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.
The last week has been full of being out and about speaking to various groups. We had amazing turnouts at our talks at the Sandy Spring Museum and the Goshen Historical Society. On Saturday we went to the Hyattstown Mill Arts Project’s annual St. Paddy’s Day Poetry and Potluck. Dorothy read a modified version of the Little Bennett story and we enjoyed a lively, creative evening of poetry, prose, music and art. You can’t ask for more than that!
Hyattstown Mill, ca. 1918. From HMAP.
One of the the things we really enjoy about speaking at different groups is that we almost always come away with a lead or two for new stories or more about some of the stories that are already in the book. I would have expected no less at Sandy Spring and Goshen, two of the best represented, most haunted places in ISOMG:MC, but we had nothing for Hyattstown, or much in that part of the county. We went with great hopes that someone would have a tale to tell and we were not disappointed! So, in the spirit of St. Paddy’s Day, I have decided to share with you our story writing process; how we find a story and where we begin. This is not the finished product, but what happens at the beginning, when we know just a little history and have been given the briefest of paranormal tales. The rest comes after much research is done and some colorful prose has been crafted.
The Hyattstown Mill, a grist mill, was built in 1918 on the site of an older mill complex, ca. 1790. It ceased operations in the 1930s. The mill is located in Little Bennett Regional Park and is operated by the Hyattstown Mill Arts Project. One day, one of the artists that works at the mill was alone on the second floor when she saw an apparition of a woman.
And there you have it. The beginning of a new story. Perhaps something for volume 2…
Clifton, one of Montgomery County’s oldest structures having been built around 1742, is also home to one of it’s longest recorded ghosts. Stories of Aunt Betsy date to before the Civil War. The story of the house and its hauntings are legendary in the Sandy Spring area, where Clifton is located.
Dorothy took these photographs of the coffin door at Clifton. A coffin door is a small door sometimes found in older homes. Supposedly, they were used to bring the coffin in and out of a house for the wake so the body did not have to pass through the passage the living used. I have some questions about the validity of this claim because this door, and many of the others you find on the internet, seem to me to be too narrow to fit a coffin if it were to be passed straight into the house. Also, to have a door used for such a narrow purpose seems impractical to me. However, in the 18th and 19th century, death was more a part of every day life and perhaps such a door would get more use. Has anyone else heard of coffin doors? What do you think?
Norma Miller House
The Norma Miller House is home to one of Montgomery County’s most written about ghosts – Nanny. When Dorothy went in search of the house while researching the book, she discovered a dilapidated, deserted place. What was creepiest about the whole experience was the vulture that watched her every move while she was there.