Hauntings in Emlen Physick Estate

Emlen Physick Estate is said to be haunted by Dr. Emlen Physick, his mother Frances Ralston, and maiden Aunt Emilie Parmentier. On many ocassions, tourists visiting the mansion have reported seeing dark apparitions zooming down the hallway. Footsteps and the inexplicable voice of a young child can also be heard in the common area of the house.

Apart from the ghosts of the Physick family, the beloved dogs owned by Emlen Jr. are also said to haunt the mansion. Staffs and visitors of the estate have claimed to have heard a barking sound on the estate, even though dogs are not allowed. Emlen Jr. was known to be a dog lover and had kept 14 dogs on the estate as his companions.

Emlen Physick Estate | Image credits: Emlen Physick Estate Facebook Group

“This is a ghost who knows everything that is going on in her home,”

– Craig Mcmanus on the haunting of Aunt Emilie

On several visits to the mansion, psychic medium and author of “The Ghosts of Cape May: new haunts, old ghosts” Craig Mcmanus have identified resident ghosts such as Dr. Emlen Physick, his mother Mrs Ralston, and his Aunt Emilie. The carriage house located on the estate is said to be home to an unidentified spirit. The countless reported hauntings in Emlen Physick Estate has earned it the nickname “Cape May’s original haunted house”.

The mansion was featured on season 1, episode 6 of Haunted Towns on Destination America. In 2021, it was listed by Country Living as one of 27 most haunted houses in America.

History of the Emlen Physick Estate

Built in 1879 at Cape May, New Jersey, Emlen Physick Estate was the residence of Dr. Emlen Physick Jr., his widowed mother Frances Ralston, and his maiden aunt Emilie Parmentier.

Emlen Physick, Jr. (1855-1916) was a physician who descended from a line of famous physicians dating back to the 1700s. His grandfather Dr. Philip Syng Physick, was the inventor of the stomach pump and had been regarded by many as the father of American surgery. However, unlike his ancestors, Emlen Jr. did not further his career in medicine. After the death of his father, Emlen Jr. completed medical school and retired into the life of a farmer with his newfound inheritance. It is estimated that he had received an inheritance of $7 million, equivalent to $190 million in 2021. At one point in time, Emlen Jr is believed to have owned most of the ocean-side properties (including Emlen Physick Estate) along Washington Street from Madison Avenue to Cape Island Creek.

Dr. Emlen Physick | Image credits: Emlen Physick Estate Facebook Group

Built by renown Victorian architect Frank Furness, the 18-room Emlen Physick Estate exemplified “Stick Style” architecture with its characteristic wall pattern, steeply gabled roofs, tall proportions and decorative structural overlay. Back then, it was one of the largest and grandest estate in the city of Cape May.

However, Emlen Jr. did not live a long life. He passed away on March 21, 1916, just one year after the death of his mother. Soon after, Emlen Physick Estate was willed to Aunt Emilie. Ownership of the estate was eventually transferred to neighbour Frances Brook after the death of Aunt Emilie in 1935; Brook had been taking care of her in her later years. In 1946, the house was purchased by Drs. Harry and Marian Sidney Newcomer. It was sold again in 1967 and left abandoned.

Bedroom of Dr. Emlen Physick | Image credits: Sean Simmers

The dilapidated Emlen Physick Estate soon caught the eyes of real estate investors who sought to redevelop the four-acre estate into multiple properties. This prompted the local community to form Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC), a not-for-profit organization with a mission to make Cape May the regional destination for culture, history and the arts. In 1970, the estate was purchased by the city and leased to MAC. The organization now maintains three historical sites in the city, namely Emlen Physick Estate, Cape May Lighthouse and World War II Lookout Tower.

In 1981, the estate was used as a filming location for the 1981 American slasher film The Prowler.

Today, the Emlen Physick Estate is Cape May’s only Victorian house museum. Regular tours are conducted by MAC, giving visitors a glimpse into the life of the Physick family and the fascinating happenings that have occurred in the historic site. Tickets are priced at $20 for adults and $15 for children. To book a ticket for the Emlen Physick Estate tour, visit here.

A tour being conducted in the mansion | Image credits: Emlen Physick Estate official website

Tea Room at Emlen Physick Estate’s Carriage House

Located on the grounds of Emlen Physick Estatehe is the Carriage House Cafe & Tearoom, a local cafe serving an assortment of delicious lunch items including its signature sandwiches, salads, homemade soups, and quiche. To recreate the atmosphere of the carriage house, the dining tables are intimately arranged in the former horse stalls that were once home to the estate’s carriage horses.

Apart from serving a lunch menu, the tea room also organizes social events such as weddings, anniversary parties, and other special occasions. However, note that the tea room only opens from April through October.

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