Halloween is almost here and friendly neighborhood trick-or-treaters aren’t the only things going bump in the night. From ghostly apparitions to unexplained noises – it’s primetime for the ghoulish and spooky. And while you won’t find the Lizzie Borden House or Stanley Hotel here in Montgomery County, we do have our own hotbeds of paranormal activity.
Head to one of these haunted sites and you might find yourself face to face with a spirit from the past.
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 largest and most impressive house in Rockville at the time, the brick estate was designed to reflect Beall’s wealth and status and provide a home for him, his wife and three daughters. Following Beall’s death, his daughters continued living in the house for the rest of their lives.
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. Today, the house still contains most of its original architecture, including the indoor slave quarters, and serves as a museum of life in 19th Century Rockville.
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.
Clara Barton National Historic Site
Currently closed for construction, 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. Notably, it is the first national historic site dedicated to the accomplishments of a woman. 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. 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.
The Maryland Mine
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, a crew of miners found themselves in a life-or-death situation as they were preparing to set off an explosion in one of the mine’s tunnels. After laying out the dynamite, the crew decided to take a short break. At the time, each helmet was outfitted with a lit candle to help the miners see in the dark. Unknown to the miners, one of the helmets had been tossed near the dynamite. Once they noticed the smell of a burning fuse, they frantically fled to escape the impending explosion. 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, which they blamed on the Tommyknocker – a mischievous elf or gnome that wears miner’s clothing from Welsh and Cornish folklore. Horses would be afraid to go snear the mine. And, there would be missing tools and food, and unexplainable sounds like someone knocking on the walls of the tunnels. Some believed it was the Tommyknocker warning the miners of a cave-in or the spirit of Eglin trying to start one in revenge. 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.