The Ghosts of Historic Cold Spring Village

Posted on June 29, 2011

One of the places I have been spending time investigating recently is Historic Cold Spring Village in Cape May. The 22-acre compound boasts a collection of rescued historic buildings dating back to 1691. Fortunately, for all of us, they also have a collection of ghosts. I have just begun to dig into the paranormal here. While I was able to feature a few snippets in my new book 400 Years of the Ghosts of Cape May, I plan to do an in-depth, building-by-building report for the still to be written Ghosts of Cape May Book 4.

I must admit that in all the years I have been ghost hunting in Cape May, the thought of digging through the ethers of Historic Cold Spring Village and its collection of restored period houses and buildings was the last thing on my mind. I had visited the village several times over the last ten years, but my attention focused on history, rather than the paranormal. Contrary to what you may think, I don’t eat, sleep and breathe ghosts. I have a life beyond death, and I try my best to keep it that way. Cold Spring Village has always appealed to my historical side.

The ghosts of Historic Cold Spring Village first appeared on my radar last summer when my partner Willy and I were visiting the village with our friends Sandy and Jilly from Ipswich. It was a hot July day, and we decided to stop for ice cream. As I approached the ice cream parlor, I could sense the ghost of a woman trying to make contact with me. I stopped, tuned out from the living, and listened as the woman complained about “names being spelled incorrectly”. She would not elaborate, but begged me to do something about the travesty. It was not a complete conversation. Psychically, it went something like this: “Names misspelled. Fix. Please talk to her.” This is how something psychic will come into my head, in fragments and images, not in complete conversations. My brain has to stitch together the information and translate it into something that I can understand. I noted what was said as we went in for ice cream. The woman vanished from my head.

We stood inside the air-conditioned ice cream parlor a short time later and ordered a round of cones. As we glanced up at the board with the day’s flavors, I noticed that black raspberry was misspelled “Black Rasberry”. Could this have been what the ghost was talking about? As we devoured our ice cream cones, I pondered the idea with Willy, Sandy, and Jilly. I considered telling the woman behind the counter. The problem was, I did not know the woman working the counter at all and was not sure how she would react to the idea of a haunted ice cream parlor. Some people love the idea of having a ghost. Others have a meltdown.

We finally decided I should say something and with that, the woman behind the counter exclaimed, “Last week someone had misspelled the flavors on the outside sign as well!”

I was now officially invited to tour the upper floors of the old house called the Ewing-Douglass House by the folks at Cold Spring Village. Moving past the freezers and tubs of ice cream, my impromptu ghost hunting party made its way up the winding stairs to the second floor. It was here that I encountered the ghost of a young boy. He was very active and very in tune with our energies. He told me (psychically) that he came into the house through a door that was no longer there. I took this to mean he had been with the house for a long time and perhaps some later renovation had sealed or changed a door in the structure. Thinking he would give me some great insight into why he was there, I began to ask him some questions. He then promptly vanished. I guess I got a little too close.

Noticing an old doorway in the corner of the empty second floor room, I opened it to reveal yet another set of even steeper and creakier stairs. I followed the stairs to the attic and found another ghost or perhaps a residual haunting. An image of a younger woman, sitting on a box and looking out into the village, fixed in my psychic mind. She said nothing and she did nothing. She did not interact with us at all. This may have been some leftover energy from one of the former occupants of the house, or this ghost is so far gone from our realm that only her image, not her consciousness, still touches our world. We made our way back down to the ice cream parlor to give a full report to the living lady of the house. One of her coworkers happened to be there and mentioned that people have seen a woman staring out from the third floor window. This was a good match to what we had discovered, but this building still only gets two out of five stars in the haunting category. However, the ice cream was really good.

The presence of ghosts in this one building got me thinking. I wondered how many other buildings may have had unseen guests. My friend Sharon, who was friendly with the staff members at Cold Spring, kept pushing the idea that I should get in and do a full-scale investigation of the village. It took some time, but we finally convinced the good folks at Historic Cold Spring Village to let the Ghost Writer in for a haunted jaunt. I would NOT be disappointed with what I would find!

