Real Ghost Stories. Real People.
Real Life On Cape Cod-
A few excerpts from narratives in...
“There's the ghost of the old Namskatet Road. Most of the time he's just present, immanent. I think that most of the time he probably feels reasonably comfortable in this place. And, at this point, there's a continuity. I've been in and out of this house for almost sixty-five years, so I'm not unknowing. It's like people who have had breakfast together for thirty years—they don't necessarily have to have a conversation.
“At the moment, the ghost seems to be very much at peace. Maybe it's because I still do say "hi" to him when I come in. And I don't pretend he's not there. Maybe ghosts age! Who knows?”
“This area, along this whole wall, is the most haunted part of the cemetery. I don't care who you talk to who has been in here at night—this is the place where they get the daylight scared out of them.”
“Before I retire at night, I say, ‘Good night, ghost.'
I don't see him then, but I have a feeling he's here. This is where he felt most at home.”
“The footsteps on Queen Anne Road were freaky. You'd run up the stairs, and you'd be hearing running up the stairs. It wasn't an echo. It wasn't that kind of thing. I had met the previous owners, too, and they said, ‘Oh, yes, the house is haunted.'”
BOB MORRILL AND JUDY PIHL:
While many a rumored Cape Cod ghost can dazzle the eye or raise the hair on the back of the neck, one of the more popular specters at the Inn at Duck Creeke in Wellfleet can hum a few bars and play the flute to boot. Amplifiers mysteriously turn off mid-performance when folksinger Maureen Burke performs onstage at the Duck Creeke Tavern. During duets with her brother, an unidentified third voice has often joined in. Band members from Sylvan Zephyr have seen the ghost walking onto the stage.
One late summer evening, versatile pianist Tom Fitzgerald kept jerking his head back during his performance. When the inn owners, Bob Morrill and Judy Pihl, asked Tom why he was doing that, he said, “She kept pulling my hair.” During another performance, the pianist went from lead to an accompanying mode—playing four bars, stopping, and playing four more. When he finished, Bob once again asked Tom for an explanation. The pianist said, “Didn't you hear the flute?”
“I never felt scared there. Some houses you go into, they're cold and they're kind of ominous. You have an uneasy sense when you go into the house. And some houses are very warm, friendly, and protective. Rick Jones has a house that was built in 1678 just down the road in Cummaquid. When you go into that house you feel protected, warm, and confident.
“I used to get that sensation walking along Route 6A to work—a little over a mile. At five-thirty in the morning, there's not much traffic. I'd see candles in the windows of these old houses, and I used to sense that independence and spirit of what Cape Cod used to be.”
“Well, I live in a house that belongs to my family. Some people call it “haunted,” and some of them are afraid to come by because of the stories they've heard—the oral stories they've heard from the tribal members.
“I look at it as just the opposite. As a Wampanoag tribal member, I understand that the sounds you hear or the things you may see come from my ancestors, who are protecting us and guiding us.
“When you say ‘haunted,' people have a tendency to say it's eerie, it's scary—it gives it a different connotation.
“I believe that life and death are one, like the earth and the sky, the river and the seas. That type of association. I don't believe that there's a real end. That's my sense because ever since I was very young, I've held connections with people – a relative or someone in the community—even after their death. I feel that person is my guide, also my protector, my support mechanism. He or she gives me no fear whatsoever.
“So, I could never use the word “haunt” in terms of it being a haunted house. I would say that it's a home with ancestral spirits.”
“My grandmother was a historian, and she knew a great deal about Chatham and gave me a great interest in the houses around here. She died when I was eleven, so I don't remember a whole lot of her stories, but she was into just about everything having to do with Cape Cod architecture and history. She would give tours of the town showing all the houses that were reported to be haunted. I always liked haunted houses. When I was about thirteen, my grandmother came back once. I sat up in bed, and I looked over in the corner and I saw not really a person, but the outline of someone. I knew it was my grandmother. I sat there for a couple of minutes and then I said, ‘Oh, cool. She's gone now. That's it.' I think she was just checking on me. It was kind of nice.
“There's a house right on Oyster River that a lot of my friends had said was “haunted,” if you want to use that word. I was with a couple of friends one night after a party. We were pretty bored, so we decided to go down there and check it out. It's only the second house around here I had ever tried getting into. You get bored around here, you know.
“We found a bulkhead door to the basement that was open. We went inside, and upstairs we found this log sitting on the dining room table. So we read it. It basically gave a brief description of the house's history. The person writing it said they liked to call it the ‘cathouse,' because it was owned in the 1850s by this man who lived in the city and would come down on weekends and entertain his mistress.
“After reading the log, we went through the house. Sheets were covering the couches, and all the beds were made up beautifully. It was a really, really nice house. It had five or six bedrooms. I didn't find anything that seemed peculiar. But we were standing in the den, which is basically all windows, and we heard a bang in the kitchen. We thought, “Whatever. Wind, right?” All of a sudden, we heard people talking in the attic. It was two or three voices chattering away.”
“The house is from 1758. As the story goes, it was inhabited by a sea captain, one of the Rich family. He blinded himself with his own boom in Philadelphia. He had a black servant called Pomp. Pomp was the only black man on this part of Cape Cod, and he was desperately lonely. He went out and hanged himself by Pomp's rock—that's a rock in back. And he became our ghost. Maybe an unresolved life. What constitutes a ghost? I've always wanted to know. What do you have to be to be a ghost? Not all souls become ghosts.
“Anyway, he's the fellow. He lived in this house in the former kitchen or keeping room. That's where he slept and that's where you usually see him. He wanders through here quite freely. He's been seen upstairs. He goes into the middle house. I've never seen him past the kitchen, although I have had a renter who has. I don't know what they're confined to. I suppose they can go anywhere, can't they? As a matter of fact, I think he wanders. I think they can travel the world, can't they? These things fascinate me.”
Char says many of Provincetown's ghosts are fishing people, giving as an example an incident that took place in a house that she used to stay in on Central Avenue. Apparently, the lady of the house was mixing cake batter when she turned to see a man dressed in a yellow rain slicker, pants that bloused out of his boots, and a blue cap. At first the woman smiled, but suddenly realizing this was a stranger, with annoyance she asked the man what he was doing in her kitchen. At that moment she blinked, and the man vanished. When she described the apparition to her mother-in-law, who lived upstairs, she was told it was the ghost of the mother-in-law's husband, who died at sea. Recognizing his picture in an album she had never seen before, the woman listened as her mother-in-law explained that she'd seen her dead husband many times, watching over her.
Bob Harmon says that Osterville also has a lot of supposedly haunted houses. He suspects it's partially because of the high number of older buildings and partially because of the town's seafaring background, which carried with it a lot of Cape folklore. Many of the homes that had a reputation for being haunted were big houses that fell into disrepair when homeowners decided to stay in the Hamptons rather than come back for the summer. One of the more infamous was a house set far back off Main Street with a really long narrow driveway and an enormous beech tree in the front yard and wisteria everywhere. Three houses down by the boatyard also were labeled as “haunted,” as was a building that was torn down next to Swift's Market. But the only ghostly encounter that Bob ever had was in the 707 Building, which was diagonally across from Swift's. Half hidden from Main Street, the no-frills building was once home to a sea captain, but now is a mixed-use building with apartments and commercial space.
Bob, now a sculptor, sat down to share his story. He had dark hair with curly front bangs and a full beard and a curious, wide-eyed expression. After joking about tossing his dog (and catching it), photographing it in mid-air and generously offering it to us as a book cover for a work called “The Floating Dog,” Bob described his unusual encounters.
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