By David Pratt
CAPE COD, MA – Cape Cod is considered one of the most haunted regions of already creepy New England. From the ghosts of old ship captains and shipwrecked pirates to the lost souls of their women left behind, eternally gazing out to sea from their widow’s walk, Cape Cod is the setting for many tales of hauntings, apparitions and supernatural happenings.
But it’s not just old cemeteries and secluded sand dunes where the salty spirits stride. Visitors to the summer tourist destination can spend the night with some of its ghosts in the many sea captains’ homes and other historic buildings that have been converted to inns and bed & breakfasts.
One guest staying at the Beechwood Inn in Barnstable awoke suddenly in the middle of the night to discover she wasn’t alone in her room. Witnessing what she described as the fleeting image of an old woman with long grayish-white hair dressed in a long white gown, the guest was understandably disturbed.
When she described the incident in the morning to innkeepers, they instantly recognized who the night visitor was even though there was nobody staying at the inn matching her description.
At least, not anybody living.
It wasn’t the first experience anyone’s had with the Barnstable Village inn’s alleged resident ghost, according to Innkeeper Ken Traugot.
Traugot was outside in his garden one spring day when, through a window, he spotted an old woman dressed in a white gown inside the inn. Thinking it was a guest checking in, he went to help her but found the house empty. Traugot returned outside only to observe the woman again in a different room of the inn. When he went back inside, there was still no trace of her.
A while back, Debbie Traugot had her own experience in the same room the guest stayed in. She went in to make up the bed and heard a woman’s voice tell her “good morning,” although no one was in the room.
Another incident involved a couple staying in that room with their infant daughter. The couple awoke one night to find the baby lying between them, even though when they went to sleep the baby was in a crib at the foot of the bed. Their daughter was too young to have crawled into bed with them herself and if either of them had moved her, neither was aware of it.
Mark Jasper of Sandwich, author of Haunted Inns of New England, said the Beechwood Inn on Route 6A possesses one of the more active apparitions on the Cape. Jasper, who also wrote Haunted Cape Cod, was not always so matter of fact about otherworldly spirits.
“I thought the whole thing was ridiculous,” he said.
But after investigating 39 reputedly haunted inns in New England, 15 of them on Cape Cod, Jasper is not so quick to scoff.
“When I was at the Beechwood, I was having breakfast. The tables there have these long white lace tablecloths, and I saw the corner of one begin to flutter and it continued to flutter like someone was pulling on it,” he recounted. “There was no wind. There was no reason that would have happened.”
Jasper calls the Beechwood’s ghost “the mischievous lady” because most of her alleged activity involves things like moving tools, opening and closing skylights, loosening light bulbs and deadbolting doors from the inside of otherwise empty rooms, forcing the innkeepers to climb through a window to get inside.
We’ve had a few incidents at the inn,” said Traugot.”But she doesn’t appear to do anything harmful.”
A little down the road from the Beechwood stands the Crocker Tavern, an inn built in the 1600s that is said to have its own lady haunting the halls. Jasper said former innkeeper Jeff Carlson had two experiences, waking in the middle of the night to hear a woman’s voice crying out, “Help me, help me.”
A guest at the inn who hailed from California asked one morning if there had been an earthquake because her bed began to shake violently the night before. Another guest had the same experience on another night.
One guest actually claims to have seen the spirit. She awoke to see a figure in the doorway. According to Jasper, the presence approached the woman, coming right up to her bed until they were face to face. As the startled guest woke her husband, the figure vanished.
Also on Route 6A stands the Lamb & Lion, owned and operated by Alice Pitcher, who discovered not long after buying it that she shares the property with a ghost she calls the Chair Man.
Pitcher was renovating the barn out back so guests could stay there. In doing so everything had been stripped out of the barn, but one day she entered it to discover a man sitting by the window in a chair that Pitcher swears she’d placed in the cellar. The bearded man, dressed in muddy boots and 18th Century style clothing, stared silently out the window and made no move to acknowledge Pitcher.
Pitcher said she became frightened and turned away. Then, suddenly realizing there should be no chair in the barn, she turned back only to discover the man had vanished, although the chair remained.
Pitcher, who said she previously owned a haunted inn in New York, has since left the chair in its position by the window since that’s where the ghost seems to want it. She hasn’t seen him since, but she said that people who stay in the barn sometimes say they hear a man sighing.
Bill Putnam, who calls himself the “innkeeper of sorts” at The Simmons Homestead Inn in Hyannisport, said he treats his inn’s alleged ghost “like a part of the family.” In fact, he kind of likes having her around, to the point where a sign by the front door reads, “Don’t let Abigail [his cat] in and don’t let Susan out.”
Putnam first saw Susan, a young girl about four-and-a-half-feet high with a featureless face, long brown hair and a flowing white gown, when he bought the inn 12 years ago. While renovating the inside, he saw her half a dozen times out of the corner of his eye yet caught enough of a glimpse to give the above description, which has been matched by others claiming to see her. Often childish giggling is also heard, even when the inn is empty except for Putnam.
A former employee of Putnam’s who lived at the inn would often find her makeup and jewelry moved around as if a child had been playing with them. Believing it to be Susan, the employee purchased some children’s books to read aloud. When she did so, the employee swears a corner of her bed would sink down as if somebody was sitting on it.
“She’s more sensed than seen,” said Putnam.”If people see her, it’s generally in bedroom 5. She seems to hang around in that corner of the house.”
Putnam learned Susan’s name from a guest who told him one morning he had a ghost that she had spent all night talking to. Later, a psychic spent some time at the inn and determined that Susan was a member of the Simmons family that built the house in 1800. According to the psychic, Susan drowned in the pond out back in 1833.
Things were quiet after the psychic visited, so much so that Putnam feared Susan had left to go wherever wandering spirits eventually wander off to. However, he cheerfully reported that she recently made an appearance to one of his guests.
“She’s seen about every three years,” Putnam reported.
Another young girl who drowned, Lucy, is said to dwell in what may be the town’s most well known haunted house. In fact, The Barnstable House on Route 6A is said to be home to as many as 11 ghosts.
The house was built in Barnstable in approximately 1716. Since then it has been a private home, an inn and a restaurant. It was converted to offices, mostly for attorneys, in the early 1980s.
Lucy is said to sometimes skip around the dining room table, and some say the ghost of her mother still lurks, awaiting her daughter’s return, apparently unaware of Lucy’s presence in the house and that both of them are already long dead.
Aside from a rocking chair that occasionally rocks on its own or, as is said, by Lucy’s mother, things have been pretty quiet at The Barnstable House since it was converted to offices. But through the years, many mysterious happenings have been reported.
In 1974, West Barnstable firefighters were called to a fire at the house on a late winter night. Arriving at the scene, three firemen observed a woman with long blonde hair and a white gown amidst the smoke and flames in a third-story window. However, when they went to rescue her she was nowhere to be found. Following that, several firefighters said they saw the woman outside allegedly hovering two feet above the snow, but she disappeared before anyone could reach her.
Other ghosts said to inhabit the building include Edmund Howe, who hanged himself from a tree in the yard during the Revolutionary War, and Captain Graves who is said to haunt the cellar. Graves is said to have sold the house before he died to a certain Doctor Savage who some considered a practitioner of the black arts.
Property manager Robert Scales of Clark Engineered Products, which has an office in the building, recounted these tales with typical Yankee scepticism, yet many have claimed to have seen, felt, heard or otherwise experienced some of the apparitions. When asked if he’s had any spooky experiences, Scales chuckled derisively.
“No, not really,” he said. “It’s all in the eyes of the beholder.”