CapeMay.com - Cape May NJ Travel Guide and Vacation Planner

CapeMay.com Blog

Tag: ghosts

For Ghosts, Halloween is Just a Nightmare

For ghosts, Halloween isn’t just a bad dream, it’s a nightmare.

Americans seem to be obsessed with ghosts and hauntings, especially this time of the year. We talk about them. We write about them. We chase them with meters and equipment, probing and prodding, searching all of their safe hiding places until we find them. Then when we finally do find one, we scream. Whoever thought up the idea of Halloween was obviously not a ghost.

October. The air begins to chill, slowly, first at night, and then during the day. The leaves start their colorful dance ushering in the final stage of their existence. Nature begins its preparation for a long winter’s nap. Everything alive seems to go to sleep or migrate south. Only we humans seem to stick around for the colder months. October, with its warm days, cool nights, and colorful displays of foliage, is a favorite month for many―many of the living that is. For the dead, the month signifies an unwanted awareness by the living that the dead may be lurking around us. Those feelings build to a pitch as we approach Halloween. The dead are just not safe in October―and they know it. The living simply don’t understand the dead. When it comes to a haunting, we take it very personally, even when it has nothing to do with us. October just gives ghosts nightmares.

As a Medium, I sense energies. I have had the ability to do this since I was young. In my early years, I had no idea that I had a gift for such things. The ability ran down both sides of my family, but like many families that have the “psychic gene,” mine never mentioned a word about it. Part of this gift allows me to sense the souls of the dead. They come in two basic forms, the first being the souls of loved ones who have crossed over to Heaven and have returned to guide and help the living, and the second, the souls of people who have never left. They have some unfinished business which keeps them tethered somewhere between Heaven and Earth. We call these souls ghosts.

Ghosts are often misunderstood by the living. Television and reality shows lend a hand in helping to distort our perception of these unseen souls. Most ghosts are not out to “haunt.” They have chosen to remain where they are out of devotion to some unfinished task, material attachment, or emotional tie to the living. If we happen to get in their way, we may cause a disturbance in their existence. Some ghosts simply move in another direction to get away, while other, more strong-willed ghosts may push back. The former is much more common than the latter.

Our existence and a ghost’s existence can be much more entwined than we think—and we may never even realize it. The living and the dead move within the same space, but seldom collide. When I work as a Medium, I have to move my consciousness into the ghost realm, the plane where ghosts exist,  in order to read their thoughts.

Rarely seen, but often felt, ghosts realize encounters with the living are inevitable. They were once alive themselves. They know their ghostly world is constantly playing bumper cars with the living. It is usually the living who are taken by surprise by ghosts. On some TV shows, paranormal investigators interview “victims” of a haunting to gather first hand accounts of strange encounters at a certain location. If you watch carefully enough, you will realize that most of these encounters are nothing more than chance meetings between the living and the dead.

I am often called in to investigate a haunting. If the story is good enough, I may even add the experience to one of my books. Many of my investigations end with a big―yawn. Just another “garden variety” haunting. Someone hears “phantom footsteps” in their home and feels the ghost is trying stalk him or her. People never think that a ghost may just be walking around their former home. Another common report from the living is feeling a cold spot and taking it as a sign of a paranormal attack. A ghost’s field of energy is thought to interact with our own field of energy and create a feeling of coldness. It is some simple, natural interaction that we do not understand, not a ghost blowing its icy breath down our necks. Unfortunately, most people feel its all about them, and every paranormal encounter is a personal affront. Those folks need to take a reality check, or at least come to a better understanding of why ghosts haunt.

When I work in the field as a Medium and enter a haunted location, I may sense ghosts or I may sense residual energies left over by the living. Residual hauntings are psychic imprints left by living people after a trauma or period of high emotional output. Residual hauntings are not ghosts at all. Intuitive people may sense the energies, but can never interact with them. Should I sense a ghost, I can try to interact and open a line of communication, but the ghost must meet me half way. Some ghosts seize the opportunity to communicate with the living, others walk right out, some even run.

I sometimes get the feeling, in Cape May, that my picture is on a “Watch Out for this Guy” poster in haunted houses all over town. On more than one audio recording, EVPs (electronic voice phenomena) have appeared on my tapes with various voices saying, “He’s the one!” I seem to be equally well known as the Ghost Writer in Cape May by the living and the dead. I have been to many locations in Cape May where I have sensed a ghost, and within minutes, the energy is gone. Some ghosts just don’t want to be bothered. They don’t throw furniture at me or push me out the door. They just leave.

In 400 Years of the Ghosts of Cape May (which has now sold out, and will be replaced by a new coffee table book next spring,) I wrote about an old Victorian home on Broadway in West Cape May that I had investigated. The “Purple House” definitely had a presence when I arrived. We brought in some equipment, and I first sat in the living room. I opened a line of communication by clearing my mind and focusing on the energies in the house. I sensed that this presence was possibly a male, and he was upstairs. We set up equipment in a room on the second, and then the third floor. I asked a few questions, and we heard audible footsteps on the stairs and doors banging. No one else was in the house at the time. Finally, we heard steps running down the stairs and the sound of the front door opening and closing. Had the ghost booked on me? I think he did. Some ghosts do not want his or her stories told. Period.

A paranormal television show cast may have reacted with delight at all the ghostly manifestations of footsteps and doors slamming. I was depressed. The entire reason I was there was to talk to the ghost. Behind every haunting is a ghost. Behind every ghost is a story. I want to hear the stories, not sounds caused by hasty paranormal exits. Sure, I said the classic paranormal reality TV line, “Did you hear that?”, but in reality, I wanted to hear more with my mind than with my ears.

Many people take ghostly manifestation very personally. Don’t get me wrong, there are strong personal encounters between the living and the dead. Most of these visitations come in the form of dreams. When we dream, there is a suspension of disbelief and the lack of realization that we are speaking to a dead person vs. a living one. Ghosts and Spirits of loved ones from Heaven communicate with us in our dreams. It is just easier than trying to do it face-to-face in the light of day. I think it could also be the only way they can communicate. Psychic communication is mind-to-mind, not face-to-face.

At the Emlen Physick Estate, I do a few “Midnight” events each October. Twenty-five lucky people get to join me at the old mansion on the property and follow me room to room and hear my psychic impressions. The event finishes with a séance in the parlor, where I attempt to communicate with these energies. Some years, the house has been extremely active with noises and ghostly sounds, other years it is quiet as a graveyard. Just because it is the week before Halloween does not mean the ghosts want to come out and play. One could have just as strong an experience in that old house in April or July as in October. Ghosts do not only haunt during Halloween season. They exist, and can be active, all year around. It’s the living that seem to love to go hunting for ghosts exclusively in October.

Ghosts and Halloween will probably be forever linked. However, the truth is most ghostly encounters around Halloween are simply creations of over-active imaginations. We not only expect to see ghosts in October, many crave it. For fans of the paranormal, Halloween without ghosts would be like Thanksgiving without Turkey. Luckily, places like Cape May have plenty of ghosts to spare, and your chances of having an encounter at America’s oldest seaside resort are quite good.

October is also a great time to visit Cape May. A seaside setting in the autumn is just beautiful, and Cape May is quiet and tranquil in October. The crowds are gone and the town is calm. Looking for ghosts? Try fall and winter in Cape May. Halloween may be the appropriate time for ghost events, but if you really want to experience something paranormal, try Cape May in the off season.

Ghosts were once people too. They follow old footsteps and stick to old habits. Personalities never die. When the body finally gives up, it also gives up the ghost. Who we are survives death. Each ghost retains its personality from life. There are happy ghosts, and there are unhappy ghosts. Should you be lucky enough to have a ghostly experience of your own, remember these two things: Ghosts are really not trying to “haunt.” They are clinging to some part of their previous existence. You just happen to be in their way. Second, it’s not always about you (or me). Most hauntings have nothing to do with the people experiencing them. As human beings, we seem to make an art out of taking everything personally, even ghosts. Maybe we just watch too much reality TV.

I wish you all a Happy Halloween, and I hope to see many of you at my fall events. You can read more about what I do and where I will be on my website.

Happy Haunting!


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!

To read more about what I do check out my website www.craigmcmanus.com


The Ghosts of the Hotel Macomber

 

Conveniently located, reasonably priced rooms, a great restaurant, ghosts. What more could one ask for in Cape May?

The Hotel Macomber always brings back great memories for me. When I first started coming back to Cape May in the 1990s (after summering here as a kid in the 60s and 70s) I would stay at the Macomber because the rooms were reasonable, the location was right across the street from the beach and most of all—it was haunted.

In those days, I had not yet written even one ghost column, let alone any books. I loved ghosts and hauntings, and I was in the early stages of exploring my psychic abilities. Cape May was like one big magnet for me. I can remember the thrill of going on the walking ghost tours to see what I could sense from the street level. Of course, getting inside each house allowed me to really get a psychic heads up, but that also meant having to pay to stay. Walking around town and making stops in front of Cape May’s many haunted homes allowed this psychic medium to become one with the paranormal energy of America’s oldest seaside resort. It started a long love affair with a haunted seaside town that continues to this day.

I have stayed in many of the rooms in the Macomber over the years. Some rooms have been active, others have not. The most famous room in the hotel, room 10 on the first floor, has a long reputation for bumps in the night—the paranormal kind of course. I have stayed in room 10 several times, and it is one of the most relaxing rooms I have slept in. Strange, you might say? A room so paranormally active and I was able to sleep like a baby? Yep. That is just the way it works. Some ghosts have very calm personalities, and  may actually love a particular room so much that they too enjoy a good night’s rest.

The room 10 haunting is attributed to an older woman who is referred to by many as “the trunk lady.”

