Charles J. Adams III,
Cape May Ghost Stories, Book Two
(Exeter House, 1997)

Some ghost-story collections attempt to create a mood. Others try to explain ghostly occurrences through a scientific or historic perspective. And some exist primarily as a souvenir for casually curious tourists.

The second volume of Cape May Ghost Stories falls in the latter category. Charles J. Adams III, author and primary researcher for the book, spends so much time heaping praise on the resort town's Victorian bed & breakfast establishments that I have to wonder if the tourism board provided a fee for his service.

An overly developed sense of drama in the writing and the "spooky lighting" employed in a photograph of the author (achieved, no doubt, by holding a flashlight under his chin when the picture was snapped) make it plain this book is not intended for a serious student of the supernatural.

There's little hard evidence presented here, just circumstantial testimony and colloquial tradition. Even the "witnesses" Adams interviews often seem reluctant to say they actually believe the stories they're telling. From the tone, I can't even be sure if Adams believes in ghosts.

For the idly curious, however, it's a fun keepsake of Cape May. Anyone who has wandered through the town has certainly been captivated by its beautiful assortment of Victorian houses, now largely converted into colorful B&Bs, and it's a pleasant diversion to imagine them populated by friendly spirits from an earlier age. And friendly spirits are largely what Adams gives us -- there aren't as many wandering pirates and seaman's widows as you might expect for a coastal town, but a fair number of dead people seem to be keeping residence in those grand old homes.

People who've spent time in Cape May know how hard it is to leave. Adams, assisted in his research by David J. Seibold, gives us reason to suspect that it's harder to leave then we realize -- perhaps even death can't tear some folks away from the oceanside resort.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 23 March 2002

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