Summer Haunts in Cape May

Posted on June 19, 2011

COLUMBIA HOUSE – Ocean Street, Cape May

Not every place to stay in Cape May is a Bed and Breakfast. There are many wonderful old Victorians that have been converted into guest suites. This is basically a series of apartments, like condos, that one can rent a few days or a week at a time. These suites are usually divided up by floors. Columbia House, at the corner of Ocean Street and Columbia Avenue, has wonderful guest suites,  is a block from the ocean, and has a ghost—actually, two ghosts.

Local baker William Essen built the house after the great fire of 1878.Essen lived in the house until he became wheelchair bound and eventually died from complications of diabetes. An ironic death for a local baker and confectioner. Essen’s bakery was on Washington Street, now the site of  La Patisserie, a fabulous French bakery on the mall. Somehow, Essen’s spirit has managed to live on for almost a century in the old house. He is very good with electronics and managed to reset my room air conditioning unit (which has since been replaced) up to 90 degrees and down to about 48 degrees! He also managed to change the microwave display from the time to the word “Hello” surrounded by icons that looked like flowers.  The most activity for me was on the second floor. We watched a chair back away from the kitchen table as I sat on the other side with friends and tried to communicate with Mrs. Essen. I also recorded some good EVPs on the second floor, although I have recorded some on the third floor as well. The third floor turret suite is also one of the most magnificent suites in town, by the way!

For you animal lovers, Columbia House is home to Alex, the ghost cat of a previous owner that feels and sounds just like a real cat…at three o’clock in the morning…when it decides to snuggle up next to you in bed. At least that’s what happened to me one night. Thinking it was my own cat, I reached over to pt the purring, walking on the covers feline, only to put my hand into empty air. I soon realized the cat in question was not a cat at all, but a ghost cat. People do not have a monopoly on being ghosts, animals can be ghosts as well. The ghost kitty is quiet friendly and perfect for people with cat allergies as he has no hair… or no body for that matter.

If it is, in fact, the old baker William Essen haunting Columbia House, the ghost is that of a man who was well loved in town. Even though I complain his ghost had an attitude, he is by no means a bad ghost. He is just a guy/ghost with a sense of humor.  Right before the air conditioner  in my room reset itself to a balmy 90 degrees, I had exclaimed aloud that I knew it was he who was haunting the house. I also mentioned that I had heard he had quite an attitude, according to the former owner.  That’s when he hit me where it hurt—in the climate control department. I detest heat and humidity when I am trying to sleep, and he decided to warm things up for me a bit. Then again, he was a baker. What an appropriate way to get back at me. Maybe I was asking for it—just a little.

A ghost host, a ghost cat, and some wonderful ghostly goings on—if you are lucky. You will love Columbia House, ghosts or not. Columbia House can be reached by clicking on the picture. Tell Columbia’s lovely owner Laura, that Craig sent you.

THE MASON COTTAGE – Columbia Avenue, Cape May

Some of my other favorite haunts in Cape Mayare also places you can stay this summer. One of the more active haunts over the years has been the Mason Cottage on Columbia Avenue. People have reported seeing both and older man and a young boy wearing a red shirt. The house is what is called a “mother-daughter” style. Two identical houses built up against each other forming one larger building. Usually these were owned by large families who would then share the porch and yard. The Mason Cottage, however, was really built as a “father-son” cottage. Local businessman and builder Edward Warne built both sides of the house in the 1870s. He gave half to his son John for a wedding present.

Everything was rosy with the family until John’s children started to behave like, well, children and began wreaking havoc on Grandpa’s side of the house. According to stories passed down through various owners of the house, Edward Warne became so annoyed he bricked up all the doors between the two houses and never spoke to his son’s family again.

To this day, I feel, the feud has never been resolved. Ed Warne is accompanied by his former housekeeper and companion, a woman I sensed with the name “Flora.” The boy in the red shirt is somewhat of a mystery as we do not know of Warne losing a son or grandson of the age of the ghost, about 12 years old. Got some great EVPs at this house. One day I was recording in the dining room when I heard footsteps on the porch. Before I realized it was Donna, the innkeeper at the time, the ghosts already knew she was coming. On the tape you can hear a man’s voice say, “It’s Donna.” No one else was in the house at the time.

Here’s the EVP: “It’s Donna” Listen for yourself.

The Mason Cottage story is in The Ghosts of Cape May Book 2. You can read much more there. However, it would be much better to experience the ghosts yourself by staying there! The B&B is right down the street from the beach and has luxurious guest rooms and a great porch. Just be careful where you sit…you may be sitting on or in someone unseen!

THE ALBERT STEVENS INN – Myrtle Avenue, West Cape May

Should you find yourself in West Cape May this summer….you simply mus stay at one of my favorite haunts, the Albert Stevens Inn. This circa 1890s Victorian is still the home of its original owner, Dr. Albert Stevens. Doc just never could retire and his ghost still walks the halls of his former home and office. As good a haunt as this is, the most outstanding attribute here is the lodging and breakfast. Owner Jim and Lenanne Labrusciano offer—in my opinion—the best breakfast in town! Click on the picture to the left to visit their website.

Dr. Stevens was a homeopathic doctor. I think he may just have discovered life after death along with his many homemade tinctures and remedies. He was a strong personality in life and remains so in death. I have also felt the presence of Dr. Steven’s daughter Vesta. Vesta was the last to live in the house and her presence is still full of life energy. One night, during an EVP taping/trance session, Vesta’s ghost joined us in her former bedroom. As I sat in the chair by the bed, I would tell the group with me when I sensed her sitting down in the chair next to be. Each time the EMF gauge and temperature gauge, that we had placed on the empty chair next to me, would react to some unseen presence. I can’t help but think whether this kind of ghost hunting activity amuses the ghosts, or annoys them. The Albert Stevens Inn also produced a bevy of EVPs. At one point on the tape, a man’s voice says, “Let’s just cooperate,”  In response, I think,  to my asking the ghosts to communicate with us and let us know they were in the room with us. It may be the voice of Dr. Albert Stevens. Listen for yourself and see what you think.

“Let’s just cooperate”  EVP from the Albert Stevens Inn

In many of the hauntings in Cape May, the original residents are the ones doing the haunting. There seems to be a well respected notion in town that death does not mean you need to give up your digs. Ghosts haunt for a reason. In Cape May, that reason might be a communal bond with other ghosts. I guess if I died and saw all my old friends and former neighbors still hanging around as ghosts, I may just stick around for a bit. I think I would eventually get bored and move on to Heaven, but then again, a getaway to Cape May is a little bit of Heaven itself.

More haunts to come.  Enjoy the summer. Maybe I’ll run into you in Cape May… I’m the one talking to people who are not there.


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