Halloween is always a fun time to seek out ghost tours. You don't have to be a "believer" to enjoy a good ghost tour and you may end up learning a little more about history while you're at it.
Last year during this time, I had the opportunity to visit two areas to learn more about things that go "bump in the night."
Gettysburg's Haunted Orphanage
Located at 777 Baltimore Street is the headquarters for the Ghostly Images of Gettysburg tours, where docents lead visitors through the halls of the adjoining Civil War orphanage and tell the story of an honorable effort that turned tragic.
The tale begins with the death of a Union soldier. His lifeless body, dead on the battlefield, was found clutching a ferrotype of his three small children. Newspapers learned of his story and word spread like wildfire around the nation. After about four months, the grieving widow learned about the picture and stepped forward. The dead soldier was revealed to be Amos Humiston.
Newspaper accounts report that prominent citizens, "chiefly in Philadelphia," were so moved that they created the National Homestead for Orphans of the United States. The Humiston family took up residence in the institution, with the widow acting as headmistress. All was well until widow Humiston remarried and moved to Massachusetts, leaving the orphanage at the mercy of a cruel headmistress named Rosa Charmichael.
Visitors taking the 90-minute tour will learn more about Rosa's reign of terror. They will be led to the dank recesses of the building to set eyes on the area where those who "misbehaved" were chained. Guests can inspect the "table of toys" that is often disturbed. According to the guides, many disappear from the table and are discovered in various areas of the basement. "Every few months we gather them up and put them back on the table," said guide Liz Lang.
To learn more about Charmichael and how the story ends, you can book a tour by visiting their website at Ghostly Images of Gettysburg.
Touring the Jenny Wade House
Ghostly Images of Gettysburg also features a tour of the Jennie Wade House, which appears much like it did 150 years ago. Wade is known as the only civilian to be killed at the Battle of Gettysburg and the historic house provides guests with a perspective of what life was like when the war wreaked havoc on the town.
Guests may be surprised to learn that Wade didn't actually reside at the house, but was visiting her sister, who had given birth during the Battle. Toiling in the kitchen as her sister convalesced, she was struck by a bullet that pierced two doors.
At the end of the tour, guides lead guests to the basement to view a picture of "What a Mother Saw," to show how Jennie Wade's body was laid out in the dark corner of the lower floor until the Battle came to an end.
An Excursion to Easton Maryland for a Chesapeake Ghost Walk
The Easton Maryland Ghost Walk, one of the Chesapeake Ghost Walking Tours, begins at the beautiful, historic and allegedly haunted Tidewater Inn, which I called home for a few days while visiting the area. A group of us gathered outside the inn to listen to a narrator address the crowd. She told the story of a haunting by Mr. Arthur Grymes, who built the hotel that opened to the public in 1949. I have yet to make the acquaintance of Mr. Grymes, but hope to if I return.
Across the street from the Tidewater Inn is the Avalon Theater. Built in 1921, the Art Deco style theater allegedly is haunted by a dearly departed actress, whose murdered body was discovered in an elevator, which she rides to this day, according to lore.
Other stops on the Easton Ghost Walk include an old jail, an orphanage, the "Odd Fellows" Hall and Foxley Hall, home of Colonel Oswald Tilghman and known as the "most haunted house in Easton."
At the conclusion of my trip, I began researching the house and became a bit sidetracked by an article that ran in The Baltimore Sun in February of 1889. The Board of Trustees of Agriculture of the Eastern Shore of Maryland joined to tantalize their taste buds with an interesting repast. The "test dinner," served at Foxley Hall, was held to decide the "comparative merits of succulent mutton and Chesapeake diamondback terrapins," according to the article.
The newspaper reports that Colonel Tilghman served his guests a "complete Chesapeake Bay dinner," before describing in disturbing detail how the terrapins were cooked alive and subsequently served from chafing dishes. Also on the menu that evening: red-head ducks from Eastern Bay cooked for 18 minutes and salt oysters, served with "subsidiary viands." Ok, so I took a little detour there, but I found it all very fascinating and sad for the terrapin. Could it be that Foxley is considered the most haunted house in Easton because the terrapins came back to haunt Tilghman and his cruel band of brothers? The "Terror of the Terrapins" could be a shell of a story, but, alas, it is just a figment of my imagination. The "real" tale, I'm told, is that the house is haunted, in part, due to an insane relative who was confined to the third floor of the Tilghman house. A picture I took reveals several orbs that appear to be hovering around the third floor.
(Did the terrapins return to haunt it?)
The final stop on our tour of haunted Easton was the Spring Hill Cemetery where 10,000 Eastonians have been laid to rest. I snapped a few shots while visiting with our group and was quite surprised to later discover an abundance of orbs.
I think what I enjoy most about ghost tours is learning the backstory about the area while poking around neighborhoods, after dark, within the safety of a group. Snooping around, listening to a little gossip, digging into the story a little more--later, on your own time--is something this reporter enjoys quite a lot. Knowing that I might just capture something unusual on camera is merely icing on the cake.