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Haunted houses and ghosts of Cape Cod and the Islands

Footsteps in your hallway, but you are home alone. Doors slamming all by themselves. A light goes on, a light goes off, without touching the switch. A scent of perfume lingers in your living room. Are you imagining these things, or could it be a ghost? It is believed that the area of Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard is home to a multitude of ghosts who haunt various homes throughout the area. So, light the fire, get a hot drink, curl up in a comfortable chair, and read on for some chilling tales of haunted houses and moving ghost stories from Cape Cod and the Islands.

Truro cemetery
Truro cemetery (Courtesy of Cape Cod Haunted and History Tours)

The first tale comes from Dennis, where it is believed that Capt. Roland Kelley haunts his former home at 480 Main St. Reports from this beautiful Victorian home include the sounds of footsteps on the stairs and a door knob being rattled. A young resident of the home reported seeing a man standing at the edge of her bed staring intently at her - strange enough by itself, but even more so that was that he was transparent.

Should you visit the Dillingham House in Sandwich, look for door latches lifting and rocking chairs rocking away while nobody is sitting there. Listen for children’s voices, giggles, and the pitter-patter of tiny feet in the halls. The story goes that Branch Dillingham committed suicide in the home in 1813. A few weeks later, his wife died and their nine children were left without parents. Are Branch, Ruth, and their nine children haunting this house? Head on over and judge for yourself. According to the police reports that have been filed over the years regarding suspicious activity at the Dillingham House, October seems to be the most active time for ghosts at the old house.

The Orleans Inn is so haunted that it was featured on the television program Ghost Hunters on the SyFy Channel. The ghost hunters made a special visit to the Inn, and indeed their research revealed evidence (unexplained shadows and voices in empty rooms) that ghosts inhabit the Inn. So, who are these ghosts that wander the halls of the Orleans Inn? They are believed to be three: Hannah, a lady of the night who lived in the building when it was run as a brothel in the 1920’s, was reportedly murdered there one evening. Also joining Hannah is Fred, a bartender who hanged himself in the home’s cupola in the 1950’s. And rounding out the cast of ghosts is Paul, a dishwasher who took his life in the basement of the Inn. Should you stop by, listen for footsteps, look for doors opening and closing by themselves, and candles being lit with no one in sight. Don’t be surprised if you feel a blast of cold air at various locations in the building, and, if you head to room 5, you may catch a glimpse of Hannah dancing around the room!

The Jared Coffin house on Nantucket is also believed to be haunted. The three-story mansion was built by Mr. Coffin, a prosperous shipowner, for his wife, but they did not stay long and sold the mansion shortly after it was completed. It is believed that Mrs. Coffin wanted to be closer to Boston, but did Mr. Coffin return to the home after his death? On cool evenings when the fireplace is lit, one may find a rocking chair next to the fireplace rockng slowly back and forth. The belief is that it’s Mr. Coffin returning to this spot to warm up. There are also stories of a Puritan female ghost, critical of unmarried couples who share a room. Accounts have stated that this apparition will pull the covers off these couples while they sleep. Hmmm…could these tales be true?

Walking Ghosts
Walking Ghosts (Courtesy of Cape Cod Haunted and History Tours)

Our final story comes from the Island of Martha’s Vineyard. The house, known as Windy Gates and located in the woods just a few feet from Wequobsket cliffs in Chilmark, was a grand estate owned by the Sanford family in the 1890’s. Sadly, tragedy struck the family in the form of poverty and a string of mysterious deaths, including the death of Mr. Sanford, their daughter and a family friend. Mrs. Sanford left the estate, never to return. People claim that at Windy Gates there are inexplicable sights and sounds: lights turning on and off, voices heard with nobody around. Also apparitions have been seen in and around the house. A man dressed in clothing from earlier centuries lingers in the home and on the grounds. There have also been sightings of the ghost of a woman who threw herself from the cliffs upon learning that her husband, who was on a whaling ship, had died at sea.

These are just a few ghost tales from the Cape and Islands. Want to learn more intriguing ghost tales from one of the most haunted areas in New England? If so, read the book, Haunted Cape Cod & The Islands by Mark Jasper.

Here are some fun and spooky events:

Perhaps something a little more tame for younger ghost fans?

The good news: no reports of haunted vacation rental houses!

About Susan Hutchins

About Susan Hutchins: I joined the WeNeedaVacation team in 2012 and write website and blog content as well as promote WeNeedaVacation.com through social media. Having grown up spending summers on Nantucket, I have a strong connection to Cape Cod and the Islands. I now live in New Hampshire with my husband, two children, and golden retriever, and we are frequent visitors to the Cape. I love running local road races, the Brewster in Bloom 5K being a favorite. My family enjoys biking on the Cape Cod Rail Trail, hiking in Nickerson State Park, and relaxing on the beautiful beaches (usually a dog friendly one!).