A Haunting in Barnstable
His Haunted and History Walking Tour meets at the U.S. Coast Guard Heritage Museum/Old Jail on Route 6A in Barnstable Village, and the one-mile walk stops at eight destinations in two spine-chilling hours. Bartlett encounters many skeptics, who steadfastly insist they don’t believe in ghosts. “And then they have this sudden reaction when they’re actually scared,” he says. “I see them getting closer to their loved ones, especially when I turn off the lights in the Old Jail.”
There are two types of hauntings: residual and intelligent. A residual haunting is a recording of past energy in which the spirit does not interact. An intelligent haunting has been described as a feeling that the spirit is attempting to communicate, like tugging on your clothes. Bartlett’s experience in the courthouse basement was an example of an intelligent haunting.
One of the first stops on the tour is the nearly 200-year-old Barnstable Superior Courthouse. Built in 1835, the courthouse is reputed to have been the scene of numerous supernatural occurrences. Judges have reported seeing dark, shadowy figures strolling across the balcony during trials, which prompted Bartlett to conduct research in 2006 with a Trifield meter that detects fluctuations in the electrical and magnetic fields. It was in the courthouse basement that he heard a whisper calling out “Derek, Derek.” (He was alone at the time.)
At the current location of the Barnstable Tavern, where a hotel stood from 1840 until 1940, Bartlett tells mesmerized walkers about doors inexplicably opening and closing and phantom footsteps in the hallway. It’s at this point, he maintains, that some of his frightened wayfarers head for their cars, refusing to proceed any further. Some of the younger walkers, he says, have trouble sleeping through the night after a tour.
“You can’t always expect something to happen, but it’s really interesting when it does,” says Nathanial Ayala of Hyannis, a regular tour visitor.
Cobb’s Hill Cemetery is perhaps the tour’s most unnerving stop. “You are entering one of the most actively haunted cemeteries on Cape Cod,” Bartlett announces upon arrival. Dating to the 17th century, iron bars border the east and west sides of the ancient burial ground—they were originally placed to keep the spirits in. Walkers are encouraged to stroll past the gravestones with flashlights in hand, dimly illuminating the pitch-black night while searching for signs of life among the dead.
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