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When the weather turns cool and autumn is in the air, people turn their thoughts to the spooky and scary. But there are some places where paranormal activity can be seen throughout the year…but especially around Halloween. These are the haunted places in South Jersey that will scare you.
Haunted places have been thrilling us for years. Whether they are a curiosity, provide entertainment value, or somehow help people confront the fears in their lives, these places are popular. So, if you can’t wait for the spooky season and you want to satisfy your need for the willies, here is a list of some of New Jersey’s most haunted places.
Emlen Physick House and Estate
This huge Victorian-style house was built in 1879 for Dr. Emlen Physick Jr., a descendant of one of Philadelphia’s well-known families. He moved here with his mother Frances and her two maiden sisters, Emillie and Isabelle. With 18 rooms, it has a lot of space for visitors both real and paranormal.
As for its haunted history, the builders who restored the house 50 years ago often reported hearing footsteps from the upper floors and being touched by invisible hands. Reports also mentioned that there would be a woman standing in the mirror next to them who would then disappear whenever they looked. This was corroborated by visiting mediums who sensed the presence of two female ghosts. Scary, eh?
The Estate today holds seances and tours where people come from all over the country to learn about how the Physicks lived amidst their ghosts. If you attend one, you may even get to hear voices of the ghosts themselves recorded by the estate staff. The museum on the estate is one of the top Cape May attractions all year long.
Watch your back, though! You can never tell when Aunt Emille wants to join supper.
Long before Atlantic City was a bustling metropolis, General George Meade designed the Absecon Lighthouse to overlook the inlet and provide navigation to the ships arriving there. Within a few decades, it became a regular haunt of the Jersey Devil–the horned, winged creature that is the only “state demon” in the country.
In 1905, the Jersey Devil was sighted by a lighthouse keeper, and that kickstarted its haunted history. There would be strange shadows fleeting out of sight and voices and conversations heard. One light housekeeper also reported how he saw a ghostly hand clutching at the railing of the staircase. The general atmosphere of the Absecon lighthouse is unsettling. But that is what gives it it’s charm.
The lighthouse was deactivated in 1933, and while it no longer provides help with navigation, its lights are kept on. Go on one of the tours and explore the rich history of the lighthouse while in Atlantic City.
Burlington County Prison Museum
At the time of its closure in 1966, Burlington County Prison was the country’s oldest operating prison. So there is little wonder why it would be on the list of haunted spaces.
Critically acclaimed as one of the best prisons ever built, Burlington County Prison was designed by Robert Mills, one of the master builders in the United States. The prison held a number of notable inmates, including mob figure Eddie Adamsky, who ultimately escaped from its walls.
Indeed, it is no surprise when one hears disembodied voices, footfalls and strange phenomena in what is now the Burlington County Prison Museum. Numerous executions and acts of violence were perpetrated in the prison, leading to the emergence of troubled ghosts. Even today, visitors report the hearing moaning and languishing at the location, and electromagnetic indicators (used in ghost hunting) routinely register a “hit.”
The museum has historical exhibitions and regular tours plus an escape game based on the story of a prisoner who escaped in 1933. Paranormal groups can rent out the entire facility on Friday and Saturday to meet the ghosts. This is arguably one of the most popular spots in the state for ghost hunters. (Note: the museum is closed for repairs in fall 2023 but is slated to reopen in December.)
Washington Inn Restaurant
First constructed in 1846, the building that is now the Washington Inn was passed to different owners until 1940, when it was opened as an inn and then as a restaurant about two decades later. The establishment is warm and hospitable for the guests that come to dine on their incredible food, but staff report an altogether different situation.
Records from the grounds of the Cape May property have documented sightings of a young girl’s ghost that haunts the place. The workers often mention hearing their names called in the evenings and also report that they felt someone was looking over their shoulder.
So when visiting the Washington Inn, watch out for a little girl who may be peeking through the windows. Try not to be scared if you spot the ghost.
The Pine Barrens
While the Jersey Devil may like the Absecon Lighthouse, his true home is the Pine Barrens, a 1.1 million-acre area that is part of the NJ Pinelands National Reserve. The cursed creature has been sighted by night workers and groundskeepers across southern New Jersey, leading to it being called New Jersey’s most famous haunted place.
The Jersey Devil (aka Leeds Devil) has terrorized the area for nearly 300 years. It was supposedly born of a local resident named Mother Leeds who dreaded the pregnancy–her 13th. Kangaroo-like with the face of a horse, it flew away right after birth. Since then, it has scared people and animals throughout the state.
When it leaves its lair, the Devil eats pets, raids chicken coops, and flips vehicles filled with people. Its presence has been detected in at least 50 different towns over the centuries.
Gabreil Daveis Tavern Museum House
Originally a tavern that housed travelers and boatmen moving goods to Philadelphia, the Gabreil Daveis Tavern is a focal point in the history of the township of Glendora. For a brief period during the Revolutionary War, the former tavern was designated as a hospital by George Washington–that’s where things got really interesting.
