CAPE MAY – Is the spirit of Ester Mercur still hanging around the Southern Mansion 46 years after her death?
A pair of Roto-Rooter plumbers turned ghost investigators attempted to find out.
Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, plumbers by day and ghost hunters by night, along with the team members of the Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS), a group that they founded, spent a few nights at the Southern Mansion in order to capture evidence of Ester and her ghostly companions.
The case at this city’s Civil War-era bed and breakfast was filmed for an episode of Ghost Hunters, a popular show on the SyFy Channel which aired at 9 p.m. on March 31. If you missed it, the episode will be run in reruns and is available at http://www.syfy.com/gh/.
Built as a summer home during the Civil War by the Philadelphia industrialist George Allen in 1863, the mansion was used by Allen and his descendants as a country estate for the next 83 years. According to the mansion’s history, in 1946, the last of Allen’s direct relatives, Ester Mercur, died. Ester’s husband sold the estate with all its furnishings for $8,000. After that the mansion became a boarding house and then fell into disrepair.
Barbara Wilde, the owner of the inn, said that the Bray and Wilde family discovered the mansion for sale in 1994. The two families purchased the house and began wading through 130 years of history. Wilde said that she first began having experiences with the mansion’s paranormal residents when she lived at the property over the next 18 months as Mansion and grounds were restored.
Wilde said that the TAPS team had been interesting in ghost hunting at the property and finally got the opportunity in December of last year.
The mansion boasts “genuine southern hospitality,” but Wilde didn’t count on other alluring amenities to be paranormal.
“The mansion has had guests that range from the serious paranormal investigators to those that are just curious that come down here for entertainment,” she said.
“The cast and crew from Ghost Hunters were such a nice bunch and so fun to have staying with us,” Wilde added.
While the TAPS investigators were on the location, she took them on a tour of the property and told the tales of the paranormal that involve chefs in the kitchen witnesses glasses break into fine sand, a soldier in a Civil War era uniform walking through a wall in the ballroom and apparitions of a dark haired woman and Civil War soldier in room 14.
Ester, the niece of the original owner, Wilde said, is perhaps the most famous spirit on the property. As Wilde took the TAPS team to Ester’s room on the third floor, she told them that there had been reports that mischievous ghost had disrupted the sheets on the bed and guests have reported knocking coming from her room.
The smell of gardenias, Ester’s favorite flower, Wilde said, has known to “almost follow” guests and employees around the property.
Wilde said the Taps team and their crew set up electronic equipment in the apparent paranormal hotspots and spends several hours taking electromagnetic field and temperature readings, recording audio for electronic voice phenomena and filming with digital video cameras. Afterward, the team spent several hours analyzing the data for signs of possible paranormal activity, and then revealed their findings to Wilde.
Hawes and Wilson began the night in Ester's room, and immediately were struck by the smell of floral perfume. Two other investigators hit the kitchen and immediately heard a man's voice. They set a vibration detector against the glass hoping to catch a break, but no luck. Later in the evening, investigator Dave Tango and his father Bruce Tango checked out the bar, and while baiting the ghost of a soldier out with offers of drink, something firmly grabs Bruce's arm.
Wilde was shown video footage that catches a knocking in response to an investigator’s tapping of "shave and a haircut" on a ballroom table. There was also video of the ballroom door closing on its own.
Hawes tells Wilde that although they didn’t catch an image of Ester’s sprit, the team believes that there are some strange things that are definitely “above the normal” happening at the Southern Mansion.
Wilde said that she was happy to hear of the team’s finding and even more pleased that some things were caught on camera. But she said she was more excited for the buzz that the show Ghost Hunters can generate.
“When good things happen to one person here, it is good for the whole community,” she said.
A few people in the town, especially her children’s friends, she said, have been impressed by her SyFy channel debut.
Having a few ghostly guests hasn’t hurt business, according to Wilde. Some people want to stay in room nine, Ester’s room or be shown where the specter of a soldier was last seen, she said. Then again, Wilde added, some folks would rather book a room as far as possible from Ester.
Wilde said that the team got such a good response during their first visit that Ghost Hunters may decide to return in the coming months for a much longer investigation.
“We can’t wait to have them visit us again,” she said.