Atlantic City, New Jersey was established with a focus on health and well-being. Its current status in the American psyche, however, is a far reach from its early holistic roots. The bright lights, gold coins, and penny slots make this a virtual Las Vegas of the East.
Unsurprisingly this coastal casino and the land of sin are just as haunted as any other hotbed of vice. Founded in 1853, the restorative sea air and water drew people in with a promise of good health.
It would not last.
Why is Atlantic City haunted?
The coastal island proved difficult to get to by both land and sea, and many lost their lives trying to get to it. An esteemed vacation resort at the turn of the 20th century, Atlantic City boldly survived the prohibition era.
By the 1950s the tourism industry would take a dive, only to reemerge stronger in 1976 when Atlantic City became the only city in New Jersey to legalize gambling.
A plethora of spirits remains from these lucrative times. Haunted casinos, lighthouses, hotels, and more are a regular part of the city’s history. Next time you visit Atlantic City, take a tour with US Ghost Adventures!
1. Dr. Jonathan Pitney House
Any city whose founder is still sticking around from beyond the grave is one worth knowing. The “Father of Atlantic City,” Dr. Jonathan Pitney was born in 1797 in the inland township of Mendham.
After studying medicine at the University of Columbia and practicing on State Island, he made his way south to the isolated Absecon Island. This was an anglicized version of the island’s original name “Absegami,” which meant little water in the native Algonquian language.
It was a summer home for the Natives up until 1783 when the first European colonizer Jeremiah Leads settled on the island. Pitney had big plans for the little island.
Believing that the fresh sea air and water could heal people, he petitioned for a railway line that would reach across water-laden land. In 1852 construction began and by 1854 Atlantic City was founded.
It quickly flourished into a popular vacation resort for people in the regional tri-state area.
Legends Never Die
Pitney lived in this house from 1833 to 1869, passing away in the beloved city that he helped create. And like his legacy, it appears Dr. Pitney lives on – in more than one way.
First, he has his own Twitter account, run by a Pitney fanatic. However, if you’d like to meet the doctor you can do so by visiting the bed and breakfast that is now run out of his house.
It appears his love for Atlantic City endured through his death. Voices and full-on conversations are heard in the green building next to the house. Some see the apparition of two men walking through the Caroline Room.
It is believed that Jonathan and his beloved wife Caroline remained behind to protect their home. You see, Jonathan insisted his wife live in the house forever.
The current owners believe she still does.
In 2015 then-owner Vinnie Clark held a seance in an attempt to contact Caroline. He and his daughter heard bells ringing in the house when none were present. Many often hear mysterious flutes while orbs of lights have been known to appear in the Victorian Room.
Why is Dr. Jonathan Pitney’s house haunted?
Dr. Jonathan Pitney was the founder of modern-day Atlantic City. He loved it so much that his spirit and that of his wife remained behind in the house. See for yourself what keeps the couple here.
What You May Experience at This Bed and Breakfast
- The spirits of Dr. Jonathan Pitney and his wife
- The sounds of ringing bells
- A presence hopping into bed with you
2. Absecon Lighthouse of Atlantic City
Dr. Jonathan Pitney has another lasting legacy in Atlantic City – the Absecon Lighthouse. Standing at 171 feet tall, this beacon is the tallest in New Jersey and the third tallest in the United States.
Before the foundation of Atlantic City, Pitney would often travel on horseback to visit his patients. The journey was long and treacherous and he would often stop along the coast. He noticed that at one particular location, the Absecon Inlet, there was an alarming amount of shipwrecks.
The waterway was tight, the weather was often volatile and visibility was often low. Upon his campaign to begin construction of this oasis of health, he also began petitioning for a lighthouse.
The funds for this were not granted until disaster struck. On April 16th, 1854, the packet ship Powhatan encountered severe weather. Departing from Havre, France, they set out for New York.
However, one of the worst hurricanes the state had ever seen met them instead, landing on the rocky shores of Barnegat Shoals. To make matters worst, the severity of the weather prevented a lifeboat station six miles away from reaching them.
Sadly, over 300 people, mostly German immigrants, perished. Nearly 100 bodies washed up on the beaches of Atlantic City. 45 of them were buried in Absecon.
The “Graveyard Inlet”
Many lost souls haunt the Absecon lighthouse to this day. It was decommissioned in 1933 but reports of spirits have been common since 1905.
