Spectacularly Spooky!

Old towns with rich history often have a wealth of an abnormal nature too! Rub elbows with the folks who explore the nooks and crannies of those historical sites, you’ll hear of those scary and sordid old tales from centuries past. Listen long enough to the locals and you’re bound to hear the legendary tales of woe and horror that sprinkled their childhood (I’m sure plenty a granny employed them with a hidden giggle to keep a mischievous tike from wandering too far.) Recently, I jumped in to the Halloween spirit and took the Lewes Historical Society’s Lewes Legends Tour with its sprinkling of tales of the paranormal world.  

Tour guide, master storyteller and former teacher, Bill Hicks claims he was a skeptic on the topic of ghosts until he had a few unusual experiences. He shares one tale. Ascending the stairs to the second floor of the Burton-Ingram House on the grounds of the LHS, “I felt a tightening in my chest, like I was having a heart attack,” he said. He moved down one step and the pain stopped. He moved back up a step and the pain reoccurred. “Now I usually don’t go any further than the landing,” he added.  

And there is the tale about the old disk-driven music box on the second floor of the house. More than one person has heard music playing from the box when no one was on the second floor. Just recently, Hicks was showing a Society member the exact location where he experienced his heart pain and was standing a few feet away from the music box when it started to play. Hicks has also heard footsteps upstairs in the house as he was turning off the lights and closing the door after a tour. (Makes one think of the Wiley-Wilson murder but you’ll have to pay the price of admission for that story!)

On the Legends tour, Hicks tells a story about the Cannonball House (bombarded by the British in the War of 1812). Back in the 60s, spirits apparently insisted on rearranging the tools of a maintenance man who was restoring the (now) museum. The man would neatly arrange his tools each night, only to find them scattered the next day, with a door to the attic ajar. After several occurrences, Fred Hudson nailed the latch to the door shut but the next morning, Hudson found that the nail had popped out, and the tools were scattered. With stories like that, and the one of Susan Rowland who mysteriously got her dress caught in the fireplace there (burning to death in 1917), it’s no wonder why it’s considered one of the most haunted in Delaware!

Donna Siekman used a K-II meter on the Legends tour to detect any supernatural beings. It is an electromagnetic field detector. She got a reaction pointing the meter up a flight of steps in the Cannonball House and an even bigger reaction when Hicks was wrapping up the tour with a few of his own odd experiences in the Tavern.   

“The meter was going crazy, all the way into the red zone,” she said. The red zone indicates a high energy source.  

Hicks at the Tavern

Donna Siekman owns a hair salon in Wilkes-Barre, PA joined me on a tour. With her own K-II meter, she measured electromagnetic fields for abnormalities, a self admitted “ghost hunter”, she identified areas where “The meter was going crazy, all the way into the red zone,” she said.

The Legends Walking Tour takes place on Wednesdays (some Thursdays) and Sundays at 6 p.m. from April through October so the season is coming to a close. Due to the nature of the tour content, it is not recommended for children under the age of eight. LHS also offers full blown “Haunted Histories” tours, but they are sold out for the current year.  

LHS definitely explores the nooks and crannies of Lewes and has much to offer across the historical spectrum. Hicks himself also serves as the bartender on First Fridays at the Tavern, a reenactment of Revolutionary Way Era life. Information about all tours is available on the Lewes Historical Society’s website.  

By Mary Jo Tarallo, Guest Journalist

Mary Jo Tarallo spent much of her career in public relations with various non-profits and spent 40 years involved with the ski industry as a journalist, public relations director for a national trade association and as executive director of the Learn to Ski and Snowboard initiative. Prior to her ski industry involvement she worked for the Maryland International Center in Baltimore and United Way of Central Maryland. She won a Gold Award for TV programming for a United Way simulcast that starred Oprah Winfrey. She has been cited for her work by numerous organizations. Mary Jo grew up in Baltimore, attended the University of Maryland and Towson University, lived in Washington, DC for 21 years and has been a full time resident of Rehoboth Beach and Milton since May 2019.  

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