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Moment in Oddity - Shell Cave Grotto (Suggested by: Chelsea Flowers)
There is a very unusual grotto that can be found in Margate, Kent. Inside this intricate cave system are walls and walls covered in seashells. About 4.6 million of them to be exact. Nearly all the surface areas of the walls and the roof are covered. The shells are of a local variety including cockles, mussels, limpets, oysters and scallops and are thoughtfully placed in unique shapes and interesting murals and mosaics. The winding passageway goes for about 70 feet and ends in a rectangular room. This room measures 15 ft by 20 ft. There is another area called the Rotunda that is domed with an opening to let in sunlight. James Newlove is credited with the discovery of the shell cave grotto in 1835, but his children claimed to have found it years before and used it for a clubhouse of sorts. No one knows who constructed the grotto or when. Most theories assume that the place was used as a pagan temple. Others think this was a place where secret societies met. Whatever the case, it was used as a place to conduct seances for a time and today is a museum you can visit. The Shell Cave Grotto certainly is odd!
This Month in History - Dr. William Bryden Sole Survivor of Kabul Massacre
In the month of January, on the 13th, in 1842, British soldier Dr. William Bryden, the sole survivor of a massacre in Kabul escapes to safety. The Anglo-Afghan War started in 1839 after Britain interfered in Afghanistan's internal affairs by trying to replace the current Emir with a former Emir sympathetic to the British. By 1842, things were not going well for the British after they had successfully captured Kabul. They decided to withdraw on January 6, 1842, but bad weather slowed their progress. A group of Afghan soldiers caught up with the group at the Khyber Pass and attacked them killing many of them. The afghans hit again later and massacred everybody with only Dr. Bryden managing to escape. The massacre killed 4500 soldiers and 12,000 camp followers. The British retaliated by invading Kabul in 1843. An alliance was signed, but broken in 1878 with the Second Anglo-Afghan War.
Ellicott City (Suggested by: Melanie Antonelli)
Ellicott City is a suburb outside of Baltimore with a historic and shopping district that attracts visitors year round. And it makes sense that this would be a town to bring in tourists, as this is home to the first terminus of the B&O Railroad. Founded back in the late 1700s, there is a lot of history here. The city was named one of Trip Advisor's Top 10 Spooky American Getaways because this is quite the haunted town. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Ellicott City!
Quakers founded Ellicott City in 1772. Brothers Andrew, Joseph and John Ellicott first arrived in 1771 and they chose the spot because of its location. They had big plans for milling and manufacturing. James Hood was already here and had built a gristmill, which he sold to Joseph in 1774. Hood's son Benjamin had built a corn grinding mill too. The brothers added a flour mill and called their town Ellicott's Mills for obvious reasons. This became one of the largest milling and manufacturing towns. The brothers convinced local farmers to switch from tobacco growing to wheat. The milling business eventually had issues and the family could no longer support it so they sold everything in 1840. The railroad came in 1830 with the B&O Railroad choosing this as their first terminus. Peter Cooper was a foundry owner in Baltimore and he built the first iron steam engine meant to transport people and named it Tom Thumb. A very famous race was held in August 1830 between a horse-drawn rail carriage and the Tom Thumb at Relay Junction between Ellicott's Mills and Baltimore to see which was faster. The horse won when the train's drive belt broke, but it gave the steam engine the boost it needed to get people excited about traveling via the rails in it.
The Civil War brought the Gaithers Raiders to town as they marched to Baltimore. Ellicott's Mills also got attention when Winans Steam Gun ended up in town on its way to Harpers Ferry and it was seized by the Union Army. Camp Johnson, which was a 1200 man group from the 12th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry, set up on the front lawn of the Patapsco Female Institute. The city saw no major battles though. In 1867, the city was incorporated and the name was changed to Ellicott City. The city has seen its troubles. The Temperance Movement came through, racist political gangs shot and wounded black voters in 1879 and a lynch mob hanged Jacob Henson after he murdered shop owner Daniel Shea in 1895. The mob was afraid the Governor would release Henson for insanity, so took matters into their own hands. After that, the Governor ordered all death row inmates to be sent to the Maryland Penitentiary. But that was the past. Today, Ellicott City is a beautiful town that has made it into the "20 Best Places to Live in the United States" by Money Magazine four times. And it is home to quite a few ghosts!
