American Folklore: Maryland

American Folklore: Maryland

Maryland has its fair share of intriguing folklore. From legends brought over by German immigrants to haunted bridges, creepy lighthouses, and a bizarre legend associated with local author Edgar Allen Poe, this state, which was one of the original 13 colonies, is brimming with folklore. Here are some of the highlights of it.

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Maryland is one of the original 13 colonies of what would become the United States. Founded in 1632 by George Calvert by a charter from King Charles I of England, the colony was named after Charles’s queen and was intended to be a haven for Catholics who were escaping religious persecution in England. However, though it was meant for Catholics, the charter of Maryland made it clear that everyone was to be welcome there, regardless of religious affiliation. Calvert envisioned it as a place where anyone of any religious affiliation could live together in peace, unlike the Puritan colonies of New England.

Prior to this, of course, Maryland had a long history of Native American settlement going back thousands of years. Between this history of settlement and the founding of the English colony, plus the centuries since that time, there has been ample opportunity for the state to develop some interesting and unique folklore all its own. Here is some of the highlights of it.

The Haunted Sotterley Plantation

Historic Sotterley Plantation is an old, 18th-century building along the Patuxent River. It is the oldest surviving plantation in the southern part of the state and was a private residence for many years before becoming a public building. The families who lived there when it was a private residence were usually wealthy. The plantation today is said to be haunted.

Those who work there, as well as visitors, have reported all kinds of strange things happening there. Lights go on and off on their own, there are odd noises in most parts of the house that come at random, and people in the house can smell breakfast cooking in the kitchen when no one is actually cooking, or even in the room.

While most of the hauntings at Sotterley Plantation are creepy but harmless, one spirit who dwells there is the malicious exception. He is said to be a former owner of the house, and he haunts the hallway on the second floor, as well as the second-floor staircase and one of the bedrooms up there. He is known for throwing people down the stairs if he doesn’t like them.

The Snallygaster

There were a goodly number of German immigrants to western Maryland in the 1700s, and they brought the tale of the Snallygaster with them. This monster is said to be half-bird, half-reptilian, and it hunts livestock and small children from the sky, swooping down to capture its prey. Those who have seen it say it has a twenty-five-foot wingspan, and long, sharp talons that glow like heated metal.

There are also reports that it has a red third eye on its forehead, sharp teeth, and tentacles like an octopus. It also mimics humans to lure them out when it is hunting, making noises like a crying baby or a screaming woman. It supposedly hunts in western Maryland to this day.

The Creepy Jericho Covered Bridge

The Jericho Bridge was built in 1865 and has been creepy from the start. People approaching the bridge have reported seeing things such as silhouettes of bodies hanging from it, a female ghost with a badly burned face who crosses the bridge carrying a basket of fresh flowers, and strange monsters who lurk near the bridge.

There have also been reports of cars stalling on the bridge, and of white handprints appearing on cars after they cross the bridge. Loud screams coming from nowhere are also sometimes heard near the bridge. It is a structure that locals generally avoid if at all possible.

The Westminster Graveyard in Baltimore

This is the cemetery where the famous author Edgar Allen Poe is buried, and lots of people have claimed to have seen his spirit roaming the grounds there. The Westminster Presbyterian Church (now known as Westminster Hall) was built over most of the older part of the cemetery, but a small part of it is still accessible to the public above ground. To get to the rest of the original cemetery, one must go underground to the catacombs, which are said to be haunted by numerous spirits.

There is also a mysterious and creepy legend involving the cemetery. A man dressed all in black and wearing a black fedora and black scarf, carrying a black walking stick, visits Poe’s grave every year on Poe’s birthday, which is January 19. The identity of this visitor is still unknown, but his actions are always the same when he appears. He leaves a bottle of cognac and three red roses on Poe’s grave. One year, he also left a note, which read: “Edgar, I haven’t forgotten you.” No signature was on the note. Sightings of this mysterious visitor date back to 1949 and his identity still remains a mystery. No one even knows if it is still the same person who originally began visiting or someone who took over for the original as the decades passed.

Sinister Point Lookout State Park

Located in Scotland, Maryland is Point Lookout State Park, which is the home of what many consider to be the most haunted lighthouse in the country. The lighthouse was occupied by Union troops during the Civil War, and they set up a hospital there for soldiers who were wounded in the Battle of Gettysburg; the lighthouse also served as a POW camp for Confederate captives.

Today, the ghost of a Confederate soldier is sometimes seen dashing across the nearby road in the evenings, while the voice of the original keeper of the lighthouse is often heard singing at night near the building. The ghost of a woman named Ann Davis, who was the wife of a former keeper of the lighthouse, is also sometimes seen wandering the grounds in a blue dress, speaking in a soft voice to tell visitors that “this is my house.” In addition, the ghost of Joseph Heaney, the second mate in a shipwreck near the lighthouse during a bad storm, usually knocks on the lighthouse door just before and sometimes during major coastal storms in the area.