Category Archives: African American history

The Philomena Connection

Judi Dench and Steve Coogan star in Philomena. From

Why would this Montgomery County and paranormal related blog be interested in the movie Philomena? The movie, which opens today, has an unexpected county connection – it was filmed on location at two historic sites in Montgomery County.  Philomena is about an Irish woman who goes in search of her son who was taken from her at birth and sent to the United States for adoption.

St. Paul’s Community Church. From

The first location was St. Paul’s Community Church in the African American community of Sugarland Forest. Sugarland Forest was founded by former slaves following the Civil War. For these former slaves, building a community centered around church and school was critical. More often than not, freedom didn’t provide a significant change in their daily lives. Most continued to work the farms where they had been enslaved, and without education, which had been denied them as slaves, they didn’t have much hope of advancement. However, being able to build a community without threat of reprisal made their lives better and created hope for the future.

The life of Montgomery County’s African Americans is one of courage and tenacity. It is also something for which there are few visual reminders in our historic landscape. Sugarland Forest was one of many communities created by former slaves, most of which have been absorbed into the surrounding communities and whose churches and schools have been lost. I could go on about this fascinating chapter of county history, but I know you are wondering what the paranormal connection is and I won’t keep you wondering for long.

Tresspassers WThe second filming location was at Trespassers W in Potomac, one of the homes that was included in ISOMG:MC. Trespassers W, named for Piglet’s home in Winnie the Pooh, is built on the foundations of a house that was built in 1820. It burned in 1873 and Captain John MacDonald, the owner at the time, built a new house on the old foundation. From 1949 to 1972 the house was owned by Newbold Noyes, editor of the Evening Star (he also gave the house its name and is the man for whom the Noyes Library for Young Children in Kensington is named).

This house has been well haunted for many years. Not only have the current owners seen inexplicable activity, but previous owners as well. The lights frequently flicker on and off in the house. That’s not necessarily indicative of a ghost, you might think, but when you can see the light switches flipping up and down on their own, that’s a different story! One particularly haunting incident happened to the current owner. He was working late at night in his study, the house was quiet and he was the only one up. He suddenly heard a harmonica playing. The sound seemed to be coming from the center of the room; the stereo wasn’t on and there had been no sound before the harmonica started playing. The unseen musician finished his tune before the music ended.

Who could the musical specter be? In our research we found several possibilities, but here I will suggest just one, Thomas Marshall Offutt.  Thomas Marshall Offutt ran a general store in present-day Potomac and was rather hot-headed.  When a rival store opened across the street, he tried to kill the owner, but only succeeded in putting a hole through his hat.  He was sent to prison, but escaped and was at large for two years with a $300 bounty on his head.  He was finally captured and died in jail.

This is just one story we could tell about this well haunted house which is most likely home to multiple ghosts. ISOMG:MC tells the whole story.




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Filed under African American history, Poolesville, Potomac