The Southern Mansion from Eras of Elegance
A wealthy industrialist, George Allen, built the Southern Mansion as a summer home for his family in 1863. Cape May was a getaway for the rich and famous, and the Italianate-designed Mansion was one of its featured homes (it's now part of Cape May's historic district).
The Allen's house sat on a acre and a half estate, lined with trees and dotted by Italian gardens, with mahogany woodwork, intricately carved crown moldings, fifteen feet ceilings, giant gilded mirrors, grand ballrooms, and 5,000 square feet of verandas surrounding it. Allen and his family summered there for 83 years.
George's niece, Ester Mercur, and her husband were the last of Allen family to call the mansion home. Ester loved the estate, and when she died, her husband, Ulysses, couldn't bear to remain there without her, and sold the whole shebang for $8,000. He was in an emotional rush to get out, and didn't vet the next caretakers very well.
The new owners turned the place into a boarding house. They painted the beige structure white, and converted the mansion into a rat's nest of small rooms to let. It gradually evolved into a poorly kept flophouse, and after 50 years, the hotel license was yanked because of the deplorable condition of the once-proud building.
In early 1994, the mansion was bought by its current owners, who turned it into a boutique hotel and event center. In just 18 months, after carting out 25 dumpsters of accumulated junk, the mansion was fully restored and renovated back to the spittin' image of its glory days.
The original owners must have liked the restoration. Some of them came back to enjoy their old home as yappy specters, while another had a complete attitude make-over.
First, voices and hushed conversations have been heard and reported from all corners of the Southern Mansion. It's thought that ghosts of the mansion's summer home era have returned, enjoying the building as in days of yore. Paranormal investigators have captured the spectral talk on EVP.
There's also one spooked out, but unidentified, room that weighs heavily on its mortal visitors. Folks claim that they get the feeling of anxiety and tension when they enter the space. There's never been a report of an apparition present, just a universal sense of angst.
It's believed that a highly emotional death occurred in the room, like a suicide, murder, or illness/accident.
But hey, the ghost of Southern Mansion isn't about the bad times. The star spook is Ester, and she's one happy lady now. It wasn't always that way; back in the boarding house days, she was often reported roaming the Mansion as a sad visitation, no doubt bummed to see how far her beloved home had tumbled downhill.
But now that the house has been restored to its heyday look, Ester is a joyful spirit, apparently delighted that the mansion is once again like home. And she's been seen all over the place, in different guises.
In the kitchen, staff members claim that a female apparition watches over them while they prepare the meals, cook, and clean. In fact, the elderly woman seems very much at home there, even trying to help out. That's Ester, tending to her homefires.
Visitors entering the Mansion reportedly hear a lady's laughter echoing off the walls with music playing, and see a beautiful woman dancing up a storm in various rooms. That's said to be Ester, too.
Ester's also been spotted as the image of a decked-out hostess, wearing a gown and wafting a trail of lilac perfume as she floats through the halls, with the sound of her swishing petticoat clearly audible.
So hey, scared of spooks? You'll get over that with one visit to the Southern Mansion. Ester is the happiest ghost this side of Casper.