The Spirit of the Season
Get Your Ghost On at a Local Haunt
AUTUMN means lots of things to lots of people– from colorful leaves to football games to the re-emergence of cozy sweaters and apple pie – but for many of us, it means one thing only: Halloween.
With the spookiest night of the year right around the corner, it seems only fair to regale our readers with local ghost stories. After all, Halloween itself began as a set of rituals to ward off those eternal spirits. According to History.com, “the tradition originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts.”
Fast forward to 2022, and costume wearers are more likely to be concerned with candy gathering and pumpkin carving than frightful phantoms and shadowy spirits. And though we’re a lot less superstitious than our predecessors, it’s hard to deny the preternatural chill that descends upon the air on a dark Halloween night. After all, maybe our ancestors had a point.
“We don’t deal with as much skepticism anymore, not since the shows,” says Director of South Jersey Ghost Research Dave Juliano, referring to “Ghost Hunters” and related television shows. “It’s not like it was when I was growing up.”
Dave, a professional lecturer and paranormal researcher as well as the owner of The GhostHunter Store, has spent over 20 years investigating hauntings at both private residences as well as historically significant venues like The David Stewart Farm in Gettysburg, The Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia, and our very own historic Flanders Hotel, which is, according to legend, home to a ghost named Emily.
“If you walk into The Flanders, there’s a painting of a girl in a white dress with red hair. It’s based on eyewitness accounts of Emily,” says Dave. “Stories are that she’s waiting for a fiancé that never came back. But we got the impression of a little girl by the entrance to the back tunnel in the basement that drowned, and we think they may be connected.”
Dave and his team spend hours at each investigation, utilizing technology that monitors environmental factors such as electromagnetic fields as well as audio recordings.
“It’s like surveillance,” says Dave, a former police officer. “We use trigger props, stuff the spirits can come up and interact with. It’s a lot of waiting to see what happens. We’re recording and asking questions too but it’s more of just sitting in the dark.”
Flanders Hotel is just one stop on the Ghost Tour of Ocean City, based on the book, “Ghost Stories of Ocean City” by Tim Reeser, and while it may be the most famous haunted location in Ocean City, it’s far from the only one locally. In fact, Cape May is considered one of the most haunted towns in New Jersey.
“I feel Cape May is a paranormal hot spot in the United States. There are many, but Cape May definitely has a prevalence of hauntings,” says professional medium Craig McManus. “There is a concentration of experiences, of ghost hauntings, that people have had. Cape May, for some reason, energetically perhaps, seems to draw in both the living and the dead.”
In addition to his full-time work as a medium, Craig works in partnership with the Cape May MAC (Museums+Arts+Culture) to provide a variety of haunted tours and explorations in Cape May, including – but not limited to – Ghosts of Cape May Trolley Tour, Séances at The Physick Estate, and Ghosts of the Lighthouse Trolley Tour. And as author of five books within “The Ghosts of Cape May” series, he’s an expert on the subject.
Among the haunted locations McManus has explored is The Hotel Macomber, a particularly active local haunt.
“A woman haunts Room 10 at The Macomber and she has for many years,” says Craig. “We think it is a woman named Eileen Wright from Reading, Pennsylvania. People often smell perfume and hear doors knocking in the room.”
McManus believes that spirits linger in a place for any of four reasons: material attachment, emotional attachment, life cut short, or unfinished business. In the case of Eileen Wright, he’s got a theory.
“Eileen Wright used to stay at The Macomber with her husband. When her husband died, she continued to stay through the ‘70s and ‘80s, always in Room 10,” says Craig. “She’s still coming to the place she loved. People want the sensational, scary side of hauntings, but Eileen Wright is benevolent.”
Regarding Cape May itself, it’s full of tourists – both the living and the dead.
“I’m interested in why a spirit is haunting, what happened in his or her life that this person has stayed behind,” says Craig. “With Cape May, I think maybe because it’s one of the oldest seaside resorts, that people like to stay there. It has great energy and that energy seems to entice people after they’ve gone.”
And while both Craig and Dave have confirmed our famous local ghosts are anything but scary, they certainly add to the thrills of Halloween season. After all, what better time for a ghost story?
Find this and more in the September/ October issue of OC Mag