Avalon

It’s been a while since we posted anything. Since Halloween is coming up, Dorothy and I thought it would be fun to post one of the stories we had to cut from the book because of length. We hope you enjoy the story of Avalon.

Avalon – Historic American Buildings Survey John O. Brostrup, Photographer August 5, 1936 9:20 A. M. VIEW FROM SOUTHEAST (front). Library of Congress.

Frequently, a house is haunted by a former resident who doesn’t know they are dead. Such seemed to be the case with Avalon, a home in Sandy Spring built in 1855-56 for Alban and Rachel Gilpin. The beautiful brick house was well loved by the Gilpins and their daughter Mary. Rachel Gilpin was a soft-spoken woman. Her obituary described her as “one of a lovely class, who are fully appreciated only by those who have lived in the house with them.” Mary was not born in the house, but lived there nearly her entire life, from the time they moved into the house in 1856 when she was 4 until her death in 1946 at age 94. She never married, but was an astute business woman in the community and even served as a director for the First National Bank of Sandy Spring.

The house was never reported as being haunted in Mary’s lifetime. Following her death, the new owners Charles and Roberta Ligon, began to experience some unexplained phenomena. By the time the Ligons bought the house from Mary Gilpin’s estate, it had stood empty for nearly two years. The neglect it experienced during that time and the lack of modernization during the last years of Mary’s life meant the house was in great need of renovation.

Roberta Ligon did a lot of painting and other work around the house at night while her husband was working at Montgomery General Hospital. There were many nights when she heard footsteps on the stairs. When she called out no one was there. She also found that she could not keep the crystal in the dining room. On numerous occasions, while walking through the dining room, she would hear a crack only to find another piece of crystal had cracked and broken. There were more unexplained happenings during renovation than when the house was still. She also could not keep a clock in the dining room. She had found a beautiful clock that matched the marble mantel in that room, but it didn’t seem to work. She took it in for repairs, but the local clock person said it was working fine. When she told him where she lived and what room the clock was in, he said it was well known in the community it would never work there. And it never did. It did, however, work fine in any other part of the house. Other clocks also seemed to take offense at the changes happening in the house. They often heard someone going up the front stairs, crossing a room, and then walking down the back stairs, but of course, no living being was there.

Roberta Ligon was getting very tired of these goings on. She began to research what you could do if your house was haunted. She assumed that the ghost was the home’s longest tenured resident, Mary Gilpin, and it was time for Mary to go. She invited an uncle with psychic abilities to stay in the guest room where a lot of paranormal activities had been experienced. Guests were often woken up by someone moving around in and near the room. Her uncle reported seeing a lady in a grey dress and shawl. She wore her hair in a bun and had on steel rimmed glasses. When he was shown a picture of Mary, he said it wasn’t the ghost. He then saw a drawing of Rachel Gilpin, Mary’s mother, and identified her as the troubled soul who continued to inhabit Avalon, over 55 years after her death.

Roberta Ligon then went to work. She was tired of replacing crystal and being woken up by disembodied footsteps. She read that sometimes a person’s spirit doesn’t realize they are dead and so they continue to walk this world. If told firmly and without question that they ARE dead, it would help them pass over. And so she firmly told Rachel she was dead and it was time to move on. It seemed to be what Rachel needed to put her soul at rest because the Ligons never had a problem after that time.

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Ghosts of Kentlands Mansion

New article out about Kentlands Mansion in the InGaithersburg magazine – http://www.gaithersburgmd.gov/Home/ShowDocument?id=3508. Dorothy and I will be telling stories of Gaithersburg hauntings on Octobe 27 at the Arts Barn – https://www.facebook.com/events/462439480922175/

Kentlands Title Caption

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Happy Holidays!

Wishing everyone happy and safe holidays and a
2016 full of wonder!682-1

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Out and About

Dorothy and I have a number of speaking engagements over the next month or so and we’re fortunate that several will be at local libraries. All of those are free and open to the public. For the list of dates and places, go to our Events page.

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In the News

Dorothy and I have an article in this month’s Montgomery Magazine

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Out and About

It’s getting to be Halloween season and our speaking schedule is filling up. While most of the talks are for area clubs, there are a couple that are open to the general public: October 5 for the Kensington Park Retirement Community and Kensington Historical Society and October 26 for the Germantown Historical Society. I’ll post any new talks and detail updates on the Events page.

