With the building of the Atlantic Hotel in 1875, Ocean City has seen millions and millions of tourists come and go. The town has a rich history, and much like any historical town, the oldest buildings have become legend with ghost stories and hauntings.
Ocean City Life Saving Station
Built in 1878, the Ocean City Life Saving Station has seen many sailors pulled from wreckages in the icy cold Atlantic. Unfortunately, some of these sailors never saw land even after being saved, succumbing to injuries or hypothermia. Some of these sailors spent their last moments shivering in the station’s vessels being pulled through the waves.
While the station is now a museum, the icy deaths of sailors seems to have stayed with vessels which are now on display in the museum.
Some visitors have even experienced a bone-chilling cold near these life-saving crafts – one a sailor might have felt as hypothermia set in. One woman said she experienced this extreme cold as she peered inside one of the boats. Instead of finding the historic vessel empty, she came face to face with a man dressed in a fisherman’s slicker, pale from his icy passing.
The apparition was gone in an instant, but the sighting sent the woman scrambling out of the museum. But this late fisherman is not the only specter reportedly haunting the walls of the Ocean City Life Saving Station.
Museum staff have their own unexplainable experiences; the most common being of a small blonde boy.
One time near closing time a small blond boy barrelled into the museum. Staff scrambled to find him and his parents, but the child was nowhere to be found. They searched the tower, the boats – everywhere in the museum for this child, but he had vanished without a trace.
However, that’s not the end of this ghostly boy’s appearance. The staff, recently having painted the stairs leading up to the attic of the museum, returned when the paint dried to find one singular small shoe print at the top of the stairs.
Some believe this ghostly child is the culprit behind the hair-raising hauntings of the old arcade prop, a clown by the name of Laffing Sal. Visitors have pressed the button of Laffing Sal only to be greeted by silence. One might think the prop doesn’t work, but many have experienced Sal’s haunting laugh when they least expect it – when no one has pressed the button. Whether it’s faulty wiring, the boyish specter or something even more sinister responsible for the haunting of Laffing Sal, it’s enough to send some people running.
Just a few steps down the boardwalk from the Life-Saving Station, Trimper's Amusements holds its own ghostly encounters – and we aren’t talking about their iconic Haunted House attraction.
It’s actually the iconic carousel – the oldest continuously running carousel in the United States – that holds the ghost of a woman known for her sweet smelling perfume.
The story goes that workers servicing smelled a new scent coming from the antique carousel and asked if the staff had used any new chemicals on the ride as they had never smelled something like this. However, the scent wasn’t industrial. It was sweet and fragrant like perfume.
A staff member caught a whiff of the smell. She knew the smell but couldn’t place it. It was only when she was at a perfume counter that she realized what the smell was. It was a perfume worn by the late Joanne Trimper.
Joanne was known to have loved the carousel and even had a favorite horse – a white one with red roses. After her death, her husband Granville Trimper named the horse after having the name ‘Forever Joanne’ etched into the beautiful horse.
Staff and visitors alike often feel – or more accurately smell – Joanne’s presence near her favorite horse.
As you venture further down the boardwalk, there is another iconic Ocean City landmark haunted by the ghost of a former employee.
At Dolle’s, things have a way of going missing and staff blame their resident ghost, Catherine. Employees and owners often call the spirit out by name when they can’t find something they are looking for saying something like, “Catherine snatched my keys again!”
One of the more iconic stories associated with the klepto-specter is the case of an overturned bag of candies. According to Dolle’s protocol, if a candy wrapped or unwrapped falls to the floor it has to be discarded. One morning when employees came into work, an entire bag of candy had been knocked and scattered across the floor. When reviewing the security footage to find out what happened, staff saw the bag fall over with no one around, pushed by an invisible force.
Apparently, Catherine loves her candy.
Naturally, the hotel that started it all holds a few of its own ghost stories.
Dr. Charles Purnell, who purchased the historic hotel in 1923, still haunts the halls of his hotel. His presence is often felt by guests and staff alike. Guests have even spotted Dr. Purnell around the hotel, not realizing they are being visited by the ghostly ancestor of the hotel owners.
In addition to Dr. Purnell’s hauntings, there is more paranormal activity experienced by employees and guests. Employees have received mystery phone calls from empty rooms, found faucets running in unoccupied rooms, and air conditioners with an unpredictable habit of not working.
One of the spookiest experiences was after a man came running down the stairs of the hotel and turned his key in a hurry. When they checked on the room, it wasn’t registered to the guest, and not only that the key itself was over 20 years old. Whoever the ghostly person was who returned the key, he must have had some unfinished business at the Atlantic Hotel.
Finally, one of our very own hotels, Plim Plaza, has its own paranormal history.
In the 1890s, savvy business woman Rosalie Shreve built the original Plimhimmon Hotel, a 48-room oceanfront hotel that was a modern wonder at the time. Even after her death in 1920, Rosalie finds a way to help around the hotel.
One employee has said when things get busy at the hotel and restaurants, small tasks find themselves done with seemingly no staff around to have done it. Employees have found clean tables where they were once dirty, wrapped silverware, and one employee even had a lollipop just appear right when they were looking for one.
Rosalie Shreve and the other spirits of these stories are just a few in the many paranormal tales that have haunted Ocean City since its founding years ago. From Shoreham Hotel’s tragic history and Shennigan’s sinister basement spirit to Henry’s Hotel’s ghostly custodian, Ocean City has so much to offer the paranormal lover.
For those interested in hearing firsthand about the ghostly history of the haunted buildings in Ocean City or just want to get into the Halloween spirit, check out Chesapeake Ghost Tours, and if you’re feeling really adventurous, the OC Chamber of Commerce and Ocean City Life Saving Station Museum are hosting an event pairing up attendees with real paranormal investigators for a ghostly experience.