There is often the apparition of a pipe-smoke sailor staring out to sea. Many have seen lost souls wandering around the bottom of the tower. Ghostly footsteps are also often heard on the staircase and the main entrance is known to open and close on its own.
One former lighthouse keeper claimed to have seen the infamous Jersey Devil emerging from the nearby pine barrens. The cast of the Sy Fy Channel’s Ghost Hunters visited in 2010.
While a nearby storm disrupted their investigation, throwing off the delicate electrical equipment, they still reported eerie, unexplainable activity.
Why is the Absecon Lighthouse of Atlantic City haunted?
The constant shifting of sandbars and shoals made the waters treacherous and dangerous to traverse. The 311 crew and passengers of The Powhatan would discover this in the most horrific way possible.
Creepy Occurrences at the Absecon Lighthouse
- The sounds of disembodied voices
- The sighting of a man filling an oil canister
- Footsteps on the staircase
- Shadow figures
- Sightings of the Jersey Devil
3. The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino
From the 1880s to the 1940s, Atlantic City was known as the premier American vacation destination.
But as air travel expanded, many tourists moved further south to the more tropical beaches of Florida and the Caribbean. Atlantic City experienced an economic slump of disastrous proportions.
You see, gambling wasn’t always such an integral part of Atlantic City’s patchwork. In fact, it wasn’t introduced until November 2, 1976, when a second referendum on legal gambling was introduced in the state of New Jersey.
It limited the sport to the island vacation destination, hoping to revitalize a floundering tourism economy. Though the Garden State may have not been ready for statewide gambling, Atlantic City was.
Over the next two decades, 14 casinos and hotels were constructed along the boardwalk and throughout the city. The new additions skyrocketed the annual visitor count from 700,00 in 1978 to over 33 million in 1988.
A Place for Tourists, and Spirits
One of these behemoth boutiques of finance was the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort. Now operating as the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, it opened on April 2nd, 1990, and was the largest building in New Jersey, costing over $1 billion to construct. The chandeliers in the building alone were priced at $14 million.
In 2016 the casino, once labeled the eighth wonder of the world closed along with several others around this time. The Hard Rock would take over operations in 2018.
Many guests who stayed in the grandiose hotel prior to the Hard Rock Hotel takeover reported various oddities throughout the building. In the south tower, one couple claims to have seen multiple apparitions walking into their room. The wife also claimed a young boy came to her husband’s bedside.
Another sighting was that of the apparition of an older veteran of war. Others have seen a tall shadowy man in the hallway of the 10th floor and heard footsteps later on in the evening.
Why is the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino haunted?
Though expanding their reach on tourism, the addition of gambling also attracted a certain level of darkness. Aside from the nefarious behavior that regularly occurred, there is also a story of a man jumping to his death from a 10th-story window.
The spirits of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino
- The apparition of a war veteran
- A tall shadowy man in the hallway of the 10th floor
- Multiple apparitions in the South tower
4. Ocean City Mansion
A little further south of Atlantic City, down the beautiful coastline, is another coastal vacation destination: Ocean City. This beach town offers a more timid version of its sister city to the north.
Founded in 1879 by four Methodist ministers, the city was developed with a family image in mind, prohibiting gambling and alcohol within its borders. It was originally a Christian seaside resort, also renowned for its oceanside holistic auras.
As wholesome as it was, it was not without tragedy. The city boasts a large boardwalk much like Atlantic City and, like its sister city, ships often wrecked along the coastline. Further, in 1927, a large fire destroyed much of the town.
Because of these events and others, there are many spirits roaming around the gambling-free resort town. Though no spot is as haunted as the illustrious and magnificent Ocean City Mansion, now known as the Ocean City Bed and Breakfast.
Opulence Meets the Afterlife
Ocean City Mansion was originally built in 1898 by the offspring of two original founders of Ocean City. The children of Ezra B. Lake and James Lake chose the location for its high ground, as flooding was common.
This three-story Victorian mansion spans over 3,500 sq feet and, today offers 7 bedrooms to guests. The original owners – Sally Lake and Albert Gilbert – also owned a funeral parlor during this time.
Perhaps that explains some of the odd experiences that have taken place at the Ocean City Bed and Breakfast.
