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September/October 2006
Mystery Lives Here: Local Ghost Stories
Ghostly Sights and Sounds Add a Splash of the Supernatural to Local Haunts.

by Christina Widener + photos by Jason Turner

• • •

Bumps in the night. Strange apparitions. Unexplainable sounds and disturbing visions that inspire speculation and leave haunting impressions. Ghost stories and paranormal activity abound throughout Hagerstown and neighboring Frederick, says expert ghost hunter Beverly Litsinger of Owing Mills, Md., who often brings ghost hunting groups to local haunted sites. “There are many great stories in this area due to the history,” she says. Local Civil War battlefields and hospital sites alone keep supernatural vibrations on a high-speed hum! It’s true — you don’t have far to look far to find great haunts.

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Washington County
Hager House, 110 Key St., Hagerstown
Ghostly voices, footsteps and camera trouble lend mystique to the historic Jonathan Hager House and Museum in Hagerstown City Park. “The spirits come out when they feel like it,” says John Nelson, historic sites facilitator. But believers swear they are definitely there.

Built in 1739 by German settler and Hagerstown founder Jonathan Hager, the two-story stone house is believed to be haunted by two families — the Hammonds, who lived in the house in the 1840s, and the Downins, who resided there during the Civil War-era. Visitors report hearing voices and footsteps upstairs when no one is there. And the deceased Downin children are rumored to make mischief by moving an old corncob doll, extinguishing light bulbs, and causing cameras to fail. To learn more, check out the Haunted Hager House Tours in October. www.hagerhouse.org

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Rose Hill Cemetery, 600 S. Potomac St., Hagerstown
The sounds of weeping and visions of a ghostly widow make Rose Hill Cemetery another of Hagerstown’s haunted destinations. Established in 1866, Rose Hill became the final resting place for more than 2,000 Confederates killed during the Maryland Campaign of 1862. Legend holds that the restless spirits of Southern soldiers trying to find their way home haunt the graveyard. Another story involves a widow, clad in black, who can be heard weeping beside her husband’s grave — but the phantom vanishes when visitors approach her.

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Chaney House, 1 S. High St., Funkstown
A Civil War-era nurse and a haunted table contribute to the magical legacy of the Chaney House, which was used as a makeshift hospital during the Civil War’s Battle of Funkstown and now houses Hudson House Galleries antiques store. During the years that the Chaney House contained Ruth’s Antiques, employees and guests described the figure of a nurse wearing a vintage uniform roaming the upstairs rooms. They also heard piano playing in the dead of night. However, when a customer from the Midwest took home an antique table, these strange events suddenly stopped. The customer then reported the appearance of a ghostly Civil War-era nurse in her home — the apparent result of a haunted table! Such ghostly lore, says Hudson House owner Greg Sullivan, is “a neat part of the history of the house.”  www.hudsonhousegalleries.com

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Pry House Field Hospital Museum, 18906 Shepherdstown Pike, Keedysville
The Pry House at Antietam National Battlefield has seen its share of misery — from its use as a hospital during the Battle of Antietam to its partial destruction by fire in the 1970s — so it’s no surprise that the structure, circa 1844, has spawned numerous stories of supernatural happenings. The most persistent tale involves a female apparition, perhaps the wife of Union Gen. Israel Richardson, who died of battle wounds in the Pry House.

While responding to the 1970s fire that destroyed the home’s second floor, “The firemen looked up and saw the figure of woman looking out a window — on a floor where there was no floor,” recalls historian George Wunderlich, who oversees the museum now housed in the building. Perplexing occurrences such as doors slamming and books changing position on shelves also have left him and his staff with “eerie” feelings, but “If there is something there, it is certainly not malevolent and has not showed itself to us.” www.nps.gov/anti/Pry_House.htm

The Maryland Theatre, 21–27 S. Potomac St., Hagerstown
Imagine loving your job so much that you never wanted to come home. Such is the legend that surrounds the ghost reported to haunt Hagerstown’s Maryland Theatre. Built in 1915, the Art Deco-style theater’s warm atmosphere and outstanding acoustics make it a great spot to catch a show, concert, or ballet — a sentiment that might be shared by The Maryland Theatre Ghost.