The story goes like this: A woman came to Cape May with her family for many years. Her husband died and her children convinced her to keep coming to her favorite hotel and her favorite room…#10. June and November seem to be two months the room is most active. Years after first staying here, I was able to find out more about the “trunk lady” from the son of a former owner of the hotel. The previous owner’s son told me “the trunk lady’s”  name was Irene Wright.

Irene Wright was a regular at the Macomber. She was called “Miss Wright.” It is thought she was never married nor did she have any children. She did come with a large trunk, as many vacationers did back then, packing enough for a long summer’s visit. She stayed in room 10 and apparently could talk one’s ear off. She also wore large quantities of perfume. From what I can ascertain, she died sometime in the 1970s. She may have been coming to Cape May as early as the 30s, I have never been able to find out. According to someone who knew her, she loved Cape May and room 10 of the Macomber. Although, I was told she stayed in various places in town each summer.

My experience one night in room 10 was quite paranormal. We had gone to bed around midnight, after running some tapes down in the lobby to try to collect EVPs. It was the Monday night of Labor Day weekend back in 2006 and the town (and the Macomber) literally emptied out. I had just fallen asleep when there was a loud banging on my door. I jumped up and said, “Yes?” No one answered. I opened the door and looked up and down the long corridor, but there was not a soul in site. A few minutes later I was back asleep and the banging started again. This time I jumped up and flew open the door to reveal—nothing. I think I was more expecting to find another guest, locked out of their room, rather than a ghost. You rarely see ghosts, guests are more easy to spot.

I decided to leave my cassette tape recorder running on the table in the hallway across from our room. If someone or something was to knock again, I would capture the sound and maybe a ghostly EVP or two. EVP or electronic voice phenomenon is one of the few bits of tangible evidence we can capture in a ghost investigation.

Next came the sound of doors opening and slamming closed. Now I was wide awake. Realizing the laundry room was right next to room 10, I had a theory that a late night housekeeper might have been doing some laundry. It was, after all, right after a major holiday weekend and there were probably plenty of linens and towels to wash. The tape later revealed the sound of doors opening and closing and a few other odd bangs. In the morning, I went downstairs and mentioned it to the front desk clerk. I was told there was no one cleaning or doing laundry during the night, as a matter of fact, we were the only guests in the hotel and housekeeping had gone home earlier. Maybe the living housekeepers went home, but the dead ones were busy doing something.

Leaving a cassette tape recorder running in the hall and later in the room captured several EVPs.

I asked if there was anyone with us and a ghostly voice on the tape replied…

Room-10-We-love-this-bedroom

Listen carefully within the white noise. A voice says, “We love this bedroom.” Here it is looped together several times.

Room-10-We-love-this-bedroom-looped

Listen to it several times. Everyone seems to hear something different with EVPs, as each of our brains try to interpret what the random sounds are actually saying. I think it says, “We love this bedroom,” which makes sense. Right after that, a man’s voice says something like, “I’m happy to hear that.” Listen to the next EVP and see what you think it says. Headphones work even better for listening to EVPs.

Room-10-I-am-happy-to-hear-that…

Here is the same EVP looped seven times. The distortion comes from the noise reducing software. The problem with cleaning up EVP recordings is that the initial EVP may become morphed into something completely different in the process.

Room-10-I-am-happy-to-hear-that…looped

The fact that this is a man’s voice indicated that the ghost in the room (at the time) was someone other than Miss Wright. The hotel is home to several ghosts and ghosts are transient. They come and they go, just like the living come and go, especially to a hotel at the beach. Whoever I caught on tape that night back in September of 2006 knew I was there and knew that I was asking questions. Ghosts seem to have the ability to see or hear us, even if we cannot do the same in return.

During another visit to the hotel, I had befriended the new night manager. A group of us had been hanging out in his suite and enjoying some wine when we heard doors slamming in the hotel. It was off-season and we were the only ones there. Each time we would go to investigate, we would find all the doors properly shut and everything in place. When my friends and I finally decided to go downstairs, we found the lights in the lobby had been dimmed to about 10% and the room felt strangely cold. My friend Pierre was the only guest staying at the hotel that evening and both he and the manager slept in the lobby the rest of the night!

Fall is the best time to experience the ghosts of the Macomber, before the hotel closes for the winter.  In the summer, just enjoy the great location and the comfortable rooms. The Union Park Restaurant, located inside the Macomber, is also a great place to eat . Many years ago, a previous owner was renovating the kitchen and dining room, when he saw a woman in an old-fashioned dress float through the room and disappear into the kitchen. When he went to check, no one was there. Stories suggest this was a former waitress who choked on a chicken bone and died. I have not been able to substantiate this chicken bone story, but I have personally experienced some great paranormal activity while dining in the Union Park.

One night during the fall I was dining with friends at Union Park when the chandelier right above us started flickering wildly, while all the other chandeliers stayed perfectly lit. I was not having chicken that night by the way, so I don’t think it was the ghosts warning me about bones!

The Macomber will always hold a special place in my heart in Cape May. I love staying here and I think you will as well. If you want a great overnight ghost adventure, make reservations to stay here in the off season. Chances are you will experience something paranormal. Just remember to tell me about it.

To read more about the ghosts of the Hotel Macomber, check out The Ghosts of Cape May Book 1.

You can also visit the Macomber’s website here. Just remember to come back!

If you have had a Macomber ghost experience—let us hear about it below.


The Ghosts of John McConnell House

Walking down Jackson Street off season, in the evening, is sometimes like walking through a graveyard at night. Many of the buildings sit silent and dark, being closed for the season. Should you happen to glance up at some of the darkened windows in the upper floors of these old seaside sentinels, you may just catch a quick glimpse of something looking back at you. Then, in an instant, it will be gone. Was it a ghost, or just your imagination? On this venerable Cape May thoroughfare, it is more likely to be the former, as many “former” residents still reside here, decades after they have died.

Jackson Street was originally a Native American Indian path to the ocean. The Kechemeche tribe came to the peninsula to fish and swim in the summer, much as we do today. Once the Europeans arrived, the Native tribes started to pack up and leave. At some point, the new arrivals to America started to realize Cape May’s cool breezes and great beaches had great potential as a resort. In the late 1700s, Jackson Street was surveyed and straightened as taverns and small boarding houses began to spring up. Eventually Jackson Street became a major street on “Cape Island” and many cottages and hotels were erected. In 1878, a great fire leveled the area and reduced the buildings and neighborhood to ashes. Over the next decade, homes and hotels rose like a flock of Phoenixes and Jackson Street was reborn again. Layers of history usually have a few ghosts tucked into those layers. The ghosts seem to have taken to the neighborhood. Jackson Street remains one of the most haunted spots in the country.

In my The Ghosts of Cape May books, I have written about many haunts on Jackson Street. Windward and Saltwood Houses, 22 Jackson, Poor Richards, the Merry Widow, the Carroll Villa and the Virginia Hotel have all had some paranormal activity in the past. It was quite by chance that I stumbled onto yet another one of Jackson Street’s haunts, the John McConnell House.

I had stopped by late one summer evening to see my friends Bob and Lisa Ransom, the owners, at that time, of The Ugly Mug. Bob and Lisa had just purchased the John McConnell House, one of the historic homes on Jackson Street—a home people knew very little about. Nestled between Poor Richards Inn and the Tides Condominiums, the McConnell House has sat quietly by the beach for 128 years.

There is something magical about Jackson Street. Friends of mine who have visited Sedona, Arizona have often commented on the special energies there. These energy spots are thought to be vortices by new age thinkers. I feel there is some kind of energy around Jackson Street. All of Cape May has a very special, positively charged energy, but Jackson Street seems to have energy all to itself.

Number fifteen Jackson Street is thought to have been built around 1883 on the site of some of the hotels that had been consumed by the great blaze of 1878. Before the fire, John McConnell and his brother Alexander owned many of the lots on the east side of Jackson Street. Alexander McConnell was the original owner of Ebbitt House, what is now the Virginia Hotel. A few years after his brother built the hotel, John McConnell built his house at number fifteen Jackson Street as a grand summer residence for his family and friends.

There is very little information on the McConnells in historical circles in Cape May. John is listed in the 1907 city directory as the proprietor and manager of the Ebbitt House. In 1910, however, a postcard in my collection shows the name of the establishment was changed to The Virginia and A.M. Ludlam is shown as the owner. I would guess Ludlam changed the name when he bought the place and expanded it. The McConnells seem to disappear from Cape May after that time. Some of their staff and friends however, decided to remain behind on a permanent basis.

McConnell House is a beautiful and vast Victorian with one of the best wrap-around porches in town! A few years back, the Ransoms sold the house to Bob and Jennie Mullen. The Mullen’s Belvidere Cottage on Gurney Street is also featured in my Book 1, so it was only fitting that they now own not one, but two haunted houses in town! I should note here that this residence is a private home, and while the owners have graciously allowed me to write about the ghosts here, the house and property are not open to the public.

When I first entered McConnell House, I could sense multiple spirits. I was able to do a thorough walk-through one night with the Ransoms. The first ghost I encountered was that of an older woman with white hair in the rear bedroom on the third floor. She was wearing white pants and a shirt and I was not sure at first if it was a man or a woman. I later felt it was the spirit of an older woman. Someone had thought she was a former servant of the house and that she lived on the third floor, but third floor hauntings do not usually indicate ghosts of former servants. Ghosts try to get away from the living. This is why many ghosts are encountered on the third floor of a home. There is a common misconception that if a ghost is haunting the third floor of a home, it must be a former servant who lived on that floor—as many servants did in the old days.

Because so little is known about the McConnells, neither Bob nor Lisa Ransom knew if they had a large family, or if they had servants at all. In my mind, the ghostly woman in the white suit did not feel like a servant. She felt like she lived there and owned the house. Was she a McConnell? It was not until months later, when I was staying across the Street at the Windward House, that I broached the subject with Sandy Miller, owner of the Windward House across the street and a longtime resident of Cape May.

