- Cape May NJ Travel Guide and Vacation Planner Blog

Month: September 2011

Ghosts Still Touring Cape May

The Ghosts of the Lighthouse Trolley Tour continues this weekend. Board a MAC trolley and dare to take an evening tour down the ghostly path that leads to the Cape May Lighthouse. You’ll hear and experience Craig McManus’ paranormal findings during your journey. Once you reach your destination, you’ll feel the presence of the spirits at the Light. Whether you choose to climb or stay below, you’ll surely enjoy a ghostly experience.

The Ghost Hunt trolley runs   Friday, Oct.  14;  & Saturday, Oct. 15, 22 & 29: 8pm.

$20 adults, $15 children (3-12)

For more information call Call 609-884-5404 or 800-275-4278 or visit

Cape May Remembers 9/11 Tenth Anniversary

Although storm clouds threatened and eventually brought the event to a sudden halt, Cape May City’s 9/11 10th Anniversary Remembrance completed its ceremony with, as Cape May Mayor Edward Mahaney remarked, a much larger than usual crowd in attendance. The event included music from the Cape Harmonaires as well as remarks from Mayor Mahaney, West Cape May Mayor Pam Kaithern and State Senator Jeff Van Drew.
Two Cape May Firefighters who went to New York City after Sept. 11 to aid New York firefighters, Lt. Alex Coulter and Firefighter Michael Eck, lowered an American Flag. Members of Boy Scout Troop 73 folded the flag.

Best of Cape May 2011 Results

Every year for seven years, we’ve asked our readers for their opinions on everything Cape May has to offer, from the best restaurants to the best place to grab a martini, and everything in between. Here are this year’s winners and runners up:

Well, that wraps things up for the Best of Cape May 2011! We hope you pay us a visit and find out for yourself the very best that Cape May has to offer. Thanks to all of you for voting and helping to celebrate our beautiful, seaside town!

Anatomy of a Sandwich

Good quality bread elevates the humblest of sandwiches.

The difference between eating and savoring food is often defined by the quality of the ingredients. Even with the humblest of foods, the sandwich, the quality of the ingredients matters. The sandwich is the stalwart staple of the American lunch. As we mature so do our palates. Baloney and cheese on Wonder Bread yields to mortadella and aged provolone on a ciabatta roll. There are three basic components to any sandwich: the bread, the filling, and the spread or accompaniment. Each part contributes to making a sandwich greater than the sum of its parts.

The secret to a good sandwich begins with good bread. Once you pass the age of eight, Wonder Bread doesn’t cut the mustard as the foundation for a real sandwich. The type of bread has a dramatic effect on the finished fare. The quality of the bread may be of more importance to the final product than the quality of the filling. Try an experiment; grab a couple of slices of good artisan bread and regular white bread. Put the same filling and toppings on each sandwich and see for yourself which one tastes better. A crusty baguette with its dense chewy texture elevates humble ham and cheese. Rye bread’s slight acidity and hints of molasses add depth to sliced turkey and mayo. The general kitchen rules of flavor pairings apply to bread and fillings in sandwiches too. Using buttery breads like brioche or croissant with creamy chicken salad or oil-laden smoked salmon accentuates the richness of the ingredients. In contrast, breads like sourdough or rye with their subtle tartness provide a counterbalance to the same rich components. Simply changing the type or style of bread can make the same old ingredients seem fresh and new. Besides flavor, bread’s greatest contribution to the sandwich may be texture. Living on the right coast, we have access to some of the best bread in the country. Crisp semolina loaves dusted with sesame seeds from an Italian bakery is a local favorite. Having lived in other parts of the country I can attest to the fact that quality Italian and rye breads don’t exist west of the Appalachian Mountains. Good sandwiches are “bread,” not born.

