The Ghost Bride of Crescent Beach

By Roxie Zwicker

portland maine ghost story lighthouse

Portland Head Light, Cape Elizabeth, Maine (Luc Rousseau/

There is nothing quite like the allure of beachcombing along the rugged Maine Coast while standing in the shadows of the state’s dramatic maritime history. Cape Elizabeth is home to the beautiful Crescent Beach, where you can drift away with the sound of the waves while sifting through the sands, seeking a treasure from the past. The veil between the worlds sometimes grows thin in this liminal space, as the tidewaters of the Atlantic Ocean roll around your feet.

This tragically romantic tale is the story of the “ghost bride” of Cape Elizabeth, Lydia Carver. Lydia was one of seven children of Amos Carver, who had become a wealthy businessman from Portland, Maine. Her family had moved to nearby Freeport from the Plymouth area of Massachusetts. Unfortunately, there are not many personal details known about Lydia herself or about the man she was supposed to marry. But what is certain is that her sad tale began in July 1807.

An excited 23-year-old Lydia, along with 21 other people (mostly her bridal party), boarded the schooner Charles in Portland and set out for Boston, Massachusetts, to have her wedding gown fitted. The captain of the ship was Jacob Adams of Portland, who had brought along his wife.

On Sunday, July 12, the schooner sailed from Boston to complete the overnight trip back to Portland. It was said to be a bright and sunny summer day and the Charles made good time on the return journey. As the schooner approached Richmond’s Island, just before midnight, a severe gale seemed to blow in out of nowhere, and tragedy seemed imminent. The Atlantic Ocean roared, and towering waves overcame the Charles. The swells caused the schooner to strike Watt’s Ledge, just 50 feet offshore from Richmond’s Island. The schooner tipped over onto its side, and the bottom of the Charles was ripped out.

crescent beach portland maine ghost story

The passengers on the Charles faced their doom in the cold ocean waters as the waves washed over the wrecked schooner. Some of the passengers attempted to cling to the ship’s rigging; however, they were no match for the stormy sea. Captain Adams and three other men attempted to reach the shore of Richmond’s Island. Frantic cries from Adams’s wife called him back to the ship, and as he attempted to return to her, the waves carried him off to a watery grave.

lydia carver ghost bride and gravestone

Those who tried to find a way to hold on to the remains of the schooner were forced into the sea as the Charles broke apart during the late night hours. When the storm passed and the morning sun appeared, a devastating scene revealed itself on nearby Crescent Beach. The body of Lydia Carver had washed ashore, and next to her was her trunk, holding her never-to-be-worn bridal gown. In all, sixteen people perished that fateful July night. The bodies of the captain and his wife were also recovered, and they were buried at the Eastern Cemetery in Portland. Lydia’s body was buried at a little countryside burial ground overlooking Crescent Beach.

It is amongst the fragrant beach roses the gravestone for Lydia tells the very dramatic story:

Sacred to the memory of
daut’r of Mr Amos Carter of Freeport
AE 21 who with 15 other unfortunate
passengers male and female perished
in the merciless waves by the shipwreck
of the schooner Charles Capt. Jacob Adams
bound from Boston to Portland
on a reef of rocks near the shore of
Richmond’s Island on Sunday night
July 12, 1807

There are about 20 gravestones in the burial ground, some newer than the stone for Lydia. It is Lydia’s stone that seems to be in the best condition, as it is totally legible. I learned about Lydia’s story when I received a call some years back from the nearby Inn By the Sea, which originally opened in 1982. There were a surprising number of ghost stories coming from the inn regarding sightings of Lydia wearing her white wedding gown.

During one visit to the inn, I met an older woman from the Cape Elizabeth Historical Society who had quite a ghost story to share. She told me that in the 1960s, her daughter caught a glimpse of Lydia on nearby Route 77. There are lush meadows and small forested areas along this very scenic but typically quiet road that leads past the inn. I was told that as the young woman was traveling in her car, she noticed two figures standing by the side of the road. As the woman approached, she discovered a lady wearing a long, white wedding gown standing silently, resting her hand on a female deer that stood completely still at her side. The woman in the gown made eye contact with the traveler on Route 77, and then as the car passed, she vanished; a look in the rear-view mirror revealed that there was no one there. The woman’s daughter was absolutely certain that she had seen the ghost of Lydia Carver that night.

The people who worked at the Inn By the Sea believed that Lydia would appear from time to time in the mirrors in the hotel and that she took an occasional ride on their elevator. There is a portrait of Lydia Carver that hangs in the inn, and oddly enough, no one knows where it came from or how it got there—it was just always there. There were tales from the restaurant about place settings and dishes being moved around without explanation. Staff also believed that the spirit of Lydia might be taking care of her gravestone, which might explain why it’s always in such spotless shape.

There are also many stories and sightings of Lydia’s spirit walking on nearby Crescent Beach. Beachcombers have said that a strange fog will roll in over Richmond Island and you can see the masts of a wrecked ship sticking out of the fog. Some visitors to the beach have reported that on some evenings you can hear a tremendous crash followed by screams echoing from the Watts Ledge area. Does the spirit of Lydia Carver still walk Crescent Beach? You might find yourself looking over your shoulder as you follow in the sandy footsteps of the ghost bride.

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This article appeared in the Beachcombing Volume 38 September/October 2023.

All photos courtesy of Roxie Zwicker except as marked.

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