Wentworth by the Sea, NH and ME – Ghosts Revisited

Hotel Wentworth ghost hunting
Hotel photo modified from a picture by Chip Griffin.

On the northeast side of Portsmouth, at New Castle, a grand Victorian hotel overlooks sailboats, fishing boats and yachts.

For generations, the Wentworth Hotel, also called Wentworth-by-the-Sea, or “Hotel Wentworth,” was a summer destination for wealthy families.

Built in 1874, this hotel was synonymous with ‘opulence’ through the 1960s. However, times changed and – by the late 1970s – the next generation showed less interest in their parents’ vacation choices.

As a guest during the waning days of the Wentworth’s popularity, I encountered some of the hotel’s ghosts.

An Encounter with a Wentworth Ghost

At that point, the fourth floor was dusty and abandoned.

Decades earlier, it had housed servants. Usually, they were a mix of English and Irish immigrants. They’d arrived with affluent families staying at the hotel.

But, by the late 1960s, the fourth floor was strictly off-limits to small children… which was exactly why I went there.

I’d sneak off when my parents were busy with golf lessons, formal afternoon tea, or while they were swimming laps at one of the hotel’s pools.

My first trip to the fourth floor wasn’t an idle visit. I’d seen a woman in a long dark dress, and a white apron and cap, dash up a narrow staircase from the third to the fourth floor.

After waiting until she was near the top of the dusty stairs, I followed her.

But, at the top of the stairs, she’d vanished.

I thought she’d slipped into one of the tiny servants’ rooms on that floor, but I couldn’t find her anywhere. I roamed from one room to the next, noting torn floral wallpaper, rickety wooden chairs and sagging cots.

Eventually, I realized that the only footprints in the dusty hallway were mine.

That was the first of many encounters with ghosts on the fourth floor and the turrets of the Wentworth Hotel.

Every summer, I explored the “off limits” areas of the hotel. Now and then, I’d see an odd flickering light or shadow. Sometimes, I’d see translucent apparitions, and follow them. But – always – they’d vanish.

Those ghostly encounters are among the reasons I developed a lifelong fascination with ghosts and haunted places.

A Return to the Wentworth Hotel

In February 2008, I returned to the Wentworth. I was taking pictures and double-checking my stories for Weird Encounters, the sequel to the book, Weird Hauntings. (As I did in Weird Hauntings, I’ve described some of my favorite first-person tales of real ghosts.)

Entering the front door of the Wentworth hotel was like returning home. It took me a minute to get my bearings. The hotel has been remodeled at least once since I was a guest.

But, because I’d spent so many childhood summers at the Wentworth, I had no trouble finding my way back to the fourth floor and its cozy rooms.

Today, they’re not dusty little rooms any more.  The Wentworth is a Marriott hotel, so the fourth floor is as opulent as the rest of the resort.

Still Haunted… but only by the very best ghosts, of course

On the fourth floor, I could feel that familiar, homely ‘ghost feeling’, especially at the staircase landings near the hallway ends.

Twice, I saw figures appear and vanish, but perhaps that’s because I expected them. One was a man dressed in black tie formal attire… or he may have been a butler or valet.

The other figure seemed female, but I didn’t see more than a filmy outline that disappeared in a split second.

It may have been coincidence that the door to one of the most haunted rooms was unlocked and unoccupied during my visit.

Haunted New Hampshire's Hotel WentworthTo me, that suite of rooms feels happily haunted, perhaps by a man of the sea.

He’s a loner. He won’t bother anyone who doesn’t welcome his presence.

I had the idea that he was pleased that I remembered him, and left the door open.

I didn’t see anything, but I smelled the faint aroma of good pipe tobacco.

I said that I was glad to see him.  But, of course, I didn’t actually see anything unusual. It just seemed the polite thing to say.

After that, I left… with a smile. The Wentworth is still a sort of “second home” for me, and my memories are happy ones.

In the future, I’ll return to the Wentworth. On this short tour, I was able to confirm that the ghosts are still there. There’s something very comforting about that.

9 thoughts on “Wentworth by the Sea, NH and ME – Ghosts Revisited”

  1. the smell of pipe tobacco you say you had smelt, (that is a weird sentence) it might have been from the furniture if the sun had been on it for a while. But if it was new furniture then i don’t know what could have caused it.

  2. I was at wentworth recently, 6/09, and I had two very odd experiences. One was of a boy in a pin stripped suit peeking at me from around the corner. A very weird boy of about 14/15. The other was a reflection of an old man sitting on may bed with a martini glass in his hand. The boy may have been a bad dream, but the old man was something entirely different and yet, not scary6.

  3. Are you sure it was pipe tobacco and not just the smell of something musty? I’ve found that pipe tobacco and a damp room smell similar. Still, its quite creepy to smell something so unexpected like that. Great post, by the way.

    1. Jaff, thanks for your comments. It was definitely pipe tobacco. Having lived in several damp locations and worked in a few musty sites, I understand the similarities… but it was pipe tobacco.

  4. Dear Fiona,
    I was born in Portsmouth and went past the Wentworth at least 2 times a week.
    My brother worked at Stawberry Bank and he, my cousin and myself experienced many ghostly encounters, especially gong up the servents skinny, creacky, dark starways.
    We saw shadows, smelled food, and felt very cold.
    Unfortunately, we moved when we were teenagers but still think of Portsmouth as home.
    To anyone who has ever been in a old historical home, believe me, rich aroama of good pipe tobacco is a very pleasant smell and smells nothing like an old musty couch, ect. I am a believer, I have seen too much for too long not to.

  5. I saw Steve A on the fourth floor of the hotel. It was really scary.
    He was eating food while manning the video camera. That is a no no in production but Steve had to eat because he was so nervous as he saw a young boy in a striped suit walking (floating) across the floor.

  6. I spent the night on the fourth floor Feb 19, 2015. I woke in the middle of the night to the feeling of someone sitting down on my bed. Thinking it was my friend I debated going to the bathroom turned over to see her completely asleep in her bed. It was not an uneasy feeling. I just felt a little surprised. The following morning I went to the spa for a massage and was talking with the massage therapist and told her I was on the fourth floor. That is when I learned that the fourth floor is haunted.

  7. My husband and I spent a lovely weekend at Wentworth by the Sea in Portsmouth, NH in February, 2017. We had a room on the 3rd floor. The first night, we noticed the lights kept flickering off and on. This only lasted a few minutes two different times, once about a half hour after we arrived and again later, when we were watching TV. We didn’t give it much thought. The following afternoon we had gone for a walk on the property and I brought my DSLR camera. When we returned to the room, I set the camera on the little round table in the room, situated between the windows. Just before we left to go to dinner I went over to the chair to get my coat and pushed the camera to the center of the table, making sure it was turned off. When we returned to the hotel from dinner out, we walked into the room and the first thing we noticed was that the camera was on the floor in front of the bed, as if someone had given it a good shove off the table. Luckily it was not broken. I have to admit, seeing it on the floor so far from the table, knowing it couldn’t have fallen on its own, did make the hair stand up on the back of our necks. We tried to figure out how that could have happened on its own, be we honestly can’t explain it.

    1. Great story, Kristine V! Thanks for posting it. The Wentworth is still one of my favorite hotels that can provide great ghostly encounters, while still promising a sound night’s sleep.

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