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Clifton Revisited

A ghost story isn’t truly complete unless you get the experiences from all the people who have ever lived there, something which is nearly impossible. Therefore, it pleases us no end when we get a report from the current inhabitants of one of the places we write about in ISOMG. Recently, I received an email from Courtney, one of Clifton’s current owners, with an update to the haunting of this very historic house:

Clifton_2011I have to say, reading the account of Clifton’s ghost was wholly reassuring…we have been experiencing ‘ghostly activity’ on a regular basis since moving in almost 8 years ago and it is nice to confirm that we aren’t the first!  Like the Bullards before me, I find the presence of Others in Clifton to be warm and welcoming, albeit perhaps a bit moody – I’ve been locked out of my own house more times then I care to admit!  Further, when we were renovating the house the workers here had quite a time managing the interference of our spirits – machines were turned on and off, keys and tools were moved several times a day, and one worker flatly refused to work on our porch after being pushed by an invisible hand.  However, on the whole it has taken on the feeling of an extra family member rather than a bother, and I loved reading your account.  Thanks so much for including our house in the book…

You can read the original blog post on Clifton or the full story in ISOMG.

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Out and About

Things have been quiet lately, but we’re still out speaking as evidenced by today’s photo.

image

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Book Signing

Dorothy and I will be signing books from 2:00-4:00 at the Gaithersburg Book Festival. We’ll be at the Schiffer Books booth. There are a lot of great talks and authors and we hope you’ll stop by and say hello to us!

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The Lincoln Connection

I realized as returned home tonight that it is not only the first day of Passover, not only a full lunar eclipse, but also the anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The connection to Montgomery County lies not with Lincoln himself (how I wish we could have had a story about his ghost in ISOMG), but one of the conspirators. So as John Wilkes Booth and others tried escaping to the south, one of the conspirators went north  and it’s his story, George Atzerodt’s story, that I am at liberty to tell.

George Atzerodt. Image from the Library of Congress

George Atzerodt. Image from the Library of Congress

Richter-King House and George Atzerodt

There is a somewhat new house in Germantown where mysterious things have happened.The owner, a policeman, feels the house shake every time he puts on his dress blues. Heavy footsteps are frequently heard going up the stairs. What could have happened to haunt this house?

The answer lies not in the house, but in where the house stands. It is on the foundation of an older house; a house with a history and fear. It was the Richter-King House in Germantown and it was host to George Atzerodt, one of the Lincoln conspirators.

The story actually begins on Friday, April 14th in Washington, DC. George Atzerodt met with John Wilkes Booth , Lewis Paine and Davy Herold to plan President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Booth’s plan was not just to murder Lincoln, but also Secretary of State William Seward and Vice-President Andrew Johnson. Each member of the group was given a task to do. The task of killing Vice President Johnson fell to Atzerodt.

Until that moment, Atzerodt thought he had agreed to be part of a plot to kidnap the President. He knew couldn’t go through with an assassination. He decided the best thing to do was to get out of town! His cousin, Ernest Hartman Richter had a farm in upper Montgomery County and Atzerodt thought Richter might take him in while he figured out what he should do next.

The next day was Easter Sunday. As Atzerodt traveled north he stopped for lunch. The subject of Lincoln’s assassination came up among the diners and he was drawn into the conversation. His contribution to the conversation seemed unusually knowledgeable to his fellow diners. So much so that it aroused the suspicions of everyone at the table. Without realizing he may have said too much, he continued on to his cousin’s where he hung out and helped with the farm chores.

Richter-King House. Image from the Montgomery County Historic Preservation Commission

Richter-King House. Image from the Montgomery County Historic Preservation Commission

On the morning of Wednesday, April 19 at 5:00 AM, Atzerodt was roughly awakened by a blue-clad soldier sticking a pistol in his face. His conversations about the assassination three days earlier at the farmhouse had come back to haunt him. Through a network of spies, the information had worked its way to the 1st Cavalry stationed at Monocacy Junction. Once under arrest, the military moved him to the Old Capitol Prison where he was eventually hung.

So those heavy footsteps are, no doubt, the soldiers coming to arrest Atzerodt. And it is Atzerodt’s spirit that shakes with fear knowing that the soldiers in blue are coming to get him.

 

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