As I mentioned above, in my new book, 400 Years of the Ghosts of Cape May, I talk briefly about some of my encounters at Cold Spring. Since finishing the book, I was able to return to the village, tape recorder in hand, and do a more thorough investigation of a few of the houses I sensed had activity. The structure that continued to draw me in was the old Dennisville Inn, built in 1836 and moved from Main Street in Dennisville to Cold Spring Village in 1975. Here’s a place to go if you want to get up close and comfy with a few ghosts!

Upon arriving at the Inn, I noticed my video camera battery had totally gone dead. The dead have a way of coaxing the life out of batteries in equipment. Luckily, I had a charger with me and plugged in the battery for a quick recharge. In the meantime, I turned on my tape recorder that had been loaded with fresh batteries the night before. It was also…dead. However, it was not that the batteries had lost their charge in this particular case; the batteries were just plain LOST. They were gone! Was something playing a joke on me?

After loading in a fresh set of batteries, I moved (quickly) to the third floor where I felt the most paranormal energy. Luckily, my batteries held out, and this time I was able to grab a plethora of EVPs, those lovely ghost voices caught on tape. First two men could be heard in conversation on the tape. They were not talking to me. They were talking among themselves. Soon, a woman’s voice could be heard as well, all in the background. These voices were not heard in real time. When capturing EVPs, one hears the ghost voices only on playback, not during the recording session. We don’t know how these phantom sounds and voices get on the tape, but they do.

I sensed an older man with curly white hair, balding on top. He was tending to a woman in a bed, wrapping her leg in some kind of bandage. The ghost did not stop what he was doing, but did communicate with me, albeit briefly. He told me that he and his wife had lived in the inn and were either caretakers or owners at one time. He also told me several people had seen them looking down from the third floor windows. Sharon confirmed that during some of the Civil War reenactments at the Village, some people had witnessed the phantom figures in those same windows…another confirmation.

A stronger presence of a woman greeted me in the room on the other side of the third floor near the chimney. She said her name was “Mary,” and she had worked for the people who ran the Inn. She seemed to know the others. They also talked about a man named “Carl” who was not present at the time. Because Jim was on a tight schedule, I thanked the ghosts and we moved downstairs to the first floor. (I had felt nothing in particular on the second floor.)

At this point, I asked the ghosts if the had all been associated with the Inn in their lifetimes. Waiting for a psychic “yes”, I was surprised to get another answer all together.

“We came from the church up the road,” was the response from an unnamed ghost at the Dennisville Inn. I was given an image of the old Cold Spring Church, Cape May’s main burial ground with graves dating back to the 1700s. While I have found ghosts in the graveyard before, the idea of them relocating was quite fascinating.

From what I could gather on a psychic level, many of the ghosts in Historic Cold Spring Village followed their bodies to their burial at Cold Spring and then, instead of crossing over to the Other Side or following family back home, they walked up the road and made new homes at Cold Spring Village. Ghosts can relocate, but these ghosts seemed to be from long ago and Historic Cold Spring Village has only been in existence since the early 1970s. Are these ghosts of people who had passed in the last thirty years, or did the ghosts just take their time relocating? The fact that ghosts will relocate is one of the more interesting facets of hauntings. Historic Cold Spring Village seems to be a seaside camp for the on the go dead!

In the bar area of the old inn on the first floor, the ghost of someone named “Benjamin” was all over the room. He was on a rant, telling me how this was missing and that should be here or there. Benjamin must have worked in the old hotel at one time. When I asked him what year he came to the inn, he stated “1827”. However, the Dennisville Inn was not built until 1836. Since this was a psychic communication, and these types of communications can be choppy at times, I replied that the inn was built in 1836, could he repeat what year he started working here.

“1827” was stated very clearly followed by, “Before”.

