Ghosts of Portsmouth, NH

Photo courtesy Ronnie Seasons.

Portsmouth, NH is haunted. There is no doubt about it, Portsmouth is one of New England’s most haunted cities.

It’s also a delightful area to visit for shopping, dining, and the Portsmouth area’s many attractive beaches.


Strawbery Banke, Marcy Street, Portsmouth, NH. Phone 603-422-7514 (Museum Shop)

      Strawbery Banke (yes, that’s how it’s spelled) is a wonderful historical museum featuring many restored homes representing Portsmouth’s early years. It’s also wonderfully haunted. These are just a few of its ghosts.

Sherburne House is probably the most haunted building at Strawbery Banke. The only documented 17th-century house at the museum, it also has a ghostly history. Captain John Sherburne built the home in 1695, and died just a few years later (in 1698 or 1702… records seem to conflict), before the home was truly complete.

There are notes that Mary and Fernando Huff (Hough) lived in the house in 1681, and took care of the late Henry Sherburne’s mute daughter after his death. The daughter–possibly Rebecca, one of eight children–lived a happy life in that home, and some speculate that she is the “woman in grey” who haunts and protects that house.

The Museum Shop at Dunaway Store looks like an old building, but it was actually constructed in 1967 on the site of an older building. It’s probably the older building that is haunted. People have reported seeing a man in minister’s garb strolling outside the home at dusk, or looking out a window from indoors. Then, he vanishes.

The Visitors’ Center isn’t haunted, but the land just south of it seems to be. Whenever work–building or archaeology–is done nearby, there are reports of a white figure hovering nervously just outside.

Chase House has an odd relationship with ghosts. At least one former volunteer at Chase House reported “something eerie” there at closing time each night in the mid-1990s, and refused to be left alone in the house. Other staff insist that the house isn’t the same Chase House that’s truly haunted.

Strawbery Banke is generally open seven days a week. Call them or check their website for more information.

Portsmouth Public Library (former site at 8 Islington Street), Portsmouth, NH. Phone 603.427.1540.

      [These stories are outdated. They’re from before the library moved to its new location.]

There are at least three ghosts at Portsmouth’s downtown library building at the corner of Islington Street. (The street name is pronounced “ISZ-ling-tunn.”) One looks over the balcony from the upper floor. This may be the ghost of a child. If you’re standing downstairs at the Reference Room (the room nearest Islington Street) and look up, you’ll just catch a glimpse of curly, light brown hair moving quickly away from the railing. The child tends to run around the upper floor, so he or she can appear anywhere, watching from above. Sometimes, when you’re upstairs, you’ll hear light footsteps or soft shuffling noises in the aisle next to where you are. When you look, you may see a brief shadow on the floor, but no figure to explain it. A second ghost likes to whisper “hush” very quietly in the Special Collections room housing their genealogy and history references. That’s the small room tucked around to the right, immediately after entering from the newer, recessed Islington Street entrance. In and around that room, you’ll sense the ghost more than hear him. But, when the ghost is being cranky and stern, you can usually hear the very faint “shhh” sound not far from your ear.

During the lunch hour, a third ghost wanders from across Islington Street, where the health food store is, to the Reference Room. He walks through walls and closed doors, but his clothing generally looks modern-day. That’s baffling. He may be from the very late 19th century, but no earlier.

More Portsmouth Ghosts:

  • Sise Inn‘s ghosts include a prankster (and perhaps his society wife) who likes to raid the ice machine and leave trails of ice cubes along the floor at night. We researched the building and found no tragedies to account for these “Topper-style” ghosts. They may have wandered in from a nearby house where a murder was committed many years ago.Another friendly ghost lingers near the fireplace, keeping watch over the guests. He wants to be sure that everyone’s comfortable.The Sise Inn is at 40 Court Street, just a short walk from the Portsmouth public library, listed above. Visit their website for more information.
  • South Cemetery is delightfully haunted and a pleasant place to walk on a warm summer evening. Fireflies can interfere with ghost photos, but we’ve taken some of our best pictures in this cemetery. When Fiona taught ghost photography in Portsmouth, this is where she and her students took pictures.The best results are about 20 feet inside the South Street entrance, on the left side of the main path as you walk in.Be sure to check the graves that are outside the cemetery wall, just east of the cemetery towards Clough Drive, but be watchful as well; sometimes homeless people camp in that area.You may feel a chill if you enter the cemetery from the path near the corner of Sagamore Avenue and Little Harbor Road. The eerie sensation of fingers pulling at you is most noticeable around dusk, but you’ll still sense something odd there, even in broad daylight.
  • Wentworth Hotel, Wentworth-by-the-Sea – Hollow Hill reader J.S. sent us an update about this grand Victorian-style hotel just north of Portsmouth. Restored and reopened, the ghosts are back as well.
  • New Castle – According to a 1698 story published in London, England, New Castle (also called Newcastle, near Portsmouth) has been haunted by a poltergeist named Lithobolia.

    (Source: Portsmouth Herald, 25 Oct 2003.)

  • Portsmouth’s most haunted private residence?
    A 19th-century house is haunted by several ghosts, producing poltergeist phenomena and translucent ghosts in the kitchen. For a first-person account, read our article Portsmouth, NH – real ghost, private home

4 thoughts on “Ghosts of Portsmouth, NH”

  1. I dont want to say who I am. I worked there. The place was haunted. I worked all over that place. Its getting to be a secret because they are afraid people will not come to live in the home if the secret gets out. They need kids to agree to live there. But, the truth is, its crawling with spirits, and sounds, and apparitions. Staff are scared at times to go into some rooms. Locks switch and lights flash on their own. This is common knowledge to those who are there. Everyone knows. While I was working there, I saw a book rise off a table, stand in mid air, and drop to the ground. After I gulped down this reality, I looked at the name of the book…it was called..”Unholy Magic”. On the front cover was written the words, “A child lost” in red magic marker. As you can guess…I do not work there any longer. There were so many things I witnessed. No one will admit these things happen. Keys that always fit a certain lock will no longer work. Once you DO get in, all the furniture is moved. I had to pry locks open with a credit card, only to find things missing. BEWARE MY FRIENDS. This one is for real!

  2. I remember living there when i was younger and the potters were there. I remember hearing running down the hallway in the girls dorm and hearing screaming and feeling that someone was watching you as you take a i am 42 and i still remember all the crazy stuff that happened there.

  3. I work at the Chameleon Group on Islington Street. Near Hannafords. I had to stay for a couple of weeks a couple of years ago until 8:00 PM. The last person to leave was at 6:00 PM in that building that was shared by another group next to us and upstairs. I swear that there is a ghost in that building. Several times I would be at work at my desk after everyone left and suddenly I would turn around and it felt like somebody had touched my shoulder. I looked around and nobody was there.

    Recently my co-worker has been staying after hours and she told me she told her boss she felt that a ghost was roaming after everyone left. Our boss laughed but I told her that I felt the same thing. I was trying to find something to indicate if there was a graveyard or a house that used to be on this property but could not find any information. It would be interested to know if there really may be a ghost wondering around the building after everyone leaves for the night.

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