When I told my co-workers that I’d be open to staying in an allegedly haunted B&B just to see what happened, they were pretty freaked. “What if something crazy happens?” they asked. “Aren’t you scared?”
The truth is, I was not. While as a kid I was frightened out of my mind over stories of headless Anne Boleyn and the mirror-dwelling Bloody Mary, I’m basically what you’d call an agnostic now. I’m open to believing that pretty much anything could be true. I just don’t know. Plus, even if ghosts are for real, I figure, why would that mean they’d be inherently scary?
Truth be told, I was very much hoping for a paranormal encounter at the historic Carpe Diem Guesthouse Inn in Provincetown, Mass., on the tip of Cape Cod, where it was first a private home but has been operating as a guesthouse since the early ’60s. Just before that, it was a lodging house, and in the 1940s and ’50s, a funeral home — a bit of history which lends the place a creepy air right from the start.
But the ghost that apparently haunts the place — people say his name is Kevin — is much more modern, being the spirit of a man who died in the 1980s.
“The story is that Kevin had a case of pneumonia, and rather than going and getting medical assistance, he made himself a home brew to try to treat it,” Carpe Diem’s co-owner since 2015, Paul Graves, tells me. “And apparently it didn’t work very well.”
When Graves and his partner, Stephen Hooper, bought the inn, they “were told different stories. And they have remained pretty consistent, the things people talk about,” he says. The place is a regular stop on the Provincetown Ghost Tour, which operates during the summer, and it pops up in online searches about haunted inns. Basically, Graves says he’s learned that, “Since the day he died, anything that’s unexplained has been attributed to Kevin.”
Employees at Carpe Diem say they have experienced a strong sense of being watched, particularly in the basement, and also of hearing mysterious noises — televisions going on and off, fans changing speeds of their own volition, the sound of people running or falling when no one was around to be the cause. One guest complained of hearing vacuuming above her room at midnight — even though there was no room, only a roof, on that higher floor — and others have been plagued through the night by the sound of whispering in their ears or endless strange nightmares.
“Sometimes I’m folding laundry and I see a shadow,” Sophia, who has worked at the inn for seven years and lives in a room in the basement, tells me. “A dark shadow just walks by. I thought it was a person. I learned it’s Kevin … The previous owners said they heard things breaking and then they would go upstairs and there was nothing there.” But, she says of Kevin, “He’s a friendly guy, I’m not scared.”
Graves echoes that, noting, “Kevin is not an unpleasant person at all. He seems to be a bit particular about the way things are done, which is perhaps not unusual for somebody who was an innkeeper. He is not at all a threatening presence.”
The day I checked into the William Shakespeare Room — which I’d chosen because it is allegedly the most haunted of the 18 on offer — there was a storm brewing over the bay, creating a perfect gray-green light to creep through the windows. But I wanted more than some well-timed thunder guiding my experience, and so, before nightfall, I reached out to Adam Berry — paranormal investigator, co-host of Travel Channel’s Kindred Spirits and, conveniently, part-time resident of Provincetown, where there is purportedly an endless population of ghosts.
“If I had to guess why,” Berry told me, it’s because so many buildings are very old, and there’s “something different about the energy here at the end of the world — the light and energy sort of feeds into not only falling in love, but becoming entranced, and some of that energy sort of gets trapped.” Plus, he added, many times spirits wind up going and staying in “their happiest place,” and Provincetown is that place for many.
Berry suggested that, in order to facilitate a Kevin encounter at Carpe Diem, “Don’t look too hard,” he said. “Just open yourself up to the possibility of something happening. If you look too hard, you’ll miss the obvious. This is not going to be a ‘Hollywood ghost.’”
Then, Berry suggested, “I would go where they see him the most. Then talk to him as if he’s there. You don’t want to patronize them — just speak as if they are a person in the room. Make them aware that you’re there for a purpose, and see if you can get an interaction. Remember, when the spiritualist movement began, they didn’t have any technology … There’s something to be said for when the hair stands up on the back of your neck.”
Record the attempt, Berry added, and then play back the video with headphones, listening for Kevin’s response, since, most likely, “you’re not going to hear it live.”
Finally, he advised, “When it happens, you’re going to know it.”
Before bedtime, I watched some of the ghost hunting shows on TV — not my usual fare — to try and get in the mood. Then I turned out the lights, turned on my camcorder and began speaking directly to Kevin, trying not to patronize and instead asking him questions — “Are you here? Do you like this room? Why do you hang around?” I didn’t hear anything, and I didn’t feel anyone’s presence. And then I got under the covers and tried to sleep, which I did, albeit fitfully.
The next morning, after chatting with some of the staffers and gorging on a generous breakfast, I checked out, convinced that I’d have nothing on all my recorded hours to show for my “haunted” stay. But then, while my video was being edited, the producer sent me a snippet with the message, “Um, not joking, but I think I hear a ghost voice in one of your videos … I swear I can hear someone whisper, ‘I’m here.’”
I listened immediately and lo and behold, I heard it. It gave me chills. I had my family listen, then my co-workers, and they all heard it too, some throwing down their headphones in stunned fear. I have no idea what the voice was, and I’m definitely less skeptical than when I went in, but I had a nagging question: Why would a ghost have to communicate so randomly and quietly and in a way only picked up on a recording?
That’s “electric voice phenomenon,” Berry says. “We don’t know why it happens, we don’t know if it’s a frequency thing … but you’ll know EVP because it doesn’t sound distant, it sounds really close to the mic.” Yep, that’s how it sounded.
“Why not say, ‘Hi, hello, how are you?’ … We can look at it in several ways,” he adds. “Maybe they didn’t have enough energy. Maybe they never reach out to anyone ever, and they’re like, ‘Wait, I can talk to you?’ We don’t know why they speak the way they speak … So to get an EVP at all is beyond exciting.”
In fact, Berry suggests that I should go back for more. That, I can’t promise. But I will say this: My perspective on ghosts is forever shifted.
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