Keepers of the place to this day still hear the moaning of wounded soldiers and see apparitions of people with missing limbs on the grounds and through the windows. Visiting the tavern at night may earn you the sighting of a soldier struggling to go up the stairs. Whether the sightings are true or not is hard to judge. What is true: the house still has soldiers’ bloodstains in the attic.
Adding to the apparitions, former owner William Schuck was buried on the land in 1976. We saw some strange shadows and rustling on a visit to the house, and we’re not alone in sensing him here. You can take a tour and see for yourself.
Jonathan Pitney House
The home of the “Father of Atlantic City” is, interestingly, one of the area’s most haunted places. Dr. Jonathan Pitney brought the railroad to Atlantic City and Absecon, which encouraged tourism and land development and gave the area life in the late 1800s.
Dr. Pitney’s 1799 home still stands, and many people believe that he and his wife Caroline loved Atlantic City so much that they decided to never leave. According to visitors, their rooms remain the two most haunted rooms in the mansion. Caroline’s room is particularly notorious.
Paranormal investigators and ghost hunters report feeling a floating and gliding presence about the room at night and someone getting into the sheets with them. One thing they all agree on is that the presence isn’t menacing. There have also been phantom bells, knocking noises, and orbs.
The Pitney House now operates as a bed & breakfast with eight lovely rooms, so you can stay there and see for yourself.
Haddonfield Historical Society
The Haddonfield Historical Society is the keeper of some of Haddonfield’s most remarkable stories. Visitors to the town agree that it is not just some of the buildings in the town that are haunted–the entire town itself is in the grip of ghosts.
Haddonfield is a favorite of many ghost experts and paranormal investigators who come for the sightings and stories. In October, the Historical Society leads walking tours to share some of the top tales with visitors.
One popular story involves a ghost named Helen who leaves bobby pins on the floor, closes cabinets, and makes electronics suddenly turn on. She also makes her wishes known when she doesn’t want people in her space, much to the chagrin of the current residents of her old house. There are also stories of a phantom church organist, apparitions of Revolutionary War soldiers, and many more tales of people who still occupy some of the town’s buildings whose history stretches back to the early 1700s.
Southern Mansion Bed and Breakfast
Cape May’s Southern Mansion has over 160 years of history. The stately Victorian was originally the summer home of wealthy businessman George Allen and his family who spared no expense in creating its beautiful garden and welcoming interior. When the family sold the home after over 80 years, it was turned into a boarding house and slowly fell into disrepair.
In 1994, the current owners bought the mansion and returned it to its original glory. George’s niece Ester has since returned to her happy place at the shore. She makes her ghostly presence known but doesn’t bother people too much. Most often, she dances through the halls and opens doors. The frequency of these sightings has even earned the attention of the Ghost Hunters television show and landed Southern Mansion on the list of the most haunted houses in New Jersey.
The mansion is a top-notch bed and breakfast, so you can book a room and see what it’s all about.
At this point, you would think that any place used as a field hospital is haunted. Folklore and visitor reports might prove you right. The Whitall House at the Red Bank Battlefield Park in New Jersey is one of those houses-turned-field hospitals with a haunted history.
The house was built by James and Ann Whitall in 1748 and proved instrumental when defending Fort Mercer. It has been reported that the mistress of the house catered to some of the wounded soldiers.
Different paranormal events have occurred in the Whitall House, such as hearing disembodied voices in the hospital area and seeing children on the first and second floors. One paranormal investigator reported getting the sensation that someone grabbed her elbow. The Whitall house has been described as generally feeling like you are in an elevator. If that doesn’t scare you, we do not know what will.
Whitall House is open for visitations all year round and offers history lessons and guided tours that can show you how 18th-century families lived.
This is still an active theatre and was built in the neo-classical style. It also puts on plays from time to time. It has been a focal point for the community in Haddon Township, who enjoy the shows.
While there several different types of productions are put on the Ritz Theatre, but not everyone comes for its live dramas. Some people come to see if they can catch a glimpse of its numerous ghosts.
Several sightings have been made across the century. Whether it is objects moving on their own, eerie backstage lights suddenly coming on or unexplained voices at different times of the day, the workers at the 1927 Ritz Theater have something to say.
Arguably the scariest place for miles around, Berry’s Chapel used to be a church where African Americans came to worship. It also served a growing African American community, lending credence to the legend that it was a stop along the Underground Railroad.
Killing, lynchings and hangings color the chapel’s past. There is even a tree called the hanging tree in its premises. The sad, haunted stories surrounding Berry’s Chapel are some of the most disturbing you will ever hear.
Berry’s Chapel, named after the pastor that built it, was burned down twice. The first time, no one was harmed, but the second time it was burned, the entire congregation died in it, including Pastor Berry.
Reports say that you can still see the church fully intact and burning on many nights, and you can hear the congregation praising and dancing in it. At other times, you can hear metal scraping and people screaming. The stories are chilling.
We went looking for the chapel site and found only dense forest and overgrown plants in a place that feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere. I would not come to this desolate spot at night for all the money in the world.