Innkeeper Inez Conover says they arrived before she did and they've never left.
Most visitors to Bewitched and Bedazzled Bed and Breakfast in Rehoboth Beach stay in rooms straight out of the TV show “Bewitched” or glamorous Hollywood movies featuring Humphrey Bogart and Bette Davis.
But the bed and breakfast also has some long-term guests: ghosts.
Conover said as soon as she took over the bed and breakfast more than a decade ago, she began hearing the stories.
“I had staff literally run out of the building next door a couple times, scared to death. Men, not women,” she said.
Conover said ghost encounters were first limited to furniture being moved around, or a bed that was perfectly made one minute looking like someone had slept in it the next.
Chef Patrick Richardson said, “In this house, there’s been several occasions when we haven’t had any guests in the house, but I go out to walk the dogs and when we come back the doors are open and the beds are messed up. Like someone has been playing around on them.”
The newest ghost is that of Eleanor Sigsbee, who was staying in the building and died there at the age of 13. Eleanor was the daughter of Captain Charles Sigsbee, skipper of the USS Maine, which was sunk in Havana, touching off the Spanish-American War in 1898.
Conover said Eleanor’s ghost was first seen on Aug. 3.
Aquilla Harris, a staff member, was doing laundry and saw a little girl standing in the hallway behind her. Conover said Harris was so spooked she ran out of the house outside, where Conover had her describe what she saw.
Harris wrote everything down, even drawing a detailed picture of what she saw, noting Eleanor's dull complexion and dusty black shoes.
“She saw a full apparition,” Conover said.
Ghost sightings at Bewitched and Bedazzled have become so common that Conover leaves books in each room for guests to describe what they have seen.
The weekend of Feb. 9 saw Delmarva Historic Haunts host its “Paranormal 101,” a special event in which members of the public participate. Investigator Jeff Brown said the weekend featured a course where inexperienced guests could learn about paranormal investigations before conducting one. Brown said about half of the 10 to 12 people who participated – not everyone stayed both days – had prior experience with a paranormal investigation.
After an inaugural visit in November, Brown said this investigation yielded similar results, with responses to questions with noise and hits on the investigators’ electromagnetic field meters. Brown said paranormal beings will give off electromagnetic energy that can be picked up by the meters.
The investigation also included digital audio recordings and videotape, both of which Brown said are being reviewed.
Conover said paranormal investigators have identified four children who haunt the houses. And that doesn’t include other paranormal phenomenon that she has seen over the years, such as glass tables being flipped upside down, things moving around or disappearing and even what seemed like a party going on downstairs.
“I had no sleep. It was like party central," she said. "You could smell cigarettes, you could smell pipes and you could smell liquor."
She said after two or three weeks, she sat in the living room and said, "OK, guys here’s the story: You guys can party all you want, just keep it down and no running up and down the stairs!” Conover recalled.
She said ghosts are not in all the rooms, and guests who know about the ghosts before checking in can request rooms where no activity has occurred.
Conover said she believed in ghosts before owning the bed and breakfast, having had encounters before.
“In my own home, I saw this guy walk up and sit on the side of my bed. I wouldn’t sleep on that side of the bed anymore. Totally changed my habits for life,” she said.
Bewitched and Bedazzled is one of several sites in the Cape Region Delmarva Historic Haunts has investigated. Lewes Historical Society and the Cape May-Lewes Ferry terminal are among other places that have been investigated, as well as New Castle Historical Society and the Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation in Media, Penn.