Once you settle on your choice of bread, the next decision is what to put on the inside. Deli meats vary greatly in quality. Lower priced meats are loaded with fillers like starches, cereals, gelatin, and even wood cellulose. I want my lunch meats to contain meat, no wood cellulose for me, damn it. I am not a beaver. The neighborhood butcher and deli have largely been replaced by chain stores selling pre-sliced, pre-packaged meats and cheeses. Good deli meats should be sliced tissue-paper thin so the meat piles high on the bread and melts in your mouth in an explosion of meaty goodness. Slicing corned beef and pastrami is an art form. Go to the city to an old-school Kosher deli and watch the men behind the counter. Bulky briskets of corned beef glide along scalpel-sharp blades yielding to the steel. The dark pink salty meat is streaked with creamy rows of fat waiting to be drizzled with coarse spicy mustard. Smoky peppered pastrami in long rectangular strips meets the same fate on chewy rye bread. The only extra touches needed are creamy coleslaw and a whole pickle plucked from a brine-filled barrel. The marriage of artisan bread and artfully sliced meats is wedded bliss to the palate.

Quality ingredients matter, even when making sandwiches.

The entity that binds meat and bread together can vary from sandwich to sandwich. Spreads and accompaniments elevate the ingredients to greatness. The BLT becomes a sandwich superstar thanks to real mayonnaise. By real, I mean Hellman’s. Miracle Whip is culinary fraud like imitation vanilla and key lime pie dyed bright green. Picking the right mustard for a sandwich is a little trickier. For corned beef and pastrami, Gulden’s spicy brown is my preference, although there are several varieties of stone-ground mustard, mostly German, that are perfectly acceptable. Dijon goes great with ham. Bright yellow mustard is okay only if your sandwich is packed in a Brady Bunch lunch box. The BLT is one of the few acceptable places for adults to be seen with iceberg lettuce, its crunch and texture being an integral part of that particular sandwich’s legacy.

For years I have petitioned Trenton to make it illegal to serve tomatoes on sandwiches in New Jersey outside of the summer growing season. The pale imitators, consumed the rest of the year, serve only to remind us how great a homegrown Jersey tomato tastes.

There are numerous ways to enhance the flavor of a sandwich. Bacon really does make everything better. Flavored mayonnaises add some personal pizzaz to the plate. Wasabi or chipotle mayo on grilled chicken or fish adds a little fire to the feast. For the indecisive, mustard and mayonnaise can be mixed together.

What makes a sandwich great is that it is your sandwich and can be personalized however you like. Sandwiches are the ultimate nostalgia food. We all grew up with some variation of a classic sandwich be it PB&J, liverwurst and mustard on rye, or the all-American grilled cheese. This month’s recipes are my re-imagined versions of grilled cheese for the adult palate. Remember, all you need for a tasty sandwich is good bread, good quality fillings, and good friends to share it with. Until next month, Bon Appétit.

Grilled Herbed Goat Cheese on Brioche with Homemade Tomato Jam

(Makes 4)

Tomato Jam Recipe

  • 8 Roma tomatoes, cored and quartered
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 3 sprigs thyme

Place all ingredients in non-reactive pot. Bring to boil. Reduce to low. Simmer 30 minutes or until most liquid is evaporated. Puree with immersion blender. Adjust seasoning. Cool.

To Assemble Sandwich

  • 8 slices brioche
  • Softened unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces herbed goat cheese

Spread 1 ounce goat cheese on each slice of bread. Spread jam in thick layer to ¼-inch from crust. Fold halves together. Butter outside of each side of sandwich. Heat non-sick skillet on medium-high heat. Cook sandwich 3-5 minutes per side until bread is golden brown.

Fig and Gorgonzola Panini

(Makes 4)

  • 4 pieces 3”x6” focaccia, split
  • 8 slices prosciutto, sliced thin
  • 6 ounces dolce gorgonzola, crumbled

Fig Jam

Spread the inside of bread with jam on each side. Top each side with a slice of prosciutto. Top with 1½ ounces gorgonzola. Close sandwich. Brush outside with extra virgin olive oil. Cook for 5 minutes in Panini press until crispy and cheese oozes.

