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Cape May is the oldest seaside resort in New Jersey, and as with any old town, ghost stories and legends are on everybody’s lips. Spooky tales are whispered among locals and tourists alike, and plenty of independently publish books have been published about the topic.
Gosh, for me, there’s nothing quite like a good ghost story, especially when a chill settles in the air. Cape May embraces Halloween to the fullest, not even kidding.
So, whether or not you believe, ghost stories are always entertaining to think about, especially in a vibrant historic resort with beautiful Victorian homes.
In this post, I want to share some of the best Cape May ghost stories with you. Keep in mind that I am not a paranormal expert, nor have I ever witnessed any ghostly activity in Cape May, but it’s still fun to think about.
Spookiest Cape May Ghost Stories
In this list, I compiled some of the best Cape May ghost stories that I’ve read online and heard through the grapevine in my many years as a visitor to America’s first seaside resort.
Like any other old city, I’m sure I didn’t discuss each and every ghost story, so if you have your own spooky experiences to share, please don’t hesitate to contact me! I always love hearing from business owners and other locals.
Cape May Lighthouse
Cape May Lighthouse was originally constructed in 1859. Rumors have it that a translucence and ghostly woman – holding a lantern and a child – resides in the lighthouse. Who is she? Why does she appear to brave visitors who want to trek all. those. bloody. steps?
Beautiful Cape May Lighthouse was meant to guide home ships safely to shore and overseas where the Delaware Bay and Atlantic Ocean intersect. This may not be a smooth crossing, especially in the winter. Did the woman in the white flowy dress lose someone? Was she a passenger on an ill-fated ship? Who knows.
At the end of the day, even if no spooky spirits reside on the grounds, the Cape May Lighthouse is still a creepy place to visit after dark. Check the hours ahead of time. Night tours are available depending on the day.
Spookiness in Cape May Fish Market
Cape May Fish Market may be relatively new, opening in 2008, but in the mid-1800s this street was home to the American House Hotel. I don’t know about you, but I feel like old hotels are such magnets for ghosts.
In the case of Cape May Fish Market, a lot of spooky footage has been captured on security cameras, and honestly, hearing and reading about the footage makes me want to believe in ghosts.
For example, in one recording, a painting fell off the wall for no reason whatsoever, and in another shot, a figure is hanging out in the dining room. Seriously. Google it. The figure looks like a giant tall man (think Lennie from Of Mice and Men). Wait staff have also told stories of creepy whispers and items moving after hours.
Ester Allen in Southern Mansion
The Southern Mansion is one of the most beautiful and historically significant homes in Cape May. I always recommend including the Southern Mansion on any self-guided Cape May history walking tour. It’s seriously one of my favorite old homes.
However, do you know that the Southern Mansion is rumored to be haunted? Despite being one of Cape May’s crown jewels, this mansion is also the site of some shuddery, supernatural activity. Scary, huh?
In brief, it’s rumored that Ester Allen, who was the owner’s niece, still wanders the mansion to this very day. Apparently, she is a happy ghost, though, who just really likes enjoying all the wonderful new renovations. I dunno, though. I would still feel freaked out if Ester paid a visit to my room!
If you decide to stay at the Southern Mansion, you may get a glimpse of her spirit, too!
Drink with Ghosts at Washington Inn’s Bar
The Washington Inn is one of my favorite Cape May fine dining experiences. But did you know it’s also one of Cape May’s most haunted establishments?
The Washington Inn was originally built in 1845, and now it functions as a high-end restaurant and bar. Seriously, try a plum martini here. You won’t regret it.
In particular, a ghost supposedly haunts the bar area (and beyond). Kitchen staff and servers have encountered a female spirit, named Elizabeth, and have even heard their names spoken aloud. I’ll admit that I’ve been to the Washington Inn countless times for dinner and Happy Hour, and while I haven’t had any experiences, I don’t discount what workers may have heard on their shifts.
If you plan to dine at the Washington Inn, keep your eyes and ears open for anything unusual.
