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