Howard County Welcome Center
Howard County Welcome Center is located at 8267 Main Street. This site once welcomed more than visitors to the town, this place welcomed the dead. The W.J. Brewley Funeral Home used to front this spot on main street. The Gaither Livery Stables were in the back.Two brothers ran the funeral parlor until one of them died in 1872. Stephen Hillsinger bought it at that time and continued with the same line of business renaming it The Hillsinger Undertaking Parlor. He ran that until 1922 when he died on Halloween night. This remained a funeral parlor until it was decided to build a post office. The buildings on the site were torn down in 1937. A stone building was erected and dedicated in 1940. In 1996, the basement was opened up for a visitor center and it moved top side when the postal service left in 2009. The building was fully restored in 2016. All the vintage fixtures and furnishings are still here. Artist Petro Paul De Anna made the oil paintings that decorate the west and east walls. These were done under a New Deal program created by President Franklin Roosevelt to help boost morale during the Great Depression. Visitors and employees claim to experience phantom smells, to see strange things and to hear odd sounds and the culprit most people blame are the funeral parlor businesses that were once here.
The Judge's Bench
The Judge's Bench Bar is located at 8385 Main Street. This had originally been the property of Thomas, Elias and William Brown who received the land in a grant in the 1700s. The Brown family held the property, which was known as Mount Misery, until 1819 and they sold it to Irvin McLaughlin. This was 10 acres of land and McLaughlin paid $5,000. In 1853, he sold the property to a twenty-seven-year old woman named Sophia Frost. She and her husband built a house here that also served as a confectioner's store. And the Frost family would hold it for almost 100 years, eventually selling to Joseph Berger and his wife. They opened a grocery there naming it Joe Berger's Grocery. The Bergers left in the 1960s and a flooring company moved in. The Judge's Bench opened in the 1970s and was thought to have its name inspired by judges and court officials who would hang out at the Frost store enjoying frosty beverages because it was across from the original courthouse. Buzz Suter bought the bar in 1992.
There is a ghost that haunts the property and many believe that this is Mary, the daughter of the Bergers. Even though the Bergers had there business in Ellicott City, they forbade their daughter from dating any boys in the city because it was such a rough place. As these legends go, Mary fell in love with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks and when her parents said she could never see him again, she climbed to the fourth story and hanged herself. Shortly after her funeral, people started claiming that they saw Mary in the store. People walking past the building when it was empty would claim to see a woman peering out of the windows, especially the attic windows. Liquor bottles fall down on their own behind the bar and one of the bar owners even found a bunch of whiskey bottles lined up neatly on the floor behind the bar one morning when he opened up. Construction workers also had experiences during renovation with seeing a female apparition. Employees have felt cold blasts in the attic and the toilets flush by themselves in the restroom. And one of the more bizarre stories has a bartender claiming that he fell in love with the female ghost and spoke to her often.
B&O Railroad Station Museum
The B&O Railroad Station Museum is located at 3711 Maryland Avenue and is the oldest commercial railroad station because it was the first. The B is in reference to Baltimore and O is for Ohio. This B&O Station was completed in 1831 and was the terminus between Baltimore and Ellicott Mills. Steam engines were repaired here and freight could be stored. The original station was not built for passengers, but during a mid-1800s remodel, waiting rooms were added: one for men and one for women and children. A brick freight house was added in 1885. Train activity fell off by 1928 and in the 1950s, the use of the station by passengers stopped. Freight was still transported until the early 1970s. The old station then became a museum and a haunted one at that.
The reasons for hauntings are the hundreds of deaths that have taken place along the line. The most recent deaths were in 2012. CNN reported on this, "Two teenage girls were killed early Tuesday when a train derailed on the bridge they were sitting on, spilling coal and burying the young women, police in Maryland said. Rose Mayr and Elizabeth Nass, both 19, were apparently sitting on a bridge ledge in Ellicott City, Maryland, just after midnight with their backs to the train when it derailed, according to a written statement from Howard County police. The two girls posted photos to Twitter shortly before the crash. One showed feet dangling over a road, with the caption “Levitating.” Another appeared to look down Main Street." Employees at the museum claim to hear the sounds of dragging across the floor like freight is being moved.
