Category Archives: Poolesville

Snowy Day

Huntview. I wish we had a snowy photo. It probably looks beautiful today.

Huntview. I wish we had a snowy photo. It probably looks beautiful today.

Snow days are treats in and of themselves, but a little haunting might add to your pleasure, or at least that was my thinking when I began this post. We only have one story in ISOMG:MC that involves a snowstorm. That story belongs to Huntview, or the James Trundle Farm, in Poolesville. This 19th century house, ca. 1878 (but built on the foundations of an older building), seems to be incredibly haunted, and the current residents can prove it having had many encounters, heard, felt, and seen, with the spirits that inhabit the place.

The other great thing about the tales of Huntview is that they have been reported by many different residents over time as you can see from the following excerpt:

One night sometime during the 1940s there was a terrible snowstorm.  Everything around was shut down and no one was out who didn’t have to be.  It was evening and the caretaker* at the time was looking out the window when he saw footprints in the snow.  He called the family together because he had told everyone to stay inside.  This was the kind of storm where one could be in great danger outside.  But everyone was in and no one had gone out.  The next morning, the man went out to see what damage the storm might have caused.  Under the window where he had seen footprints the night before there was a set of deep tracks leading down to River Road.  As he followed the tracks, they became shallower and shallower until they disappeared altogether in the middle of a field. 

The ghosts who haunt Huntview have been thought to be Civil War soldiers, farmers, and men from a different era. I can only speculate to whom those footprints belonged. A long gone farmer looking after his property during a terrible storm? A Civil War soldier scanning the area to be sure that the Confederates have not crossed the river? I leave it to you to decide.

*Huntview has not had a resident-owner for some time. All the stories we gathered are from caretakers who lived and worked at the farm.

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Haunting Celebrations

As we prepare for Thanksgiving, I thought it would be fun to look at some of the spots in ISOMG:MC where the resident ghosts decided to pave their own party. We don’t always know the reason for the celebration, but unseen merriment has definitely been reported as taking place while the homeowner could only stand by frustrated in not being part of the festivities.

Montanverde

Montanverde, ca. 1970s. Courtesy Montgomery County Historical Society..

Usually it is impossible to know exactly what is being celebrated, but such was not the case at Montanverde. That venerated house (see more on the history of Montanverde in this previous post) was home to Major George Peter, antebellum Montgomery County’s political boss, and he still likes to celebrate his electoral wins in perpetuity. In 1948, the Harman Family reported hearing great carrying on in the house. Raucous laughter and the sound of glasses clinking and breaking (a celebratory habit the Major indulged in with regularity) could clearly be heard. The date coincided with the 100th anniversary of the election of Zachary Taylor, our 12th president and a personal friend of Major Peter. The Major helped orchestrate his victory in Maryland. Obviously his pride in accomplishing this extends in death as it did in his lifetime.

AnningtonAnother party seems to be taking place at Annington, an historic house which has had much column length in this blog (see Colonel Baker and Annington, The Annnington Guest House, and The Battle of Ball’s Bluff) The house has a long history dating back to 1812 and the Trundle Family. Over the years it has had many owners. By the 1950s the house was owned by Drew Pearson,  muckracking journalist and author of Washington Merry-Go-Round. Pearson lived nearby on another farm, Merry-Go-Round Farm. When Annington was put up for sale, he decided to buy it as an investment, which he did. He first had the old slave quarters renovated, which he leased to the John Normans. One night the Normans saw and heard something amazing at the old house. The house was lit up and the shadows of dancers could be seen through the windows. They could hear people laughing and music playing. There was definitely a big soiree going on in what was supposed to be an empty house. Mr. Norman went over to investigate only to find the house locked tight and when he went inside, all was dark, quiet and gloomy.

Ballroom, National Park Seminary. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Ballroom, National Park Seminary. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Our third story is a dance, another kind of party. This takes place at the National Park Seminary, that wonderful school campus in Forest Glen that eventually became the Walter Reed Annex and is now a condominium community. Our story takes place in the 1960s when the property was still actively used for wounded soldiers’ rehabilitation. Dances were routinely held by the Army in the great ballroom, as they had been when it was still a school, and later during World War II when the USO regularly planned them for the servicemen and patients who were based at the facility. A soldier was there attending one of the dances. At one point he looked up to the balconies that overlooked the ballroom. There he saw soldiers looking down on the festivities. They looked sad, as if they wished they could join the dance. He realized they were not dressed in the current style of Army uniforms, but closer to that worn by GIs during the War. He then realized they were also NOT SOLID. He then understood he was looking at the apparitions of soldiers who were no more, there in spirit if not in body.

Dentzel Carousel, Glen Echo Park

Dentzel Carousel, Glen Echo Park

Our final story is, again, a different sort of celebration. In Glen Echo Park crowds of African Americans have been seen riding the carousel. What’s so strange about that you might ask. It’s the when and the how that give us a clue. They were witnessed late at night when the park is closed. At that time, crowds of men, women, and children dressed in their Sunday best have been seen enjoying a carousel ride – when the park is closed – when the carousel isn’t running. And the clothes they were wearing were not from the 1960s, as they ought to have been, but more like the 1930s or ’40s. At that time, Glen Echo was a segregated, whites only, amusement park. The good people seen late at night would not have been allowed in at any time to ride the carousel. Clearly, their spirits have organized after death to have an experience they must have longed to do in life.