“That was Miss Park!” Sandy exclaimed. Miss Helen Park, as it turned out, was a retired schoolteacher who had taken up permanent residence in Cape May. The phrase “permanent residence” has a different meaning in haunted Cape May! Both Sandy and Harriett Sosson from Poor Richard’s Inn remembered Miss Park and related how she used to wear white linen suits and cut her front lawn with an old-fashioned push lawnmower. Sandy also mentioned that Helen, in later years, needed another income so she rented out most of the house to boarders only reserving the least desirable room in the back of the third floor as her own bedroom.

The pieces now fit the puzzle. It would seem that Miss Park (she never married) is still renting out her home to others, except she may not realize one small fact—she no longer owns it. Don’t tell that to a ghost. Ghosts seem to feel they have eminent domain over former properties they once owned. I think they feel most people cannot see or sense them, so they are not really bothering the living. Miss Park’s ghost doesn’t seem to bother anyone in the house. Since Helen Park died in 1981 at the age of 81, she wants nothing more than to enjoy a few more years by the sea in her beloved home. Luckily for her she has company—the dead kind.

As I traveled through the second floor bedrooms on that first visit with Bob and Lisa, I stopped to encounter another “lost” soul, a woman who only referred to herself as “Dorothy from the Baltimore”. At first, I thought she had said “from Baltimore” and thought she might have been one of the guests over the years that passed while staying in the house. It was only later that I stumbled upon an old Cape May postcard from the turn of the last century when I realized she was not talking about the city of Baltimore, she meant the Baltimore Hotel. The Baltimore (pictured below in the 1911 postcard of Jackson Street looking north from Beach Avenue) stood next door to McConnell House until 1962 (when it was razed during urban renewal) on the site of the current Tides Condominiums.

Ghosts can and do move around. They are transient beings. I could not get much out of Dorothy that night. On subsequent returns to the McConnell House, I could not sense her at all. I am sure the mammoth old Baltimore had its share of ghosts and maybe Dorothy decided to leave before the wrecking ball hit. It seems that she may have moved on from McConnell House now—or she might have simply been out visiting a few ghostly friends.

A haunted house is like a paranormal play in motion. Each time I visit an active haunt the cast may change. Sometimes I sense nothing at all and the haunt goes dormant for a period. On one of the later trips, after Bob and Jenny Mullen had moved in, I encountered another female ghost in the house. This ghost did give me the sense that she was a former servant. Where was she on my last visits, I thought? Maybe she had the night off. Psychically I sensed the name Margaret. Unlike the more demure Miss Park, Margaret was an iron handed, no-nonsense ghost .Some ghosts will move away from a medium and choose not to make contact, this one was in my face.

I first encountered Margaret in the rear of the home. The original house had a summer kitchen and possibly a guest house in back on the first floor. A long, outdoor hallway went between the two back sections. When an extension was added to the second and third floor sometime in the early 20th century, the back hallway was enclosed, leaving the outdoor clapboards as inside walls, and sealed doors that lead to nowhere. It was in this back hallway that I first sensed the old servant. I will sense names, images, and ideas on a psychic level. I can remember Margaret complaining about people tracking dirt into the hall, and talking about cooking in the back of the house. She complained a lot.

When I revisited McConnell House yet another time, I encountered Margaret in all her glory. She spent about an hour and a half telling me everything that needed to be done to the house, complaining about Bob Mullen’s “funny carpentry” on his outdoor shower (which I thought looked pretty nice) and talking about Bob tracking dirt into the house over and over again.

Bob must have had a recent run in with Margaret when he was working on the shower out back, and kept coming in and out. He admitted he might have been tracking mud and sawdust into the back of the house, which, according to the agitated ghost, was apparently the reason that the door shut and locked itself, locking Bob out of the house. Margaret had apparently had enough and dead bolted the door from the inside so that Bob would not be able to get back in with his muddy feet. The term “dead bolt” could not be more appropriate here.

One would think that three dead women were enough to haunt one house, but the strongest presence at McConnell House is not one of the aforementioned, it is the ghost of a young child. This ghostly boy told me his tragic story on two different occasions. When ghosts communicate with me, I do not hear them with my ears. I hear them with my mind. It is through imagery and words that they send their messages. I first encountered the ghost of the young boy named “Sherman” while sitting in the living room with Bob and Lisa Ransom. I sensed that there was a ghost under the house, where there is now a crawlspace. I tried to focus my energy on the young boy and get him to come forward. So many ghosts on Jackson Street, so little time!

To a ghost, a medium is like a flame to a moth. A ghost will realize that I can sense their presence, and offer a bridge to the living. Some ghosts will jump at this opportunity, others will move away. The boy wanted to talk. Having a conversation with a ghost is not like having a conversation with a living person. Ghosts fire off rapid bits and pieces of information that my psychic mind must catch and interpret. Sometimes the information does not make sense while other times pieces of the story seem to be missing. This is because the link between my mind and the ghost’s mind is not perfect. It can be compared to a bad cell phone connection. I hear some of the information, but miss part of the message in the process. I then need to fill in the blanks by trying to understand what the ghost is trying to say.

Sherman showed me that he came into Cape May by train—on a boxcar. He came with others who had come from an orphanage, or had somehow become homeless. He came to Cape May because it was the last stop on the train and he hoped to go out on a boat and sail the high seas. Many young kids might fantasize about this type of adventure—especially orphans. Reality set in when Sherman and his friends started to be caught by the authorities and sent back to wherever they came from. His story was choppy and seemed incomplete. I could not tell if he was leading me on or telling me his true story. Ghosts can BS as well as the living, and I am sure a few of them delight in giving psychics false information.

I think the basis of this story was true. Maybe Sherman had grown to an age where he was released from an orphanage and went to Cape May looking for work. He told me he lived under the house, in the crawlspace beneath the front porch. Could he have been squatting under the house for shelter? Maybe there was nowhere else to stay when he arrived or he had no money for lodging.  He seemed to indicate he moved around a lot.

Sherman mentioned a woman across the street giving him food and shelter, but talk of sending him back to an orphanage sent him running again. He existed on handouts from the hotel kitchens like a stray animal. On another recent visit, he showed me a picture of a small white mouse, one that he kept as a pet. The mouse apparently made the journey south with him and was his only true sense of family while living on the streets and under McConnell House. He showed me that the mouse died eventually, and he buried her in a small grave under the porch near where he slept. His little friend, who had kept him company day and night was now gone. He was now truly alone. His fate would soon be the same as his beloved white mouse.

I think he perished that winter from being in the extremities. That information came as more of a psychic feeling, rather than a ghostly dialogue. Ghosts generally prefer not to talk about how they met there end, and this boy’s journey was far from over.

For some reason, some people just will not take the cue from Heaven to come home. They have some kind of attachment that keeps them earthbound. Children are even more susceptible to this because their parents are still living, or they are afraid of the people coming forward to help them cross over to Heaven. Sherman felt safe where he was, even if the elements finally did him in. He does not feel the cold any longer, but he seems very lonely.

Of all the experiences the people have had at McConnell House, one of the strongest and most recurring is seeing a young boy sitting on the bed in a third floor bedroom, looking down at the floor. One day, Jenny had just finished making up the beds returning to the third floor only to find an indentation on the beds like someone had been sitting on them. A friend of the Mullens also stayed a few nights and witnessed the hall light coming on and then off at about three in the morning. A ghostly visit to the outhouse?

McConnell House is a place I shall keep my paranormal eye on in years to come. I hope the older ghosts can get Sherman to cross over, even if they don’t want to. He really deserves the chance to move on and even come back again and enjoy life as a living breathing young man.

Next time you pass by 15 Jackson Street, don’t forget to keep an eye out for a little white mouse running up the front walk…you may just spot a few ghosts running after it. Let’s just hope Sherman gets it before Margaret and her broom do!

Until next time, keep the light lit—mice are nocturnal creatures—as are ghosts.

To read more about what I do, grab a copy of one of my four Ghosts of Cape May books, available autographed through my website.

Thanks for reading my column! – Craig McManus


Room with a BOO

The kindly grandmother, children and grandchildren in tow, moved from room to room admiring and reminiscing about the old days at her historic house in West Cape May. She had owned the property years earlier, about three owners back, and had stopped by on a chance visit to meet the new owner. They were in luck as the new owner was busy painting and renovating the house. The grandmother and her family were invited in for a tour. Many things had been updated and modernized, a few things were still familiar, and one thing hadn’t changed at all—the spooked room.

The grandchildren inquired why their grandmother refused to enter the cozy looking bedroom on the second floor of the old house. Having heard the stories, they continued to press her for an answer. “Is this the haunted room?” asked the grandchildren.

“You call it whatever you like, I call it spooked,” the old woman replied adamantly, as she refused to move past the door frame. The room, had a long reputation of being haunted and the woman did not want to rekindle any of those old energies during her return visit. Luckily for us, those energies don’t need rekindling. There is always a paranormal flicker somewhere. Welcome to Highland House, one of Cape May’s best kept paranormal secrets.

Today, Highland House offers the best of both worlds. It is a wonderful guest house that also caters to the animal loving crowd—it’s pet friendly. As a dog owner, I am always thinking about places to stay with my dogs. If you love Cape May, and do not want to leave your furry friends at home, owner Dave Ripoli and his mother Terry will make your stay more than comfortable—whether you have paws or not. Dave and his mom are two of Cape May’s most charming, and, luckily for us, open minded innkeepers. Many of my pet-loving friends stay at Highland House and one friend was mentioning her experiences recently, which got me to thinking what an interesting haunt this is.

