The Dead of Winter

Craig McManus. Photo Credit: Susan Tischler

From the sound of this tape, one would think it was a summer night in July and I had the windows open to the noisy street. But, it was the dead of winter when the dead of Cape May are the only ones moving (or talking) late at night in the B&Bs – Craig McManus, The Ghosts of Cape May, Book 3

I don’t know about you, but if I were stuck in the house all winter, right about now, I’d be looking for any excuse to get away. And what better place to get away, than Cape May? But what earthly reason would possess anyone to come here with 20 inches of snow still very much visible on the landscape? Well, count on psychic/medium and author Craig McManus to find reasons other than the usual earthly ones. On the weekend of Feb. 19 and 20, four “haunted” B&Bs hosted “The Dead of Winter” ghost tour. The weekend included other ghostly activities, like a séance and capped the weekend off with dinner and a Q&A at the Mad Batter Restaurant.

Craig has written four books on the subject of hauntings in Cape May, appropriately titled The Ghosts of Cape May, Two, Three and 400 Years of the Ghosts of Cape May and I swear he could find a ghost under the door mat of the local rest area, still stuff happens when he’s around – with no apparent explanation. I think it’s helpful to understand Craig’s ghost investigator terminology, which he includes in The Ghosts of Cape May (One).

EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) – EVPs are collected by running a tape recorder in a haunted place [but not necessarily a digital one] The voices are not heard until the tape is played back.

Ghost – Most parapsychologists prefer to use the term “apparition.” A ghost is the soul of a person (or animal) who has died and has not “crossed over” to the Other Side, Heaven, the next plane, etc.

Haunting – Craig considers this terms pejorative. Ghosts are not trying to  scare us, as the term “haunt” denotes. They simply exist on a different plan from us. For some unknown reasons, the two planes often mix in time and space. It is during this merging of energies that we may encounter sights (rare) or smells or sounds (common) associated with a ghost.

Nighttime – Most haunting activity takes place between midnight and five in the morning

Residual Haunting – Energy embedded in the ether of the place, “tape loops.” The energy creates a “movie” that plays repeatedly in the ether. The ghost will do the same thing again and again, like walking up a staircase. Nothing more will happen and the ghost will not notice you.

Spirit – Spirits are souls at a higher level of being. They are more advanced and enlightened than ghosts. A spirit is a soul that has crossed over to the Other Side and has come back to help or guide someone here on this plane.

Third Floor Phenomenon – Added to the definitions because it comes up so often on these tours. Although it is true that the third floor was often the servant’s quarters, as Craig explains it, Often ghosts are sensed on the third floor not necessarily because they were servants, but because their energy rises and that’s where it ends up being trapped.”

All righty then – now armed with the proper vocab, we can do a virtual tour of the Dead of Winter tour which begins on one of Cape May’s most haunted streets, Columbia Avenue. Columbia is one of the few streets in Cape May which was unscathed by the Great Fire of 1878. Many of structures were built in the early 1870s.

Bacchus B&B – The Main Inn

719 Columbia
Formerly the Brass Bed B&B

Bacchus 2.

Our first stop is at the Bacchus B&B, which at one time was called the Brass Bed Inn. As Craig recalls, speaking before a room of 20 or more participants:

“I spent the night in one of the rooms at The Brass Bed/ Bacchus. Something jarred me from my sleep about 3 a.m. As I woke, I realized I had been dreaming about an older man and a younger woman walking down the hallway toward my room. He was looking at a clipboard or something she was carrying and they were discussing it. I wondered if the man in the image could have been one of the doctors who had previously lived in the house. Maybe his nurse was with him as well. Both Dr [Alexander] Arthur and Dr [Thompson] Wescott had offices in the house and saw patients downstairs.