Farmhouse Cheddar on Sourdough

(Makes 4)

  • 8 slices artisan sourdough bread
  • 8 ounces farmhouse cheddar, sliced
  • Fiji apple, cored sliced in ¼-inch wedges
  • 12 slices applewood smoked bacon, cooked

Place cheese on each slice bread. Top with 4 slices apple and 3 slices bacon. Close sandwich. Butter outside. Preheat cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Cook sandwiches 4-5 minutes on each side until cheese melts and outside is golden brown.

Stay with me! STAY!

This month’s good read recommendation: Emily and Einstein by Linda Francis Lee

It may be September, and we may be putting up the fall decorations of pumpkins, goblins, and turkeys, but believe me when I tell you that there is still a lot of great beach time left for you to share with your dog(s)! The weather is not so hot that you need to worry about you and your dog(s) being in the summer heat too long (heat exhaustion), the water is generally warmer for comfortable swimming with your 4-legged one, the pavement and/or blacktop is not as hot so it won’t be as likely to burn the paws, and the beach is less crowded. All good reasons to enjoy the next few months traveling to the beach with your dog(s)!

When you go to the beach with your dog, be prepared. Be sure to bring plenty of water for both your dog(s) and you, and a bowl so that your dog(s) can drink – bottles are great for you, but most dogs will need a bowl. Bring a leash or long lead. Bring doggie pick-up bags, too. And most important, STAY WITH AND WATCH YOUR DOG(S)! That’s for the protection of your own dog(s), other dogs, and to insure that you and your dog will be welcome back on the beach again the next time! And, because you are not alone on the beach! No, I am not saying the beach is haunted – though there are stories of pirates’ spirits protecting buried treasures! But, that’s a story for another time and place.

First of all, you need to stay with your dog to be able to know when you need to pick up after your dog. We should always want to leave the beach clean and ready for ourselves and others to return, and so we can enjoy playing with the other people and dogs who are with us at the beach.

Running, playing, swimming, and having a really great time can be exhausting. Keep your dog leashed, even on a long lead, so he/she can play and swim, but is still within your sight and within your reach, should you need to intervene to help, reassure, or calm. You want to stay with your dog so you’ll know when your dog needs fresh water, when your dog is tired and needs to get some rest, and to insure that your dog does not ingest anything which may cause a problem digestively.

One problem can be ingesting salt water. If a dog ingests too much salt water – called salt water intoxication or salt water poisoning – it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and lethargy. If you suspect your dog(s) has ingested too much salt water, be sure to get your dog(s) to drink fresh water. If symptoms persist, get your dog(s) to a vet for intravenous fluids. My former two dogs, Cheyenne and Gretchen, both loved the water – one loved to swim, the other loved to “bite” the waves, getting too much salt water into her tummy. She then would vomit on the return trip to the car. We had to watch her carefully and work hard to entice her into swimming so she would not spend her time “biting” the waves. My other dog, a real swimmer, had to really be kept on a long lead, since she was a birder. If she saw a bird fly by, which happens a lot at the beach, she would have been swimming to Delaware to try to “catch it. The long lead allowed her to swim to a point, and allowed me to then “reel” her in.

Another ingestion concern is some of the “others” who are joining you at the beach – like dead fish, crabs, bird feces, old people food/trash, etc. My two dogs now, Guinness and Jameson, both love to swim, but one is also a digger. She loves to dig for “buried treasures” so I need to watch her carefully so she doesn’t eat any “delicacies.” The other dog loves to swim and he just keeps retrieving his toy, over and over. I have to watch him for the salt ingestion.

Before going into the water, and while on the beach, watch for jellyfish. Their sting can be very painful to both you and your dog(s). Sea stars (starfish) are poisonous and there are numerous varieties of sea stars, not just the 5-legged ones most of us are used to.

So, dog people, STAY with them! STAY! Your day at the beach with your dog(s) can and should be a really fun way to spend time together, meet other people and dogs, play, swim, and relax. STAY! And, ENJOY!