Like many other homeowners, it took Dave Ripoli a while to catch onto the paranormal history of the house. When he first started in the B&B business, the idea of owning a haunted house was probably the furthest thing from his mind. At the closing of the sale, the widow who was selling him the house had to tell Dave something very important—the house was haunted. The woman and her late husband called the ghost the “fisherman’s Captain” and felt he was friendly. Apparently, the Captain had mellowed since the previously mentioned grandmother had lived there. When Dave went to the bank to open an account, the teller gave him a funny look when she saw the address. After a few “Oh, you bought that house” responses, Dave was beginning to wonder what was up. He would soon find out.

Right after he moved in, the ghosts put on a welcome show, as they will for new owners of  haunted houses. The paranormal exhibit featured phantom sounds and footsteps on the second floor. Then, as is typical of hauntings, all went quiet for years. The ghosts had made themselves known and returned to their regular business.

Highland House sits on a strip of Broadway that is rich in history. The homes in West Cape May were not affected by the great fire of Cape May City in 1878. Many of the homes here date back to the early 1800s, with a few dating back to the 1700s. The oldest part of Highland House was built around 1820, and was one of the many residences of the Eldredge family. West Cape May was originally called Eldredge honoring the large founding family. Highland House was once known as the “William Eldredge place.” This part of Cape May was chock full of Eldredges, some are still there—in spirit.

When Dave Ripoli was first renovating the house, he would hear the sounds of people moving about on the second floor. Each time he would check he would find the upstairs rooms, and the house—empty. He even spent one night sleeping downstairs on a wicker couch after not being able to determine the origin of the ghostly noises of things moving about and phantom footsteps, pacing back and forth.

Phantom footsteps are a “garden variety” characteristic of hauntings. Most places that have a ghost will experience phantom footsteps. The sound of dragging furniture is a little more unusual. My friends who frequently stay at Highland House mentioned very recently of hearing the sound of something heavy being dragged in the room above, but they were the only ones in the house at the time. I don’t know of any paranormal investigator that has figured this one out yet. For the observer, the phenomenon creates sounds of someone moving heavy furniture above. Upon checking the space, nothing is found to be disturbed. If nothing has been moved, what is creating the sound?

One theory I have is that the sound is some form of energy expanding or compressing, like a paranormal thunderstorm. Perhaps a vortex of some sort is opening and closing creating sound waves. It’s only a theory, but something causes this phenomenon and Highland House is not the only place it occurs. There is probably a logical, natural explanation for the phenomenon, but like many paranormal things, we just don’t understand it yet.

I first visited Dave and Terry in 2007. I was invited in to run a psychic sweep for ghosts. During the investigation, I was able to move through the house freely and run a few tape recorders. I run recorders everywhere that I investigate. Capturing ghost voices or EVPs (electronic voice phenomena) on tape seems to be the only solid physical evidence one can gather at a haunt. When I first started doing ghost investigations, I was not trying to capture EVPs.  I was recording my psychic observations on tape so that I would remember all the details of the story. When I would play back the tapes later, I found some of the tapes contained mysterious sounds or phantom voices. Sometimes these voices would even be speaking to me, but you can only hear EVPs during playback, not during the recording session, so I would not be able to hear a psychical response during the investigation.

No one is sure how EVPs get onto tape. We think that ghosts are fields of energy with a consciousness—surviving personalities without physical bodies. This energy may be able to manipulate sound waves to create EVP recordings on tape. One theory is that these sounds are ghostly voices, but no one is 100% sure. After a few recording sessions at Highland House, most people would agree EVPs certainly sound like the real deal!

When one tries to record EVPs, the investigator will need to be careful of ambient background noise. These naturally explainable noises might be misconstrued for EVPs. The problem with trying to capture EVPs at Highland House could be summed up in one word: dogs. On my first investigation here, my tapes were not riddled with EVPs, they were riddled with woofs! One of Dave’s dogs just had a litter of cute, but noisy, little EVP wreckers. The recording sounded more like I was investigating an abandoned animal hospital, instead of a haunted B&B. However, even with the barking in the background, I found something unique about Highland House—my tape had quantities of paranormal sound bites. Some were clearly people talking while others were inaudible words or jumbled sentences. The quantities of EVPs sent me right back for another try.

On my next visit, I was able to pick a day when the pooches were out and luckily, the ghosts were in. I focused on the upstairs rooms where most of the paranormal episodes had taken place. The house energy felt much lighter this time, like the ghosts were having a good time. I went from room to room asking questions along the way, hoping the ghosts would answer. They did.

I sensed a woman this time, and then a man named Albert. There was also a William in the mix. It was crowded. The problem in an old neighborhood like this one is that ghosts will come and go. They visit each other in the same fashion they did when they were alive. In West Cape May, there are one too many Eldredges haunting. Trying to investigate with a pack of gregarious ghosts roaming from place to place can be difficult. Multiple voice EVPs can get quite confusing, but this is a paranormal investigator’s life.

One of my favorite parts of ghost investigation is unearthing lost history. There is plenty of buried treasure in West Cape May—the historical kind. Sifting through layers of history, I was able to reconstruct the Eldredge family’s timeline for Highland House. The house sits on what was once a huge tract belonging to William and Judith Eldredge. Judith’s father, Abner Corson, bought the property from the original owner, James Whilldin, of the Mayflower Whilldins. Whilldin had traded with the Native American Indians for the land. William and Judith had a son William and he inherited the property where Highland House now sits in 1822. Still with me? It may be this William Eldredge who is haunting the house.

You can see on the excerpt of the 1850 Numan map to the right, that the Eldredge clan owned quite a bit of property in the area. They also lived within walking distance of each other—or should I say haunting distance.

On my second trip to Highland House, the ghosts were not only answering my questions, they were having entire conversations on tape. While I usually get a few EVPs during an investigation, Highland House was an audio show. In some cases, my questions were answered directly, in other instances the ghosts were caught talking to each other. It was quite surreal. My guess would be there is one ghost in the house and he was being visited by others. I just happened to hit an open house that day!

Some voices on my recordings were gibberish, bits and pieces of sentences without any rhyme or reason. Some were answering my questions, while others were ignoring me and talking among themselves. Not all of the EVPs were audible. Only a few were what is called “A Class.” These EVPs one can hear without the use of headphones. The rest needed to be screened carefully using both headphones and sound editing equipment. What was important that day was that the ghosts were yapping, and I had the tape running.

During this recording process, there was an interesting dichotomy occurring, which I only discovered after the session. Reviewing the tapes, I listened to myself revealing my psychic feelings in each room and asking questions to the ghosts. Some of my psychic observations had nothing to do with what the ghosts were saying, while some of the ghosts’ answers were spot on with my questions, most were unrelated.  A ghost would say one thing, while I would sense another. I would hear “Robert” while the ghost would say “William” on the tape. I was perplexed. Was it time to retire?

I am a very good Medium, yet communicating with ghosts is always tricky. Were the ghosts at Highland House hearing me? Were they answering my questions truthfully? What I was hearing with my mind and what the ghosts were saying on tape just did not match. Occasionally there was a hit, but most of the time it was as if I was at the wrong party. If I was reading the ghosts’ minds and picking up truthful thoughts, why was the information different? The EVP responses and information should theoretically match my psychic thoughts. Were the ghosts deliberately feeding me false information on the tape to confuse me? Maybe the ghosts were sick of mediums coming to spy on them. I am sure I was not the first one to jump into the paranormal pool at Highland House. There were lots of EVPs—making absolutely no sense.

Noting my psychic impression on tape as I moved around the house, I made my way into the heart of Highland House’s haunting—the spooked room. My first feeling here was that I had just walked in on someone—invading his or her privacy. I was compelled to leave. I did not sense this in any other rooms. I think it was the ghost, realizing why I was there, asking me to leave. Ghosts seem to have the ability to press their emotions on us. In this case, the ghost was making me feel like I should leave, but I was not giving up that easily. A ghost’s boo is typically bigger than its bite. The majority of hauntings are benevolent, and there was nothing bad about this old spirit. Once the ghost realized I was not leaving, the feeling lifted and I started asking questions.

During most ghost investigations, if a ghost wants to communicate—or if it can communicate— it will. Whether it answers truthfully, or answers at all, depends on the personality of the ghost. Listening to the tapes later, I found some of the ghosts present at Highland House that day were cooperating, while others were rambling away about non-related things. It really must have been some type of social gathering. I was just happy to capture all the EVPs—which brings us to the show and tell part of this column.

One thing I can’t do in my books is include sound bites in the story. In The Ghosts of Cape May Book 3,  I go into detail about Highland House and the ghosts. While I don’t have space in this column to tell you the entire story—you will have to buy Book 3 for that—I can let you hear the ghosts. I suggest opening the book to the Highland House chapter and listening to some of these EVPs while you read the story. Think of it as a paranormal “scratch and sniff.”

In the “spooked room” as the former owner called it, I kept getting the name “William”. I also sensed a woman in the room. I sat on a chair and put out a psychic line. I could feel presences around me. Gerry Eisenhauer, who was operating the cameras at the time, felt a cold spot drift past him. Cold spots, when they cannot be found to have normal origins, are usually a calling card for a ghost. Now I started to get cold and the ghosts started to get chatty at their ghostly party. Luckily, I was able to be a party crasher.

Trying to establish the identity of the ghosts can be a difficult task. Having them freely give a name or other personal information psychically, or on tape, is the exception rather than the rule. Were these ghosts related to each other, or were they haunting independently. My guess was they were all Eldredges, dropping in from other haunted houses in the neighborhood—and Highland House has plenty of company in West Cape May.

A note about these EVPs. I recorded these on a hand-held cassette recorder, not a digital recorder. Therefore each recording has background noise from the machine itself. I subscribe to the theory that there needs to be a source of white noise in the room to allow the ghosts to piggy-back their energies on existing sound waves or manipulate the white noise sound waves into an EVP. I have gotten far more positive EVPs using tape than I have with a digital recorder. At least, it works for me. You will need to listen carefully for the voice embedded in the background noise of the tape.