One evening, a group of Civil War re-enactors was staying overnight in the station. One of the men couldn't sleep, so he got up to wander around and ended up sitting on the steps right outside the station. Another man in military garb joined him and the two chatted for a bit and then the man walked away, but in the opposite direction of the station. The re-enactor called out to him asking why he wasn't heading back to the station and the man disappeared.
The Wine Bin
The Wine Bin had once been the Ellicott City Fire Department, Station 2. This is located at 8390 Main Street and was the third fire station in the city. Andrew Isaac had purchased the lot in 1860 and later sold it to Edward Brown who sold it to Charles T. Makinson in 1881. Makinson built a fine carriage factory on the site and it operated for 30 years until a fire destroyed the building. The lot was vacant for a while and then the Howard County Volunteer Fireman's Association bought it to build a firehouse. The structure was designed in the Colonial Revival style by architect Hubert G. Jory and built by the Mancini Construction Company out of Baltimore. The firehouse was completed in 1939 and dedicated on May 1, 1940. There was an octagonal lantern on top of the two-story structure that was inspired by the one at Doughoregan Manor and the building was embellished with Flemish bond brickwork, a battlemented top and Doric columns. The Wine Bin was opened here in 2008 by Dave Carney.
Firefighters reported sounds of silverware rattling in the kitchen when no one was in there. The old typewriter would type by itself. Activity always seemed to pick up when the trucks would go out on calls. They would lock up when leaving and when they would come back, they would find the place completely unlocked. Figuring that someone was playing a prank on them with a lost key, they changed all the locks, but the unlocking antics continued. The station's dog Yogi used to indicate that something was in the building that no one else could see. He would perk up his ears and sit upright and then seem to follow something coming through a door and walking down the hallway. Whatever was there seemed to be heading to the apartment where Fire Chief Harrison Shipley had lived with his family. Yogi would bark at times at the door there and no one was ever inside. The former Fire Chief is thought to be the ghost here. He served and lived here from 1935 to 1957.
When Dave Carney opened the Wine Bin here, he immediately felt the spirit. He told Shelley Davies Wygant in her book Haunted Ellicott City, "I could feel the Captain as soon as I entered the store. I felt that he was far from threatening. In fact, from stories that I heard on the Spirit Tour, he seemed quite playful. It's obvious that the Captain loves his Fire Station home and he shares it with the current owners."
The Hayden House
The Hayden House on Park Avenue is also known as Oak Lawn and is attached to the Howard County Court House. This used to be a private residence for decades. Attorney Edwin P. Hayden, who was the first county clerk for Ellicott City, bought the plot of land from a woman named Deborah Disney in 1842. The house Hayden had built was a side-passage, double-pile plan with a raised basement and he later added a two-story cast iron porch to the front. Side passage architectural designs have offset front doors and the double-pile means the house is two rooms deep. There is no central passageway. The two-and-a-half story house is topped by a gabled roof. Hayden lived here with his wife and six children until his death in 1850. His family stayed and eventually opened up part of the house as the Oaklawn Seminary for Girls. In 1871, the house was sold to Henry E. Wooten. Eventually the house was bought by the county in 1937. A one-story addition was added somewhere around this time. The Board of Education started using the house as offices. The District Court then started using the house and today it is the law library, which works out well since the house is surrounded on three sides by the Courthouse.
There have been many unexplained occurrences in the house with coffee pots turning themselves on even when not plugged in and the lights turn on and off by themselves. And then there is "The Cooking Ghost." There is no longer a kitchen in the building so the scent of soup or bacon and eggs is strange. Disembodied footsteps would also be heard. A worker in the building reported seeing the full-bodied apparition of a man and many believe that this is Hayden returned back to his house in the afterlife.
The Lilburn House
The Lilburn Mansion is located at 3899 College Avenue and thought to be one of the most haunted locations in Ellicott City. The mansion was built in the Gothic and Romanesque Revival styles in 1857 by a rich businessman named Henry Richard Hazelhurst. He named it Hazeldene. Stone and granite were used in the construction and give it a castle-like look, as does the four-story medieval tower. There were 20 rooms in the 7,000 square foot house with 12-foot high ceilings and seven marble fireplaces. The property also had a three-story carriage house and a three level smoke house. Hazelhurst added to his riches with a booming iron business during the Civil War. He died in 1900 at the age of 85. Several different owners then had the mansion. John McGinnis bought the mansion in 1923. A fire broke out on Christmas of that year and thankfully the McGinnis' got out safely, but the house was heavily damaged. They rebuilt the house in the same design, but changed the tower. Then the Baldwin Family became the new owners, eventually selling to Dr. Eugenia King & her son. The house was restored in 1983 by a new family and they sold it again in 1988. There was an attempt to rezone the house into a bed and breakfast in 2005, but nothing came of it and it remains a private residence.