As you celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday, I suggest you give a toast to the essence of the holiday. One that has seen many generations of people celebrating for the same reason, if not always at the same time as we do today. The spirits of past feasts may join you in that toast. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

 

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The Philomena Connection

Judi Dench and Steve Coogan star in Philomena. From http://www.bbc.co.uk

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 http://www.sugarlandethnohistoryproject.org

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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Bernie and the Poolesville Public Golf Course

Bernie's Club-front view

Bernie'sClub-side viewBecause of yesterday’s beautiful weather – golfing weather – I thought I would post a little about Bernie Siegel and what is now the Poolesville Public Golf Course.

Bernie made his money working for Food Fair Grocery, and later Grand Union (how many of you remember that). After he retired he decided he wanted to build a housing development. Bernie loved golf, so in the old tradition of building the attraction and they will come, he bought a large tract of land in Poolesville and named it Norbern. His new golf course, River Road Country Club, was the centerpiece. Montgomery County has a number of communities that started in such a way – Glen Echo started as a chautauqua and became an amusement park. Chevy Chase and Bethesda also had amusement parks. Some country club communities include Indian Springs, Avenel, and Argyle. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for Bernie. He ended up with a lovely golf course in his backyard, but no houses. His own, which became the clubhouse, may originally have been a log cabin on the property that he enlarge.

By 1966, Bernie’s health was deteriorating and his development had not succeeded. Most likely despondent over the state of things, Bernie took his own life. Shortly after, strange things started happening at the clubhouse and on the grounds (too many to list in this short blog). Today, the golf course has been taken over by Montgomery County, but that doesn’t mean the sightings have stopped. Just ask anyone at the pro shop – they have a few stories to tell!

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A Halloween Treat

The James Trundle Farm (or Huntview as it is now known) has had many ghost sightings and strange happenings. In honor of Halloween night, below is an excerpt from the book:

One night sometime during the 1940s there was a terrible snowstorm.  Everything around was shut down and no one was out who didn’t have to be.  It was evening and the caretaker [of the James Trundle Farm] at the time was looking out the window when he saw footprints in the snow.  He called the family together because he had told everyone to stay inside.  This was the kind of storm where one could be in great danger outside.  But everyone was in and no one had gone out.  The next morning, the man went out to see what damage the storm might have caused.  Under the window where he had seen footprints last night there was a set of deep tracks leading down to River Road.  As he followed the tracks, they became shallower and shallower until they disappeared altogether in the middle of a field. 

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The Battle of Ball’s Bluff and More on Baker – The Life of a Death

Death of Baker at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff. Library of Congress.

Full-length portrait of Baker in uniform from the Library of Congress.

I hope you will excuse this longish post, but once started, I realized it needed to be a bit more than originally written. After my post on Col. Baker when I was in San Francisco, I began to wonder if there was a photographic record of his original gravestone. The current stone in the Military Cemetery at the Presidio was placed there in 1940, but he wasn’t originally buried there.  I was also intrigued with all the places where he has been memorialized. As often happens during a war, heroes emerge whose story is significant at the time, but eventually becomes an historical footnote. Their memory lives on mostly because of all the places that were named after them while their story was still fresh. (Montgomery County is one of many counties named after Richard Montgomery, a Revolutionary War hero, who is remembered mostly for all the places that were named for him after his death in 1775.) BUT then I realized that today, October 21, is the 151st anniversary of the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, and so I had to say more.

Dorothy had the thankless task of writing the stories for Annington, the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, and the C & O Canal. These stories trip all over each other, and separating them into three distinct tales was a challenge. You see, while Baker died at Ball’s Bluff, he haunts Annington. The ghosts that were created out of the tragedy that was the Battle of Ball’s Bluff spilled over into the C & O Canal.

Ball’s Bluff Battlefield – stone marks where Baker died.

The Battle of Ball’s Bluff was a debacle. Ball’s Bluff is a steep cliff rising above the Potomac River in Loudon County, VA. The Confederates had the high ground. Baker should have called for a retreat, and was advised to do so by his subordinates. Perhaps it was being back on the battlefield after so many years, or hoping to take a decisive stand early in the war, but Baker pushed forward. It was a rout, with the Union wounded and dead clogging the Potomac. Baker, too, died, and was temporarily laid to rest at Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.. Then, after some negotiations, it was decided that California would get him even though he was a senator from Oregon. (He had been a lawyer in San Francisco before moving to Oregon.) After a lengthy train ride to San Francisco, with many stops for mourners to view him along the way, he reached Lone Mountain Cemetery (later renamed Laurel Hill Cemetery) in San Francisco. This was an appropriate place as Baker had given the dedication speech for the cemetery when it opened in 1854.

Baker Monument, Laurel Hill Cemetery. San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

In 1940, after it was decided to close Lone Mountain/Laurel Hill, Baker was moved to the Presidio, where his grave can be found at plot site OSD 488.

Meanwhile, how is Baker remembered? There are three forts named for him – a Fort Baker can be found in Washington, D.C., Nevada, and San Francisco.  In addition, San Francisco has Baker Beach and Baker Street. Also in California, Gray Eagle Creek was named for Baker – the “gray eagle of republicanism.” In Oregon, where Baker was senator, there is Baker County, Baker City, and Edward D. Baker Day (February 24). His likeness can be found in the U.S. Capitol and the Illinois State House, where he had practiced law.

With so many possible places to haunt, is it any wonder that Baker seems to have chosen Annington, the site of his last peaceful meal?

(A special thank you to Lorna Kirwan at the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley who actually located the image for me.)

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The James Trundle Farm / Huntview

This very haunted house is supposed to have been a hospital during the Civil War, a tale we researched diligently. It does, however, have a long history of ghostly activity with first-hand accounts going back more than sixty years. The horse stall pictured here was once the tack room, before the barn was enlarged, and where one of the sightings occurred. Is that an orb or a dust spot? You tell me!

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