It seems the more you tell ghost stories, the more you get told. They have an infectious way of coming out of people. The second I bring up a ghost story I know of I am either met with everyone in ear shot telling their own, or total ambivalence. I certainly enjoy engaging those with their own stories much more.
So when I first heard of Annette Hinkle's Sag Harbor Ghost Tours I was excited to talk to her about all she knew. We have talked plenty of times now about all things ghostly and if any of you ever get a chance to join in on one of her Haunted Sag Harbor walking tours, I highly encourage it! But if you don't live in the area or just can never seem to make it, she has kindly written about some of these ghostly stories for us to share on our blog.
I would also suggest if you can, to sign up for the Sag Harbor Whaling Museum's Ghost Stories event on October 23rd for a chance to hear maybe some of these and many more real life ghost stories! You can get you tickets for their event on their website here.
By Annette Hinkle
It’s funny, but I can’t honestly say that I’ve ever encountered a ghost. Sure, I’ve had some weird, unexplainable things happen nearby — a glass exploding on its own accord, for example, or that time the water faucet in my bathroom sink turned on at full force when I was nowhere near it — but those are the sorts of events that could have a plausible explanation. I’ve certainly experienced nothing definitive enough to make me think, “that was definitely a ghost.”
Yet despite my own, specter-free experience, one thing is certain — over the course of the last decade or more, I’ve encountered more than my fair share of ghost stories.
That’s because as a longtime editor and writer at the Sag Harbor Express (and now the Arts & Living editor of the Express News Group which covers the whole East End), people in the community know to come to me when they have an interesting historic tidbit or a quirky human interest story to share. Somehow, along the way, I also became the purveyor of the ghost story — particularly, ghost stories set in Sag Harbor, which, in my limited experience, seems to be a hotbed for spirits.
It all began back in the early aughts when I was talking with Tony Garro of the Southampton Trails Preservation Society at a holiday party at the Sag Harbor Express office. Somehow, the subject of ghosts happened to come up and Tony told a sort of strange tale of an unidentified noise he once heard while alone at a house deep in the woods as he was setting up for a trails group event.
I had nothing to offer, other than the faucet and the glass, but we hit upon the idea of trying to find enough stories to cobble together a haunted walking tour of Sag Harbor and reached out to local museum directors and others for tales we could share. We came up with a good and spooky few of them that first year, all set in Sag Harbor, and they were pretty decent, even if there was a twinge of “urban legend” folklore to them… You know the kind, “I heard this happened to a friend of a friend.”
Every October thereafter, Tony and I offered our annual haunted walking tour of the village, and along the way, a funny thing happened. As we were making our rounds, inevitably, someone on the tour would point to a property we knew nothing about and say, “Can I tell you about what happened to me in that house?”
Of course they could. And they did. And over time, we replaced our urban legends and “friend of a friend” stories with first-hand ghostly encounters told to us by people we really knew with real credibility. And why not? When you look at Sag Harbor, with its shadow-filled streets and 18th and 19th century dwellings, you understand that it’s the ideal place to imagine things that go bump in the night. That’s even more true at this time of year when the sun sets early, the cold winds pick up and dry fallen leaves swirl in the streets.
But perhaps those bumps aren’t always the result of an over-active imagination …maybe just maybe, there’s something more to it.
Here, without further ado, are a few of the tales of haunted Sag Harbor.
Murf’s Backstreet Tavern on Division Street is a veritable institution. Not only is it a well-known spot for knocking back a few drinks, there have also been stories about spirits of another kind inhabiting the bar as well.
The late Tom Murphy bought the building in 1976 and for years, he operated the tavern that still bears his name. Tom wasn’t shy about sharing stories of his resident ghost, whom he affectionately called “Aggie.”
Before it was a bar, Murf’s had been a home and Agatha King, he explained, lived, and eventually died, there in the 1940s. According to Tom, her body was laid out in the front room during her wake.
In life, Aggie was a teetotaler who did not approve of drinking and debauchery, and for that reason, Tom believed in death, her spirit haunted the place.
It certainly looks like Murf’s would have a ghost. The building is one of the oldest in Sag Harbor. It dates to the 1790s and was likely moved to the village from Connecticut. Inside, not much has changed — it still has rustic wooden floors, an ancient brick fireplace and thick beams that lend to the ambiance.
Then there’s Aggie.
“One night before I was open to the public, I was down under the bar doing some repair work … and that’s when the door opened and immediately closed again,” said Tom in an interview a few years before his death. “I got up and asked ‘Who’s there?’”
No one was there.
“I figured that maybe it was the wind, but then I realized that the door opens out so it had to be pulled open,” said Tom, who had been told about the presence of a ghost by the previous owner.
“I thought, OK, it’s my turn now,” he said. “Let’s get it on.”
On cold winter nights when he would go upstairs to the office to total up the receipts, Tom reported that he would often get