Every destination has its own urban legends and haunted places where only the brave tread. Montgomery County, Maryland is no exception.
Whether you’re looking for a ghost sighting, hear bumps in the night, or learn something new about a popular historic site, we’ve got you covered. Our Mysterious and Haunted Places Road Trip is a perfect addition to your next weekend getaway itinerary to Montgomery County anytime of the year.
Stop 1: Clara Barton National Historic Site | Glen Echo
The Clara Barton National Historic Site in Glen Echo was established in 1974 to honor the life and work of Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross famed for her medical care and service to soldiers in the Civil War. It includes nine acres of land and Barton’s own 38-room residence, which served as an early headquarters of the American Red Cross and where Barton spent the last 15 years of her life.
Many believe that Clara Barton has never left her Glen Echo residence, now part of the National Park Service. Visitors have reported seeing her apparition wandering the halls and rooms wearing a green dress. Though with all the good she did while she was alive, there shouldn’t be much to worry about if you happen to encounter her ghost.
Stop 2: Beall-Dawson House | Rockville
The Beall-Dawson House was built in 1815 by Upton Beall, a wealthy man who served as Clerk of the Court for Montgomery County. The house was then owned by the Dawson family and eventually the Davis family – the latter helped with the house’s restoration in the 1940’s. Then in the 1960’s, it was purchased by the City of Rockville and converted to the Montgomery County Historical Society’s headquarters.
There have been several reports of the “ghost brick layer” at the Beall-Dawson House. People say they have seen an African-American man laying down bricks in the archway of the entry to the kitchen. When addressed, the man doesn’t respond. And at a second glance, he vanishes into thin air. Some speculate that he may be the ghost of a slave from the 1800’s who helped lay the original bricks to the house or Nathan Briggs, a 1940’s man who worked on the renovation of the house but committed suicide.
Members of the Montgomery County Historical Society have also reported hearing strange sounds throughout the house, including a voice calling, “Priscilla,” the name of one of John Dawson’s daughters – the second namesake on the house – who passed away in 1922.
Stop 3: Glen Echo Park | Glen Echo
What was once an amusement park, Glen Echo Park, is now home to 13 resident artists and arts organizations, a thriving social dance program, a restored 1921 Dentzel Carousel, two award-winning children’s theaters, a weekend drop-in art program for children, numerous art studios and galleries, a nature program, and hundreds of classes in visual and performing arts.
Since demolished, Glen Echo Park was home to the “Coaster Dips” roller coaster. The popular attraction opened in May 1921 and remained until the park closed in 1968. Glen Echo Park later became part of the National Park Service in 1971. Coaster Dips was nearly 70 feet tall, and the Potomac River could be seen in the distance before plummeting to the bottom of the rickety wooden coaster. Tragically, William J. Lawrence, a 21-year-old Washington drug clerk, fell from the coaster in 1929. According to local legend, screams from the coaster echo into the late evening hours on clear nights.
Locals have also reported that crowds of people dressed in 1930s and 1940s attire are seen on occasion riding the carousel at night when the attraction isn’t running.
Stop 4: The “Blair Witch” Woods (Seneca Creek State Park) | Gaithersburg
Did you know that portions of the 1999 film, The Blair Witch Project, was filmed in Montgomery County? The movie was filmed on location in eight days, concluding on Halloween of 1997. About 20 hours of film was shot, which was edited down to 82 minutes. Though the story is set in the village of Burkittsville in Frederick County, many of the scenes were filmed at Seneca Creek State Park in Gaithersburg. Some scenes were also filmed in Wheaton.
Behind its Montgomery County roots is Takoma Park native and Montgomery College graduate Eduardo Sánchez. He co-wrote, directed, and edited the movie with Daniel Myrick. Sánchez credits the eeriness and adventure of the Long Branch Trail behind his childhood home as inspiration for the made up Blair Witch legend.
Stop 5: The Maryland Mine | Potomac
When people think of gold mining, Maryland isn’t exactly the first place that comes to mind. But after some gold was discovered in a nearby stream in the 1860’s, local businessmen looking to strike it rich established the Maryland Mine at the present-day intersection of Falls Road and MacArthur Boulevard.
The gold mining went on for several years, turning up mostly “fool’s gold.” However, on the night of June 15, 1906, the crew decided to take a short break after laying out the dynamite when a lit candle from a helmet accidentally ignited the fuse. While most of the miners got out in time, the resulting explosion collapsed a building and killed hoist operator, Charles Eglin.
Afterwards, strange things began to happen in the mines. Horses would be afraid to go near the mine. Tools and food would go missing, and someone knocking on the walls would reverberate through the tunnels. One of the most chilling incidents happened to a night watchman who said he came across a demon with fiery eyes and 10-foot-long tail.
The mine closed soon after and today most of it is now on restricted and private property. But if you want to see the site yourself, head to the Great Falls entrance for the C&O Canal National Historical Park. A trail that leads to the old Maryland mine is right behind the sign for the park entrance’s on MacArthur Boulevard.
Stop 6: Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery & Memorial Park | Aspen Hill
Believed to be the second-oldest pet cemetery in the country, the story of Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery & Memorial Park in Aspen Hill (yes, the spellings are different), begins in 1920 when dog breeders Richard and Bertha Birney bought land to build a kennel to breed dogs. Initially, the cemetery was a place for the Birneys to bury their own dogs and those of close friends. But as the kennel and their social circle grew, others wanted a place to bury their beloved pets, too.
Gifted to the Montgomery County Humane Society in 2007, the memorial park contains several historic buildings including a large, Tudor-style house, which dates from the early 20th-century and was home to the family that founded the cemetery, and a kennel, which housed their prized dogs. The entire property is listed on the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties and is considered eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
The cemetery isn’t just dogs and cats. Monkeys, birds, goats, hamsters, frogs, goldfish, turtles and snakes, among others, have all been buried at the cemetery. Over 50,000 pets are buried on property including several famous animals. Three of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover’s dogs are buried in Aspin Hill, as well as Timmie, a beloved Washington, D.C. cat who lived in the National Press Building.
Stop 7: Edwards Ferry | Poolesville
Edwards Ferry is a great place for ghost stories, as this part of the C&O Canal was known as “Haunted House Bend”. In October of 1861, the Confederates drove the Yankees into the Potomac river during the infamous battle of Ball’s Bluff. Many of these bodies were seen by lockkeepers and boatmen floating downstream. In later years, reports of strange noises, including blood-curdling screams and moans were heard in Edwards Ferry. They’d also say passing mules became restless and spooked.
Going back to the 1830’s, Edwards Ferry was home to immigrants digging the canal with gunpowder. At that time accidents, as well as poor hygiene and cholera were the norm. Thousands were buried in unmarked graves along the canal.
With such tragic history, spirits are certain to linger and stories will be told. Looking for your own encounter? Gathered around the glow of the campfire, overnight guests of historic Lockhouse 25 just might catch a glimpse of an unlikely visitor from a faraway time.
Looking for additional road trip ideas throughout Montgomery County? Check out our African American History Road Trip, 7 Great Hikes to See Fall Foliage, or plan an overnight trip on MoCo Stay.