In 2003, the building was renovated for innkeeper Nancy Aiken and her four children as they took up residence on the property. This renovation, however, is believed to have disturbed something within the walls of the old mansion.
Many that stay in the honeymoon suite say they have seen things move across the room of their own volition. It is believed this was the original master bedroom, leading many to think they may be the spirits of Sally Lake and Albert Gilbert.
While they appear friendly, it is still shocking for many to experience such a thing.
Why is the Ocean City mansion haunted?
It appears the renovations that took place in 2003 disturbed the dead, and these spirits aren’t afraid to let people know.
Ghostly Happenings at The Ocean City Mansion
- Objects are said to move on their own
- Disembodied voices can be heard, especially in the Honeymoon Suite
- Footsteps can be heard from the stairway
5. Flanders Hotel
Named after the several Battles of Flanders in which thousands of Americans lost their lives, the Flanders Hotel has had death etched into its walls since its early beginnings. Located in nearby Ocean City, the historic Spanish revival style architecture is one of the finest along the boardwalk.
With the completion of the Delaware River Bridge in Philadelphia, new accommodations were badly needed for the expected influx of visitors. Thus, in 1923 the city funded the $1.5 million dollar hotel in an attempt to attract more tourists.
In 1927, a large fire destroyed 12 blocks of the boardwalk, but the Flanders survived thanks to the modern fireproof materials used in its construction.
When the boardwalk was rebuilt it was done so a block closer to the ocean, allowing for a saltwater pool to be built at The Flanders.
This high-class resort began bringing more and more money into the seaside town, but as time went along many guests noticed that something was amiss within the hotel.
The Lady in White
Doors often swing on their own inside the hotel. Light bulbs unscrew themselves and door locks are often played with by some unseen force. And then, there is the lady in white who roams the halls of the Flanders.
Her name is Emily and she has become so well known that there is a portrait of her in the hotel. A photo of her apparition was captured during a wedding and her image has become common knowledge ever since.
She has been seen often in the Hall of Mirrors, a room where many mirrors face each other and is considered a portal to the afterlife. The second and fourth floors are common spots to see her as well.
It is believed that she was the girlfriend of a WW1 soldier who did not return from the war. While her cause of death is unknown, what is known is that she is a permanent guest at the Flanders Hotel.
Why is the Flanders Hotel haunted?
A hall of mirrors opens up a portal to another world in the building. A great fire in 1927 may have likely killed a young girl who now haunts the hotel.
6. Resorts Casino Hotel
The oldest hotel in Atlantic City proper stands as a monument to the old days of the boardwalk. A simple time before legal gambling made its way into Atlantic City and transformed the city for better or for worse.
Resorts Casino Hotel was built in 1868 when visitors were still coming to the coastal town for the health benefits proposed by Dr. Jonathan Pitney. As it turns out, the sea breeze was not the cure-all Pitney had hoped for as many met their demise in the old hotel.
Originally known as the Chalfonte Hotel, it was moved closer to the ocean twice, and by 1903 it was combined with the nearby Haddon Hall building. The newly formed Chaldonte-Haddon Hall Hotel would experience more than just tourists.
Many guests complained of an odd chill on the upper floors of the building. The howls of the wind could be heard throughout the hallways of these floors. While many believed it to be the wind, the building was made of steel and iron making it nearly impenetrable to gusts coming from the sea.
Many believe these sounds to be those of the spirits. It has been reported that these gusts and even knocks have been heard in the elevator, as if a spirit is trying to escape from the elevator shaft itself.
Hotel For The Dead
The Resorts Casino Hotel played a role in history that only lends credibility to its ghostly reputation. During World War II, the hotel was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers and amputees. Many of the soldiers would never leave.
To add to the creepiness of its past, the 12th floor was used as the morgue. Additionally, the basement served as a storage area for the dead when the morgue was at capacity.
Though the building has undergone changes throughout the years, it didn’t remove one of its most eerie features. The Resorts Casino Hotel is one of the few in the nation where you’ll find a 13th floor. Here, it’s used for entertaining with a Piano Bar and dance club, making this hotel a lively one for both the living, and the dead.
The Ocean Tower has become a hot spot of activity with one couple that stayed in Room 646 reporting their door shaking and the sounds of many people walking through the hallways. When they looked outside, the hallway was empty.
