What are the main ingredients of a great ghost story? For me, it’s more than just a ghost. It’s putting a little history into your haunting that makes a great yarn.
Collecting the ghost stories is the first challenge. How do you find them? My co-author, Dorothy Pugh and I relied on old-timers and word-of-mouth. If we heard a rumor about a place, we weren’t afraid to knock on the door. I talked to people knowledgeable about their community. Sometimes they’d give me a story, sometimes a lead to someone with a story, or sometimes it was a dead-end.
We’d start with some key research questions: Who is doing the haunting? What tragedy or significant event happened that might make a restless spirit? What history is revealed by the story? The ghost stories in our book take place in houses, farms, mills, roads, bridges, even a carousel. We’d look up who lived there, how old the property was, how the site was used, and if it had any unusual features. Did anything violent happen there? Any tragic events?
Ghosts are often associated with someone who died an unnatural death. Stories about unrequited love, murder, burning, and illness all may supply the necessary elements for the incorporeal. For instance, Honeysuckle Hill is home to a tragic spirit that haunts the house only in the month of November. Twentieth century owners of Honeysuckle Hill tell of unexplained noises, and once, the owner felt someone shake him awake--only no one was there. Research revealed that a former daughter of the house, Annie P. Linthicum, hung herself in the attic in November 1869. Research didn’t expose the reason for Annie’s suicide, but her haunting confirms the correlation between tragic deaths and ghosts.
To learn more about Annie Linthicum who returns every November to haunt Honeysuckle Hill, my children and I visited the old family cemetery. While very overgrown, we did manage to find Annie’s tombstone which reads ‘”Though he slay me, yet, will I trust in him.”
To learn more about In Search of Maryland Ghosts: Montgomery County click here.