Yes, there are ghosts in Cape May!
Actually, the entire town is haunted. Some people claim it might be the most haunted place in the country. I have heard the theory that spirits linger because of the intense energy created as the Delaware River and Atlantic Ocean meet. I cover that a little more in my Mind-Body-Spirit in Cape May post. Cape May was featured on an episode of Haunted Towns and they speculate the high amount of quartz in the ground is one possible explanation. No one really knows why for sure – but many, many people have experienced it…
The ghost in our 170 year old house is named Margaret. Rachel, our daughter, said she just senses that is her name. We became aware of the ghostly presence in our home early on when she started playing little tricks on us—closing and locking doors, turning on the water, taking things and then putting them in odd places. We, as well as several guests, have heard walking above them when no one was there. A painter we contracted refused to work after dark, because he felt someone watching him when he worked at night. Our niece Grace and her boyfriend Nic recently heard the eerie sound of furniture or maybe a trunk being dragged across the floor above them. The thing is-there is plush carpeting on the third floor… It would be impossible to naturally make that kind of sound. There are similar stories in homes all over Cape May.
A great many of the hotels in Cape May are known for being haunted. Here are just a few…
- Congress Hall – The first Congress Hall was built in 1816 and was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1878. It has been said that some of the spirits may be from the original structure as well. The current version was built in 1879. Several folks on The Ghosts of Cape May Facebook group have reported seeing and photographing ghostly inhabitants. I also had a supernatural experience during a stay there. While applying my makeup in the bathroom, a travel sized tube of hair gel flew from the sink into the adjoining bedroom and rolled under the bed. It was like some unseen force had hurled it into the other room. Needless to say, I didn’t retrieve it!
- The Southern Mansion has been the subject of a Ghost Hunter episode. Bruce Tango from the show said that he experienced some of the most paranormal activity ever while filming there. They actually filmed a door closing with no one there. One of the ghosts is apparently Ester Allen the niece of the original owner George Allen. Her favorite flower was the gardenia and many guests have reported smelling the fragrance in several locations, but primarily her room on the third-floor number 9.
- Hotel Macomber-room 10 is rumored to be inhabited by a spirit. Some believe it is Irene Wright — also known as the Trunk Lady was a guest who stayed at the hotel in that room consistently year after year. Other rooms are reported to be haunted as well. Sarah “Sadie” Davis was the owner of the hotel when it was called the New Stockton Villa. She committed suicide there and her spirit may be lingering.
- The Virginia Hotel – built in 1879 is believed to be haunted by a man and woman. The woman some say is Mrs. Connell the wife of the original owner. I can completely understand why she would not want to leave such a gorgeous and refined property.
- Inn of Cape May (formerly the Colonial Hotel) has a ghost of a young girl that is quite likely that of Eva Church who died at 17 years of age tragically. A “lady in blue” has been seen gazing out the window of one of the rooms.
Peter shields inn
Restaurants in Cape May are frequently haunted as well. The full list is quite long, but some of the more well known ones are below.
- Peter Shields – If you dine at Peter Shields you will undoubtedly enjoy a wonderful meal. However, if you venture to the restrooms in the cellar, you just might encounter the spirit of Earle Shields. Earle tragically died at the age of 15 when he was shot while hunting.
- Washington Inn is said to have a ghost named Elizabeth who most often has encounters with the waitstaff. She is also apparently active around children’s events.
- Elaine’s – The story goes that it is haunted by human ghosts including Emily the daughter of the original owners, but also that of a cat named Streak. The current owner describes them as friendly and even hosted ghost hunter weekends in the past.
- Ugly Mug an institution on Washington Mall in Cape May. If you have been there you can’t help but notice the mugs suspended from the ceiling. They belong to members of The Ugly Mug Club. When one of the members pass on, their mug is turned to face the ocean. Are the spirits who visit there to watch over their mugs?
Ghost Tours and Events
Walking and Trolley Ghost Tours are regularly held during most of the year by Cape May MAC. Cape May MAC is a non-profit organization focused on Museums, Art and Culture in the Cape May area. Craig McManus frequently conducts some of the tours and occasionally even holds seances at the Emlen Physick Estate. The Emlen Physick Estate (also quite haunted) is the only Victorian house museum in Cape May. The second-floor hallway is thought to be the most active (spooky) part of the house. Tours of the estate as well as other activities are conducted regularly throughout the year. You can check out the full calendar here of the house tours, ghosts & mysteries tours, as well as several other events. You can get tickets too!
Craig McManus who conducts the tours and seances is a renown psychic medium. He is the quintessential expert in all things haunted in Cape May. He has written five fascinating books on the subject that go into great detail and in-depth history.
- The Ghosts of Cape May Books 1-3
- 400 Years of the Ghosts of Cape May: Chronicling Four Centuries of Hauntings in America’s Oldest Seaside Resort
- The Ghosts of Cape May NEW HAUNTS/OLD GHOSTS
You can watch Craig talking about what it is like to be a medium on his feature on the Today Show. Who better to leads these hauntingly interesting activities?
Almost everyone who has visited Cape May seems to have their own ghost story. They hear strange voices, see things in mirrors, even have photographs will unexplained orbs or shapes. If you have had an encounter with the spirit world while visiting, please let me know! I’d LOVE to hear about it-comment below!
If you have an interest in the history of Cape May, I invite you to check out my friend Laura Quinn’s blog. She is also working on a novel set in Cape May. I will keep you posted!
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