Many employees of the Resorts Casino Hotel have expressed feeling uneasy in the Ocean Tower as well. An ominous feeling lingers over the oldest part of the hotel, one that, along with the resident spirits, isn’t going away any time soon.
One of the more unique spirits of the hotel is a man dressed in a Charlie Chaplin “Little Hobo” outfit. He hangs out in the darkest part of the casino, tipping his hat at guests. Many assume he is simply an entertainer and walk right by him.
Why is Resorts Casino Hotel haunted?
The building was built in 1868 and later used as a hospital and home for soldiers during World War II, leaving a large amount of spiritual activity.
Experiences at Resorts Casino Hotel
- Knocks on the elevator and loud noises on the uppermost floor
- Doors shaking and the sounds of people walking on the 6th floor
- A man dressed like Charlie Chaplin lurks in the shadows of the casino
- A spectral bride and groom who frequent the second floor
- Sightings of a ghostly nurse and various children
- A woman in black who walks the beach early in the morning
7. The Incubator Babies of The Boardwalk
During the early 20th century an odd trend was taking place in the world of amusements and pleasure piers. Incubator babies became an oddity worth seeing for many American, and exhibits featuring loads of premies were toted around the country.
It all began with a man named Dr. Martin A. Couney who is known as the founder of modern neonatology. His daughter was born premature and although doctors claimed she would die, he invented the first incubator to save her and spite them.
She lived to full adulthood.
In 1896, he was sent to an exhibition in Berlin to spread the word of his new invention. By 1898, Couney was showing off his new invention in the United States.
In 1902, a year after its unveiling, a permanent exhibit opened up in Atlantic City and a year after that, an exhibit opened up in Coney Island, New York.
An Unusual Display
Atlantic City’s incubator display lasted well into the 1940s. What made this such a sight to see is that the babies were placed on display while they grew to a healthy size.
Though it would be considered an odd and unusual attraction today, at the time, modern medicine was not as developed as it is now and this was the selling point. It was miraculous technology.
Babies that hospitals determined were sure to die were sent to the exhibits. It generally proved to be a better bet than leaving them in the hospital.
Guests would pay a dollar to see the sideshow but as time went along and the practice became more accepted it was reduced to a donation. It is estimated that with these exhibits, Dr. Couney saved over 7,000 lives.
Not every child survived, however, and the Boardwalk would be the site of many of their deaths. It’s said their spirits can still be felt and heard to this day.
8. The Pine Barrens
Atlantic City lies at the edge of what is known as The Pine Barrens, a massive forest that’s known for its poor soil, dense pines, and various urban legends.
It is considered to be one of the most haunted places in America.
Because of the nutrient-lacking soil, the majority of early settlements here ended in failure. There are numerous abandoned villages, homes, and settlements in the forest, with many of them considered extremely haunted.
It eventually became a place for outlaws to seek refuge with one of the most famous being John Bacon, a British loyalist that murdered 19 members of the Continental Army in their sleep.
The Pine Barrens is a desolate, unnerving, and confusing place that has instilled both fear and wonderment into the hearts of those around it.
Dark Legends of The Forest
The most terrifying of the legends born out of the Pine Barrens is that of the Jersey Devil.
Reported by settlers in the 1700s, the Jersey Devil is described as a kangaroo-like creature with the face of a horse, the head of a dog, bat-like wings, a horn, and a tale. The story goes that a woman named Deborah Leeds was in labor with her 13th child.
The pain of the labor was so severe that she yelled “Get the devil out!” And that it did.
What emerged was the terrifying creature that would later captivate the minds of the people of New Jersey for generations. It flew off and into the Pine Barrens only to be seen in the most desolate of places.
Throughout the years, multiple sightings have been reported. Bounties have been put out for the creature, as it was often to blame for dead livestock. People have heard, seen, and felt the Jersey Devil however, no photographs exist of the creature.
With its proximity to the Pine Barrens, Atlantic City has had its fair share of sightings. One lighthouse keeper of the Absecon Lighthouse reported that he saw it from his tower, flying above the pines.
But the beast was long gone before he could tell anyone or do anything about it.
What Else Stalks The Pine Barrens?
- A young boy who was the victim of a hit-and-run
- An African American doctor named James Still
- The headless spirit of the infamous pirate, Captain Kidd
- Maimed workers from the milling industry
9. Hotel Macomber
Hotel Macomber of Cape May, a seaside town a little further south of Atlantic City, is known not only for its Victorian-style grace and beauty but its incredible spiritual activity.
