The ghost stories most talked about and written are about the haunting of The Flanders Hotel in Ocean City, New Jersey.
In 1923 a group of entrepreneurs from Atlantic City formed a company with the ideals of building an upscale seaside hotel and resort at Ocean City Boardwalk. A hotel where the well-to-do upper-class and their families would be catered to in a lavish setting.
The hotel was named after the American Flanders Cemetery in Belgium to honor the American soldiers who died in WWI.
The Ocean City Fire
Built of cement and steel girders to protect against fire, the hotel was put to the test in 1927 when a fire took out 8 blocks of Ocean City hotels and businesses and a large portion of the boardwalk. The Flanders remained intact.
Although not entirely sure what started the fire, authorities believe it was possibly some vagrants that had built a fire under the boardwalk to keep warm. Another possibility is a careless smoker who tossed a smoldering cigar into a trash pile. Ultimately the fire spread rapidly due to high winds, which ironically aided in the containment of the fire when the winds shifted directions. Some dozen automobiles burned after a gasoline tank exploded at the Boardwalk garage. This also assisted in the rapid spread of the fire.
Although there were no casualties in the fire, a resident named Emil Landbach was killed in a car accident while racing to Mays Landing. He had heard his home was in jeopardy.
In the fire, the city lost 3 hotels, block after block of businesses, two movie theaters, and the Mayors home. It is not known if Emil Lanbachs house was spared or destroyed; however, perhaps he is one of the spirits that roam the halls of The Flanders Hotel. The only surviving original structure left intact in the 8 block radius of the Ocean City fire.
Catacombs of the Flanders
After the fire, the boardwalk was rebuilt a block closer to the ocean. The Flanders Hotel took advantage of the situation by building 3 saltwater pools in front of the hotel, which ultimately set it apart from any other hotels in the area. These pools became an instrumental part of the hotel using what is called the catacombs.
Catacombs are underground passageways and rooms. Some are used as a burial cemetery, while others like The Flanders Hotel catacombs are used for entrances and exits to the hotel and used for illegal gatherings, a bar, and a gaming room.
When the hotel was in its planning stages, an underground basement below sea level was included. A maze with seven or eight large rooms, the catacombs became instrumental in the hotel’s operations. Being a high-class establishment, guests were required to use the catacombs to get back into the hotel from the pool, so they did not cross through the lobby in swimsuits.
But the catacombs were used for other reasons as well. Though no official proof exists that anyone has died in the catacombs, rumored stories say otherwise.
The Mafia’s Playground
During the prohibition years of 1920-1933, many hotels, restaurants, and clubs provided secluded rooms called a “speakeasy” for those that still wanted to consume alcohol. A speakeasy was the term used for an illicit place for people to drink alcohol. The establishments would provide alcohol that ranged from poor bootleg liquor to the best quality liquor specified by regular or essential patrons. Often it was heard that they would lie to patrons about the quality of the alcohol to promote sales, as well as they may have had poor connections to obtain the booze.
The Flanders Hotel catacombs catered to the organized crime families who used the bar for social gatherings, another for gaming, and the third room as a “meeting” room to conduct business.
Most know that if someone displeases the Mafia, they will likely end up missing and their bodies found (or not) executed. There are rumors of two people that died in the catacombs at the hands of the Mafia. It is undoubtedly possible that some of the spirit activity in the catacombs claimed by others could still be lingering around the area. A psychic, Joseph Tittel, claims at least two people may have been killed in the catacombs. One was hanged, and the other disposed of in a ‘quiet’ manner by knife or strangulation.
The catacombs may also still be the playground for the Mafia. Their members bonded and developed friendships in their lives at The Flanders Hotel. Spirits are known to return to places that they loved, felt comfortable, or remembered in their prior earthly lives.
The one spirit noted in the catacombs by staff members is that of “Emily” or “The Lady in White.”
Most notable haunting of The Flanders Hotel
The most notable haunting of the hotel is by a young woman the staff has affectionately named “Emily” or “The Lady in White.”
On the second floor of the hotel is a framed picture painted by artist Tony Troy based on the descriptions given by hotel guests who have witnessed her apparition while staying there. She is standing by a piano wearing a long white gown and no shoes. Her acceptance of being a permanent hotel guest or feature is shown by naming the hotel restaurant after her.
It’s not known precisely who Emily was or even her real name. The name Emily was given to the ghost by the hotel staff, who claims she is not a vengeful ghost. She is also known as the “Lady in White.”
She has long red curly hair and is wearing a long white gown that many describe as a wedding gown. The oddity is that she roams around the hotel barefoot. Hardly the attire for a wedding but one of the speculations of her existence.
Most often seen on the 2nd and 4th floors of the hotel, Emily is a whimsical and happy ghost. She is often heard singing, laughing, and humming throughout the hotel. She has a mischievous side that rattles doorknobs, opens and closes doors, and even unscrewing light bulbs. Guests have seen the train of her white gown whisp around the corner in the doorway to another room. Others claim she appears and disappears through walls and is seen in the hall and mirrors of the entrance of mirrors in the hotel lobby.
Who was Emily or the Lady in white?
There are many speculations as to who Emily was. Some believe she was a young woman who stayed at The Flanders Hotel. Emily was engaged to a soldier who went off to fight during World War I, died in the trenches, and never returned. It is believed she is looking for her fiance with the expectation that he will someday return from the war and they could carry on with their marriage plans.
Another belief is that she is a young bride soon to be married at the hotel that lost her wedding ring. She wanders throughout the hotel and even down into the catacombs retracing her steps to find her ring. Perhaps she had swum in one of the hotel’s pools at some point before the wedding, using the catacombs to get back to her room as required by the hotel and why she is barefoot.
The Entity of a Mourning Woman
In another story, a young girl, Sarah, died in the basement from hypothermia. She had been carried through the tunnels from the beach. Another entity that of a brown-haired woman is often seen. It is believed she is the young girl Sarah’s mother who is searching desperately for her child. Suffering a life-shattering tragedy like the death of a child, she most likely carried the loss and mourning over into the afterlife.
Hauntings of the Catacombs
It stands to reason that there would be more than just the spirits of Emily, the young girl Sarah and the mourning woman in The Flanders Hotel.
Other entities have been found to hang out in the basement that once were the party animals who enjoyed the atmosphere and elegance of the hotel. They are believed to be continuing the party days reliving their fun times drinking, gambling, and socializing.
A heavy, hostile atmosphere is felt by many in some areas of the basement. This sometimes happens to places with many negative actions, perhaps in the regions where the Mafia conducted their “unpleasant business.” Dark shadows and eyes watching their every move as if the Mafia enforcer is still down there doing his job.
One staff member reported seeing Emily in the catacombs. An authentic apparition that formed from a mist and disappeared as swiftly as it materialized.
The haunting of The Flanders Hotel naturally is through the eyes and ears of those there. If you believe in the paranormal, you will find many places in and around the Atlantic City area to explore and possibly experience some of these supernatural occurrences.
Read more about the 10 top haunted places in Atlantic City here.