You know how I’m always on the hunt for ghosts every year when October rolls around? You know how my search is always for naught? Yeah, guess what? Be careful of what you wish for.
We asked psychic and Exit Zero columnist Craig McManus to come on up to our place at CapeMay.com, located above the Fudge Kitchen at 513 Washington Street Mall where we share office space with the Cape May Jazz Festival and check out the strange vibrations we’ve felt up here from time to time.
We picked the Sunday after Labor Day, thinking it would be pretty quiet around 8 p.m. Wrong! The Art on the Mall exhibitors were just tearing down and temperatures were still hovering in the upper 70s so lots a folk were lingering on the mall. Things did finally settle down around 9ish.
Craig and his sound man Willie began assembling their equipment shortly after 8. By 8:30 p.m., it was lights out (hence the greenish grainy night vision pictures). We began in CapeMay.com’s main office, overlooking the mall. Our artistic director Stephanie Madsen, a Cape May local, is in the room as well as Jennifer Kopp, a former CapeMay.com editor and former reporter for the Cape May Star and Wave, whose offices were housed on the second floor for nearly 20 years. Yours truly also present of course. Craig, at the time the lights went out, is standing between the main office and the reception room. Willy is behind the sound board in the reception room.
We begin. The lights go out. Then, abruptly, they come back on. Everyone but me is stunned.
“Why do you guys look like that? Willy put the lights on,” I said, “because he’s right out there.”
“No I didn’t,” he said.
“No, I could see him,” said Stephanie. “He couldn’t reach that far without getting up.”
That would be Freaky Happening #1.
“Oooooooh Noooooo,” I say.
“Why are you scared?” asks Stephanie, “This is good.”
Good? How do I define good? Good is watching a scary movie not living one.
So, we adjust, settle down again and turn the lights back off.
“I’m sensing a Joan or Jane,” says Craig.
“Joan Stevens,” Jennifer and Stephanie chime.
Joan apparently sold advertising for the Cape May Star and Wave in this very office. She died in 1997. I have to shush Jennifer because she keeps giving away too many secrets. After all, we want to see how much Craig knows without knowing, you know what I mean?
“She wants to know where her husband is,” says Craig.
“She wasn’t married,” says Jennifer.
It turns out she thinks of CapeMay.com director Bernie Haas as her husband. He has a desk in the reception room and also has an office upstairs. Joan doesn’t like it upstairs and in fact only hangs around our offices. She warns, according to Craig, about overeating, and advises the person who occupies that space to keep a close check on his blood sugar.
Jennifer and Stephanie confirm that Joan was a diabetic and in fact was forced to retire when she couldn’t make it up the long stairs. Also, Craig says Joan wants to know where her old pencil sharpener is.
“Oh, I remember that,” says Jennifer. “It was an old electric one. I don’t know where it went, probably to West Cape May where the new offices are.”
According to Craig, Joan says it was she who put the lights on earlier. She says she also has trouble with computers. They seem to stop working when she’s around. Something I can personally confirm, although I’m not so sure that Joan is the culprit. And one more thing, she says everything would fall apart if wasn’t for her watching out for us. She feels the need to be constantly organizing the office and to keep busy, busy, busy.
Meanwhile Craig is trying to block Joan out because other voices are trying to cut in. He seems to hear something like 28 voices in his head or swirling around his head. He wonders if the spirits are traveling across buildings. He asks about the history of this building. He tells Joan to please shut up. That’s when John breaks in.
John has a long beard and we figure must have been around in 1976 because he says he wants the cars to come back and for the people to be gone. Stephanie and Jennifer think he is referring to the fact that up until 1971, Washington Street was just like any other small town main street. Then the city converted the three main shopping blocks into a pedestrian mall.
Now, as to the question of people moving back and forth between buildings, Craig says it is very unusual. If a hotel had occupied the space, it would make sense but The United States Hotel was located across the street and burnt down in 1869. Of course, I didn’t find any of this out until later. Large fires are always fodder for roaming ghosts/spirits. But, Craig wants to know if there was a theater nearby. The answer is yes. The Liberty Theater, right next door, was built in 1919 by Adam Suelke. It
operated as a Vaudeville Theater before converting to motion pictures. Prior to that, the space (507-511) was a vacant lot. A map of the city dated 1890 shows shops all along the block, including any number of saloons, billiard parlors and cigar stores. And you know what they say about pool? Ya got trouble. With a capital T and that rhymes P and that stands for pool.