Several ghostly voices were heard mixing and then moving away. In one EVP, a man says “Someone should follow your father.” I interpreted this as one of the male ghosts was leaving the room and another male ghost felt someone should accompany him. Listen for yourself and see what you think. I have looped the sound bite as well. If you use headphones, EVPs sound even clearer. It will take a little while to get accustomed to listening to EVPs. Here it is.

EVP #1 Highland House – “Someone should follow your father”

EVP #1 (looped) Highland House – “Someone should follow your father LOOPED”

As I was telling the ghosts I could record their voices, they seemed to think I was using some type of radio to listen to them. They may not have been able to comprehend a cassette tape recorder, but could understand the concept of radio broadcasts. After I said, I would be able to record their voices, a kindly older man replies, “That’s somethin!” Listen for yourself. I have also looped the sound bite.

EVP #2 Highland House – “That’s something”

EVP #2 (looped) Highland House – “That’s something” LOOPED

In another instance, I was asking the ghosts if they knew each other. Sadly, a male ghost replies, “We’re alone.” Here is that response. Listen to the single tract first and then listen to it looped.

EVP #3 Highland House “We’re alone”

EVP #3 (looped) Highland House “We’re alone” LOOPED

At some point, Gerry and I decided to move to another room, the Garden Room. In this recording you here me saying, “Let’s go to the Garden Room” A ghost says “Make them go away” or “Make them go west.” I then say to the ghosts “Garden Room please,” hoping they will follow. For the record, we did not go away. Listen for yourself and see what you think it says.

EVP #4 Highland House – “Make them go away” full

EVP #4 (looped) Highland House – “Make them go away” LOOPED

Now here’s an interesting thing about this haunt. There are phantom footsteps and sounds of someone upstairs when no one is there, and EVPs galore, but that’s about it. Everything else is just feelings, and those feelings seem localized in one part of the house. So why does one room resonate so much paranormal energy that people talk about it for years? My guess is the ghost just likes it there. It was probably his bedroom when he owned or lived in the house. He is just comfortable there and does not want to leave his old house. He even invites a few guest ghosts over from time to time. The ironic thing was, when I asked the ghosts if I was in the spooked room, there was nothing but silence on the tape. Dead silence. They were not saying a word. Who knows? Maybe I spooked them and they left.

There is another theory about ghosts and hauntings that says they are a bleed-through of time. Like hearing your neighbors arguing next door, except they are arguing one hundred years earlier and their voices have carried forward in time. Could hauntings be no more than energies leaking through a crack in time? Could I be psychically picking up old residual energies in the house, and recording sound bites from a distant past? It may explain why the EVPs were not matching what I was feeling. Someday we may know for sure. Ghosts are a very popular topic now and I would hate to see the entire paranormal field go up in a puff of timeless smoke. For the present, it’s rather fun to think that we are not alone. The ghost in Highland House is certainly a social butterfly. Dave should probably charge him room and board.

Should you need a great place to stay in Cape May, and want to share your vacation with your beloved doggies, check out Highland House. It is one of Cape May’s most popular places to stay, for people and pets young and old, and by old, I mean over 150 years, give or take a few decades. If you ask for the spooked room, as I am sure many of you paranormal enthusiasts will, be sure to bring your tape recorder along. Your bed may not levitate, and you may not see or feel any ghosts, but you are sure to tune in to some classic broadcasts—ones that have not been heard in a long, long time.

Until next time, don’t forget to leave the light lit and the recorder going. You never know who is reading—or talking—right over your shoulder.

To read more about what I do check out my website CraigMcManus.com


Furry Phantoms of Cape May

Photo Credit: MAC

February is here and so is another ghost column. What to do, what to do. Of course, I could have done “ghost lovers,” but that’s been done to death, excuse the pun. So sitting down to write this month’s column on Groundhog Day, I was thinking about good old Punxsutawney Phil. He did not see his shadow, so we may actually live to see spring. Old Punx got me thinking about ghosts of animals. I wondered if he is actually seeing another ghostly groundhog each year, sending him scurrying back into his hole. I guess anything is possible. I have had more than one run in with a furry ghost, and quite a few of those encounters were right here in Cape May. I remember one episode in particular that would have sent old Phil burrowing deep in the ground.

I had gone to bed late that night and struggled to fall asleep. It always takes me a little extra time to fall into a good night’s sleep when I am staying somewhere new. I think it’s more the change of energy than the change of mattress, but whatever reason it was that night, I was dead tired when I finally fell asleep and I was out. I don’t even remember what I was dreaming about, I was that sound asleep. My good night’s sleep did not last more than a few hours, however, before something tried to get my attention. At first, I dismissed it as the edge of the blanket touching my face. Then I realized the feeling was more familiar. It was my cat on the bed. It was still dark out and it was nothing new to have my cat jump up on the bed to sleep. This time the nocturnal rumblings had been relentless enough to pull me out of a deep sleep—and I was annoyed.

It was exactly three in the morning. I know because that’s when I screamed for help. I thought I was home in bed, and my cat had jumped up next to me and was trying to snuggle up close. Then I looked around for my clock on my night table and neither was there. That’s when I realized I was actually at a guesthouse in Cape May, and there weren’t any cats in the house, at least not any with a pulse. Once I woke enough to comprehend that the purring, pacing feline on my bed, in that dark room on the second floor of the old Victorian house was actually a ghost, I yelled out in a panic for help. In fact, I pathetically yelled, “Ghost kitty!” A medium is not at his or her best at three in the morning.

The call for help was embarrassing, but I was truly startled and had been awakened in the middle of the night from a deep sleep by a feline phantom. By the time I composed myself and got out from under the covers, the ghost cat had disappeared and I was left to explain myself to my friends, who ran into the room to see the brave psychic medium rattled by a furry little ball of ethers.  I think “embarrassing” would have been the right word. The next morning I was much more up about the experience. A cup of coffee helped. It was not my first experience with ghosts of animals, but it was certainly one of my most memorable.

I was staying at Columbia House that night, one of the best guest houses in Cape May. It was supposed to be haunted by a benevolent old man named William Essen, the former baker and confectioner in town. He was wheelchair bound at the end of his life from complications from diabetes. Of course he was nowhere to be found that evening. I was not even aware of Essen having a cat, but anything was possible.

Quizzing the enchanting Laura Zeitler, who along with her husband Jim run Columbia House, I mentioned my run in with the paranormal…cat. Laura told me there was a cat that lived in the house before they bought the property. The cat’s name was Alex and he lasted through two previous owners. I guess he finally finished life number nine.

Reports of animal ghosts are nothing new. Cat ghosts are, in fact, quite common. Cats are place-centered in life, and in death. Ghosts of dogs are far less common. While dogs are usually attached to people, and will follow them to Heaven, cats could care less if we were alive or a ghost. As long as there is a warm place to sleep, and lots of food to eat, the cat is happy. For a ghost cat, food is no longer an issue, but territory becomes tantamount to survival. Cats may cling to their former homes after their bodies have died. Some seem to have unfinished business, while others just seem too lazy to move onto Heaven. Whatever the reason, cats do haunt.

Theoretically, anything could become a ghost, I suppose. Human beings should not have exclusivity on lingering around after they die. Ghosts certainly are winning the popularity contest on network television today, but you rarely hear about ghosts of anything but people. I suppose the thought of ghosts of things like, mosquitoes, would not appeal to too many. The notion that our beloved pets start to come back as ghosts does, however,  seem to attract more than a little attention. One of the things I am often asked as a psychic-medium is “do I ever channel pets from Heaven?” The answer is, I do. Not as often as I channel people, but some former pets do come through  in a channeling session. These spirits of furry and feathered friends tend to arrive with groups of human loved ones from the Other Side during a channeling session. It is fairly common with my channelings to see the spirit of a dog or cat show up. These would be pets that have gone to Heaven and are returning to say hello as spirits. Not as common is encountering one of these furry friends as a ghost.

My experience with Alex the cat was not a bad one. It just startled me. I am sure Alex was just looking for a warm bed (or body) to curl up with for the night. I had experienced a ghost cat a few years earlier at my friend Kathy’s house. She had told me about her “ghost kitty” many times over the years. One day while I was cat sitting her (living) cats, I was spending some time with her cat Eric in the master bedroom. Eric was sequestered in the bedroom, and I felt he needed some company so he would not get lonely. Eric was sitting in the window looking out at the street as I laid back on the bed and closed my eyes. In a few minutes, I felt him jump up on the bed and heard him purring. I reached over to pet him, but reached into empty space. I opened my eyes to see where he was, but he was still sitting in the window, unfazed. Whatever was purring next to me was not Eric, and not alive for that matter. I actually thought at the time how cool it was that I had experienced my first phantom feline. After telling Kathy all about it, we agreed it must be a cat from one of the earlier owners of the house. The house was built in 1908, so there had been several owners.

As with human ghosts, and hauntings in general, cat ghosts seem to come and go. I have never experienced the cat ghost at Columbia House again, and Kathy’s ghost kitty comes and goes as well. Recently my partner and I have been seeing a ghost cat in our home in North Jersey. We see it just out of the corner of our eyes.  First, I thought it was our living cat Harry, but this cat is dark charcoal in color, not light bluish gray like Harry.  Also, when we have seen our ghost cat, Harry has been asleep in another part of the house. I am not sure where this new ghost has come from, but it has never been in the house before, and we have lived here since 1995. I guess I attract all kinds.

Another favorite phantom feline is at the John F. Craig House on Columbia Avenue. I have done many great events at the Craig House in Cape May, and one of the energies in the house is the ghost of a cat. I have seen him a few times, darting into the hallway or around the corner. Owner Barbara Masemore feels it might be a cat that once belonged to former owners of the house, as she is not a cat person, and has never owned one. Again, the cat just seems to be hanging on for some reason.