Jim Stephens told us that there was an earlier tavern on the site from Colonial times prior to the Dennisville Inn being built. Here was a case of a ghost moving from one building to another, and then staying with the building as the structure itself changed locations. Talk about a dedicated employee! Even though the bar is only a representation of an earlier tavern, Benjamin’s ghost made me feel like we were about to be served a hot toddy and a Colonial meal. This ghost was native to this old structure and had apparently been residing there since the previous Inn’s existence during Colonial times. His energy was very warm and inviting, but alas, we needed to move on to other haunts. Bidding the many ghosts of the old Dennisville Inn adieu, we made our way out into the pouring rain and across to the village’s latest (and earliest) addition.

The oldest structure in the village, Coxe Hall Cottage was built in 1609 and originally stood on the sandy cliffs (when Cape May had sandy cliffs) on the bayside of the peninsula. This is an old house with quite a paranormal punch.
There were no houses on Cape May when Henry Hudson first sailed around the tip of the Cape on August 28th 1609. It wasn’t until the 1670s that the first settlers arrived from New England and Long Island to stake their claims in the uncharted wilderness of southern New Jersey. Within a number of years, those early setters established Cape May Town or Townbank as it was then called. They built primitive timber houses, established a community, and maintained their daily business of whaling and later farming. Four hundred years is a long time. Luckily, for Cape May (and us), history has a way of repeating itself, and the original cast of characters is usually standing by in Cape May to render a revival of earlier times. Ghosts do have a habit of reliving the past, and sometimes those ghosts will even invite a few of us along for the ride.

In the original settlement of Townbank, Englishman Dr. Daniel Coxe erected a large building just north of the village that he named Coxe Hall. In 1690s, into the early 1700s, the settlers used Coxe Hall as a central meeting hall, place of worship and lodging for some of Dr. Coxe’s workers. While Coxe himself never set foot in America, the first settlers put the hall to good use. Eventually, the large structure, with its tall observation tower, fell into disrepair. Over the years it was slowly dismantled, its sections moved and rebuilt in other parts of Cape May. One of those sections became part of an old homestead on Jonathan Hoffman Road. This early building, constructed in 1691, was probably a wing of the great Coxe Hall. It has now been moved and restored to its original state by the owners of Historic Cold Spring Village. Luckily, a few ghosts seem to have come along for the ride.

There is a woman’s ghost in Coxe Hall who told me, “Maker doesn’t want me.” I took this as a reference to her not going to Heaven. She did not give a reason why she had not crossed over, but her next message to me, “He never came,” seemed to indicate she was waiting for a husband to return home. He never did, and she continues to wait. The woman’s energy was gentle, but excitable. She sat on a chair that appeared (in my mind’s eye) lower than the other currently extant chairs. This may have been because in her time the floor was lower than it is today. Some ghosts will follow old boundaries from the time that they lived. I went to the upper floors of Coxe Hall Cottage and felt nothing. The energy was nil. This ghost had a very localized energy, and she did not seem to mind our presence at all. She continued rambling on, but her voice grew faint in my head, and eventually I moved on to another venue. Sometimes one must keep moving in a ghost investigation to keep it fresh. This ghost said what was important for me to hear in the first few minutes of my visit. After that, she began to ramble on about mundane things. It was time to move on to the next haunt. She was killing me with her ghostly babbling, and one of us being dead was enough.

Leaving Coxe Hall Cottage, I decided a return trip to the ice cream parlor was in order. Maybe the ghosts would be more talkative now that I had all my equipment in tow. As we started to walk towards the old Ewing Douglass House (the ice cream parlor) my friend, Sharon asked if I felt anything around the house next to us. The building was the old Corson-Hand House that was built in 1837, and moved to the village in 1977 from Main Street in Tuckahoe. No, I had not ever felt anything, I told Sharon, but I also have never been inside. Psychic senses sometimes cannot penetrate very far when it comes to a haunted house. A street view rarely yields any psychic clues to what is bottled up inside.
Sensing Sharon really wanted me to experience the house I made a detour and went inside to check for ghostly inhabitants. Jim Stephens, the man in charge of Cold Spring Village, was nice enough to allow me to poke around through whichever building I wanted to search. Clare Juechter, the new Cold Spring Country Store Manager, was also along for the hunt.