The daughter of one of the theater’s first managers said her father loved the venue so much and was so dedicated to his work there that he never left — even after death. While she was working in the theater in the 1930s through the 1960s, she claimed to see his ghostly figure going about his old business before disappearing in front of patrons. “When the audience is gone and the lights are out,” says Executive Director Brian Sullivan, “the performers of yesterday take the stage.” www.mdtheatre.org

Frederick County
Rose Hill Manor, 1611 N. Market St., Frederick
At Rose Hill Manor — a large white mansion that is now used as a museum — a four-legged ghost lends an air of mystery to the property’s rich history. The land where the house was built in the 1790s was a wedding gift from Thomas Johnson (first governor of Maryland) to his daughter, Anne. The most famous ghost tale shrouding Rose Hill involves the specter of a blue dog and his owner, who are believed to haunt the Rose Hill grounds and surrounding streets. Legend holds that the dog’s owner was a cruel slave trader who didn’t trust banks and buried all of his blood money on the premises. Believers say the dog will begin to lead you to the buried treasure — but will always disappear before he reaches the loot.

Although long-time employee Nancy Sweet has had “no experiences with any ghosts reported to be in the home,” she wrote the Manor Ghost Tales Tour script and acknowledges that some visitors have felt ghostly “vibes.” To hear more ghostly tales and get a tour of the house, check out the tours from 7–9 p.m. Oct. 14, 21, and 28. www.co.frederick.md.us/parks/RoseHill.htm

National Museum of Civil War Medicine, 48 E. Patrick St., Frederick
While historian George Wunderlich discounts popular tales of mysteriously moving and missing objects at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, the museum’s executive director can’t deny the strange scratching noises that regularly emanate from the floor of his office. He likens the sounds to those of a cat scratching on a post — a kitty that doesn’t exist in the building that housed an undertaking business during the Civil War.

“Seriously, three people can hear it at once and they all point to the same spot on the floor,” says George, who has searched for broken water pipes, vibrating duct work and other possible explanations. “There is absolutely nothing between the ceiling below and the floor in my office.” For information about museum tours and collections, visit  HYPERLINK "http://www.civilwarmed.org" www.civilwarmed.org or call 301-695-1864.

Former Hessian Barracks at Maryland School for the Deaf, 101 Clarke Place, Frederick
Voices and yells of unknown origin are rumored to exist at one of the great historical treasures of Frederick. Although the exact construction date of the Hessian barracks is unknown, the structure was likely built during the French and Indian War and used during the Revolutionary War by Gen. Edward Braddock and his troops. Now located on the campus of Maryland School for the Deaf, the barracks were used mainly as a holding ground for prisoners of war and as a makeshift hospital during the Civil War’s bloody Battle of Antietam. The ghosts of Civil War soldiers who died while hospitalized and soldiers for hire/Hessians who burned alive during a terrible fire in the building’s earlier history are now said to haunt the structure. Perhaps it is these sad voices that visitors report hearing from time to time. www.msd.edu

Gabriel’s Inn, 4730 Ijamsville Road, Ijamsville
Ghostly encounters in the bathroom have stunned visitors of the charming Gabriel’s Inn, a French Provincial fine-dining restaurant and home of the DeLawder family. Built in 1862, Gabriel’s was occupied by six Welsh families who worked in nearby quarries before the building became a mental institution for women in 1896. During its more than 70-year history, the sanitarium housed over 1,000 patients. Perhaps it is the ghost of one of these former patients whom guests and employees have seen in the ladies’ room dressed in Victorian clothing, looking so real they believe her to be a person dressed in costume — until she disappears before their eyes!

“Often people ask if we are scared living with ghosts. We always reply ‘no,’” owner Sean DeLawder says. “We have never encountered anything that would make us fearful. All of the spirits here are good; in fact, we feel like they watch out for us.” Join the inn’s proprietor, dressed in period attire, for ghost tours and a four-course meal during Gabriel’s Inn Ghost Dinners at 7 p.m. Fridays and 5 p.m. Sundays in October. Visit www.gabrielsrestaurant.com or call 301-865-5500 for more information.

   view more articles from the September/October 2006 issue >>

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