A Haunting in Barnstable - Cape Cod LIFE Publications

A Haunting in Barnstable

Ghosthunter Derek Bartlett gives thrill-seekers a glimpse of the paranormal presence in Barnstable Village.

Photo by Chrissy Caskey

The building at 3217 Main St. in Barnstable Village doesn’t look like it’s haunted. But don’t tell that to the lawyer who rented an office there a few years ago. He was working late one night, heard a strange noise, and saw the door latch to a closet drop down. Things got even more eerie the following day when he witnessed a ghostly woman entering his room, wearing a dress and carrying a hatchet. In the next room, he reported seeing a woman churning butter next to the fireplace. He immediately broke his lease. Perhaps not coincidentally, the building is now for sale.

Today, it marks one of the stops on nightly Haunted and History Walking Tours of Barnstable Village led by ghost hunter Derek Bartlett. Bartlett has lectured on the paranormal at colleges and universities and is the founder of the Cape and Islands Paranormal Research Society (CAIPRS). He maintains that he has seen ghosts, heard their footsteps, and even had them whisper his name in the creepy darkness of a centuries-old courthouse. He’s happy to tell his audiences all about it. And many times, even the doubters walk away as frightened true believers.

Imaginations run wild as Bartlett weaves fantastic tales of ghosts sitting by windows, turning doorknobs, moving furniture, stamping on ancient floorboards, and demanding that unwelcome intruders stay away. He spins stories about the Great Marsh that runs from Sandwich to Yarmouth, where kayakers went mysteriously missing, never to be found. Along with these menacing tales, he offers a history lesson on the village’s picturesque Main Street, from the Barnstable Superior Courthouse where Daniel Webster once tried cases, to an inn that was visited by Abraham Lincoln to, naturally, a hillside cemetery with a reputation for its many ethereal apparitions.

Bartlett, 39, grew up listening to his mother’s ghost stories and watching television shows on the paranormal. He began researching paranormal activity in 2000 after taking a photograph that he could not explain. Bartlett had attempted to photograph a woman sitting on a bed. But the flash failed, and when he got home and developed the film, he noticed a blurry image of the woman and what resembled a streak of lightning in front of her. There was no light source in the vicinity.

He founded CAIPRS the following year. A former Marine, he says that while ghost hunting a black cloud of energy has followed him home, and he claims to have been punched, choked, and pushed to the ground by invisible forces. He started leading tours in 2005. He conducts nightly haunted, history walking tours, and ghost hunting tours from April to mid-November in Barnstable Village. His ghost hunting tours are held on Monday and Friday nights. He also has themed tours that include a walking history tour sponsored by the Barnstable Historical Society and a private, 90-minute “Love You to Death Haunted Tour.”