Cambridge is a Colonial town where the town fathers built a church, a courthouse, and a jail in the center of town just up the street from Long Wharf and its flood waters. High Street is notably the most haunted street on the Eastern Shore with seven haunted homes. There are stories of spirits who are connected to the community and don’t want to leave, even though they are dead.
On High Street there is an area near the courthouse called Spring Valley where the gallows once were. A beautiful fountain now stands where the hanging of Bloody Henny took place. Henny Insley was an African slave who lived on a farm in Vienna, she was hanged in June of 1831 for the crime of hacking her mistress to death. Sounds of children’s voices saying, “what did they hang you for, Henny?” have been heard late at night near the fountain. There is a nighttime Ghost Walk tour in Cambridge that tells the stories of the spirits on High Street.
It was a tradition in my family to have a new house blessed and spirits exorcised before moving in. The Bishop of the Episcopal Church of Wyoming traveled from room to room in my childhood home beginning in the attic. In the attic there was a room with a rocking chair that rocked continuously despite being empty. The Bishop in his alb-cassock and liturgical vestments, chanted prayers while swinging the thurible containing smoking frankincense. Almost immediately the rocking stopped. It was Wyoming in the fall but we were instructed to open windows so that the spirits could escape. Our house had been built by a former Governor of Wyoming and was one of the oldest houses in town. The governor was a rancher and he had built the house in town so his children could attend school. The house was thought to be haunted by the woman who cared for the children, or so the story goes.
My husband, Matt grew up in a historic home in Palo Alto, California where his bedroom was haunted by a little girl. Often after vacuuming his room in a path from the windows to the door, child size footprints would appear near the windows, out of nowhere. Matt would close his dresser drawers every morning before school and would return to the drawers opened in a haphazard pattern everyday. Matt’s Dad was confused one afternoon in the driveway, he thought he was waving to Matt in his window, yet Matt was outside walking towards his Dad. It was the ghost. After spending an afternoon at the library researching the house, the family learned that the child had died in Matt’s room in the 1930’s.
For years, my family owned a restaurant called General Tanuki’s in Easton on Goldsborough Street. We bought the building from another family of restaurateurs. It was obvious that there was a ghost in our restaurant. It was very unsettling walking with bus tubs in the dark hall to the kitchen at closing time. Luckily, the kitchen light was right inside the swinging door, so the kitchen wasn’t scary. Anyone who came in contact with the ghost felt a tickling sensation on their shoulders walking down that hallway. After service one night, during shift drinks at the bar, a member of our staff told us the story of the ghost. This staff member had worked at the former restaurant and when alive, the now deceased chef/owner loved to tickle everyone on the shoulders. We now had a name for the ghost. One table in the restaurant was the ghost’s favorite so we placed crystals and smudged lots of rosemary at “his” table and in the hall to the kitchen. Our ghost eventually left the building.
Most locals know about the ghost in the Avalon theatre. In the first years of running the theater, my father-in-law would comment about the ghost in the elevator, we eventually became used to her quirky habits. She would open and close the elevator doors, most often when the theater was empty. The basement always felt a little scary, too. Perfect Storm Productions is producing its second play about the haunting of the Avalon Theater, called Stage Fright 1964. The team of Casey Rauch and Cecile Storm are collaborating once again, it promises to be the most exciting event this year. For more information go to @perfectstormstagecraft or @avalontheatre on instagram. I’ve already gotten my tickets as a couple of the performances are already sold out.