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HomeFunTravelA Grave Time in St. Mary's City

A Grave Time in St. Mary’s City

When Melody Howard started school at St. Mary’s College in 2005, she was excited about all the college had to offer. The then-22-year-old had never been away from home before and she couldn’t wait for the whole college experience. She hadn’t counted on having a paranormal visit her first weekend on campus.

“My friends and I went to the historical part of the school, near the graveyard, around 2 or 3 in the morning,” Howard says. “I saw someone come out of the shadows and duck behind the tree but they didn’t make a sound. My friends were right next to me so I knew they weren’t playing a joke on me. Later I heard that was where they’d found three bodies in the ground that they think belonged to one of the founding families of St. Mary’s.”

Howard was so struck by her experience that she joined Southern Maryland Paranormal, a group that researches reports of hauntings, to further investigate. She has plenty of places to check out in the college and surrounding area.

Besides the school, numerous people report seeing and hearing spirit activity at Point Lookout State Park, which began as a resort area in the mid-1800s. During the Civil War a military hospital and a prison camp were built on the land, and it is where thousands of soldiers spent their last days. Many of the buildings from the hospital and the camp can still be seen today, and apparently, so can many of their long-dead residents.

The park is open to the public and staff members and visitors report all kinds of interesting experiences.
“I thought I saw something so I took a picture of it,” says Beverly Litsinger, president of the Maryland Ghost and Spirit Association. Her group was investigating the park and she was over by the old military fort.  “In the photograph, there was a man, dressed in war clothes – clearly a soldier. He was hanging from a tree.” Litsinger’s association investigates hauntings all over the Old Line State and she has plenty of tales to tell.

Like that of the Point Lookout Lighthouse, which has reportedly been the site of many ghostly visitations over the years. Built in 1830, it originally guided ships to safety but a couple of shipwrecks and thousands of soldiers dying nearby has now apparently made it a haven for paranormal activity. “When it was still inhabited, residents noted unexplained sounds and lights, banging doors— even a glowing wall,” Litsinger says.

Piney Point Lighthouse is also the site of plenty of hauntings. It was built in 1880, and people report seeing a woman dressed in 1920s clothing who appears from time to time. A man’s spirit has also been seen and visitors talk of hearing him say, “Suit yourself.” The story of Moll Dyer is also very well known in the area. During the late 1600s, Dyer was a hermit who was accused of witchcraft.  She was blamed for any bad occurrence from freak storms to failed crops. The townsfolk ran her out of her hut on the coldest night of the year and set fire to it. They figured she would leave the area and they’d be rid of her bad mojo. No one saw her for days and residents assumed she had relocated.

When a young man found her body in the woods, people learned Moll Dyer had frozen to death while still in St. Mary’s. The most remarkable thing is that she was found kneeling next to a boulder — and the impression of her handprint was still visible. The boulder stayed at the site for years as a reminder of Dyer’s fate, but it was later relocated to the old jail in Leonardtown, which houses the St. Mary’s Historical Society.

“Moll Dyer is definitely one of our most famous ghosts,” says Susan Wolfe, executive director of the St. Mary’s Historical Society. “We get busloads of school kids on field trips and they all want to touch her handprint on the boulder.”

But Wolfe points out that Moll Dyer’s story has changed over time. She mentioned a passage in a 1942 book called Intimate Glimpses of Old St. Mary’s, in which the spirit was an Indian maid who fell in love with a ‘paleface.’ Only in this case, her name was “Mouldy Dyer” and the imprint on the boulder is from her knee, not her hand.

Regardless, Dyer’s spirit can still reportedly be seen on the coldest night of the year near the hut where she used to live and near her boulder, now in Leonardtown.

Spirits often seem to haunt locations where tragedy occurred, and St. Andrews Church Road Bridge in Hollywood is no exception. Legend has it that a WWII soldier was returning from war to see his wife and child; he accidentally hit her with his car as he was driving home. She died instantly and the infant flew out of her arms and over the bridge to the stream below. People report hearing the baby’s cries and the stream is now called Cry Baby Creek.

The second spirit seen here is thought to be a young black slave girl who murdered her owner after he abused her. A group of people hunted her down and killed her in the swamp nearby, and her ghost reportedly jumps out in front of cars and has been known to cause the traffic accidents of unsuspecting drivers.

Just up the road, St. Andrew’s Church itself is also home to a spirit or two. People report hearing organ music playing when the church is empty, seeing ghostly apparitions standing at the altar and seeing lights turn on and off inside the empty church.

While there are plenty of hauntings to go around in historical Southern Maryland, Melody Howard has a message for residents and tourists alike. “I don’t want anyone to feel as though there are ghosts walking around everywhere. Don’t be scared of going to see the great history in our own backyard.”

For the record, Howard graduates this spring from St. Mary’s College. Her degree is in – what else – history.

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