Postcard collector and author Don Pocher tells us that a directory of the city dated 1906-1907 shows that on the other side of us (515-517 where the Klothes Kove is now), was the site of Doak Brothers – Grocers, Meat, Provisions, Eggs, and Poultry – owned and operated by Henry H. and Samuel S. Doak.
So, yes there were buildings – Craig says John is upset by the fact that a lot of buildings have been knocked down. Well, that’s certainly true. The Liberty Theater made way for Liberty Way Shopping – 10 condo-stores. The Doak Brothers building made way for what was to eventually become the Klothes Kove.
Building # 513 is still standing, however, and looks as though the ground floor has always been a store front and in fact a candy store.
According to the city’s 1890 map, a candy store occupied the site even then and was probably owned by Mr. Roth of Roth’s Candyland. His son George ran the candy store until the 1980s when Bogle Brothers’ Fudge Kitchen took over. As any one who walks the mall knows, they are very much still here and still selling fudge. So what is the conclusion? Candy always prevails over billiards.
Now, what were we talking about? Oh yes. Ghosts. Craig senses a mother holding a baby. The name Irene or Eilene comes to mind. The mother has had a hard time with the birth. He thinks the mother may have died but stuck around to look after the baby.
Craig says John is going back upstairs. We’ve apparently bored him or scared him, tough to know which. Joan interrupts and tells Craig she doesn’t like it when people forget to lock the doors. This, we conclude must be referring to past transgressions because, we in the present are pretty conscientious about the old locking the doors thing.
Craig again tells Joan to keep a lid on it and tries to get back to John. “He is very strong,” says Craig. “He worked with his hands or with someone named Hand.” He adds that John wants to show him the “flat top table press. It’s a big round thing that comes down.” But he can’t find it and wants to know where it is.
Jennifer confirms that a man named John “Pops” Markley worked as a pressman/ handyman for the Star and Wave his entire life, even when its offices were over on Perry Street – now the site of the Carpenter’s Square Mall. At the time, the paper was owned by a man named Tom Hand.
Jennifer later wrote to us about John. Pops “was exceptionally fast and adept at loading individual letters as every word was set by hand then, and believe it or not, backwards. After moving from the original building on Perry Street, the Star and Wave suspended press operations donating the antique presses to the Historic Cold Spring Village. Pops continued working fixing typewriters for the public as well as in-house.”
Craig asks the ghosts or spirits to speak if they are so inclined.
“Joan, says Craig, “Wants to know about the plants and is concerned that they are not being taken care of. And where are the bagels?”
Craig tells Joan the ghostly equivalent of Zip It. Then off we go to the back of the office where the Cape May Jazz Festival calls home.
Here’s where it gets creepy. Jennifer tells us Tales from the Dark Room which is now the kitchen. It seems she had taken some pictures on of which was of a horse head. She was preparing for the Christmas issue and put the negative in the enlarger. When the picture was done, she took it out. It was facing right. She didn’t like the size of it and decided to enlarge it even further. So, she put recalibrated the machine without taking the picture out and when it was done, the horse was facing left.
“I stood there looking at these two pictures,” she said. “One going right, one going left and I know I didn’t take the negative out because there was no need to. I put my coat on and left the building.”
Unlike the front room where light from the street lights comes in through the bay windows, this large back room is very dark with just a wee bit of light coming from the east side windows. The only noise is that of the air conditioner and the dull sounds of The Fudge Kitchen downstairs closing up for the evening.
Craig senses a male presence. He is very “aggressive, very angry, very agitated. He feels caged. The atmosphere back here is completely different. It is cold. The ghost here is nasty. Joan won’t come back here.”
Craig asks for a sign.
“I just sensed someone walk passed me. His name is James and he’s yelling, ‘Get out of my space.’ “
This is followed by a loud knocking sound. We are trying to figure out where the sound is coming from. Is the air conditioner? Is it The Fudge Kitchen? Or, is it unexplained? Craig moves over to the door. He looks down the stairway leading to the back of the building.
“I sense an aggressive energy especially by the back steps. James is looking for his clock. He liked the girls who worked back here.” He especially likes girls with long hair. He also has a fascination with typewriters but then so did John so are the ghosts fighting each other for use of the typewriter in the back corner of the room?