The Ghosts of Higbee Beach

The fall is when we start thinking about back to school, back to work after vacations, and the changing seasons and upcoming holidays. Those of us who love the paranormal also start thinking about ghosts and hauntings. However, Halloween is not the exclusive haunting season for ghosts. Ghosts exist right along with the living year around. In Cape May, they seem to have found a “permanent retirement community.”

There have been reports of strange sightings on Higbee Beach for many years. However, in the past years most of those reports had more to do with naked sunbathers and lewd behavior than with ghosts. There were paranormal sightings, but they were more spread out. I must admit that for someone who has spent summers in Cape May since the early 1970s, I had never once set foot on Higbee Beach in those early days. As a kid, the bay side of Cape May did not really appeal to me. I admit I loved the sunsets and walking to the end of the jetty to watch guys fish, but Higbee Beach had very little to offer me. There were no big waves or arcades. Most of all, it was a long walk from the car! When I finally made it to Higbee Beach as an adult, I found it to be one of the most tranquil settings on the peninsula. I also sensed quite a bit of psychic energy, of the ghostly sort. Higbee Beach is an area whose history has long been forgotten by most. Luckily, ghosts have memories like elephants. They never forget. That’s why most of them are still ghosts, they are still clinging to old memories from a life long gone.

According to historical accounts the area that is now Higbee Beach and the adjoining lands were, from Cape May’s earliest civilized times, farmland. In Robert C. Alexander’s 1956 edition of Ho! For Cape Island! Alexander mentions that Thomas and Rhoda Forrest owned a tavern, from 1807-1823, on the site where the Higbee brothers would later run a hotel. Historian and friend Jim Campbell told me that the area’s namesake, Joseph Smith Higbee, purchased the farmland and small hotel on the property around the year 1823. The hotel was called The Hermitage. Higbee and his younger brother Thomas Horris Higbee continued its operation as a lodging place for Delaware Bay pilots for many years.

In discussing the old Hermitage, Jim Campbell felt that the Higbees added to an existing hotel instead of building it from scratch. I would surmise they might have expanded the Forrest’s tavern into bigger accommodations for guests. Contrary to local legend, the Higbee brothers did not live in the old “Higbee Hotel.” They instead lived in a house on Bayshore Road near Higbee Beach that still stands today.

In 1916, the Wilson family lived in the old Higbee hotel and the Wilson’s daughter Tisch Fleischauer gave Jim a complete oral history, before she died in her 90s. The Hermitage Hotel was added onto over the years, with the original structure being built without any nails―an interesting feat in those days! Tisch Fleischauer also told Jim that Tom Higbee ran the hotel while his brother Joseph worked as a Delaware Bay pilot. In the Higbees’ day the hotel sat about two hundred yards back from the beach near where the Higbee Beach parking lot is now located next to the canal. A lantern was always kept in the top window of the hotel alerting passing pilots that nightly rooms were available.

Joseph Higbee died in 1872 followed by his brother Thomas in 1879, who left his entire estate to their “niece” Etta Gregory. In his will he asked to be buried near the hotel in a grave lined with brick and flagstone. The grave was then sealed shut with a large marble slab with Higbee’s information etched into it. Higbee was not allowed to rest undisturbed as he had planned however. In 1937, upon her death, Etta Gregory’s will instructed that her “Uncle Tom,” as she called Higbee, be disinterred and buried along with her next to the Gregory plot in the Cold Spring Cemetery. The grave was to be filled with sand taken from Higbees Beach. The Higbee and Gregory plots can still be found today sitting quietly on the far right side of the old brick church. Someone however, is not at rest on Higbees Beach. I have a theory that perhaps Tom Higbee has never wanted to leave his old property overlooking the Delaware Bay. Removing his body did not stop this ghost from continuing to walk the long stretch of the beach at night. Many have reported seeing a man in a long coat, sometimes accompanied by a large black dog. The man seems to vanish as one approaches his position on the beach. He is always seen near dusk walking the strands.

