Category Archives: White’s Ferry

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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Annington Guest House

Annington Guest House_edited

Slave Quarters, ca. 1973. From the collection of the Montgomery County Historical Society.

Having devoted two posts to Annington, it is only fair to turn my attention to the Annington Guest House, the plantation house’s smaller, less distinguished outbuilding with much less illustrious, though no less important, ghosts. As the only slave quarters in ISOMG:MC, it was hard not to focus on the history of the place. Paring the story down for the book was difficult, so please excuse me if I indulge in a little historical exploration here. Yes this building is haunted, but by whom or how many? Because of its original use and subsequent life as housing for farm workers following emancipation, we may never know the answer.

The Annington Guest House is not the only extant slave quarters in Montgomery County (though there aren’t many), but it is certainly one of the nicest. It is visibly more desirable than what Josiah Henson (on whom the character Uncle Tom is based from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin) described at the Riley plantation in Bethesda:

We lodged in log huts, and on the bare ground.  Wooden floors were an unknown luxury.  In a single room were huddled, like cattle, ten or a dozen persons, men, women and children.  All ideas of refinement and decency were, of course, out of the question.  We had neither bedsteads nor furniture of any description.  Our beds were collections of straw and old rags thrown down in the corners and boxed in with boards; a single blanket the only covering.  Our favourite way of sleeping was on a plank, our heads raised on an old jacket and our feet toasting before the smouldering fire.  The wind whistled and the rain and snow blew in through the cracks, and the damp earth soaked in the moisture till the floor was miry as a pigsty.  Such were our cabins.

Originally built as what would today be called a semi-detached house, the Annington Guest House had two, one-and-half story dwellings (no attic), attached on one side, with one room up and one down. Each was probably home to an enslaved family and, later, similarly with farm workers. The 1870 census lists two families besides the Smoots (Annington’s owners at the time) living on the farm, the Peters and Grandison families. Both of these had multiple members listed in the 1867 slave census as belonging to Annington. Tracing the occupants of these buildings has been difficult and more research is needed. We know who lived at Annington, but the enslaved and the farm workers who lived at the Guest House until it received its own mailing address are hard to identify. At some point in its life, the two sides were connected and an addition for a kitchen and bathroom was attached to the back of the building.

DSC00342

Annington Guest House, 2011

The current occupant, and the one previous, have had many paranormal experiences in this unique home. Most have been mischievous, some disturbing, but only one seemed dangerous. Who these spirits are, the tragedies in their lives and the nature of their deaths may never be known to us. But all the spectral activity doesn’t matter to the current tenant, she says she “wouldn’t live anywhere else.”

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Col. Baker and Annington

Why does a man, who was a senator from Oregon and is buried in the military cemetery in the Presidio in San Francisco, who is memorialized with his name on Fort Baker and Baker Beach in San Francisco as well as places in Oregon, whose statue is in the U.S. Capitol, haunt a house in Poolesville, MD? Such is the story of Col. Edward Dickinson Baker and Annington. Col. Baker died at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff in October of 1861, but his last meal was at Annington and it is his spirit which is thought to still wander the rooms and ride through the the grounds.

The back of Baker’s tombstone.

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