Friday, January 21, 2011

Haunted Maryland

A selection of ten haunted places from the Old Line State, Maryland.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
2145 Key Wallace Drive
View of the tidal marshes at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge 2009.
Photo by Jcantroot, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge preserves some 27,000 acres of tidal marshes, forest, freshwater ponds and other rich habitat. Created in 1933, this wildlife refuge also preserves an important piece of the Atlantic flyway for migratory birds. According to legend, this rich land was stalked by a demonic mule that attacked loggers and fishermen in the days before this was a refuge. Locals hunted the creature down and led it to a stretch of quicksand which swallowed the mad mule, but while the animal has crossed over, it’s spirit is still found wandering in this wild place.

Bladensburg Dueling Ground
Highway 450
Colmar Manor
View of the Bladensburg Dueling Grounds taken between
1910 and 1926. Photo by the National Photo Company, courtesy
of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

When Washington outlawed dueling within the limits of the district, the hotheaded politicians and gentlemen of the district needed a place to “defend their honor.” They chose a little spot of land just outside the district in what is now Colmar Manor, Maryland. The activities at the dueling ground provided the name for the nearby waterway, Dueling Creek or Blood Run, now blandly called Eastern Branch. When the city of Colmar Manor was established in 1927, the city used dueling imagery on its town crest including a blood red background, a pair of dueling pistols and crossed swords.

Senators, legislators and military heroes are among the hundred or so men who dueled at this place in some fifty duels that are known and countless others that took place at this spot. Commodore Stephen Decatur was killed here in a duel with Commodore James Barron in 1820 and Representative John Cilley of Maine, who knew little of firearms, died here after combat in 1838 with Representative William Graves of Kentucky. The spirit of Stephen Decatur has been seen here along with other dark, shadowlike spirits that still stalk the old dueling grounds. The bloody grounds are now a park that stands silently amid the roaring sprawl of suburbia.

Fort McHenry
2400 East Fort Avenue
The sally port of Fort McHenry, 2005. Photo by ScottyBoy900Q, courtesy of Wikipedia.

From the deck of the British ship HMS Tonnant in Baltimore Harbor during the British bombardment of Fort McHenry, lawyer Francis Scott Key was inspired by the sight of the fort’s flag still waving after the smoke cleared on the morning of September 14, 1814. The poem, “The Defense of Fort McHenry,” was sung to the tune of a song, “To Anacreon in Heaven,” and became our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The star-shaped fort named for Washington’s Secretary of War served valiantly in the War of 1812 and protected the city of Baltimore from the advances of the British navy.

Few deaths occurred in the fort during the British bombardment, though the fort did serve as a prison during the Civil War and later a hospital during World War I. Though many spirits have been reported throughout the fort, there are three notable spirits. One spirit may be that of Lieutenant Levi Clagett, one of the few men killed when a British bomb struck the gun emplacement on Bastion 3. Often mistaken for an actor, Clagett’s spirit has been seen by visitors and staff around the bastion where he was killed. The other two notable spirits are that of a woman and also a soldier who committed suicide in the fort in the late nineteenth century.

Jericho Covered Bridge
Jericho Road at Little Gunpowder Falls
Near Jerusalem and Kingville
Jericho Covered Bridge, 2009. Photo by Pubdog, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Straddling the county line between Harford County and Baltimore County over the Little Gunpowder Falls is the Jericho Covered Bridge, constructed in 1865. According to Ed Okonowicz in his Haunted Maryland, there are legends of people seeing slaves hanging from the rafters inside this nearly 88-foot bridge. Certainly, there is an issue with this as the bridge was constructed in 1865, after the end of both slavery and the Civil War. Other, more realistic legends, speak of a woman seen on the bridge wearing old-fashioned clothing and people having their cars stop inexplicably in the middle of the bridge.

Landon House
3401 Urbana Pike
Landon House, 2009.
Photo by Acroterion, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places as the Stancioff House, the Landon House has a rather unusual history. Legend speaks of the house originally being built on the Rappahannock River in Fredericksburg, Virginia as a factory before it was dismantled and transported to its current location in the 1840s. We do know from historical records that Rev. R.H. Phillips, who moved the house, established a girls seminary in the house and later a boys military institute in the house prior to the Civil War. In the days leading up to the horrific Battle of Antietam, 17 September 1862, Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart stayed in the house and held a gala ball. Whatever mirth remained from the ball was overcome by horror as the wounded and dying poured into the house following Antietam. Numerous apparitions and large amounts of paranormal activity has been experienced throughout the house, particularly the basement. A weekend-long investigation of the house in 2004 by the Western Michigan Ghost Hunters Society uncovered activity in most rooms of the house and throughout the grounds.

Maryland State House
State Circle
Maryland State House, 2006.
Photo by Gbaddorf, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Considered the oldest state house remaining in legislative use, the Maryland State House was completed in 1779. Legend tells of a plasterer working on the dome who fell to his death and is still seen roaming throughout the building and grounds. Visitors still visit the building hoping to catch a glimpse of Thomas Dance, the plasterer.

Mount Ida
3691 Sarah’s Lane
Ellicott City
Drawing of Mt. Ida called "A Sketch from Rock Hill" by R.C. Long,
from a lithograph by Thomas Campbell of Baltimore, 1835. Courtesy of the
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division.