Photo Credit: Macy Zhelyazkova

“I assumed she was a nurse and I was seeing residual image of something that happened in the past or I was psychically viewing ghosts moving through the corridor. I had no more than pondered the thought, when I felt a cold rush of air in the room as the bed slowly started to move. As I laid on my side, I felt the mattress depress behind me, as if someone or something were getting into bed with me. It was quite unnerving. Even the most seasoned ghost investigator can become scared when taken off guard by something paranormal.

“I called out to Willy [Craig’s companion] who was sleeping in the next room, but by the time he woke up the presence was gone.

“About a year or so later, [owner and innkeeper], John Matusiak told me he heard a story that Dr.Arthur had a mistress and she would stay with him at the summer house while his wife was back home in Philadelphia. After learning this added information, I rethought my theory on why the good doctor is still at the house. He and the mistress may have decided to stay and enjoy life by the seaside in the afterlife, or they could both be trying to avoid running into Mrs. Arthur in Heaven!

“Of course, without having the ghost offer a name or identify itself, I am only speculating that it is Dr. Arthur. It could very well be one of the other previous owners of the house. Some ghosts will want to communicate; others will remain aloof and distant. Whatever is haunting the Brass Bed/Bacchus is a positive energy. If it is the good doctor, he was well liked in town and his outgoing personality would transcend death. Maybe someday he will leave a business card and I can finally get to the bottom of this haunting.”

Bacchus Inn Cottage

710 Columbia Avenue
Formerly the Inn at Journey’s End

and tried to put out a psychic line announcing who I was and that I would like to speak with her. She did not respond. What she did come back with was very strange. She was muttering about a roast not cooking properly. I think it was a stove. What was stove – not to mention a roast – doing in her bathroom?“In a few moments, the mystery was solved. John told me that when he was renovating downstairs, he had discovered that what is now the bathroom was at one time a kitchen. Now we’re cooking with gas!“Fanny would not give me the time of the day. It was one complaint after another about that stupid roast. She would not respond to any of my questions, and I started to wonder if she were only a residual haunting. I felt like walking into the bathroom/kitchen, [and saying], ‘No wonder your roast doesn’t taste right – you’ve been cooking it for 70 years.’”Craig leading the tour. Photo Credit: Susan Tischler”]Craig also sensed a young boy looking through the windows. He channeled the name Brendan, a small child, maybe 9 years old carrying coal.

Craig said, “Brendan would not come into the house because he was told by his previous employers never to enter the upstairs of a home. From what I could gather Brendan worked in some capacity delivery coal. He also mentioned a passing horse cart had injured his legs, and he walked with crutches. I think he may have died as a result of those injuries. Unlike Fanny Conwell, this ghost was very interactive.

“I still haven’t been able to trace him to this house. He seems to be transient to the neighborhood – sometimes ghosts who have been killed nearby simply move into your house.”

“When we rented a house nearby on Columbia Avenue last summer, Stephanie Kirk from The Linda Lee and The Bedford had told that when they gutted that house, a child’s wheelchair from the Victorian era had been discarded on the trash. I wondered if Brendan had possibly lived in this other house during his lifetime in Cape May.”

One of the more common hauntings at 710 Columbia are footsteps going up to the third floor. Many people have reported hearing them. Phantom footsteps are the most common of all haunting phenomena and manifest in most haunted places at one time or another. One hint that these footsteps are particularly persistent is the fact that the previous owners, Fran and Joe Doris, who turned what was then a rooming house into The Inn at Journey’s End B&B, carpeted the stairs. Didn’t stop that ghost, whom Craig thinks might be a Mrs. Mason who lived on Jackson Street but had to “move” after the Great Fire. She climbs the stairs determined to settle in for the night.

The Linda Lee B&B

725 Columbia

Linda Lee.

The ghosts on Columbia are active, many in number and varied. While channeling at the Bacchus Cottage, Craig once channeled a ghost called Walter who walked through the front wall from across the street at the Linda Lee to complain about the wine cheese being served across the street.

