With its storied history of whaling, wealth, and water, it’s no wonder that Nantucket Island is home to many ghost stories. Whether you’re a believer in supernatural happenings or not, Nantucket offers fun stories to entertain, spook, and intrigue you! Whether their hauntings are fictional or real, estates that line Nantucket’s streets have long and fascinating histories, including the original Nantucket Ghost Walk and rumors of old haunted buildings.
The story behind Nantucket Island
Nantucket Island is 30 miles off the coast of Massachusetts, comfortably set apart from the mainland. The island’s name is derived from an Algonquin word meaning “far-away land.” The island is also known as the “Gray Lady of the Sea.” This haunting moniker was coined by sailors who named it for the fog that swept in quickly, leaving the island and its coastline cloaked in a quiet, otherworldly mist of thick fog. Nantucket’s historic lighthouses have warned sailors off of rocks in heavy winds and waves. Unfortunately, not all sailors survived the gales, leading to several maritime ghost stories as well.
Spooky stories of the supernatural occurrences on the island of Nantucket include rumors of flickering lights, slamming doors, disembodied footsteps and laughter, and the lingering scents of floral perfume. Visitors and locals alike have had spooky encounters that have morphed into legends over the years and tellings.
Stories of the spirits of long passed whaling captains have settled around the island, not unlike the ghostly fog that swirls. Chairs rock themselves, empty by the fireplaces of their stately homes. The ghosts of ministers roaming the bell towers of their church’s years after their deaths. Bootleggers lurking in the shadows of what was rumored to have been a prohibition speakeasy. The spirit of a Puritan woman is known for harassing unwed couples who scandalously share a bedroom in a local bed and breakfast.
Original Nantucket Ghost Walk
For those intrigued by the ghostly goings-on of the Grey Lady of the Sea, consider joining one of the Nantucket ghost walks offered. They are great outdoor activities on Nantucket and a perfect thing to do on Nantucket in October or any time of year! Not only are they a fun way to spend an evening, but they are also a great way to learn about history, imagining what things were like on yesterday’s island.
The original Nantucket Ghost Walk is the island’s first and oldest town ghost walk. It takes visitors on an 80-minute stroll to the island’s five most haunted locales. The tour features two possible routes, the town route, and the cemetery route. The cemetery route takes about 90 mins and covers 1 ⅓ miles. The Walk stops at Old North Burial Ground, Oldest House, and visits two haunted hotels! The town route visits five haunted locations on the island, takes about 80 mins, and covers 1 mile. The walks are on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights thru October and cost $25 for adults, $20 for seniors, $15 for teens,and $10 for kids aged 7-2, cash only.
If you don’t want to brave the spooky ghost walks, you can join the festive Thanksgiving or Christmas Strolls to come. For more information, contact Nantucket Walking Tours at 508-332-0953.
The most haunted locales in the island
Explore the Jared Coffin House
Notoriously haunted spots on the island include the Jared Coffin House, a three-story mansion built by the successful shipowner for whom the house is now named. The house was constructed at the height of the island’s lucrative whaling days. It is said that the Coffin only lived in the house on Nantucket briefly before moving closer to Boston. Regardless, many believe the ghost Jared Coffin returned to the island after his death and still lingers in the house.
The Jared Coffin House is now a historic downtown hotel. Employees and guests report seeing an old man rocking in a chair by the fireplace or a chair rocking itself. There is also a rumored haunting by a Puritan woman who scowls at unwed couples sharing a bedroom at the Inn.
George C. Gardiner House
The George C. Gardiner House, located at 141 Main Street, was long thought to be haunted. In reality, the specter of a messy divorce led the house to be neglected and to fall into disrepair. The New York Times published a piece titled “A Real Estate Mystery on Proper Nantucket” in July of 2001, detailing the house’s neglect and the vindictive reasons behind it.
Despite the more human hauntings of the house, rumors of rattling silverware and other spooky occurrences have persisted, consistent with the then-dilapidated appearance of the historic downtown home. The house was renovated in 2005, and the ghostly occurrences seem to have tapered off with the upgrades and repairs.
The Chicken Box
Other spooky locations include The Chicken Box. Rumors say that it was a prohibition-era speakeasy and is now the home of several bootlegging Nantucket ghosts. Other haunting attractions include The Unitarian Church, where an old minister roams the bell tower, and a few other old hotels rumored to have ghostly guests.
Nantucket Ghost Books
If you can’t get enough of Nantucket ghosts and haunted history, consider picking up one of the books on the subject. These include Nantucket Hauntings, The Ghosts of Nantucket, and Haunted Nantucket Island. You can also continue on to read more tales of haunted Cape Cod.