By Thomas D’Agostino
Star Island, off the coast of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, has been a destination for many tourists for over two centuries. Originally known by the local "Shoalers" as the town of Gosport, in 1876 the island was annexed to the town of Rye. The Oceanic Hotel was built on the island in 1873 but burned in 1875. The owners went to work on a new hotel and before long, Star Island was once again open to visitors. Since then, the island has welcomed tourists and held conferences during the summer months. The island is also host to some of its distant past residents who lived there when it was the little village of Gosport, and later, a tuberculosis community.
In 1857, Reverend George Beebe came to live and preach on the island. At the time the fresh sea air made is a popular stop for consumption patients, the term used for tuberculosis in the 19th century. The small church on the top of the hill provided him with an ample place for Sunday sermons. Beebe sectioned off a small portion of the island for a burial ground but never imagined what would transpire in the next few years. In 1863, his three small daughters contracted consumption and one by one died within 23 days. They would be the only three islanders buried in the new cemetery.
The small cemetery is marked by a monument with all three girls’ names on it and three small stones off to the right side.
Jessie died on May 30, 1863, at two years of age. Under her name reads, as best can be seen:
“You are dear child far far away. Yet near in spirit too. Welcome and (illegible) will be the day that brings it all to you.” The last line is mostly unreadable but appears to be what it says.
Millie died on June 12, 1863, at four years of age. On the monument, under her name, reads:
“Dying she kneeled down and prayed; Please Jesus take me up to the lighted place. And he did.”
Mattie died on June 23, 1863. Her epitaph reads:
“I don’t want to die, but I’ll do just as Jesus wants me to.”
Reverend Beebe left the island sometime later never to return. His three daughters’ remains are still on the island but so are their ghosts. Many have wandered upon the once overgrown burial plot on the far side of the atoll where they have witnessed the little girls running past the cemetery among the brush and grass. Some have heard the giggling of children echoing in the wind as they approached the little burial plot. Other visitors attest to hearing the sound of a small child reciting bible verses.
There are also reports of unseen entities scratching at the windows of the Oceanic Hotel at night. Many would attribute the noise to branches of trees scraping up against the windows except for the fact that there are no trees on the sides of the hotel. Guests have heard the scratching accompanied by faint voices. The beholder of the ghostly phenomena cannot make out what the voices are saying, as they are undecipherable to the ear.
This ghastly event has prompted some to believe that vampires may be lurking within the shadows among the islands. The island was a TB camp and historically, New England vampires were born of TB, or, consumption.
Visiting Star Island is a must. The cemetery has been cleared and is easy to get to via a well-worn path that rings the island. You might just see the ghost of one of the Beebe girls or at least hear a verse or psalm echo in the ocean breeze.