Ghost Burglar Encounters

Bernard Welch, the infamous Ghost Burglar, was responsible for countless burglaries from the mid-1960s to his eventual arrest on December 5, 1980. In addition to his burglary victims, there are many more people who may have encountered him during this time: police officers, antique dealers, neighbors.

If you did encounter Bernard Welch in any capacity, we’d love to hear your experience. Please submit your story below.

3 Replies to “Ghost Burglar Encounters”

  1. Bernard Welch broke into our home. My younger brother was home at the time. He was in 5th grade. I remember seeing BW in a vehicle across the street from our house for several days prior to the break-in. My younger brother had been home sick from school so we think BW had never seen him come or go. The night he broke into our house, everyone except my younger brother left the house. My mom left to run to the grocery store. BW broke open our back door with a crowbar. The door he came through opened up to the top landing of the stairs going down into our basement. My brother was in the basement and heard all of the commotion. He walked over to the bottom of the stairs and was looking up as BW busted open the door. My brother was in a lit room and the staircase was dark, so BW could see my brother clearly and yet my brother could only see a shadow outline of the man. My brother thought it was a friend of my older brother’s pulling some kind of trick to try to scare him and he said, “Who is that?” BW replied, “I’m breaking into your house.” That sounded ridiculous so my brother said, “Ha ha. Very funny. Really, who is that?” BW then said, “Who else is home?” and at that point my brother sensed that this voice was not joking around. SOMEHOW my brother responded by saying, “My Dad.” BW then turned and fled. My parents were divorced and so BW had not seen a “dad” come or go from the home. So my brother responding that our dad was home was a possibility. BW must have considered that he hadn’t seen my younger brother come or go; therefore he could have missed my dad coming or going as well. Thank goodness my brother responded this way. If he had said, “My mom” and BW knew he was lying, it is horrifying to consider what he might have done.

    The police dusted the door and took fingerprints. I am not sure how quickly it was, but it was not long at all before they told us they knew who it was. I thought he was called something like “The Silver Bandit”??? I remember hearing stories that he would steal silver and melt it down immediately so that it couldn’t be identified. I think I even heard that he took a ring right off our neighbor’s finger while she slept.

    I remember that we had a silverware box but my mom didn’t keep the silver in it because it was the most obvious place for a burglar to look. So at some point as a kid, I had written a note that said, “Dear Burglar, Ha ha. Fooled ya!” and put it in the box. I would sort of like to know what BW would have thought if he had come upon that note. But I’m glad I never actually had the opportunity to find out.

    We were lucky. My brother and family were unharmed and nothing was stolen. We just had to fix the back door. But it spooked us all for months and my parents went ultra security focused with bolts on the windows, a new dog (that part was a benefit…thanks Bernie!), etc. I think they had a police officer even do a check for security recommendations. I remember being very jumpy though and within about 2 months of the break in, I called the police twice, thinking there was someone breaking into the house. One turned out to be a workman who was coming to give an estimate on something and the other was truly just noises I convinced myself I was hearing when I was home alone one afternoon. I remember my mom commenting that she wondered if it was common for people who had experienced a break in to be panicky and call the police more frequently after having the scary encounter.

    Glad BW is gone.

  2. When I was a kid, Bernard Welch moved into a house down the street from us in Duluth, MN. I believe he went by “David Hamilton” at that time. One night, my parents, brother and sister all spent an evening at his house. My brother was a magician and my mother had asked him to record a Doug Henning Magic special. Back then VCRs were new and he was the only one in the neighborhood who had one. He also had one of the first big screen tvs (the ones that fire from the front with the separate RGB lights). I remember that Tom Bosley was on show and I have this distinct memory of Bernard saying with disgust “Oh I hate this guy”… which struck me as funny. He had all kinds of unusual art around the house, some of which was erotic which I found interesting as a child. There was definitely something very strange about this man. Some time later I remember a police car parked on the street by his house all day long. We wondered what was up… this was the day after he killed that doctor.

  3. Although I never met Bernard C. Welch Jr. or even heard of him before the Halberstam murder, I have a personal connection. He was my second cousin, our grandfathers were brothers. I also lived within a few miles of him for around 20 years when I was growing up in Brockport NY and he lived in nearby Spencerport and Hamlin. Bernie was nearly a decade older than I was.

    For reasons unknown to anyone alive today, there was a split in the family when my father was young and he grew up not knowing much about his Welch relatives. My father was from the Syracuse area and I wasn’t aware of any relatives in the Rochester area. Other than my grandfather, I never met any of my Welch relatives until about 15 years after my father died.

    I’m surprised that I don’t recall when Bernie was arrested in Hamlin NY in 1971 with $500,000 in stolen goods. Even though I wasn’t aware of my relationship then, it must have been a major news story for the sparsely populated town.

    Our paths semi-crossed again in Virginia, I moved about 50 miles from D.C. in 1972. I moved back to the Rochester area a few months before the Halberstam murder in 1980.

    I vaguely recall my father writing to ask his stepmother about Bernie at the time of the murder but forgot about it and didn’t confirm the relationship until I was doing genealogy research about 15 years later. Bernie’s father, Bernard C. Welch Sr., was likely named for his uncle, Bernard I. Welch, who was my grandfather’s twin brother.

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