One of the interesting paranormal occurrences at the Craig House happens upstairs in one of the third floor rooms. Some people have claimed to feel a slight brush against their face in the middle of the night. I had long attributed this sensation to a ghostly child. One that has turned up at a few of our Craig House séances. However, I now think this ghostly phenomenon is more likely the work of a spectral cat, that is just being friendly to those it knows are animal lovers. For people who love animals, being nudged in the middle of the night by a cat is not a frightening sensation, and at that hour, when one is half asleep, there is not much difference between a living cat and a ghost cat!

There are many more B&Bs, inns and hotels where I have experienced ghost cats in Cape May. Aside from the nocturnal knockings, not one of these felines would make a scary ghost story. They are just going about their catty business, not trying to frighten anyone at all. They are just trying to say, “I am here, I’m comfortable, and I am not about to leave”.

Dogs seem to make very faithful ghosts. While their tenure as an earthbound spirits is usually only temporary, they have a warmer and more solid feeling on a psychic level than ghosts of cats. After we lost our dog Higgins, a faithful English springer spaniel who died at almost 16 years old, we sensed his presence for several months. Phantom scratches at the back door echoed his old lifetime routine of telling us he wanted in or out of the house. A doggy toy squeaking in the hallway, when no one was near it,  proved his spirit was still full of the Old Nick. Even distant sounds of his barking echoed down the hallway on a few occasions. I was happy to know he was still faithfully staying by my side, but saddened to think he would not be able to cross over to Heaven should he stay attached to his old master. One day, without any prodding, the haunting stopped. “Higgy” had gone to Heaven. It was certainly his time, but we were sad all over again for losing our old boy.

Ghostly dogs make much better ghost stories than ghost cats. If you have ever walked the long expanse of Higbee Beach in Cape May you may have not even noticed the most famous ghost of the strand, a large black dog. No one is quite sure where the pup originated, but many people over the last 50, possibly more, years have reported seeing a big black dog running along the beach and then vanishing from site. Now, of course, big black dogs DO run along Higbee Beach as it is a dog friendly zone in Cape May, but those dogs are alive. It may seem like some of them are ghosts as certain owners fail to keep a watchful eye on their furry friends but, these dogs are alive and kicking and their owners are usually within a quarter mile or so.

Dogs also haunt various dwellings in town. Probably the most famous paranormal puppies are those of the Emlen Physick Estate. Dr. Emlen Physick, along with his maiden Aunt Emilie, loved animals. They kept a large dog run behind the carriage house, where the outdoor dining tent is today. Aunt Emilie would cook the meals for the pups every day. They were all well loved and cared for by the Physicks.

On one of my first visits to the old mansion on Washington Street, I sensed the presence of several ghostly dogs, both large and small. In those days, the guides at MAC did not speak of such thing as ghosts at the Physick Estate. I did find a few guides with whom I could confide and we happily exchanged our stories of ghostly encounters at the estate. I was told by one guide that Dr. Physick’s mother, Frances Ralston, was NOT a dog lover, and the canines were forbidden to come into the mansion. So why was I sensing ghosts of dogs in the house? Ghosts will follow old patterns and it would be unlikely the ghostly dogs would cross former barriers after being banned from the house in their lifetimes. This presented one of those wonderful mysteries that comes with ghost investigations. Ghosts are full of history and mystery, which is why I love them so much. Behind every haunting is a ghost, and behind every ghost is a story. Even ghosts of animals have a story to tell, should they stop long enough to tell it. I needed to figure out this mystery.

After returning to the house many more times I was finally able to piece together the haunting of the Physick Estate. Mrs. Ralston was dead and gone. Dr. Physick was only an infrequent ghostly visitor, or clever enough to avoid my psychic radar. In time, I discovered another dead maiden aunt, Isabella (Belle) haunting the upstairs. Aunt Belle had epilepsy and died around 1883 in her 30s. She was confined to the upper floors of the mansion and was kept out of site of visitors because having an illness like epilepsy back then was frowned upon by society. Isabella was basically kept shut up when company came to call.  Luckily, she did not have to endure that isolation for too many years. The Physicks built the house in 1879 and Aunt Belle only lived there a few years before she died. Her health issues eventually got the best of her and she became the first of many ghosts at the Physick Estate.

Photo Credit: MAC

Dr. Emlen Physick (pictured left) loved his dogs. When he died in 1915, Aunt Emilie took over as dog caregiver. Emilie was the last to go, living until the 1930s. The dogs were long gone at that point, but I think their faithful spirits stayed with, and guarded, the Physick family’s lone sentinel until she died. When Aunt Emilie crossed, my theory is she found Belle was still residing in the house as a ghost. I would wager Emilie knew this while she was alive. She seemed like a sharp lady with lots of positive energy. Ghosts and séances were the rage in the 1920s and I imagine Emilie would have been into such things. I can picture the Physicks gathered around the parlor table doing a séance back then, trying to conjure up Aunt Belle!

For some reason, maybe the fact that the house has never really been lived in except by the Physicks, Emilie and Belle still roam the halls of the old mansion. Aunt Emilie must have really loved the dogs because they also haunt the house and grounds. My theory has always been that after Mrs. Ralston died and crossed over, Emilie let the house literally go to the dogs. She let them inside the house.  They continue to enjoy that privilege as ghosts.

Oddly, I have sensed the dogs only a few times over the years I have been visiting the Physick Estate. Even at our annual October  “Midnight at the Physick Estate” sèance and ghost hunt, I have rarely sensed any dogs in the house. Others have sensed the ghostly canines on various tours MAC gives of the house, but my experiences with the pups has been very limited. These are benign animals, simply waiting to head off with their mistresses to Heaven. Knowing Aunt Emilie and her penchant for entertaining and love of life, that trip may be some time off! This mix of ghostly dames and dogs seems to like haunting their old home very much. Luckily for all of us ghost enthusiasts it is open year-round as a public museum.

In Cape May, you will encounter many wondrous things. I would imagine Punxsutawney Phil would see quite a few shadows in town. When it comes to the paranormal, you never know what might turn up here. You may see a ghostly man or woman roaming the streets, or even find one sitting on your bed (if you are lucky). You may even encounter the ghost of someone’s former beloved pet. You can rest assured all the furry phantoms I have encountered have been friendly, especially the dogs. If you are the intuitive type, you may even be able to communicate with one of these spirited pups. If you are truly psychic, and they like you, they may even roll over―and play dead.

Until next time, keep the computer monitor lit, you never know what might be purring in the chair behind you.

To read more about what I do check out my website at craigmcmanus.com


The Ghosts of the John F. Craig House

The Craig House is actually two houses in one. Two haunted houses, that is. We don’t know much about the older rear section of the house, built prior to 1850. We do know it was probably moved to its present location around 1866 when the front section was added. The first owner of that house drowned at sea and never made it back home. The second owner, a wealthy Philadelphia banker, lost the house after one of the financial crashes and later died. The third owner, John Fullerton Craig, a wealthy Philadelphia sugar baron, still roams the halls, and he died in 1926. The living and the dead coexist peacefully at the Craig House—as they do in most of haunted Cape May.

The John F. Craig House is one of Cape May’s top attractions on the B&B scene. Owners Chip and Barbara Masemore have added many beautiful and whimsical touches to the old seaside cottage. They have also maintained the Victorian integrity of the home, something the original owners would be very proud of―or should I say are very proud of. You see, the Craig House, like so many other homes in Cape May, is haunted. While the former owners may be dead, it does not stop them from having a good time―and that is exactly what they do, which is why the Craig House is such a great haunt. You never quite know what will happen next.

I first met the Craig House on one of the walking ghost tours back in the early 1990s. Its ghosts had a bit of an identity problem back then, their mysterious identities had yet to be determined. It was thought that Lucy Johnson, a former servant of the Craig family, was still sewing in the afterlife and would sew buttons back on the pants of visitors. While the story amused me, I felt there was much more to be unearthed in the ghostly realm behind the walls of the old 1866 cottage on Columbia Avenue.

As I have mentioned many times, it is difficult for me to probe psychically the inside of a building from the outside. I really need to be at point blank range with a haunting to get all the details, and even at close range, there is no guarantee the ghosts will be there. Standing outside of the house and hearing about the ghostly activity only gave me a fragment of the material I needed to understand the house from a paranormal point of view. Years later, I had a chance to get in and get psychic. The Craig House was on the local house tour circuit, and I was able to get to know it up close and personal.

Barbara and Chip had just purchased the home and had called in the previous owners to help them answer questions about the house for tour goers. My question was simple: Is the house haunted? I received a guarded, yet positive answer to my question, and then in my typical rambling psychic manner, I started to tell them what the ghosts wanted me to tell them. It was the beginning of a long and wonderful relationship between this psychic medium and a very special haunted house.

With any haunted house, the ghosts are not always active. They may be active and on the go, but they may also just be gone. A house is only haunted when the ghosts are at home. Ghosts move around. They exist in a different dimension of reality that overlaps our own reality. They seem to be able to see our surroundings and us. Sometimes they can even communicate. The Craig House has several ghosts and none of them seems to have any trouble communicating!

The house also has a very unique characteristic. The front section that faces Columbia Avenue was built after the Civil War, in 1866, when Columbia Avenue was first laid out. The rear section of the house was built earlier, in the early part of the 1800s. It was either moved to its current location from another spot in town, or it stood on the property prior to the main house being added to it. I personally think it was moved. In those days, labor was cheaper than lumber and they tended to move old buildings rather then demolish them.

