As Halloween approaches, we invite you on a ghostly tour of haunted properties on the Eastern Shore
There is no disputing the Eastern Shore’s pristine and natural beauty. But this beauty isn’t just skin deep. Rather, she resonates with atmosphere of timelessness and bears witness to epochs of life and change. Enveloped in her annals are the tales of human experience, both good and bad. Though the Eastern Shore is a lady who knows how to keep a secret, some secrets just refuse to be kept. What follows is a spooky sampling of happenings that seem unwilling to dissolve into the mists of time.
THE TUNIS MILLS HANGING TREE
Tunis Mills, Talbot County
Though you may consider it far-fetched for a tree to be haunted, you might feel differently were you to visit the hanging tree in Tunis Mills. Eerily perched on a remote and lonely byway in Talbot County, the tree got its name for the unusual double right angles of its trunk – making it an ideal setting for an act of murder.
Believed to be the scene of numerous slave hangings, some present-day visitors report that the tree is “very creepy” even during the daytime. There is a legend that claims if you pull your car under the tree at nighttime, kill the motor and remain in the car, you will hear strange noises that range from disembodied whispering to the thud of dead bodies as their ghosts drop onto your car. One visitor even went on record to say that their car started shaking back and forth right at the stroke of midnight. What that visitor also reported for the record is that they vowed to never return.
THE CELLAR HOUSE
Pocomoke City, Worcester County
Though the Cellar House was beautifully restored in the late-1980s, the home that sits on the banks of the Pocomoke River has a dark history. It’s said that the original home was built centuries ago by a six-fingered sea captain as a wedding present to his wife. The captain was thought to be a smuggler who traveled for long periods of time in search of goods from ships at sea and distant ports. The legend claims that he stashed his illicit gain on his property and in the cellar of his plantation house through a system of tunnels that ran to the riverbank.
The captain returned home unexpectedly one day after a long trip, only to find his wife conspicuously pregnant by another man. He summarily banished her from the house, commanding her never to return. After her baby was born, she decided to beg her husband for mercy, so she hired a raft oared by an elderly man to take her to him. Tragically, the raft overturned, with both the man and the infant having been spilled into the dark, deep river, never to be seen again.
After the disconsolate young mother dragged herself to shore and finally found her estranged husband, she told him the baby was lost and pleaded with him to take her back.
A row ensued, and the six-fingered smuggler stabbed his wife to death.It is said that cars parked in the woods near the Cellar House are found to have a six-fingered handprint on them, as if the captain were warning them to stay away from his cache of treasure. It is also reported that the bloodstain left at the site of the murder cannot be removed; even when the floorboards were replaced, the sanguinary testament to brutality merely resurfaced.
There have been other witnesses who claim to have seen a light in the swamp, accompanied by the wailing of a guilty mother in search of her crying infant.
KENT MANOR INN
Stevensville, Queen Anne’s County
Alexander Thompson was a wealthy, flamboyant voluptuary who made the most of the 307 acres his mother deeded him in 1843. A notorious ladies’ man who cherished the finer things in life, Alexander enjoyed entertaining in his lovely manor house and was often seen riding his white horse. He died in 1873 at the age of 60 having married three times, though he never had children. But while one might think death would have removed Alexander from the premises that ultimately came to be known as the beautiful Kent Manor Inn, there have been scores of people throughout the generations that followed who would beg to differ. Long after his death he was observed by many to be roaming the property on his white horse. There were unexplained noises at the inn and guests’ luggage that mysteriously disappeared. Doors and windows that inn staff were absolutely certain they’d closed and locked would be found or flung wide open, while the aroma of pipe tobacco and cigar smoke lingered in the air even though there was no apparent source. Some female staff members insist that they have been inappropriately touched, or “goosed,” by an unseen entity as they’d ascended the stairs.
There are many Alexander Thompson stories at the Kent Manor Inn, especially in room 209 – reputedly the most haunted – but good ol’ Alex never seems to do any real harm; he just likes the company.
GREEN BRIAR SWAMP
Bucktown, Dorchester County
Green Briar swamp is about 10 square miles and located near the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge and the DeCoursey Bridge. Its stirring landscape is simultaneously beautiful and eerie, almost as if the wind blowing through its marsh grasses carries the distant whispers of untold tales and lurid secrets from beyond.
Green Briar swamp is also the resting place – make that unresting place – of Big Liz, a gargantuan female plantation slave who was actually a spy for the Union Army during the Civil War. When her master – a wealthy smuggler and Confederate sympathizer – discovered that one of his prized and most trusted slaves was actually a spy for the North, he hatched a plan to dispose of her.
Some versions of the legend claim that none other than Jefferson Davis himself had entrusted the plantation owner with Confederate treasure for safekeeping, so Big Liz’s master saw an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. He ordered her to accompany him into the swamp, where she would bury the treasure out of the reach of Union soldiers. Once Liz had dug a hole suitable for burying, the master at just the right moment lopped off her head with either a sword or large tobacco knife.
To this day, the locals say that if you park your car on DeCoursey Bridge at night, when it’s completely dark, honk your horn three times, flash your headlights twice and turn off your car, it will not start again. Then, Big Liz will emerge from her marshy grave, head in hand, and beckon you to follow her. But do so at your own peril because no one who has followed Big Liz into the swamp has ever come out alive.
SNOW HILL INN
Snow Hill, Worcester County
Legend has it that Dr. John S. Aydelotte was a stern and irritable man. So much so, it was reported that his son, William, committed suicide in December of 1904 by slashing his throat repeatedly while attending the University of Maryland’s School of Pharmacology in Baltimore. With the young man’s body was an unfinished note, which read, “Papa… it is useless to keep me at school.” There was subsequent anecdotal speculation and a psychic’s testimony that William’s sorrows were compounded by a broken heart in the wake of a failed relationship.
For the last 20 years, guests, visitors, workmen and neighbors claim to have experienced paranormal activity at the inn. In fact, Snow Hill Inn stands as the site of more documented ghostly encounters than any other place in Worcester County. Moving objects, lights going on and off, strange noises, candles and fireplaces inexplicably lighting on their own, doors being locked for no apparent reason and other ominous activity have been standard fare at the inn.
According to a psychic brought in at the request of the innkeeper in 2003, the doleful ghost of William Aydelotte not only occupies the inn, he even complied when the psychic asked him to stop bothering the innkeeper.
Today, the Snow Hill Inn sits abandoned by humankind. Somewhere within its cold and lonely walls, the spirit of a wistful 21-year-old waits for someone to talk to.
Special thanks to Mindie Burgoyne, whose book, Haunted Eastern Shore: Ghostly Tales From East of the Chesapeake (Copyright 2009, The History Press) provided essential research and served as the foundation of this article.
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