Halloween isn’t all about artificial spooks and choreographed frights – it’s also about the truly scary things, like ghost stories based on factual history and repeated rumors of otherworldly sightings. With the Pine Barrens – home of the legendary Jersey Devil – filling more than a million acres of South Jersey, it’s only natural (or supernatural) that ghost stories abound in the region. Whether or not you’re a believer in the paranormal, it’s the perfect time of year to enjoy a few chilling tales and maybe take a field trip to one of South Jersey’s haunted locations.
1. Burlington County Prison in Mount Holly
Photo Credit: Susan Spitz, Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons license).
History: Featured on Weird NJ and investigated by Ghost Hunters and “dozens” of other paranormal research teams, the Burlington County Prison in Mount Holly is New Jersey’s answer to Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary. This abandoned prison, too, is a historical landmark said to be haunted. From 1811 through 1965, the prison was home to both male and female inmates, including convicted murderers in the maximum-security “dungeon.” During various times of the prison’s operation, escape attempts, some disastrous, occurred. At least two guards died at the hands of escaping prisoners, and historians believe that some successful escapees were never caught.
Haunted Activity: The third floor is purportedly haunted by the ghost of Joel Clough, convicted of stabbing his girlfriend to death. Days in the “dungeon” preceded Clough’s 1833 hanging. Now his cell – cell five on the third floor of the prison – is said to be haunted. While the prison was still in use, guards and inmates reported strange phenomena, like the sounds of moaning and rattling chains, floating items, and “apparitions” inside the empty cell. After the prison closed, Clough’s ghost continued to torment the jail’s inhabitants – this time, workers restoring the prison – with voices, temperature changes, and items that would inexplicably vanish, only to reappear in unexpected places.
Need to Know More? The site now operates as a museum, where visitors can tour the supposedly haunted prison Thursdays through Saturdays for just a few dollars admission. In past years, the site has also been home to The Haunted Prison attraction each Halloween, but the attraction has now moved off-site to Bloodshed Farms Fearfest in Columbus.
Also Check Out: Gloucester County Jail in Woodbury and Eastern State Penitentiary across the bridge in Philadelphia
2. Cape May
Photo Credit: LauraMcGinty, Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons license).
Haunted Activity: The ghosts who haunt Cape May come in every imaginable type. In Hotel Macomber, the spirit of an old woman turns off lights and moves objects – especially when children are around – while the ghost of an employee who choked to death is said to haunt the kitchen. On the third floor of the Victorian bed and breakfast Queen’s Hotel, guests have reported smelling the scent of perfume, feeling drops in temperature, and a female spirit that pushes women. The well-dressed, perfume-scented ghost haunting the Southern Mansion goes by the name Esther and is believed to be the niece of the man who built the home. Three ghosts haunt the shores of Higbee Beach, including one thought to be the beach’s namesake. The Washington Inn is home to a little girl’s ghost that once appeared unexpectedly in a family’s photograph, but an old woman’s disembodied voice has also caught visitors’ attention here. Ghostly soldiers have appeared in and around the World War II bunker. The Cape May Lighthouse is said to be home to multiple ghosts, the most famous of which is a woman in a white gown, holding a lantern and a child.
Need to Know More? Visit these (in)famous haunted spots and more during a ghost tour of Cape May. The city offers 10 different ghost tours, including trolley tours of the lighthouse and surrounding area. You can also book a stay in one of the haunted bed and breakfasts.
Also Check Out: The Absecon Lighthouse, considered haunted and the location of a famous sighting of the Jersey Devil
3. Flanders Hotel in Ocean City
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons (public domain).
History: Built in 1923, Flanders Hotel is named for Flanders Field, the location of a bloody World War I battle fought in Belgium where many young American soldiers died.
Haunted Activity: Hundreds of people have reported seeing the supernatural at Flanders Hotel, according to South Jersey Ghost Research. The star spirit at this haunt is Emily, also known as the Lady in White. Emily has supposedly been seen wandering barefoot in the hotel’s “Hall of Mirrors” and in the basement, which staff call the “catacombs.” Emily has been known to sing, laugh, and play the piano. She also once appeared in the wedding photos of a couple celebrating their marriage at Flanders. Some believe she is the ghost of a woman who stayed at the hotel and never left, killing herself there after learning that her husband or fiancé had died in World War I. Others believe she is the mother of yet another Flanders ghost, a young girl.
Need to Know More? Stop inside this 11th Street hotel to check it out for yourself. Better yet, book a stay there – especially in the off-season, when rates are more affordable.
Also Check Out: For more ghostly encounters in Ocean City, take a Ghost Tour (June through October). For other haunted accommodations at the South Jersey shore, visit the Jonathon Pitney House bed and breakfast in Absecon or the Abbott House bed and breakfast in Mays Landing.
4. The Ritz Theatre in Haddon Township/Oaklyn
Photo Credit: RasputinAXP, Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons license).
History: The Ritz Theatre first opened as a vaudeville theatre in 1927 and has undergone a series of changes ever since, hosting film and live theatre performances.
Haunted Activity: Disembodied voices, strange lights backstage, glowing orbs, and items that move on their own are all part of the paranormal experience at the Ritz Theatre, recently investigated by South Jersey Ghost Research. Could it be haunted by the ghosts of former actors and actresses?
Need to Know More? The Ritz Theatre is currently in operation, so the best way to get a close, personal view of this haunted spot is to see a performance there.
Also Check Out: Other local haunted theatres include the Sketch Club Players Theatre in Woodbury and the Tohill Auditorium in Bunce Hall at Glassboro’s Rowan University.
5. The Whitall House in National Park
Photo Credit: Ton2cats, Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons license).
History: During the 1770s, James and Ann Whitall’s home became a temporary field hospital for soldiers injured in the Revolutionary War.
Haunted Activity: The ghosts of dead soldiers are said to haunt the attic, causing modern-day visitors to experience cold temperatures, voices, and moans. The Perceptive Paranormal Research group investigated the site a few years ago, with investigators reporting ghosts touching them, a “dizzying” feeling, and evidence of “strong paranormal activity,” the South Jersey Times reported.
Need to Know More? Plan a visit! Admission is free for both the Whitall House Museum and the Red Bank Battlefield Park.
Also Check Out: Ireland Hofer House and Hall Street Little School, similarly haunted historic sites, are worth a visit in Williamstown. Enjoy a meal at the Lake House Restaurant in Franklinville, also in Gloucester County. Formerly the Iona Lake Inn, it’s supposed to be home to several ghosts, including the original owner and a Lady in Black.
You don’t have to go far to find truly haunted places – South Jersey is full of them. (You might just find yourself taking a haunted road to get to these sites, too.) Happy Halloween!