The dual architecture has also given the Craig House dual citizenship in the Spirit world; with ghosts from two different times haunting their respective sections. In the older, rear section, disembodied footsteps are heard on the stairs, late at night after all the guests have gone to bed. Men’s voices can also be heard, carrying on as if returning from sea after a long fishing trip. The voices are always distant and never seem to have an exact point of origin. This is very typical of this type of haunting. If the voices are bleeding through from another reality, they would not have a specific point of origin in our world, they would just echo in and out with the flow of energy.

While the ghostly energy in the rear of the house is always interesting, I think much of it is residual, meaning it comes with the house and repeats like a tape loop for those sensitive enough to hear it. The real barrel of fun in the Craig House’s ghostly repertoire is the ghost hostess of the house, Emma Craig, and she wouldn’t be, excuse the pun, caught dead in the back servants quarters, at least not these days.

“Emma” was the first name I sensed when I took the Craig House tour back in 2003. Barbara told me Emma was John F. Craig’s second wife. The story was that John Craig had bought the house after his first wife died and he, Emma, and the children summered in Cape May. Emma’s energy kept leading me back to the servant’s quarters, and I assumed I had the wrong ghost. Maybe another Emma worked for one of the owners of the house. Barbara thought it would be odd for the head of the house to hang out in the servants wing, but who was I to argue with the ghost?

We later found out from John F. Craig’s great grandchildren that Emma (pictured left) was not always the head of the house, at least not legally. She ran the house with an iron fist and the children always feared her…when she was their nanny. After the first Mrs. Craig died, Emma stayed on with the family. The children were never allowed to go into the back section of the summer home. Only John Craig could make regular visits to the back, to make sure all was well with Emma. I guess he was checking to make sure her plumbing was in working order. You know how old houses are…

It wasn’t long before Emma and John got married. It was quite a scandal for a well-to-do person of Philadelphia high society (Craig made his fortune as a sugar baron) to marry his maid, but marry they did, and Emma became the new Mrs. John F. Craig—and has ruled the house ever since.

We die because the body ceases operating. The soul just keeps going. It came into the body and it leaves the body. The soul is the essence of who we are. Typically, the soul crosses over to another dimension, a place called Heaven or the Other Side. Sometimes a soul has unfinished business or a strong will to stay put. That soul becomes a ghost, a disembodied energy with a consciousness. Emma Craig is very strong willed and I have no doubt she will cross over when she is ready― not a moment sooner.

Emma’s presence is very strong in the house. She does not seem to interact with the guests as much as she watches over the house. When we die we take our personality with us and she was definitely an “in control” personality. One thing of interest that Emma does not seem to be able to control is the cat ghost that runs about the B&B. I have seen this ghostly feline out of the corner of my eye several times. So have other guests. Barbara thinks it is a former owner’s cat still lingering about. People who stay on the third floor have sometimes felt their hands touched or their face lightly brushed, late at night as they sleep. I think our phantom feline could be the culprit.

Dogs are people centered, but cats are place centered and this cat seems to be right at home here. If Spirits do come and go between plains of existence, then cats, being the eternally inquisitive creatures they are, would probably do so even more. The Craig House cat could be the main culprit behind many of the “bumps” in the night. Cats being nocturnal can make quite a racket when they are alive, imagine what they can do when they are dead!

Emma does not walk the corridors of the Craig House alone. I have also sensed head of the house John Fullerton Craig’s ghost, although less frequently than Emma. Craig was quite the entrepreneur. Both a sugar baron and an investment banker, I would imagine if ghosts can travel, John Craig (pictured left) moves back and forth between Cape May and his old stomping grounds in Philadelphia. Maybe he keeps one wife haunting in each house. While John Craig’s ghost is frequently at the B&B, I often sense a “Frank.”  The personality is quite strong and he feels like he is right at home in one of the front bedrooms.

It could be the ghost of John Craig’s son, Dr. Frank Ardary Craig. Dr. Craig was a prominent physician in Philadelphia and a longtime professor at the School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He died in 1959 in Philadelphia at age 83 after complications from colon surgery, he was not in Cape May at the time of his death, and by 1959 the house had left the Craig family. I am not quite sure why the good doctor would choose to haunt a former beach house that was no longer in the family, unless of course the “family” was in fact still there in spirit.

I believe that souls have the ability to come and go from Heaven. These souls I call Spirits. Could ghosts also be able to come and go from Heaven at their leisure, instead of being earthbound? Do ghosts and Spirits mix in a haunting? Are ghosts and Spirits one in the same? If the Frank is Dr. Frank Craig, could the good doctor be back as a Spirit to enjoy his old childhood “haunt” by the seaside, or is it simply another “Frank” is haunting the house? With the location of the Craig House being on one of the oldest and most haunted streets in town, anything is possible.

One of my most interesting (and startling) experiences occurred in the back section of the house. I was quite sure when I woke up on a quiet fall morning and found the room to be a frigid 50 degrees, that the ghosts had been playing with me. The heat was set at 68 and when I went to bed the room was perfectly cozy. I made the mistake of commenting aloud that the least the ghosts could do was to warm up the room in the morning for the guests. I then left, had breakfast and went for a walk. Upon returning to the room about an hour later, I found the room to be a balmy 87 degrees!  The heat had been turned up to 87, the fireplace turned on and the bathroom heater activated for good measure. While the climate was perfect for tropical plants, I was not so amused. Questioning Barbara and Chip I realized no one (living) had been in the room since I had left. Well, you get what you ask for, especially with ghosts!

A few years ago, Barbara asked if I would be one of her “Cape May Stars” and host a winter weekend at the Craig House. We decided the weekend event would focus on the ghosts and I would hold a group séance on Saturday night by the fireplace. As the group gathered and began to listen quietly as I went into trance, the house began to come alive. A door upstairs slammed and bangs and footsteps could be heard coming from all over the house. Everyone (living) in the house was present in the parlor.

Soon the ghosts made their presences known and I relayed the information they gave me. Ghost communication is a form of mind-to-mind energy exchange. They send me thoughts, pictures, and often names. Soon after we started I got more than I bargained for. Ghosts from outside the house, those residing in other homes, started to come through the walls and attempt to communicate with us.

A ghostly child made his presence known to me and as I informed the group, a raging cold spot moved around the legs of a few of the participants. The child was particularly drawn to a young couple from Mount Laurel. He was an orphan and he thought they were his former parents. The child would appear to us on other occasions as well. Several cold spots, often a calling card for ghosts, moved around the room. What started out as a warm, toasty gathering by the fire changed into an icy mix of the living and the dead…and the living loved it!

We now repeat the Craig House Séance weekends each winter. I will be hosting two weekends this season, on February 4 and 5 and again on March 18 and 19. For more details or to make reservations visit the John F. Craig House B&B online by following this link. If you want a chance to get up close and personal with the paranormal, while enjoying a great weekend getaway by the seaside, come join me for this spooktacular event.

The ghosts of the Craig House have made themselves known to guests for many years and they will probably be enjoying their old seaside cottage for many years to come. The energy at this house is very positive. Just don’t ask them to warm up your bed for you, or you may get more than you bargained for! You can read more about the house in my Ghosts of Cape May Book 1. Of course, the best way to get to know the ghosts is to stay there.

I also want to mention, for those of you on facebook who are also ghosts of Cape May fans, I have a group page devoted to just that. Come join the group by following this link, or search for “ghosts of Cape May” next time you are on facebook. The more the spookier!

Wishing you all the best for the New Year.

In Good Spirits, Craig McManus


The Ghostly Christmas Shoppe

The Victorians loved a good ghost story—especially at Christmas. The tradition of telling spine-tingling stories of ghouls and specters, while sitting in front of a roaring fire, goes back to ancient times. The Victorians in England made a national pastime of telling ghost stories at Christmas. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is only one of many, great Victorian tales that were savored beside the yuletide hearth. The Victorians in Cape May probably followed suit with their English brethren and told a few ghost stories at Christmas themselves. Today, some of those same Victorians, now lacking corporeal form, are still lingering around the ethers of America’s oldest seaside resort, and their stories are good enough to tell any time of year!

When considering the topic of a December Cape May ghost story, one place came to mind that evoked the spirit and Spirits of Christmas―Winterwood. Located in Cape May and Rio Grande, Winterwood Gift & Christmas Gallery has everything one needs for holiday decorating. Both stores also have everything one needs for a perfect haunting. Since I have already written about the Winterwood Shoppe in Cape May in my October column, I will devote this column to Winterwood’s original location at 3137 Rt. 9 South in Rio Grande.

In The Ghosts of Cape May Book 1, I tell the tale of how I first came to know Winterwood Rio Grande’s resident ghost, Hester Hildreth. I was staying in the turret suite of the Inn at 22 Jackson, trying to make heads or “tales” out of the ghost story told about the house for years. When I finally figured out the stories were untrue, made up actually, I conducted a trance channeling to see if I could contact the real ghost of the house, a girl named Anne.

Trance channeling is a medium’s way of meditating and establishing a strong communication with ghosts in a house or Spirits from the Other Side. Sometimes it gets a bum wrap because Mediums of the old days tended to be overly dramatic about trance channeling and became more of a stage act than an actual Spirit communication. When I relax and go into trance I imagine myself in some neutral place. I allow (this is the key word;  I never give up control of what I am doing) the ghosts or Spirits to talk through me. While in this state, I can sense and feel these entities. When the session is over, I usually do not hold on to the information I have channeled. I will remember bits and pieces of what was said, but usually it feels more like waking from a dream than an actual conversation.

During my trance channeling at the Inn at 22 Jackson (now called the Red Cottage and part of the Virginia Hotel group) I was channeling the house ghost, a young girl named Anne. Suddenly a very strong ghost named Hester Hildreth barged in. Hester was not associated with the house at all. She saw me on a psychic level and was drawn into my trance energy. She had been at the house across the street (Poor Richards Inn) which once belonged to her cousin George Hildreth, when my trance channeling must have reached out, as it often does, and pulled her in. A Psychic Medium’s energy to a ghost can be like a flame to a moth. Our energies tend to attract both higher Spirits from the other Side and earthbound ghosts as well.