When the mansion was rebuilt after the fire, paranormal activity started and some believe this happened because the tower was changed. This was the most distinctive element of the house and something Hazelhurst probably really loved. The family also lost several children and Mrs. Hazelhurst died in the house. Nearly the entire family died before Mr. Hazelhurst, so there was real sorrow here too. Housekeepers claimed to see the apparition of a little girl wearing a chiffon dress. She would run about all the rooms. She was also seen once walking down a hallway, holding the hand of a male entity. The sounds of a crying child are often heard in an upstairs bedroom. The apparition of a man materialized in a doorway. The dog of one of the owners would never enter a certain room on the second floor. Disembodied footsteps are heard climbing the stairs in the tower and the windows would open by themselves. One owner, Mr. Balderson, tied them down because it became such an issue. The windows still opened on their own. The aroma of cigar smoke is detected in the library and a heavy chandelier was known to sway vigorously on a couple of occasions during parties.
Patapsco Female Institute
The Patapsco Female Institute was one of the first female institutes in the south and was chartered in January of 1834. Architect Robert Cary Long Jr. designed the Greek-revival styled building and it was built by Charles Timanus. Timanus had also built the Court House. The institute officially opened on January 1, 1837 and was advertised as a finishing school for women, but it didn't have much success. This all changed in 1840, when Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps was appointed principal. Phelps was a well-known and respected scientist, educator and author. She changed the focus of the school to training young women to support themselves through teaching. Students ranged in age from 12 to 18 and the maximum number enrolled at one time was 150. Student were charged a basic fee for room, board, washing, and basic instruction in English. Girls could take other courses for additional fees. Phelps helped the women who graduated to find employment. In 1856, Phelps didn't renew her lease on the institute and she was replaced by Robert Harris Archer.
Archer gave the women more freedom, enlarged the school and charged higher fees. The school body made more of an impact on the local town and everything was going well until the Civil War. Archer's finances took a hit and the school was closed for a time. As mentioned earlier, the 12th New Jersey Regiment set up camp on the front lawn. By 1871, Archer was too ill to run the school and the lease was transferred to his second wife, Mary. She ran the school with her step-daughter Roberta until 1877 when they transferred the school to Washington, D.C. and renamed it the Archer Institute. The PFI continued to run under various women until 1891 when the school was closed and the joint stock company was dissolved. The property was sold to James E. Tyson.
The building was turned into a summer hotel called the Burg Alnwick Hotel and ran that way until 1905 when Lilly Tyson made it a private home. During World War I, the building served as a hospital for wounded veterans returning to the States. For a time it was a theater and then a private home again. Dr. Whisman bought the property in 1958 and he opened up a nursing home. That didn't last long when the county demanded that all wood be removed from the property to prevent a fire and that left behind a ruin. The doctor willed the property to the University of Cincinnati. The county bought building in 1966 and it has been under the care of the Friends of the Patapsco Institute ever since. The building was declared unrestorable, but the land around it was turned into a park.
The Patapsco Female Institute is rumored to be haunted. Two women were walking the grounds once and one of the women looked up and saw a man on top of the building. She assumed he was a workman. Then the man seemed to disappear, so she asked her friend where the man had gone. The other woman said that she had seen no man at all. This led the other woman to believe she had seen a ghost. A female ghost is the most seen spirit here. The story goes that a woman named Annie Van Derlot died of pneumonia while attending the institute. There is no record of her, but people continue to refer to her as Annie or Anna. She is seen wearing a long dress and is usually descending the stairs that are still a part of the ruin.
Historic Mt. Ida is currently the visitor center and office for the Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park. In the 1850s Judge John Snowden Tyson purchased the mansion. His daughter, “Miss Ida” Tyson, was the last of the family to live here, and it is rumored that her ghost still watches over her home. In life, Miss Ida kept a ring of keys with her at all times, and witnesses say they hear her keys jingling as her ghost walks through the house.
