I’ve spent the better part of my life collecting strange and ghostly tales around the world. Whatever your personal beliefs may be about the paranormal,” there is no denying that ghost stories make for great entertainment.
After gathering hundreds of these tales, I find that they follow a certain pattern. Certain places just naturally attract ghost stories. These are a few of the most common genres of modern haunted lore, with examples specific to the state of Maryland.
1. War battlefields
Ghost stories surround the site of death and suffering. Tragedy seems to stick to that place and continues to replay years and years after it has occurred. Some people say that they have caught glimpses of these events of the past.
Maryland’s own Antietam Battlefield is a perfect example of this phenomenon. It was the bloodiest day in all of American history, with nearly 23 thousand dead and missing. Visitors to this historic site say that they see soldiers in civil war attire, hear the explosions, gunshots, sounds of battle. And sometimes even hear the marching bands play civil war era music.
2. Medical and mental hospitals
The same could be said of institutions that have seen concentrated amounts of human suffering.
Ghost stories surround tuberculosis hospitals, like the Point Lookout Lighthouse in Scotland, which served as a Civil War POW camp and hospital.
And we can’t overlook mental hospitals like Crownsville asylum, where managers often inflicted terrible suffering on people. Modern visitors to the abandoned asylum still hear the screams of these poor souls.
So many human lives pass through a hotel in such short time, it’s no surprise that people say the dramatic events of those lives are imprinted on certain hotels. Some human lives even end there. In the case of the Lord Baltimore hotel, guests say that they feel invisible hands touching them at night. The elevator often goes to the 19th floor all on its own. Some guests see a ghostly little girl standing on that very floor, perhaps the daughter of an unfortunate couple who stayed there.
When it comes to haunted spots, who could forget the graveyard itself?
Westminster Hall cemetery in Baltimore is the final resting place of Maryland’s most macabre author, Edgar Allen Poe himself. Visitors who tour the graves and catacombs below sometimes see the ghost of a grave robber who was hung, as well as a floating skull. Perhaps tragedy clings to this place.
5. Urban legends
This most modern form of folklore is perfect for summer camps, campfire stories, and even backyard campouts. Fletchertown Road, in the town of Bowie, is the site of one such tale. According to this Maryland-specific legend, the goat man was a subject of a horrific research project, part man, part goat. He lives in the woods near the titular road and sometimes attacks humans who walk through his territory. This legend reminds me of one from my own home state of California, where the government is alleged to have created a man who was part goat, the Billiwhack Monster. As unbelievable as it may sound, this legend was common enough to inspire a Seinfeld episode where Kramer thought that he had discovered a pigman in a New York hospital.
If you look hard, you may find that your very own hometown has a story specific to each genre as well! This fall, try telling them to your friends and family by the fireside for a spooky evening of thrills and chills.
David J. Schmidt is an author, podcaster, multilingual translator, and homebrewer who splits his time between Mexico City and San Diego, California.
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