Searching for the old ruins of Higbee Hotel and attempting to explore the myriad of nature paths through Higbee Beach turned out to be a futile effort, at least on the historical front. I should have heeded Jim Campbell’s words, “You can’t find the ruins in the summer, you have to wait for the winter when the foliage dies back…otherwise the place is full of poison ivy, ticks, and mosquitoes.” I felt like the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz with my companions trekking through the old woods chanting ‘Poison Ivy, mosquitoes and ticks…OH MY!’

Trying to find the old hotel in the summer was a BIG mistake…did I mention the paths going up the dunes with the buried strands of rusty old barbed wire fencing hidden under the sand? That was before droves of mosquitoes started to use my friend Kathy’s neck as a landing strip and the ticks and poison ivy chose my partner Willy as a target. I being the most paranoid of the group carefully maneuvered around anything with three leaves in our path.

Most of the paths we found looked like they were created 100 years ago. There were few markers and some paths simply disappeared into the foliage leaving the hiker with no option but to turn back and start again. The only redeeming thing about the isolated nature of the Higbees’ woods was that the dead did not mind the solitude. They seemed to rather enjoy being in the middle of nowhere.

As we meandered down one winding path, we encountered a newt or lizard sunning itself on a dead tree. The cute little reptile just stood there and seemed to give us a grin as we moved by. It seemed to be watching us and then turned away to watch something else in our path. My psychic radar came on and sensed a ghost…finally. The image of a spirit of a young girl popped into my head. She had long blond hair a la Alice in Wonderland. She was on one side of us in the woods and then vanished and reappeared on the other side of us. She seemed well dressed in period clothing from long ago. I turned on my psychic brain and sent out a line requesting some form of identification from the ghost.

From what I could make out of the response, the little girl belonged to one of Cape May’s earliest settlements that went by various names; Town Bank, New England Town, Cape May Town and Portsmouth. She would not give me a name, but she did continue to feed my mind visual imagery, something ghosts do very well. The image was of a series of small wooden cabins located on a high bluff overlooking the ocean. While I could not be exactly sure, I assumed it was the Town Bank settlement which was located north of where the present canal entrance is, on a stretch of high bluffs that has since washed out to sea. On this side of Cape May, one may encounter some of the peninsula’s oldest ghostly inhabitants. The ghostly girl soon vanished from my psychic sight.

Shortly thereafter, I sensed the ghosts of two Native American Indians. They were moving deeper into the woods ahead of us. Their presence sent a chill right through me. They were very strong spirits and they psychically let me know we were on their land. At the same time we noticed the air was very still. There were no sounds of birds or crickets, and the distant surf had gone silent. Everything around us seemed to slow in energy. It was as if time itself had paused for a few seconds. The eerie silence was enough to send us hurrying back through the woods and over the dunes to the beach, where we once again joined the living. I am not sure what caused the environment around us to go quiet, but it was unnerving to say the least.

This part of Cape May is rich in old history. It is the first part of the peninsula to be settled and has layers of history. Even though most of that history has now been forgotten by the general public, it has left its mark on a paranormal level and that energy is deeply embedded in the area. While most tourists may never have an experience, those with intuitive or psychic abilities probably will. Layers of history can hide layers of ghosts.

While various old historical accounts place settlers from New Haven at the Town Bank site as early as 1640, I think this first group settled further up the shoreline above Cape May county. It appears that the Town Bank group, whalers from Long Island and New England, began their migration to Cape May in the 1670s, possibly earlier. Historical records show Caleb Carman, one of the first land owners on the Cape, was appointed constable in 1685. Dr. Maurice Beesley points out in his research, that if they needed a constable, there must have existed a town in some form. The early settlers followed the migrating whales south from New England and the Hamptons. The first Town Bank colony was a small cluster of 15-20 timbered houses erected in close proximity.

In the 1690s, when the West New Jersey Society finally started issuing land titles in the area and the vast plantation of Dr. Daniel Coxe was sold off, more families began migrating from New England and Long Island, New York to set up whaling interests and farms in the new wilderness by the bay. Cape May’s genealogy is based on many of these early whaling families, and so are many of the haunts.