Craig’s account of Walter from Ghosts, Book Three:

“My name is Walter…I am from the Linda Lee and have come looking for some decent wine and cheese,” said Walter to Craig interrupting his channeling session. Bacchus, if you don’t already know, was the Roman god of wine and the John Matusiak, the proprietor of both Bacchus Main Inn and Cottage, was a purveyor of wines, as is Craig when he isn’t channeling. So, I’m guessing Walter know exactly where to go to make his wants known.

“I was conversing with them [the Matusiaks] and their ghosts when though the front wall of the house burst a larger than life spirit who identified himself as ‘Walter.’ It was not the first time this wandering sociable ghost had made his presence known outside his abode – nor would it be the last.

“Each time I attempted to channel 710 Columbia, this pesky ghost from 725 would move into our space announcing his arrival; and inviting us to a wine and cheese party – that we were expected to furnish on his behalf.”

The Linda Lee. Photo Credit: Macy Zhelyazkova

Walter came out looking for “some decent wine and cheese” more than once. Finally, Craig cornered the new owners of the Linda Lee one day, Archie and Stephanie Kirk, and asked them about Walter. Archie, a skeptic, conceded that one of the owners on the deed was in fact a man named Walter. Craig had finally ID’ed his ghost.

Over the years Craig recorded many tapes of wee hours of the morning at the Linda Lee. He recounts one particular recording of EVPs.

“When the hiss was removed from the recording, a myriad of ghostly voices was heard in the background noise of the tape. From the sound of this tape, one would think it was a summer night in July and I had the window open to the noisy street. But, it was the dead of winter, when the dead of Cape May are the only ones moving (or talking) late at night in the B&Bs.”

At the Linda Lee Craig recorded a “plethora” of EVPs.

“At times it sounded like two women conversing and other times a man and a child were talking.” Craig asked if Walter was in and was informed that he was not. Fifteen minutes later, he reports asking the same question, “I told you he’s not in!” replied the ghost. Walter must have been “out for the evening” no doubt in search of some libation.

The Bedford Inn

805 Stockton Avenue

Bedford Inn. Photo Credit: Macy Zhelyazkova

Most of our visit to the Bedford Inn, also owned by Archie (the skeptic) and Stephanie Kirk (skittish of anything ghostly) consisted of the group of us gathering in the dining room and side parlor listening to Craig’s recordings of the EVPs in one of the rooms of the inn and also listening to the tales of some of those gathered who have stayed in the four B&Bs. We also listened to the EVPs and tried to “interpret” them.

All in all, whether you are a believer or not, this is one entertaining way to spend a wintry weekend and I’m just guessing, if you play your cards right, Dead of Winter will be offered next year and you can get up close and personal with the spirits of Cape May.

If you can’t wait that long – Craig is having another Haunted Weekend at the John F. Craig House, also on Columbia Avenue, this month – March 12-14. The event will include a Seaside Seance.  Happy Haunting.

Craig shares some EVPs

EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) are subjective. Some people hear one thing; others hear something completely different. Some hear nothing at all.

The first EVP was recorded in the Bedford. The question was: “Who is here with me?” The answer on the EVP was “Rebecca.”


When I later asked, “Who is Rebecca?” I received an answer that sounds like “My cousin.”

[audio:|titles=My cousin]

At the Brass Bed, I think Doctor Arthur says, “Who we got here? Just me and the lady.” I had asked if it was Dr. Arthur haunting the house.

[audio:|titles=Who we got here?]

At the Linda Lee, the first EVP was recorded right before a thunder storm hit. In response to my question, “Is there anybody here?” The answer sounds like “Take the wash in.” I am not sure if there was anything hanging on a wash line nearby or if I had encountered an old servant who still thought they were doing wash!

[audio:|titles=Take the wash in]

The second EVP says “We love you.” Which is quite interesting…maybe ghosts DO watch us shower!

[audio:|titles=We love you]