7 Hills Road
And finally we have probably the most creepy and fun legend in this city. 7 Hills Road lets people experience a demon driver and our listener who suggested this episode had her own as well. The road got its name from the fact the it rolls over seven hills. The legend claims that if you hit the seventh hill at midnight, you will be chased by a demon driver in a truck. Melanie's experience: "I had an experience with The Demon Driver. Growing up, Ellicott City was just minutes from my parent's house. As a teen, I spent hundreds of hours hiking the surrounding park, checking out the ruins, swimming in the Patapsco and hanging out on Main Street. But that was a long time ago. I live about an hour to the North now... and, we have parks up here, too. One day at work, one of my office workers had finished her assignment early and was using her free time to explore haunted places in Maryland that she might visit for some Halloween fun. I tuned in to her conversation when she began talking about Ellicott City. My memories of the place were pleasant...not haunted.
She then starts reading this story off the internet about the 'Demon Driver' on Campus Road.... apparently, people driving on that road at midnight have been followed by an old car driven by a person without a head.... I, literally, felt my stomach drop to the floor. Goosebumps broke out as a very old, a neglected memory surfaced. And, I could hear my high school friend saying over and over in a panicked voice, 'I can't see his head!' Back in High School, my friend and I would jump in her car on a Friday night and just drive. One night, we were roaming the roads around Ellicott City trying to figure out life at sixteen. It was around midnight when we decided to give 'Seven Hills' a try. (Seven Hills is the local name for Campus Road.... because it has seven sharp drops). We were cruising at a conservative speed... the road is known for being dangerous. This car came up behind us out of nowhere. Its grill was broader than her mid 90's Nissan Sentra and its headlights lit up the cockpit of her car. Conversation lulled as the driver behind us pressured her to go faster. After a couple of minutes, I made a comment about the driver behind us being a jerk. With a high, tight note in her voice, she said, 'Melanie, I can't see his head.' 'What?' 'He doesn't have a head!' I turned around in my seat, and sure enough, the cockpit of the car behind us appeared to be empty. She, being the strong, reasonable person that she (still) is, maintained her speed and got us to the bottom of the dangerous road. The whole time glancing back and forth in the rearview mirror, muttering, 'I can't see his head.'
Once we got to the bottom, the car disappeared. We both assumed he had pulled into a driveway... or something. I had never heard that legend until my office worker read it in the office that day, years later. But, that memory jumped up so fast. Twenty-five years later, my friend still shuts me down when I try to remind her."
Ellicott City sounds like a neat town to hang out for some shopping, a beer and some spooks! Is Ellicott City in Maryland haunted? That is for you to decide!
Honorable mention for a couple of spots that don't have any hauntings, but sound like cool abandoned places to check out. The Enchanted Forest Theme Park had been here in Ellicott City. The remnants of it are now located behind a strip mall. This roadside amusement park opened in 1955 and featured a ride throught the caves of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, the Little Toot tugboats on the pond, Mount Vesuvius, Jungle Land and Cinderella's Castle. It grew to over 52 acres and was open until 1989. Part of the park was bulldozed to make room for a shopping mall. Some rides were moved to Clark's Elioak Farm, but the rest of the artifacts had been left behind until around 2017 when the rest of the stuff was removed and replaced by a U-store. Atlas Obscura has a couple of pictures. (Urban Atrophy Pics)
Melanie wrote, "Up another hill are the ruins of St. Mary's Seminary or, as it is more commonly known, 'Hell House'. The steep stairs leading to the grounds of the Seminary are still there in the hillside. It is quite a hike, but totally worth it! Although the building is gone, at the top of the hill, there is a large concrete arch with an 8' metal skeleton of a cross on an alter. It is reputed to be the location of devil worship and all kinds of weird stuff. But, it's so cool." St. Mary's College was built in 1868 to train men to be priests. The school shut down in 1972 and a developer bought the property to make apartments. The project was abandoned as was the property, which was vandalized and took on the name Hell House. A fire destroyed a large part of the building in 1997. The coolest thing left is what Melanie described. There is this altar beneath a crumbling colonnaded pavilion with a large metal cross sitting beneath the faux-classical dome. At least there was. Atlas Obscura wrote a couple of updates on their website: "Update February 2020: The gazebo, altar, and nearby stones have all been mysteriously painted with symbols and other drawings, all black and white. Update June 2020: All remaining structures have been bulldozed." So this may no longer exist either. (Forsaken Fotos on Flickr)