Following in the Footsteps of Local Ghosts
Friday, October 6, 2006
From time to time, visitors to the historic Landon House in Urbana, Md., may see its former owner, Capt. Luke Tiernan Brien, sitting in a rocking chair on the expansive front porch, rocking back and forth while looking out over his property. Normally, this wouldn't be unusual -- except that Brien was a Civil War veteran who died in 1912.
At the Woodlawn mansion in Alexandria -- once home to Maj. Lawrence Lewis and wife Eleanor Parke Custis (George Washington's nephew and Martha Washington's granddaughter) -- a gentleman in a black cape is said to make a regular appearance, and visitors have reported hearing children's voices and the sound of windows opening and closing. But no one lives at Woodlawn, which has been a museum for more than 50 years.
Roll over, Halloween. Big kids, especially, will enjoy the "real" ghosts of October, such as the Civil War soldiers said to be wandering the streets of Frederick and Harpers Ferry, W.Va., or the Revolutionary-era patriots haunting Annapolis and Alexandria. From sightings of abolitionist John Brown in Harpers Ferry to a phantom in Ellicott City, ghosts are apparently "alive" and well across the region. Just in time for the haunting month, guides from Baltimore to Leesburg await, ready to spook your family on the ghost tour of your choice. (Though it should be noted that not all ghost tours are appropriate for the 6-and-younger crowd -- and parents should use their discretion, depending on the tour, with kids 12 and younger -- most should provide good, Halloween-season fun, with even a little history and folklore sprinkled in.)
Wellington Watts, owner of Alexandria Colonial Tours, says more children than adults have spotted the ghost of Laura Schaefer, the doomed bride-to-be who in 1879 caught on fire while trying on her wedding dress and died shortly after in the House in the Country building on North Fairfax Street in Old Town. "Our tour ends in the bedroom where she died," Watts says, adding that adults often feel intense heat on this tour.
At Woodlawn, which bills itself as "one of the most haunted houses in Virginia," Haunted History tours will include spooky stories and vignettes performed by actors with the theme "Superstitions and Premonitions." Stacy Hawkins, Woodlawn's manager of special events and programs, warns that an abundance of paranormal activity takes place near the home's original well. And, apparently, people like to check it out. "Make reservations," she says. "We sold out last year."
In the District, the operators of Washington Walks tours claim that the ghosts of presidents, a first lady, assassins and military officers roam the city and that its tour will take you to the "most haunted" areas of the city. At Landon House in Urbana, ghost-tour leader "Johnny Reb" (Landon House owner Kevin Dolan) will talk about the tragic life of Capt. Brien, whose five children predeceased him. Who knows? They might even see Brien rocking on the porch, waiting for his children to return.
WASHINGTON WALKS CAPITAL HAUNTINGS Fridays at 7:30 through October, also Oct. 28 and 31. Meet at McPherson Square Metro station (White House exit). 202-484-1565. http:/
A GOTHIC EVENING Oct. 27 at 7:30. Riversdale House Museum, 4811 Riverdale Rd., Riverdale Park. 301-864-0420; TTY 301-699-2544. http:/
ANNAPOLIS GHOST TOURS Oct. 20, 21, 27, 28, 29 and 31 at 7. Annapolis Tours and Watermark Cruises, meet at the Dock Information Booth, 1 Dock St., Annapolis. 410-268-7601. http:/
CANDLELIGHT GHOST TOURS OF FREDERICK Saturday at 8:30; Oct. 13 through Nov. 11, Fridays at 8 and Saturdays at 7 and 9. Meet at Brewer's Alley Restaurant & Brewery, 124 N. Market St., Frederick. 301-845-7001. http:/
FELLS POINT GHOST TOURS Fridays and Saturdays through November at 7. Meet at Max's Darthouse, 731 S. Broadway near Fells Point Square, Baltimore. 410-522-7400. http:/
GHOST WALKS AT LANDON HOUSE Fridays at 8:30. Landon House, 3401 Urbana Pike, Urbana. 301-874-3914. http:/