Hester Hildreth had come to tell me she had left the Winterwood Shoppe in Rio Grande where she was known to haunt since she died in 1949. It seemed she was more of a gadabout, had tired of the “crowded” surroundings of Winterwood and made her way to Cape May. At the time, I thought it strange that a ghost could travel so many miles from one location to another, but I also was beginning to understand that ghosts are transient by nature, and they do in fact move from place to place.

Hester was accustomed to having free reign in the Winterwood Shoppe, and she had every right. The house, the oldest part of which dates back to the 1730s, was built by her ancestor David Hildreth, a Revolutionary War patriot, and had been her home since birth. Since 1978, it has been the home to a Christmas Shoppe. Hester and her ghostly friends had to now share their space with lots of Christmas trimmings.

In the trance channeling, Hester had commented that her staircase, an old winding wooden set of stairs behind the great fireplace, was cluttered with junk. I decided to pay a visit to Rio Grande and did find the stairs were now being used as display space, and were no longer in use as an access way to the second floor. Ghosts follow their old routines and paths. Block those paths and you may have a very unhappy ghost!

I set up an appointment to see Winterwood’s current owners, Tom and Cindi Alvarado and discuss the current climate of hauntings at the store. Tom and Cindi were kind enough to take me throughout the house. You can read more about Hester in my book, The Ghosts of Cape May Book 1. For this column I want to focus on two other ghosts of the house, for on that particular visit to Winterwood, it was not Hester that I was sensing, it was the ghosts of a young boy and young girl. They, too, belonged in the home, but were from a different era.

For someone with ADD (attention deficit disorder) like I have, trying to concentrate and focus on something as subtle and elusive as the paranormal is always a challenge. Place me in a busy Christmas store filled to the ceiling with shiny, sparkly, noisy things and my mind becomes toast. This investigation was a real challenge. I have been back many times and I still can’t focus properly in that store! Even so, I tried my best, closing my eyes in each room, going from floor to floor in search of anything paranormal.

It was on the second floor that I first felt two distinct presences. The room was filled with backup stock of Christmas things, especially toys. Boys will be boys and ghosts of boys will act like boys as well. The same goes for ghosts of girls. They will retain a childlike personality, even at the advanced age of their ghostly existence.

I psychically followed the young children around the house. Their energies came and went often losing me in the process. At one point, on the second floor in the office, I felt a wall of cold surround and pass through me. The hair stood up on my neck and arms. It was like being taken by surprise from behind. In fact, that is exactly what happened. The ghosts had descended in and around me so quickly, I had little time to see them coming. I wondered if they could see me. If yes, were they playing with me, or were they trying to communicate and get my attention? Maybe they were simply going about their daily routines without even realizing that I was there. It’s different with every ghost.

The cold feeling had left and I had decided to follow Cindi Alvarado up one more level to the old attic, with its crooked chimney and ancient beams. The air was close and humid, and I could not sense the ghosts of the children at all. Something was there however something just outside the reach of my mind. It was an older energy, possibly from an earlier time in the house. This energy had dimension without personality. There was no interaction with it and my psychic mind. It would not communicate with me on a mind-to-mind level.

Sometimes in the paranormal field, we call this type of energy “residual energy.” This is not a ghostly presence. There is no consciousness, just imagery that a sensitive like myself can experience. A house this old is bound to have residual energies. Living participants from another time unknowingly place these bits of psychic information in the ethers of a building. Strong emotions or a traumatic event can leave this kind of psychic imprint. The energies in the attic at Winterwood were leftover from days long ago, and they were not talking. It was nothing more than a tape loop, repeating a few images of some forgotten event. This “residual haunting” had no value to my investigation, as the images were people moving about without words or thoughts. I continued my quest down the stairs and to other (cooler) parts of the house.

The Joshua Hildreth Homestead, as the building is called in historical records, is one of Cape May’s surviving architectural treasures. The picture below shows the house the way it was around 1900. Today, newer additions have been built and added to the original structure. The two-story section of the house is the oldest, thought to be built in 1722 by David Hildreth or in the 1730s by his son, Joshua Hildreth. This is where I found the biggest psychic charge. From ground floor up to the attic, this part of the house was the most haunted. The problem is all ghosts have personal agendas. Even if a place is very haunted, it does not mean ghosts want to communicate. These ghosts were proving elusive to my psychic charm.

Photo appears courtesy of The Cape May County Historical and Genealogical Museum

Before I could get a fix on the ghostly children once more, and try to throw out some psychic questioning, they had vanished through the back wall of the house. Getting inside a ghost’s mind is hard enough when they are stationary. Some ghosts simply do not want to talk to the living. Some don’t even know they are dead. They live a dream-scape existence, probably more like a recurring nightmare, and a probing psychic medium is nothing more than a passing interest to their wandering minds. Ghosts, fields of energy with a consciousness, are nothing more than surviving personalities. Free floating souls without bodies. Every ghost is different. Some want to talk, others do not. The two ghostly children had made a break for the backyard, yet somehow I had a feeling it was not to escape me, but instead to draw me outside.

I could pick up a few bits and pieces of information from them as I rejoined them behind the Winterwood buildings. The girl’s name was Sarah. Either she told me this or my mind was able to probe her “mind” and find the information. The boy proved harder to catch and question. Both of them were now moving away from the house, deeper into the backyard and finally into the woods behind the property. They vanished from my psychic radar. Had I discovered ghosts from another property? Had they been visiting Winterwood to play with the toys and then returned home?

Making some more inquiries about the property, I learned of the reason for the ghostly trek and their possible destination. There was an old family cemetery behind Winterwood, dating back to the time of the earliest inhabitants of the home. In that cemetery were several children’s’ graves—could these children be buried there as well? Unfortunately, the graveyard was not accessible in the summer. It was well overgrown in a thicket of weeds, brush, and poison ivy. I am always up to a good paranormal challenge, except when it involves poison ivy. I would let the children go back to their resting ground, undisturbed.

While Hester Hildreth and possibly her sister Lucille (Lou) were always thought to be the headlining ghosts at Winterwood in Rio Grande, I think the two children are really behind much of the paranormal activity. People who work in the store report things flying off the shelves, toys found lined up on the floor, and stuffed animals left strewn around, as if they had been played with during the night. I think it is safe to assume, they had.

On subsequent visits to the Christmas Shoppe, I was always drawn to the old fireplace area in the main section of the home. Ghostly presences linger near the winding stairs and old mantel. Family legend tells that a British soldier who had defected during the Revolutionary War was taken in by the Hildreths and given shelter. In return for the safe haven, he carved the elaborate wooden mantel still standing today. I sometimes sense a male presence in that room, smoking a pipe. Even when I stop by to make a purchase at Winterwood, in that room one never feels alone. Someone or something is always just over your shoulder, just out of sight. Could it be one of the Hildreth men, or is it the British soldier, still hiding out in the house?

All ghosts haunt for some reason. When a house stands this long and has remained in the same family from 1722 to the 1960s, it is usually a given that one will find dead former family members lurking about. On a recent visit to the shoppe, I found myself once again drawn to the backyard. This time, the pull was stronger than before. I could hear children laughing. It was not a sound audible to my ears, it was a psychic message sent directly to my brain. I knew immediately that it was the ghostly children. This time I started to follow them back—deeper into the property. As I moved closer to the edge of the woods, I felt as if time had stopped. It was a similar feeling to what I had experienced at Higbee Beach, when I ventured off into the woods there. Here I was in the middle Rio Grande’s booming shopping district, yet I felt like I had slipped into some isolated netherworld.

I moved past the old white fence and through the opening into the dense brush. I felt as if I were being pulled and could not stop myself from moving. I pondered the possible location of the old graves, which could have right under me, yet there was so much wild brush, I would never know it.  Suddenly, something grabbed my leg! Luckily, it was only a dead vine and not a dead child, but it almost tripped me anyway.

The sudden rush of adrenalin was enough to break my psychic line and make me realize I was heading into rough waters. The terrain was not the only thing that was difficult to navigate. I was being haunted by the two children and they were insisting I follow them—to their graves. Common sense prevailed and I cleared my mind, shut down my psychic senses, and left the woods and the old cemetery. I don’t know what they wanted me to see, but I did not have a feeling it was anything warm and fuzzy. The whole experience made my blood run cold. Some ghosts will get a little too up close and personal, and these two just overstepped their boundaries. Whereas adult ghosts will usually back off if they know they are bothering a living being, spirits of children do not have the same ghostly etiquette. Whatever they were planning, I wasn’t playing along. I made the long trek back to the parking lot and got in my car and bid them farewell—at least for now.

I would like to get back to Winterwood at night and conduct a channeling session. A good old-fashioned séance should bring out the ghosts in full regalia. Maybe I will even be brave enough to battle the poison ivy and get to he old burial ground in back. In the meantime, feel free to do your Christmas shopping at Winterwood. Maybe you will even run into one of the real ghosts of Christmas past!

You can read the entire Winterwood story in my first book, The Ghosts of Cape May. You can order Book 1 or all four of my Ghosts of Cape May books through my website by clicking here. My books also make great holiday gifts, and I would be more than happy to personally inscribe them for your friends and loved ones.

The Winterwood haunting is a great story. The more I think about this haunting, the more I could imagine that if I were a ghostly kid, wandering around the streets of Rio Grande, I would haunt a place like Winterwood. Everyone there is always in a holiday mood, and toys and Christmas decorations abound. It is a place that would make me feel right at home. A place where every day—is Christmas.

Happy holidays to you and your ghosts!