Seasonal Spotlight

Spooky Places to Visit in the Chesapeake

 

Autumn in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed brings with it beautiful fall foliage, cooler weather, and even more opportunities to Find Your Chesapeake. Autumn also signals the time of the year when the days become shorter, the nights become longer, and “spooky season” arrives at full force. Celebrate and learn about the weird, eerie, and haunted nature and history of the Chesapeake with a collection of “haunted” sites throughout the watershed! Are you brave enough to Find Your Chesapeake at these spooky spots?

Maryland

Point Lookout State Park

Point Lookout State Park is located at the southernmost tip of Maryland’s western shore, at the mouth of the Potomac River.

The park is well-known as the site of a hospital for wounded and sick Civil War soldiers and as the site for a Confederate prison camp, where thousands of soldiers died. While the land itself has a reputation for paranormal events, the most haunted part of the park is the Point Lookout Lighthouse. Constructed in 1830, the lighthouse has been dubbed the most haunted lighthouse in America. A renowned paranormal investigator recorded 24 distinct voices, while numerous visitors have reported unusual smells and sounds, and seeing specters and phantoms.

Pocomoke State Forest

Pocomoke State Forest is an 18,198-acre forest that stretches across the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland and includes portions of Worcester, Wicomico, and Somerset counties.

The massive state forest has a reputation for being mysterious, strange, and sinister. While many urban legends are said to have taken place in the forest, none of these legends can be verified. However, that doesn’t prevent visitors from venturing in and experiencing the unnatural. Visitors claim to have seen apparitions, caught abnormalities on film, felt touched or visited by shadows, and more.

Mallows Bay

Mallows Bay is located along the Potomac River off the Nanjemoy Peninsula in Southern Maryland.

While this newly-designated National Marine Sanctuary may not be haunted, its collection of decrepit, decaying, and dilapidated shipwrecks – dubbed the “Ghost Fleet” – earned its spot on our list. Upwards of 200 shipwrecks have been documented, with some dating back to the American Revolution. The majority of these wooden ships were constructed for use in World War I in response to threats from German U-boats sinking ships in the Atlantic. While the ships never saw action in the war, they were brought to the Potomac River, salvaged for scrap metal, and left to haunt the water for years to come.

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine

Located in Baltimore, MD, Fort McHenry is well-known for its role in the War of 1812 where it defended Baltimore Harbor from an attack by the British Navy and helped inspire Francis Scott Key to write “The Star Spangled Banner.”

While it may not be as haunted as some locations on this list, Fort McHenry boasts its own unique haunts and spirits. Many visitors have reported seeing soldiers, dressed in old military uniforms, patrolling the fort. Other visitors have reported feeling a sense of dread or unease when visiting the dungeons, once used to hold prisoners.

Virginia

Fort Monroe National Monument

Fort Monroe National Monument is located in Hampton, Virginia and has a long history spanning from the time of American Indian presence, to the explorations of Captain John Smith, and to its role as a defense beacon for the Chesapeake Bay. While the fort was finished in 1834, the military installation had a presence on the peninsula since the early 1600s.

The extensive history of Fort Monroe has led to more than a few reports hauntings and strange occurrences within its boundaries. Similar to other military locations, apparitions of soldiers are claimed to walk the base, haunt on-site houses and buildings, and make their presence known with light orbs, noises, and temperature changes. However, the ghosts of Fort Monroe are said to be friendly, and co-exist with their living inhabitants peacefully.  

George Washington & Jefferson National Forests

George Washington and Jefferson National Forests are located along the Appalachian Mountains and stretch across Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky. The two forests protect up to 1.8 million acres of forest, one of the largest blocks of protected land in the Eastern United States.

These two forests protect more than land though and have been said to harbor many haunted sites and ghosts. Visitors to these woods have reported strange phenomena and feelings of terror and dread, especially in regard to one particular campsite. Campers claim to have heard noises and children laughing, while others have witnessed a spirit floating above the water. Similar to Pocomoke State Forest in Maryland, these forests have a reputation for being expansive, beautiful, and even haunted.

Washington DC

Decatur House

The Decatur House is located in Washington, D.C. on Lafayette Square and was owned by Stephen Decatur, a US naval officer and commodore.

