It would be easy to dismiss some of the stories people share here. Some are legends told and retold. Others may sound like old wives' tales and superstitions. Many people laugh at the idea that the spirits of people who lived, toiled and died here might somehow remain to this day. But on a dark, moonless night when the candlelight flickers eerily and the cries of a child echo within the walls of a home built a hundred years before America won its freedom, it might not seem so foolish after all.
Keep an open mind as you consider this small sampling.
THE LEGEND OF OLD CROOK JAW
Yarmouth's Ichabod Paddock, the preeminent shore whaler of his day, had numerous run-ins with a whale called Old Crook Jaw. It seems Crook Jaw couldn't be harpooned. None of the harpoons Ichabod threw were able to penetrate the whale's skin. But Ichabod wouldn't give up. He decided to find out what made this whale so difficult to harpoon.
So the next time he met up with Crook Jaw, Ichabod dove into the ocean after him. With knife between his teeth he swam to the whale, waited for him to open his jaws, and then swam in. Ichabod was surprised to find a cabin door inside and behind it two beings playing cards: a beautiful blonde-haired mermaid and the Devil himself.
As Ichabod watched, the Devil threw down his cards, swore, glared at Ichabod and disappeared. Ichabod apologized for interrupting the game and asked what the stakes were. "Stakes, Captain Paddock? You were the stakes."
Meanwhile back on the whaleboat Ichabod's crew assumed the worst but waited out the night beside the whale. They were awakened the next morning by Ichabod swimming toward them. That night, Ichabod and his crew went whaling again; And once again he spent the night in the stomach of the whale. This continued for several nights until Ichabod's wife grew suspicious.
The next time Ichabod prepared to go whaling his wife presented him with a newly forged harpoon. She also asked him to take her father along. Soon Old Crook Jaw was found and Ichabod's father-in-law took the harpoon and threw it at the whale. Surprisingly it held and soon they were towing the whale to shore.
When they cut into the whale, Ichabod found more surprises: gone was the cabin and the mermaid. All he found was yellow seaweed. Only later did Ichabod's wife confess that the harpoon was not made of iron, but silver—the only metal that can pierce the heart of a witch.
THE BABY OF THE OLD KING'S HIGHWAY
In the 1800s, Yarmouth Captain Josiah Gorham and his wife Harriet Barber had
a child, Mary, who died while still a baby. The death so upset Harriet that she became mentally unbalanced.
Later owners of the Gorham home, unaware of this history, told one of Gorham's descendants about hearing a baby crying. They were then told of the tragic death of the baby and the wife's subsequent mental problems.
Later, new owners purchased the home and just a few weeks after moving in had an unsettling experience. According to the husband, "I was just getting into bed after a long day. My wife was sound asleep beside me ... when something appeared hovering above my bed. It wasn't something, but someone ... a toddler .... I couldn't tell if it was a boy or girl the way it was dressed. It was wearing an outfit from years ago that made the gender indistinguishable .... I looked but I couldn't move .... the child just looked down at me staring. Finally the child left the room .... We haven't seen it again."
GERTRUDE, THE PLAYHOUSE Ghost
Herbert Senn and Helen Pond lived on Church Street in Yarmouth. The couple designed stage sets for shows on Broadway and around the world—including more than 350 sets for the Cape Playhouse in Dennis between 1956 and 1994.
Herbert and Helen never noticed any sign of ghosts in their home. But that wasn't the case at the Playhouse. They reported that on Sunday evenings during the Summer while setting up sets for the next production, after everyone had gone, they would hear someone walking in high heels on the wooden floor in the area where the audience seats are located.
Although neither had ever met Gertrude Lawrence, a leading star and wife of the founder of the Playhouse, both felt the footsteps had to be hers. They thought Gertrude was just checking to make sure that the sets were perfect. The two would laugh about it, but they never told anyone, just in case someone was playing a trick on them.
THE SPIRITS OF CENTER STREET
Center Street is lined with history. It is where the Ancient Cemetery is located, where many historical figures were laid to rest. Along both sides of the road sit homes where sea captains and ministers once lived, and according to some who live there, still make their presence felt.
At one home in particular, three generations of one family have experienced strange occurrences. The unexplained smell of cigar smoke when no one is smoking. Finding chairs moved from where they had been placed. The sounds
of banging, doors slamming, breaking glass—always around four in the morning—and waking only to discover everything in order, nothing broken.
The family dog once began acting strangely, wagging his tail looking down the hall toward the living room. They watched as the dog ran into the living room and appeared to be playing with someone. The dog ran back and forth between the two rooms over and over. The living room ghost seemed different from the others; It was playful.
The family claims other ghosts are not so friendly. One, a man, is quite angry, banging and tearing things, even shaking beds in which people are sleeping. The owners now sleep with the lights on. And once, the owner and her daughter found a young woman dressed in a blue gown in the bathroom. When they looked in the mirror no one was present.
The woman IN WHITE
There have long been stories about apparitions in this particular house on Center Street. Recently, former owners reported that when they ran an inn there, a guest came downstairs to report a "presence" that she felt at the back of the house. No one had noticed it before.
Not long after, the innkeeper was at the foot of the back stairs and, looking up, noticed the apparition: a young woman dressed in a flowing white dress. The innkeeper just stared at the vision. She wasn't at all frightened, in fact she claims she had a rather good feeling about the experience.
On one other occasion, when the innkeepers were away, they had a good friend oversee the operation of the inn since it was a slow season and guests were few.
It was while they were away that the young woman appeared again at the back staircase. This made a memorable event for the friend who recounted her startling story.
The recent owners of a house built in 1808 on the Old King's Highway had been living there for only a few months when it started. Lying in bed, the wife, still awake, heard the sound of organ music playing softly in the background. The radio wasn't on. Gradually the music became loud enough for her to recognize the hymns that were being played. When the woman mentioned this to her husband the next day he claimed not to hear it and suggested it must have been someone playing an organ across the street. She insisted that was not the case. The music was coming from the bedroom itself.
The woman says, "from that day on I was to hear it over and over again ... only in that room, only at night, and only I would hear it ... always organ music, and always hymns ... . the predominant piece is Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring."
One day the owner met another local resident and when describing where she lived, the other person turned to her and said "doesn't the music drive you nuts?" The owner was speechless.