Its long history and pension for disaster turned Cape May into one of the most haunted seaside resort towns in America.
Founded in 1621, it drew in early colonists with its fresh sea air and sunshine. By 1766, the town was being advertised as such and it is considered the oldest vacation resort in America.
A century later, a great fire ravaged much of the town and since, it’s become infested with spirits and otherwordly beings.
Rebuilding a Ghost Town
The Hotel Macomber was a welcomed addition to the resort town when it was built in 1916. The introduction of the automobile was bringing more and more visitors to the town, which was desperately needed due to the high competition being produced by Atlantic City.
It still operates as a hotel today.
But instead of the quaint decorations and gorgeous views, many visitors come to witness the guests that never left. The most famous of them all is the “Trunk Lady.”
Irene Wright would come to visit the Macomber every summer, always choosing room #10. With her was her large trunk for her extended summer stay.
She was known to wear an almost unbearable amount of perfume and would stay every year until her passing in the 1970s.
Her scent is still heavy in room #10 and many hear the sound of her trunk being dragged behind her. Doors open and close in the room and often bang quite loudly.
In the Union Park dining room, lights often flicker on their own. A manager once described the sight of a woman in old-fashioned clothing floating through the kitchen.
Another spirit said to occupy the hotel is that of a former waitress who choked on a chicken bone in the dining room. She and the Trunk Lady appear to be one of many as EVP recordings in room #10 have captured various voices.
Why is the Hotel Macomber haunted?
This popular resort town lodging has been subject to dark tragedies. From an accidental death to a tragic suicide, and the mass death that came from the great fire, the Hotel Macomber is filled with the spirits of a dark time.
The Ghosts of the Hotel Macomber
- The “Trunk Lady”
- A former waitress who choked to death
- A man known as “Growler” resides in the basement
- Former owner Sarah Davis
- Sarah’s young daughter, Cannel
- The spirit of a pleasant farmer
- An arguing couple is primarily heard in the hallways
10. Surf City Hotel
Further north of Atlantic City is yet another beach resort town. The area is known for such a thing as well as for its influx of haunted locations and hotels.
The Surf City Hotel was not the only building that stood in this location. Prior to its construction, and after a great fire in 1874, there was the “Mansion of Health.” Yet another claim to the holistic properties of the Jersey Shore.
This mansion was built in 1822 and for many years was the largest hotel in the region. Standing at three stories tall it became a beacon of hope for many and an untimely final destination for others. In 1854, the Powhatan ran a shore along the Jersey coast after a violent winter storm.
300 German passengers lost their lives.
Their bodies became scattered across the shoreline with the majority of them ending up in modern-day Surf City. 140 dead passengers were found along the shoreline of Long Beach Island where Surf City is located.
Mansion of Health manager Edward Jennings was entrusted with watching over the corpses, acquiring the new title of “Wreckmaster.” Jennings stored the bodies in the lower areas of his three-story mansion and proceeded to rob them of all their belongings.
He was soon exposed for his dastardly deeds and was chased out of town, later being killed in a bar fight.
Lost Souls of the Powhatan
The passengers of the Powhatan were eventually buried in a pauper’s graves. Lacking any proper documents or valuables due to the theft of Jennings they forever lay in a state of namelessness.
Their tormented spirits still haunt the modern-day Surf City Hotel. It was recently relocated but it appears the spirits have followed the building.
Many see the sobbing spirits of a woman and her small child on an upper balcony. Others claim they have heard the screams of the dying passengers late at night.
Why is Surf City Hotel haunted?
The bodies of the Powhatan, a ship that wrecked off the coast and killed over 300, were stored here in 1854. Valuables and jewelry were stolen from them by the hotel owner. Their spirits remain behind because of it.
While Atlantic City may have originally toted its fresh sea air and sunny beaches as a cure-all for illness and ailments, it appears it was not enough to prevent it from being one of the most haunted areas along the East Coast.
Its hotels, casinos, and surrounding towns retain the energy left behind by those who lost it all on a gamble. Whether that gamble was on one’s own health or the illustrious dollar remains irrelevant. They all mingle here together.
Eternally hoping for a way out.
Next time you visit Atlantic City be sure to take a ghost tour with US Ghost Adventures to see it for yourself!
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