The haunted Hotel Macomber in Cape May, New Jersey, looks cheery enough on the outside, but it’s hiding a few eerie secrets on the inside.
One of the last historic hotels built on Cape May, it’s been standing since 1916 and has a treasure trove of history stored within its walls. Freshly renovated with an award-winning restaurant on-site, it’s within walking distance of the beach and just down the road from the monumental Cape May Lighthouse.
A favorite vacation spot for both the living and the dead, The Hotel Macomber calls all beach-seekers to its five-story grandeur. The resulting interactions are mostly friendly but occasionally disturbing, depending on which of its many ghosts you happen to encounter.
The History of the Hotel Macomber
Cape May itself is considered America’s oldest vacation seaside resort destination. It began hosting visitors from Philadelphia in the mid-18th century and over time, gained increased popularity as more people learned of its natural beauty, delicious seafood, and restorative waters.
Now a national historic landmark, the Hotel Macomber was built just ten years after Henry Ford introduced his famous Model T, and benefited from the increased auto traffic that emerged over the decades that followed. At the time of its grand opening, it was the largest frame structure east of the Mississippi River.
Today, Hotel Macomber is a family-run boutique hotel with full amenities that even the spirits take advantage of now and then, as the lights have been known to flicker and the doors to open and shut. Even the on-site Union Park dining room, which won the Diner’s Choice award in 2020, has been host to a haunting by a former employee enjoying a bit of revenge on her bosses.
Spirits that Haunt the Hotel Macomber
Ghost hunters may be rewarded with not just one but many spirit sightings. Certain months are known to be more active than others, but it’s not uncommon to notice at least one of the long-time residents floating about during your stay.
The Spirit of the Lady Patron Known as “The Trunk Lady”
Perhaps the most famous spirit haunting the Hotel Macomber is one referred to as “the trunk lady.” Her name was Irene Wright, and she used to visit the hotel—room #10 specifically, which was her favorite—dragging along her large steamer trunk behind her. A lady must have what she needs for a summer stay, after all. She also loved her perfume and was known for leaving an overwhelming scent in her wake.
Miss Wright was a regular at the hotel in the 1940s, always staying in her favorite room, and it seems even death couldn’t stop her from returning. Visitors report hearing her dragging her trunk down the hall, banging on doorways, and even rocking in rocking chairs, particularly in the summer months.
The Spirit of a Former Owner, Sarah Davis
Even more attached to the hotel than the visitors were the owners, who all took turns over the decades making sure the hotel met its patrons’ expectations. Sarah Davis was the original owner, having been there at the beginning when The Hotel Macomber—then called New Stockton Villa—was built.
Unfortunately, Sarah had a difficult life, losing her young daughter Cannel to encephalitis in the 1920s. Her grief never subsided, and she took her own life while still at the hotel in 1934. However, her love for the business remains as she is known to make her presence felt in subtle ways, perhaps by turning on some cheery music or taking the clothes out of the closet to press them. Her intentions seem to be good—she wants the guests to feel at home, after all.
The Spirit of the Hardworking Waitress
When you visit a vacation spot, you hope for hosts and employees who enjoy contributing to your pleasant stay. That’s certainly the type of people who work at the hotel today, but it wasn’t always the case.
During the Great Depression, a poor woman used to work there as a waitress. Those were hard times, and we might forgive her for stealing the occasional piece of meat or sly potato, but luck wasn’t on her side. One morning another staff member found that she’d choked to death on a chicken bone—apparently from meat she’d stolen.
The waitress was understandably displeased at her fate and has remained in the hotel to make her displeasure known. She flickers the chandelier in the dining room now and then, moves the silverware and glassware about, and has been seen floating through the kitchen in a ragged dress.
When she feels particularly disgruntled, she’s even been known to push a person into the walk-in refrigerator in the back.
Grumpy Male Spirit in the Basement
Besides these well-known spirits, a few others haunt the Hotel Macomber, whose identities are a little less clear.
The grumpy man in the basement is one of these. Also known as the “Growler,” he groans and growls at times, knocking things around and making sounds that indicate he may be working on a building project of some kind, though no evidence of his work has been found to date.
Other Spirits Seen at The Hotel Macomber
Reports of other ghosts haunting the hotel are numerous, and who could blame them for wanting to stick around? There are stories that Sarah’s daughter, Cannel, perhaps with some of her playmates, still returns to the only place she ever felt at home in her short life. Sounds of children talking and laughing may be heard, particularly in the warm summer months.
The spirit of the friendly farmer may be seen when you first enter the hotel, as he’s known to enjoy greeting new visitors. You may hope that everyone is enjoying themselves during your stay, but don’t be surprised if you hear a couple arguing in the hallway, only to open the door and find no one there. It seems at least one couple still has difficulty getting along while on vacation.
Ghost Tours Nearby
If you don’t get enough ghosts while staying at The Hotel Macomber, you can find more choices below…
Join a local guided ghost tour via the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities (May MAC). They have a couple of ghost tour options, including the “Ghosts of Cape May Trolley Tour” and the “Historic Haunts Combination Tour.” Costs range from $20-30 for adults and $15-20 for children ages 3-12. Check the site for available dates and times.
Visiting The Hotel Macomber
To book your stay at the Hotel Macomber, check out their room availability below.They run specials with discounted prices in the spring and late fall, with weekdays being a bit cheaper than weekends.At the time of this writing, they also have holiday specials for Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day, where you can stay three nights and get the fourth night half off, or stay four nights and get the fifth night free.
They also offer free parking, free wi-fi, some ocean-view rooms, and award-winning fine dining.Once your reservations are made, enjoy the anticipation of your visit, which will likely include beautiful views, tasty dining experiences, relaxing walks up and down the cape, sandy white beaches, and if you’re lucky, a run-in or two with a (mostly) friendly spirit. Do pack light—there is no elevator on site.