“I sense a Jeanine or Vivian.” Says Craig “He’s someone’s son. He’s trying to threaten me but I think he’s just a little off. James if you’re here, let us know.”
Freaky Happening #2. Again, we hear a loud banging as though coming from the banister of the stairwell and the door comes open, even though Stephanie herself closed it and locked it.
We turn the air conditioner off so it is completely silent in the room –except for the dull thuds coming from The Fudge Kitchen.
“I sensed someone on the stairs when I opened the door,” says Craig. “A white head. ‘James? If you’d like to talk, we have microphones. Please speak now.”
Silence. Well, for us it’s silence, apparently for Craig, James has turned into a virtual chatterbox. In addition to his love for clocks, typewriters, girls with long hair, he also wants to know where the book cases are because he likes to lay with the books. And then the door opens again. James says it was he who turned on the lights. So, now, says Craig, “We have a ghost that flicks switches, turns knobs and plays with computers. This is a highly energized presence.” He also sees numbers 38, 33, maybe 1938 or 1933. Long before by time.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m beginning to sweat. Right about now, Willie notices a light in the reception office. I’m looking for any excuse to get the hell out of this room, so I volunteer to go look.
Freaky Happening #3. I come around the corner, and I’ll tell you what, when I saw B. Haas’ computer on when it wasn’t on when I walked into the back room, it took my breath away. Everybody ran into the room and we put the lights on. Jennifer or Stephanie, I’m not sure which, noticed a fake Oscar, presented to Bernie by the New Jersey State Film Festival at a fund raiser, sitting on the desk next to the computer. None of us remember it being there but we can’t be sure. The computer, Stephanie says, could easily have been left on, but on stand-by. Something, she says, would have had to have touched the keys for the computer to come back to life, so to speak.
Craig says James doesn’t like the front door. He only uses the back steps. He talks about walls being blocked. Craig thinks maybe a door has been blocked. This is a possibility. The building, according to Wister Dougherty, whose family owned the building up until the 1960s when George Roth bought it, says he thinks 513 was constructed around 1903 or so. He, himself was born right in our office in 1931. Of course, it wasn’t our office then, it was their home. Lots of things could have changed in 102 years.
Ok, can we leave James behind now? He creeps me out. I prefer the company of Joan and John and I’m tired of sitting in the back room in the dark.
We move upstairs but not much is happening there, that I can remember or read in my notes. Craig does see the letters L.E.A.C.H.
That spells Leach. Leach, of course, is an old Cape May name. Joseph Leach owned The Cape May Ocean Wave. He bought it three months after it was established by Colonial Johnson in June 1854.
Joseph (we assume it is Joseph) cautions Craig to watch out for the steps because someone fell and broke their leg once and had to be in bed for a while. Jennifer confirms someone did fall. And it’s back down the stairs we march to the front office where Craig gets into some serious channeling.
He starts naming names – Robert Hand, Prudence, a Pricilla, Betty Hand, Other names such as Amaryla, Virgil, Marcy, Spice Leaming, Joseph Leach, Abigail Hughes, oriental shop, haberdashery, Julia Jackson twins, united, United States, Pearl Diver, Peter Boynton.
“And Joan is still looking for the bagels. She’s worried about things burning,” he says, The final message from someone – Joan, Joseph, James, who knows is, “I’m going to give you an award.”
Who’s giving the award and to whom – no clue.
As I told you earlier, United States probably refers the United States Hotel, which burned in 1869. However, there was also a United States Cigar Store on our side of the block built after the hotel fire. Arson was suspected in the hotel fire. The suspected arsonist was one Peter Boynton, aka, The Pearl Diver, who owned an oriental shop next to the hotel. He was questioned by authorities and later released.
So there you have it. Some things like the hotel incident can be found in any history of Cape May. Other things, like Joan and John – are not common knowledge. In fact, there are only a handful of people who would really know about them. Some things can be explained. We’re not really sure where the fake Oscar was when we started, nor if anyone accidentally touched the keys of the computer to activate the screen. One thing though, no one touched the lights – we tried later and were unsuccessful in accidentally turning them on. The door is another unexplainable incident. We can explain away the noises – they could easily have come from the air conditioning unit or from the Fudge Kitchen – but the door is another matter. Stephanie locked the door herself and was standing back there when it came open again.
Here’s what I know – I think I’m going to try another kind of assignment next October. Happy Halloween. And Boo to you too.