Looking Back: Ghosts in Sag Harbor? Yikes!


On a dark and stormy night when there’s nothing to watch on TV, you might want to don your greatcoat and go snooping for paranormal activities, that is, a search for ghosts.  An old, old house where some foul deed or terrible accident occurred many years ago is a likely place to investigate.

Right here in quiet Sag Harbor, a real estate broker reported that the 250-year old house that now accommodates the Buddha Berry ice cream store has experienced floating black phantoms, strange footsteps, an eerie face glimpsed in a window.  Perhaps, say ghost experts, a renovation in 2013 stirred up the spirits, or maybe they just like the green tea yogurt.

When the late Tom Murphy owned his eponymous tavern on Division Street that dates back to 1792  he claimed the bar was haunted by the ghost of former resident Addie King.  Strange things happened, like a blender that started up while in the off position, flipped chairs, and the jukebox turning on by itself, probably to hear Patsy Cline sing “Back in Baby’s Arms.”

The Montauk lighthouse is said to be haunted by the ghost of Abigail Olsen, a teenage girl who died after washing ashore from a shipwreck on the rocky beach.  People claim to have heard her eerie voice in the tower at night.  In Villa Paul Restaurant in Hampton Bays diners and wait-staff claim to have seen the specter of a lady, and a dog which occasionally runs through the dining room.  When a patron took a photo of a family member and developed it, a spooky shadow-like figure appeared in the back of the picture.  Library employees have documented unexplained ghostly phenomena in the 171-year old Rogers Mansion next to the Southampton library.  The ghost is said to be one of the wives of whaling Captain Albert Rogers.

Montauk Manor opened as a 200-room resort hotel in 1927 and soon was patronized by the rich and famous.  Many American Indians are said to be buried in the vicinity in unmarked graves, some may even be under the palatial hotel.  According to a past manager, the image of an Indian chief in full headdress often floated through the fourth floor.  A young man on a golf package tour awoke in the middle of the night to see “an American Indian man in feathers, standing at the end of his bed.”  The golfer’s cries woke two others in the room and they too saw the specter, probably causing a rash of yips on the golf course the next day.

Kerriann Flanagan Brosky describes these and other activities in her 2008 book “Ghostly Long Island: Stories of the Paranormal” and personally investigated them, often with her friend and ghost detective Joe Giaquinto.  A haunted episode supposedly took place at Halsey House, built in 1648 and the oldest dwelling in Southampton.   According to local lore, Thomas Halsey’s wife Elizabeth was attacked there and scalped by three Pequot Indians.  Algonquin Chief Wyandanch captured the Pequots and handed them over to Southampton magistrates.  They were taken to Connecticut, found guilty and hanged.  Because of the nature of the horrible crime, people assumed that the Halsey house was haunted.  Ms Brosky brought in Joe Giaquinto who had become proficient in detecting Electronic Voice Phenomena or EVPs, as ghost hunters call them, that might reveal spirit presences. Walking around Halsey house with his recorder, he felt a “cold spot” and picked up two very audible sounds, one a woman’s voice repeating “I’m tired.  I’m tired.”  The rumor continues that the old house may indeed be haunted.

Ghostly presence around the Wickham murders in Cutchogue were a lot more concrete.   In the mid-19th century, James Wickham who had married Frances Post of Quogue worked the land with a black servant and an Irish farmhand Nicholas Bain.  Bain was a drinker and made advances on the servant girls.  He asked Ellen Holland to marry him and became very belligerent when he was rejected.  Bain had caused other problems and James subsequently fired him.  At eleven o’clock one night, servants heard Frances crying out, “Nicholas, don’t kill him, don’t kill him!”  The servant girls jumped through a window and ran to nearby homes.  According to a grisly account in the New York Herald in 1854, neighbors found James Wickham “weltering in his blood, his head literally cut to pieces.  Mrs, Frances Wickham, his wife, was dead she having had her brains completely knocked out.”  Bain left his hat and bloody footprints behind and hundreds of armed men began a manhunt.  A few days later they captured him in a swamp east of Cutchogue.   He was convicted and hanged on December 15, 1854.  Officials called on the militia from Sag Harbor to maintain order over a large crowd of spectators.

When author Brosky and Joe Giaquinto visited the old farmhouse where the murders took place, Joe picked up an EVP while they were in the bedroom.  He asked Tom Wickham how many years ago the murders took place, a man’s voice quietly said, “hundred, one-hundred ninety.”  The spirit was off by about fifty years which shows that even ghosts lose track of time.  Whoever or whatever inhabited the old house didn’t bother several generations of Wickhams who raised families there without further incident.

If you think your house is haunted, you should be aware of a legal case back in 1991 in which the New York State Supreme Court ruled that a woman who failed to tell a buyer of her house that the house was haunted had to return the down payment.  No one is certain the ruling set a precedent, but obviously it’s not a good idea to go around bragging about the ghosts in your house.