prosecutors in the trial of reputed Bonanno crime family soldier Joseph “Joe Black” Young, who, on the order of a mafia boss, was paid $8,000 to carry out a hit at Kreischer Mansion in 2005.

Which he did. Joe Black lured his victim, Robert McKelvey, to Kreischer Mansion where he attempted to strangle him. But McKelvey broke free and tried to run off, with Joe Black running after him. Black eventually tackled him to the ground and stabbed him repeatedly, I’m assuming with the pole.

Joe Black then dragged McKelvey to a nearby pond and drowned him, no doubt frustrated and put out because McKelvey didn’t willingly surrender. Joe Black and three other mobsters used hacksaws to chop McKelvey’s body to pieces, then burned those pieces in the mansion’s furnace.

Joe Black then became agitated over fears he wouldn’t get paid for his work. Investigators played the following recording of Joe Black for the jury: “And then after I get the gear I need, after we hit the one-year mark, I’ll f–ing whack the whole world if I have to, I don’t give a s—,” he said. “I know, I’m, I am dead serious, I don’t even f—ing care. I’ll go into Fresca’s, I will f–ing go anywhere.

Dead by dawn indeed.

Dead by Dawn, Your D&D Adventure!

These are just a few of the stories associated with Kreischer Mansion. The wonderful thing about D&D is it encourages you to take inspiration from these true-life tales and use them to create your own stories.

Use the above as inspiration and create a one-off session for your D&D group.

  • Populate Kreischer Mansion with all sorts of ghosts and ghouls.
  • Fill it with haunts that play homage to the real life stories of Kreischer Mansion.
  • Have Joe Black-type character that you communicate is way too over-powered for the PCs to defeat in combat, so they must run from him.
  • Best, mysteriously lock the PCs in the mansion and put a timer on everything. Escape Kreischer Mansion or be dead by dawn, as the legend goes.
  • Maybe you play it horrifying and macabre or maybe you inject some silliness like is found in the opening of this article.

Sources