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Haunted History: The Lewes Lover's Triangle

It was literally the talk of the town. James Wiley, a well-liked barman in the town of Lewes, wouldn't listen to friends that tried to warn him of his wife's ongoing affair. But in time, it would all play out in the worst way.

James Wiley was a well-liked tavern proprietor and barman in what was then known as Lewistown or Lewis Town. For some time, he was quite ill and unable to find anyone to heal him from "bilious fever," a term for most viral or bacterial infections that caused jaundice, vomiting, or severe intestinal issues. He found Dr. Theodore Wilson and was finally cured of his illness and became a close friend and staunch supporter of the good doctor.

However, Dr. Wilson was not as fine and upstanding as he appeared to the world. Having read 'Paine's Age of Reason,' Dr. Wilson rejected the teachings of the church and decided that he could make choices outside of those traditions. This, unfortunately for James, included carrying on an affair with his wife, Nancy. Although many of James' friends and tavern patrons tried to alert him to the affair, his adoration of Dr. Wilson led to him dismissing their warnings. He simply could not believe his close friend was capable of doing such an outrageous act. Worse, yet, this affair was the talk of the town as James remained blissfully unaware.

This all changed when James, thought to be traveling out of the country, walked into his home (which also served as the tavern) to find Dr. Wilson and his wife Nancy in a heated embrace, "printing burning kisses on her lips." Finally, he faced with the undeniable truth.

One interesting aside is that Dr. Wilson told his wife that the evening prior to this event the ghost of his mother appeared to him at the end of his bed. Instead of the loving comfort he expected, he felt great terror 'which held him motionless and mute' - as she admonished him, "Wretched young man, thy grave is opening to receive thee. Oh, repent, repent! repent!" The next morning, Dr. Wilson shared this vision and his belief that his death could come soon with his wife. Little did he know that it would come that very day.

Feeling a "great depression of spirit," Dr. Wilson, who had been avoiding Jame's tavern in order to avoid Nancy and not further upset James, made a grave mistake. During a walk with Governor Hall (hoping to raise Dr. Wilson's mood), they came upon James' tavern and Gov. Hall invited him to share a bit of wine. Upon hearing that Nancy was out of town, he decided to enter James' tavern and engage in a topic he enjoyed - the sale/exchange of horses. Dr. Wilson had put his head in his hands briefly and did not notice that James had entered the bar. James saw the Doctor, walked up behind him, pulled a pistol, and shot him in the temple, killing him instantly.

The Doctor's brother, Mr. James Wilson heard of the shooting just moments later, as he was visiting the Wilson home from Philadelphia. Mr. Wilson grabbed a loaded pistol from the wall and ran to the tavern. There, he approached James Wiley, put the pistol on his heart, and pulled the trigger as James smiled the smile one who is near death might make. But the pistol would not fire. Mr. Wilson recocked the pistol and tried again and still, it would not fire. Gov. Hall took the pistol away, aimed it at the window, and the pistol fired a shot. James was soon taken away in irons to be tried for murder.

James Wiley was found guilty of murder and sentenced to the gallows, a fate which he readily accepted and even welcomed. However, this was not to be. Wiley's friends petitioned the governor for a pardon on his behalf. Governor Basset, while not typically supportive of murder, was a married man and believed in the sanctity of marriage so strongly that he granted the pardon.

The pardon and release were not welcomed by James, however. He became sullen and angry about having to live in a world where everything reminded him of his beautiful Nancy, his successful business, and the good life he had before it all came crashing down. He even pursued Nancy, who had left Lewistown to live in Philadelphia, carrying "a brace of pistols" with the intent of taking her life, but despite showing up at the home where she was staying every day and resorting to all forms of bribery and cajoling, Nancy never let him in. He returned to Lewistown so distraught that he returned to jail and demanded to be put in a cell. While the jailer tried to dissuade James, he eventually gave in and allowed him to stay in the dungeon, where James died three weeks later.

The Burton-Ingram House on the Lewes Historical Society Campus now seems to be where the spirit of James Wiley can be found. After several investigations, it is clear that James remains guilt-ridden and depressed, but at least the anger he feels is focused on the guilty parties - not on the visitors to this lovely historic home and the grounds. I guess the saying, "misery loves company" is true, as James is not the only Spirit here. Also present is John Hammond, who passed away from a severe stomach ailment and appears to still be in physical pain. Back in Hammond's day, the home was called "Bluebeard" (and behind his back, likely he was called this as well) because he ingested a great amount of colloidal silver for his ailing health that his skin began to take on a blue cast.

If you get the chance to visit the Burton-Ingram House, this one's a can't-miss on anyone's haunted history tour!


God's Revenge Against Adultery (1815). Available free online:

More recordings of James Wiley, his wife Nancy, John Hammond, and other residents of the Burton-Ingram House can be found on my Youtube Channel.


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