Having an unscheduled evening is a rare event in our household, especially as my kids get older and their social calendars threaten to overtake ours. Even so, we found ourselves inexplicably free this past Friday evening. Taking a Ghost Tour in Ellicott City had been on our "Summer Wish List" for the past two years and we finally had time to make it happen.
Before I talk about the ghost tour, let me just say that the redesigned Howard County Visitor's Center, now housed in the former Post Office, is worth a visit. I've been to this building hundreds of times to purchase stamps, mail packages, or pick up mail, but I'd never noticed the murals hanging high in the lobby. Painted by Petro Paul De Anna in 1942 as part of the New Deal legislation, they are now easily seen and placards describe the young artist, his works, and more about how and where they came to be. The interior is well-lit and one can wander all around, learning about Ellicott Mills history, making reservations, finding tours, researching bed-and-breakfast locations, or talking to the helpful staff behind the counter. Clean public bathrooms are located downstairs (if your kids are like
mine, this tidbit is worth its weight in gold).
Paula, dressed head to toe in somber black, led our tour by candlelight. By day a historian, she knew how the Quaker Ellicott Brothers of Bucks County, PA convinced local farmers to convert from tobacco to wheat production to support their flour mill. We heard about the first National Road, now Main Street/Frederick Road, which stretched from the ports of Baltimore to the shores of the Mississippi. This road was built by the industrious Ellicott brothers to get their famous flour to market. The country's oldest train depot resides in Ellicott City as well as the ruins of the historic Patapsco Women's Institute. This town, just one square mile, has seen floods, has been overrun by retreating Union forces, and has one of its young women on the verge of sainthood. It is purported to be the most haunted town on the east coast.
My family likes ghost tours as they offer an interesting way to learn history. We've toured cemeteries in Charleston, SC, hiked over Gettysburg battlefields, and marched the cobblestone streets of Philadelphia hearing spooky tales. While the Ellicott City tour wasn't the most frightening, it offered something unique: a way to connect with our own town's history and see its beauty under the light of a the moon. We loved hearing stories about Cecilia, the sweeping ghost of Tongue Row, or Al, the former owner of the current day Ooh La La, who shows up in his coveralls. The runaway confederate soldier with the accompanying sounds of gunfire intrigued us.
But poor Mary, who likes to drink with unsuspecting patrons at the Judge's Bench, won our hearts because she is a modern day ghost who died of a broken heart.
Tours occur on weekends, with special events and new tours are added periodically. Paula is just one of the storytellers, with each guide having his or her experiences to share. The tours are suitable for families with kids six and older, last about two hours, and requires walking at a comfortable pace with frequent stops.
Are you a fan of ghost tours? If so, share your favorite tour or story with weeAdventure.