Category Archives: Brookeville

A Face in the Window


The Miller’s House is the small building in the far right of the image.

If it’s true that the eyes are the windows to the soul, then are windows the eyes to a house? Or a haunted house at least? As my home’s windows are currently boarded up waiting for an upgrade, I was thinking about faces in windows and what they can tell the outside world. When I first began researching possible haunted properties in Montgomery County, I looked at some of the paranormal message sites online. There were a number of stories that involved faces in the windows of abandoned properties. I wasn’t always able to follow that up with something more substantial and so most of those places didn’t make it into the book (at least not volume 1, who knows about volume 2).

Recently I was at an event with a woman who went to school with some of the Archer boys who grew up in the Madison House in Brookeville. She remembered their stories of a face in the window of the Miller’s House, a small building adjacent to the Madison House. When the Archer’s moved in, they had to restore both buildings to habitability. The Miller’s House was a much smaller building than the Madison House and was banked, meaning it had a ground level first floor and a walkout basement. The face, seen apparently on more than one occasion, belonged to a young woman looking in a window on the back of the building; the banked side! That meant she either had to be on a tall ladder or floating in space! As there was no ladder available…I’ll let you draw the appropriate conclusion. Who was this apparition? The Archers thought it might have belonged to the resident poltergeist, Nancy Helen Riggs. Her name appeared one evening when the family decided to try out a Ouija board. They had no idea that something as specific as a name would be spelled out by the unseen hand that moved the planchette about the board.

Have you ever experienced the uneasy sight of a face in a window where none could be?


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The Aroma of Ghosts

DSC00333Do ghosts have a smell? As I immerse myself in Passover baking, the ghosts we have found that are associated with smells, so far good, comes to mind. Why good smells when the spirit met a tragic end, I know not. What I do know is that smell, especially the smell of good things baking, makes me think of wonderful, benevolent spirits.

Lily Lilac at the Brookeville Woolen Mill is one of the best known ghosts to be associated with a smell. We don’t know her story, but the scent of lilacs was always pleasing to the family that lived there.

Why the attic at the Layton House would occasionally smell like baked beans is a mystery. The smell is associated with the spirit of a child that seems to inhabit the space. The child, a boy, was thought to be the result of a liaison between one of the white owners of the property and their enslaved cook. The lore about the Layton House is that the mulatto child was kept out of sight in the attic, away from the prying eyes of Layton’s neighbors and that he died while young.

The story of a young cook at Needwood Mansion that got herself in the family way while still unmarried is truly tragic. She hanged herself rather than face the shame of having an illegitimate child. Her ghostly manifestation is the smell of chocolate cake baking in the kitchen. Now I do always feel better when I have a little chocolate after a difficult day. Do you think she’s perhaps comforting herself the same way, but only in the after-life?

And, finally, Woodside, an historic home in Silver Spring, has perhaps one of the most frustrating aromas. Who doesn’t enjoy waking up to a fresh pot of coffee that is just waiting for you when you come down in the morning? Well at Woodside, the resident spirit only provides the scent. You have to do the brewing yourself!

Do you have any ghosts that come with their own, distinct perfume? Let us know!


Filed under Brookeville, Derwood, Laytonsville, Silver Spring, Woodside

Greenwood – The House Behind the Cover

IN SEARCH OF MARYLAND-fcvr-front onlyYou may have been wondering what haunted setting illustrates the cover of In Search of Maryland Ghosts: Montgomery County. It is Greenwood, one of the most haunted houses in Montgomery County. The original photo (shown below) is one of several from the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). HABS and its companion programs, the Historic American Engineering Record and the Historic American Landscapes Survey, are still operated by the National Park Service. These were make-work programs created by the Works Projects [Progress] Administration (WPA) for architects, draftsmen, and photographers who were out of work because of the Great Depression. It was one of those wonderful, invaluable things that can come out of great turmoil. Historians will forever be grateful to the Roosevelt Administration for creating the program that produced such a treasure-trove of  material. We used many photographs from HABS in ISOMG:MC (all of which are available on LOC-kitchen wing_croppedthe Library of Congress website and are in the public domain).

The  images we used were created by John O. Brostrup in 1936 as he toured the county, presumably photographing places that were both historic (unfortunately that meant not Rossdhu Castle and other properties of the 1920s) and of interest to him. In a very few cases, we even are able to see the interiors, though not for Greenwood, the subject of today’s post. (I wish I could say more about John Bostrup, but the internet has failed me in this regard.)

Back to Greenwood. There are at least eight spectral entities that have been identified haunting Greenwood. The first, it’s best known owner, was Allen Bowie Davis, followed by his daughter, Rebecca Davis, and then Wilbur Nash, the owner of the house following the Davis family. I believe the wraith looking out the second floor window is supposed to be Rebecca Davis, whose photograph is in the book. Greenwood is also home to a ghost dog, Davis’ beloved Newfoundland, who met a grisly end, and a hapless chicken that accidentally was locked in the house and died. And it is home to the spirits of at least two enslaved men who supposedly died in the shackles in the basement prison.

The final ghost (if indeed that is truly the case) is Charlotte, an enslaved dairymaid/farm worker whose story is truly pitiable. When the Maryland Legislature voted to end slavery in Maryland on November 1, 1864, Davis took the news with aplomb. Perhaps he had been expecting such an event, but in any case, he reported the circumstances to his slaves (Davis was one of the largest slave owners in Montgomery County) and cautioned them regarding their future. Charlotte, overcome with the news, had a massive stroke and died the next day. To be able to see freedom coming and not be able to experience it must have been too much for her. Even as her body died, her spirit remained and, as far as I know, still haunts Greenwood today.

Here are the other two images of Greenwood from the HABS collection at the Library of Congress.
Greenwood_loc1_croppedLOC-southwest front


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Brookeville Woolen Mill

The Brookeville Woolen Mill is home to the spirit Lily Lilac, star of many a newspaper article at Halloween. Lily was so named because she left the scent of lilacs whenever she appeared as well as the occasional lip prints on mirrors and windows .

The Brookeville Woolen Mill is actually the miller’s house, the mill being just down the hill from the house (you can see a glimpse of it through the trees in the picture above). The buildings date to the late 1700s and were a fulling mill and woolen factory. Many people don’t realize that Montgomery County had a lot of manufacturing in small mills. The county’s geologic composition means that there are a lot of healthy streams throughout the county (as evidenced by our current stream valley park system) creating ample water power – ideal for mills. The Brookeville area had many mills, including a mill town, Triadelphia.

Evidence of this mill heritage remains in the many mill road names found throughout the county. Some of the mill buildings, like the Brookeville Woolen Mill, have found new life as homes and businesses (the Hyattstown Mill may be the only mill space used for public programs  in the county) and the ruins of many mills can be found in county parks (Black Rock Mill is a good example). To see what an operating mill is like, the Pierce Mill in Rock Creek Park (once part of Montgomery County) is  a functioning grist mill and living museum.

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