I was contacted recently by Stacy Rabinovitz who shared a photo she took on Sycamore Landing Road in Poolesville. In it she says you can see shadowy figures which she thinks are Civil War soldiers. It is very possible as there was a lot of back and forth by soldiers on both sides and homes in the area were used as emergency hospitals following battles at Monocacy, Balls Bluff and others. However, it is also possible that they are men who died building the C & O Canal. You decide.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
I 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.