Built for William Ellicott, grandson of one of the founders of Ellicott City, Mount Ida overlooks the city and his home to a key-rattling ghost. Miss Ida Tyson, the last of three maiden sisters who inherited the house, lived in the house until her death in the 1920s. It is noted that “Miss Ida” loved this house; perhaps her spirit has returned to watch over her beloved Mt. Ida?

1110 Rosemont Avenue
Schifferstadt, 2008.
Photo by Acroterion, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Numerous spirits may inhabit this German colonial house in Frederick, Maryland. German immigrants began to pour into Pennsylvania through the urging of William Penn in the late seventeenth century among them Jacob Bruner who arrived in Philadelphia in 1728. Bruner purchased land in Frederick and constructed this house around 1758. Consequently, it is the oldest building in the city and considered the finest German colonial house in the nation. Schifferstadt’s ghosts include a young boy named Isaiah who is known to play with neighborhood children and a young woman who was possibly a midwife.

USS Torsk
Baltimore Maritime Museum
USS Torsk, 2008.
Photo by SHerseyDC, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Located on Baltimore Harbor, the Baltimore Maritime Museum consists of four ships and one lighthouse. At least three of the four ships, the USS Constellation, the USCGC Taney, and the USS Torsk are haunted. The lightship Chesapeake may very well be haunted, but I have not seen anything that specifically states that. Called the “Galloping Ghost of the Japanese,” the Tench-class, diesel-electric submarine, USS Torsk was launched towards the final years of World War II. She served meritoriously along the Japanese coast where she torpedoed and sunk the final Japanese warship sunk during the war. At some point in its history, a sailor standing on the deck was killed when the submarine was forced into a dive. Legend says his spirit in stuck on the deck eternally attempting to get back into the ship.

Westminster Hall and Burying Ground
500 West Baltimore Street
Westminster Church and Burying Ground from
an 1857 postcard issued by E. Sachse & Co.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token…
--- “The Raven,” Edgar Allen Poe

Deep in the darkness of night every January 19th, the birthday of Edgar Allen Poe, a mysterious individual appears briefly at his graveside in the Westminster Burying Ground to perform an annual rite. The black-clad man bears three roses (possibly for everyone in the grave which includes Poe, his mother-in-law and wife) and a half-filled bottle of Martell cognac. He drinks a toast to the grave and, leaving the roses and cognac, slips silently back into the night. This mystic and very appropriate ritual has taken place every year since 1949 in memory of America’s master of horror. Sadly, news has just come this week from The Baltimore Sun that, for the second year in a row, the mysterious visitor has not shown up. Perhaps the tradition has ended?

Besides Poe’s grave, the Westminster Burying Ground, which opened long before the Westminster Church was built, features the graves of many veterans and generals of the American Revolution as well as numerous prominent citizens of Baltimore. Due to the high water table, many of the graves are above ground so that when the church was later constructed, it was built over graves which remain in the catacombs under the church. Since the church’s congregation was disbanded, the hall has been restored for public function. Reports of paranormal activity include the sound of the church’s organ playing (it has been fully restored, but it has been heard when the building was empty and locked) and apparitions seen and heard.

William Paca House
186 Prince George Street
William Paca House, 2009.
Photo by Pubdog, courtesy of Wikipedia.

At times, the apparition of a man in colonial dress, quite possibly Declaration of Independence signer and former Maryland governor William Paca, is seen staring out of the upper windows of his home in Annapolis. One of a handful of important and haunted Georgian houses in the city, the William Paca House was designed by him along with gardens and outbuildings. In the late 19th century, the house became a hotel and when the hotel owners considered demolishing the house in the 1960s, local preservationists rallied to save it. The house and grounds have been fully restored and operate as a museum.

Baltimore Maritime Museum. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
      Accessed 14 January 2011.
Bray, Nicole. “Landon House” in Jeff Belanger’s Encyclopedia
     Of Haunted Places. Franklin Lakes, NJ: New Page Books,
Fort McHenry. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
      Accessed 20 January 2011.
Francis Scott Key. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
      Accessed 20 January 2011.
Frederick County Landmarks Foundation. Schifferstadt
Hauck, Dennis William. Haunted Places: The National Directory.
     NYC: Penguin, 2002.
Jarvis, Sharon. Dead Zones. NYC: Warner Books, 1992.
J. E. B. Stuart. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed
     20 January 2011.
Jericho Covered Bridge. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
      Accessed 20 January 2011.
Kaltenbach, Chris. “Mysterious Poe visitor doesn’t show for
     2nd year.” The Baltimore Sun. 19 January 2011.
Maryland Historical Trust. Stancioff House. Accessed 21 January
Okonowicz. Ed. Haunted Maryland. Mechanicsburg, PA:
     Stackpole Books, 2007.
Paca House and Garden. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
      Accessed 21 January 2011.
     Maryland.” Ghosts of the Prairie. 1998.
Taylor, Troy. “The Ghost of Mt. Ida.” Ghosts of the Prairie. 1998.
United States Fish & Wildlife Service. Blackwater National
     Wildlife Refuge Brochure. August 2008.
USS Torsk (SS-423). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
      Accessed 14 January 2011.
Varhola, Michael J. and Michael H. Varhola. Ghosthunting
     Maryland. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2009.
     Encyclopedia. Accessed 20 January 2011.

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