The Ghosts of Congress Hall
Congress Hall is one of Cape May’s most interesting buildings. Honestly, I feel sad if I don’t have a chance to grab a coffee in Congress Hall and roam the grounds. The pool, especially, is one of the coolest features of this iconic hotel and resort.
But what about ghosts? Oh, Congress Hall has spirits, too!
Originally built in 1816, Congress Hall is elegant now, but the original building was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1878. It’s rumored that spirits attached to the original structure still linger in the halls and guest rooms. Several locals and visitors have reportedly seen spirits and captured footage here.
Congress Hall is a popular place to stay, so if you want to learn more about the ghosts, book a room for the night. You may even meet one. Maybe.
Ghosts in the Cherry House
Originally built in 1849, you can find the prominent Cherry House on Hughes Street. The Cherry House is privately owned today, and while I have read that the owners give tours on occasion, please be respectful when walking past the home and stay off the property itself.
Cherry House is, without a doubt, gorgeous and historical, but the owners actually believe it is haunted! Temperatures plummeting in random rooms, doors opening and closing themselves, the list goes on and on! Who haunts the Cherry House? Your guess is as good as mine.
Reading about the Cherry House feels like a Halloween Special on the Travel Channel, haha.
Long Coat Man on Higbee Beach
We can’t talk about Cape May and not discuss beaches. Don’t worry! Ghosts have been spotted on beaches too – particularly scenic and beautiful Higbee Beach.
The Higbee brothers, who were hotel owners, lived close to the beach, and when Thomas Higbee died, his body was eventually moved and buried at Cold Spring Cemetery. Perhaps Thomas Higbee didn’t want to leave, and to this day, still walks along the sandy shores of the beach that bears his name.
Visitors have claimed to see an otherworldly man in a long coat walking along the beach. I don’t know about you, but this creeps me out, especially when visiting in the off season with no one close to you expect the seagulls and thick soupy fog. Just … Shudders.
Is this true? Does Thomas Higbee still hang around the area? I suppose the only way to find out is to explore Higbee Beach for yourself. Just make sure to respect the nature that surrounds you.
The Second Floor of the Emlen Physick Estate
Emlen Physick Estate is another very famous landmark in Cape May. Currently home to the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities, the Emlen Physick Estate offers historical and interesting events to visitors throughout the year.
Indeed, the Emlen Physick Estate should be one of your first stops on a visit to Cape May.
As for ghosts, the Emlen Physick Estate is said to be haunted by several members of the Physick family, including Dr. Emlen Physick, Frances Ralston (his mother), and Aunt Emilie Parmentier. Aunt Emilie’s room on the second floor has been a site for paranormal activity – although I have read a couple times that she is a warmer spirit.
Another ghost – sickly Isabelle “Belle” Parmentier – is also rumored to haunt the upper floors, although her energy is despondent due to her illness. She was apparently kept in the upper floors, which I can only imagine was a very lonely existence, and just emphasizes why I feel lucky to be living in the modern age.
Anyway, feel free to take a ghost tour of the Physick Estate to learn more. Or, if you’d rather not deal with spooky occurrences, perhaps just go for a spot of tea.
Want to See the Ghosts of Cape May NJ?
How about you? Did these Cape May ghost stories make you even more excited to visit America’s Old Seaside Resort. I certainly hope so!
Honestly, if you’re visiting Cape May for Halloween, then you’ll probably want to dabble in the paranormal yourself and try to see a ghost. Luckily, Cape May’s strong tourism infrastructure gives you a lot of chances!
Take yourself on a self-guided tour if you feel brave. However, if you want to enjoy ghostly tales with a group, then research some of Cape May’s many available ghost tours and reserve a slot (which is necessary in fall).
All in all, you don’t need to be a believer to enjoy the ghost stories in Cape May. Like I said in the beginning of this post, history buffs will enjoy thinking about the lives and experiences of these long departed souls, even if they don’t necessarily believe that they still roam the earth.
I hope you loved reading about these Cape May ghost stories. What are your favorite ghost stories in Cape May? Have you ever had a supernatural experience here? If so, please share them with me! I love hearing ghost stories, and whether or not you believe in ghosts, there’s no doubt these tales offer fascinating insights into local history.