HomeHaddonfield NewsWanted in Haddonfield: More Town Criers

Wanted in Haddonfield: More Town Criers

Town criers have been a recognizable part of the town for nearly a decade

Special to The Sun/Courtesy of Debbie Troy Photography
Town criers pose Joe Murphy (left) at the annual Skirmish reenactment in Haddonfield.

Hear ye, hear ye! The Indian King Tavern Museum is seeking new town criers.

If you’ve been to the yelling contest at the annual Skirmish event, the Citizen of the Year award ceremony or even at a tree planting, it’s possible you’ve seen the town criers.

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The town criers are often seen wearing high socks, colorful vests, and wearing tri-corner hats while ringing a bell. They add liveliness to the events that they are in, and call for huzzahs when there is something to celebrate.

“The town has always been historically oriented, and it’s a small town, very traditional town, so you could picture a town crier,” said Joe Murphy, who employs Philip Zoebisch who is the chief town crier. “A town crier in Cherry Hill would be walking around Route 70 dodging cars, but in Haddonfield, it’s just natural to walk down Kings Highway.”

The idea to bring town criers to Haddonfield had been proposed around 10 years ago by Haddonfield resident Bill Brown. Though he had proposed it at several meetings, it wasn’t until Murphy caught wind of the idea that the idea town criers were able to be formally approved and officially appointed by the Indian King Tavern Museum. According to Murphy, prior to the group getting approval, former mayor Jack Tarditi had served informally as a town crier to promote the Indian King Tavern Museum.

Since then, the town criers have been an integral part of the town.

“It’s just a fun thing to do,” said Philip Zoebisch, chief town crier for the town and office manager at the Indian King Tavern Museum. “You walk around town and all you get is smiles. And little kids point, ‘A pirate!’ and you explain, ‘No, I’m a town crier’ and we do this for events all over Haddonfield.”

Zoebisch explained that the history of town criers went back thousands of years, mainly because the common people couldn’t read.

“In the middle ages it really became more popular throughout Europe,” Zoebisch explained. “It wasn’t just England, it was … everywhere. The town crier was historically the best dressed man in town, and he was always from the aristocracy because he could read, and the common man could not read.

“There, they would go around, like 500 years ago in Germany, they might be saying ‘Don’t pee in the river, we’re making beer today!'”

That was a real thing that was proclaimed by town criers, Murphy said.

The role is voluntary and gives opportunities to practice public speaking through giving one or two-minute spiels and calling for huzzahs. The cost for the attire is covered by the Friends of the Indian King Tavern, as one outfit can cost around $600 altogether.

The role is year-round, and criers are mainly featured at nonprofit events, though they will only attend if they are invited to participate.

“This is a resource that is available to any of the nonprofits,” Murphy said. “If they want to promote something or get attention, if they have someone milling around and talking and somebody comes out with a voice like Philip’s [Zoebisch], and they ring the bell and say ‘Oye ye, oye ye,’ it gets peoples’ attention.

“And it’s just a lot of fun. It just adds to the character and spirit of the town.”

For those interested in the role, Zoebisch advises to have a relaxed attitude, since the criers are often greeted by people asking to take pictures together.

For those interested in becoming a town crier or learning more information, contact Philip Zoebisch at pszoebisch@gmail.com.

This article was updated on July 8, 2024.

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