The Corson-Hand House is now used to display spinning and dyeing techniques of earlier times. The minute I entered the small old structure, I could feel a change old attitude and energy. There was almost a sense of stepping back into another time. Yes, the old decor can give one that feeling, but this was an even stronger sensation of being out of time and place. There was also a slight feeling of dizziness in my head, a sign of stronger energy.

While this feeling lasted for some time on the first floor, I could sense the ghost who was radiating this energy was above. I asked Jim if I could check out the upper floor, usually off limits to the public. Jim was once again very obliging and I made my way up the old staircase to what was set up as a Colonial bedroom.

It did not help that the second floor was sloped. The “fun house feeling” this house provided was a bit unsettling. I could feel energy hitting me like a ton of bricks. I sensed a man’s presence in the proximity of where the bed was now placed in the room. He actually seemed to be using that very bed. Before I had time to open up my psychic sense and throw out a line, he had already found me. He started communicating in a very abrupt and arrogant tone. Demanding things and treating everyone else like they were his servants. He was demanding my time and psychic attention and he was not taking no for an answer. Unknown to this old ghost, thirty years in retail had already taught me how to handle people like him, and he wasn’t even alive!

I called to Sharon and Clare to join me. I wanted to see what they felt. Both women felt dizziness and Sharon exclaimed she even felt a little sick to her stomach. High psychic energy from the dead or the living can affect others in this manner. The ghost sensed the ladies and began making rather crude remarks about them and what he expected of them. Great, I thought, a male chauvinist pig who also happened to be a ghost. This guy would not be winning any congeniality contests any time soon.

Reviewing the tape that I had recorded during my investigation yielded a plethora of great EVPs. On the “A-B-C Class” scale of EVPs, many of these were Class A, clear and audible without using headphones. Historic Cold Spring Village was closed at the time, so no one was around to create these extra voices. Something was helping to create some great EVPs. Was it all the rain? Was the atmosphere conducive to recording ghost voices?

On the tape, I am telling Sharon and Clare that I feel a little dizzy in the second floor bedroom. They agree with me. Then I am suddenly swarmed with flies that were not there before. As we talk about feeling uncomfortable, a male voice on the tape says, “Go down from here!”

None of us said, “Go down from here”, but clearly the man in the bed wanted nothing else to do with us. Willy had now joined us on the second floor and mentioned he saw light coming through the ceiling of the bedroom. Psychically I heard, “That’s where she is.”

 “That’s the roof,” Jim told us, mentioning there were holes in various sections where light and the elements could get into an older building like this. I asked if we could go up to the attic and check out the energy up there and take a little break from the boorish man who did nothing but lay moaning in his bed, as if he were dying all over again and we needed to answer his bidding for a laundry list of sordid final requests.

Jim told us we could go into the attic, but added we should be careful. He said I could poke my head up and look around from the top of the stairs, as it was kind of a mess, and there was not much room to walk around. At that moment an EVP on the tape says, “Not safe”. The attic roof, in fact, was lined with nails pointing DOWN. It was indeed “not safe”.

On the tape, a ghostly woman’s voice is heard having a complete conversation with a male voice. They seemed to be talking about us. At one point someone even says, “That’s Craig.” This is the first time I have heard my name mentioned in an EVP. Because of the “inverted bed of nails” on the ceiling, we decided to spare ourselves from cranial impalement and go back down. Jim had an appointment and needed to leave, and our ghost hunt needed to end. I gathered the group in the bedroom on the second floor and took one final psychic glance at the old man grunting in bed. The living women were still complaining about feeling a little uneasy and I was feeling the same way myself. We ascended the stairs as I took one final glimpse back at the bed with the old man laughing and moaning at the same time. “Dyeing and spinning,” what a perfect theme for this house!

That brief but fruitful visit to Historic Cold Spring Village was much more than I expected. The EVP count alone was quite impressive, and unexpected.

Historic Cold Spring Village is a Cape May treasure. It was founded in the early 1970s by Dr. Joe and Annie Salvatore, and is open to the public beginning this month. Take a ten-minute ride over and visit the Village and its ghosts. You can find them at HCSV.org It is well worth the trip, and you might even run into someone or something you didn’t expect to.

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