The ocean (or bay in this case) was constantly claiming pieces of the early settlements in Cape May. Today, the Town Bank site sits underwater. As the sea moved in, the people slowly moved back, spread inland and finally settled on the ocean side of the peninsula.

One of the most delightful facts, for this paranormal investigator at least, is the story about the old graveyard at Town Bank. In the early days of Cape May’s history, the idea of exhuming bodies and moving burial places was not as appealing as moving houses. Over the years I had heard stories about the headstones of the first settlers being moved to Cold Spring Cemetery, but the bodies were left behind and slowly were being washed into the surf. Fabulous. Posing that question to historian Jim Campbell, it seems that only one gravestone was moved to Cold Spring and the rest were left behind.  When the canal was dredged for ferry service in the 1960s, the dredges began to pull up pieces of headstones. Some of those gravestones, I am told, were used as decorative stones in fireplaces in Cape May. One wonders why we have so many ghosts.

A Leaming family member reports in an early Cape May diary of people seeing the graves slowly washing into the bay and noting that the graveyard and houses had eventually all but vanished. Coffins and bodies washing into the surf as the sun sets over the bay. Old man Higbee isn’t the only ghost roaming the beaches on the bay, you can be sure of that!

When I was young, my Aunt Ella and Uncle Bob had a home inland in the Town Bank section of Cape May where the government had erected HUD housing in the 1960s. Little did I realize I was so close to the original Cape May housing development!

Being nearer to the bay than the ocean beaches, my uncle would drive us to the beach next to the canal. One of my favorite things to do was to walk out to the end of the long rock jetty (pictured below.) There was something energizing about the area. One of my fondest memories of Cape May in the early 1970s is sitting on the bay side beach and the jetty, watching the sun set over the water. It was only recently, when I read an email from Jim Campbell about the canal dredging, that it all clicked into place. Those engineers were dredging in the area around where the jetty now rests. Since Town Bank would be hundreds of feet out in the water now, the jetty would basically be a bridge to that spot.

All those years, before I knew I was psychic, I would sit on the end of that jetty for hours without realizing I was probably sitting right on top of Cape May’s original settlers! That jetty is literally a walkway to the dead. Try it sometime, it’s fun.

Technically, if the canal followed the New England Creek and if we take the old map as historically accurate, the settlement was a little further north of the canal entrance, but no one really knows for sure. The map shown above that was supposedly copied from an early 1726 map of Portsmouth or Town Bank, by Russ Lyons in 1951, for the Cape May Geographical Society. According to historian and author Joan Berkey, no trace of the original 1726 map exists today.  On the map one can see the receding shoreline from 1605 to 1868. Like elsewhere on the peninsula, the high bluffs of Town Bank slowly dissolved into the sea.

If someone died at Town Bank and stayed behind as a ghost, what would they see today? Their former home is now underwater and no longer on a high bluff. My theory is some see the landscape change. These ghosts will adapt. Others refuse to admit they are dead and will cling to their final resting place or haunt where they had lived. While I have encountered ghosts on the bay side, like the little girl, I cannot say for sure if they are from the first settlement. That was a long time ago and ghosts do eventually move on.

I can vividly recall one summer boat ride with friends on the bay.  We had decided to anchor so a few of the boating party could take a dip. I remember sitting in the boat and waiting for my friends to finish. The water was deep and I decided to sit out the swim. As I waited, I felt an eerie pull from below. I was being watched — from down under.

Had we unknowingly anchored on top of the old graveyard? I started to visualize people reaching up from the bottom, as if they were trying to grab at our feet. I thought this was surely my overactive imagination when suddenly one of my friends exclaimed something had just cut his foot! Old junk? Imagination? Ghosts? Gravestones?

Higbee Beach is a great place to get away from the crowds and take a long, meditative stroll. Chances are, you won’t be strolling alone. The ghosts of Higbee Beach have been haunting the shores of the Delaware Bay for centuries. They will probably be there for a long time, and I am sure their numbers will be growing in years to come. Something about Cape May just keeps the ghosts coming back—luckily for us ghost lovers!

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