In 1820, Stephen Decatur was challenged to a duel by Commodore James Barron over remarks Decatur made towards Barron. The two men dueled on March 20 with Decatur receiving a mortal wound in the stomach. Two days later, Decatur passed away in his home. Following his death, witnesses reported seeing his ghost standing in a second floor window looking out at H Street NW. Due to the numerous claims and witnesses, the window that Decatur’s ghost would frequent was walled up and remains so to this day.

Octagon House

Another historical home found in Washington DC, the Octagon House can be found on New York Avenue, in Northwest DC. The building was home to the Tayloes, a wealthy family prominent in business, government, and social circles.

The alleged hauntings originate from stories that tell tales of two Tayloe daughters who died in the house, both meeting their end after falling down the stairs (or over the railing). While there is a lack of historical evidence to support these claims, many visitors claim to have experienced or felt activity near or around the stairs. Other visitors claim to have seen Dolley Madison’s ghost in the building, or reported hearing moans, screams, and footsteps throughout the residence.

Pennsylvania

Gettysburg National Military Park

Gettysburg National Military Park can be found in Adams County in Southern Pennsylvania and is the site of the Civil War’s bloodiest battle. The battle occurred over the course of three days, July 1 to 3, 1863, and led to the deaths of more than 7,000 men, with casualties and missing persons totaling in the tens of thousands.

With such a violent past, many visitors claim to have experienced supernatural phenomena within its boundaries. Specters and ghosts of Civil War combatants have been reported as wandering the field, with Devil’s Den being a prominent site for these apparitions. Visitors to this particular spot have heard the sound of cannon fire, running footsteps, screams, groans, and more only to find the area empty and unhabituated once investigated.

West Virginia

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Harpers Ferry NHP is located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, and is perhaps best known as the location of John Brown’s failed raid in 1859. Brown led 21 of his men to invade Harpers Ferry in an attempt to ignite a slave revolt and abolish slavery. The raid failed and 23 people lost their lives both during and after the raid, including John Brown.

However, John Brown’s execution wasn’t the last time he was seen in Harpers Ferry. Many visitors have witnessed the ghost of John Brown walking the streets of the town, perhaps still reflecting on his raid. There are other reports of paranormal activity throughout the town as well, with ghostly soldiers marching through the streets, a phantom woman running down the train tracks in a blaze of fire, and strange phenomena occurring in the Booth House (the home of John Wilkes Booth and site of 12 deaths).

Point Lookout State Park

Situated on the most southern point of Maryland's western shore, Point Lookout State Park is one of Maryland's most visited parks.

Pocomoke River State Forest

Pocomoke River State Forest and Park provides 17,676 acres for exploring stands of loblolly pine, cypress swamps, and the beauty of the Pocomoke River, a major Eastern Shore tributary.

Mallows Bay Park

Mallows Bay Park offers excellent outdoor recreation opportunities. Tremendous wildlife viewing areas, small boating access to the Potomac River, kayak launch, fishing and hiking trail. Paddle through the WWI Ghost Fleet, the largest ship graveyard in the Northern Hemisphere.

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine

This late 18th century star-shaped fort is world famous as the birthplace of the United States' National Anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner", written by Francis Scott Key.

Fort Monroe National Monument

Fort Monroe National Monument was a military installation in Hampton, Virginia on the southern tip of the Virginia Peninsula. Within its 565 acres are 170 historic buildings and nearly 200 acres of natural resources on the Chesapeake Bay.

George Washington & Jefferson National Forests

George Washington National Forest in west central Virginia and the Jefferson National Forest in southwest Virginia were administratively combined in 1995 to form the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.

Decatur House

The National Center for White House History is located at Decatur House, a National Trust Historic Site owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and operated by the White House Historical Association.

Octagon House

The Octagon House, Washington DC - where President Madison lived and signed the Treaty of Ghent after the burning of the White House.

Gettysburg National Military Park

The Battle of Gettysburg was a turning point in the Civil War, the Union victory that ended General Robert E. Lee's second and most ambitious invasion of the North.

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park offers a variety of experiences for visitors. Whether you enjoy recreation or historical inquiry, a quiet stroll by the river or a guided program with a ranger, there are opportunities for everyone.

Michael Bowman

October 21, 2019

Main image: National Park Service
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