MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Time now for "On the Coast." Our regular look at the latest news from the Eastern shore of Maryland and coastal Delaware. And as Halloween approaches, today we'll head to the historic Maryland town of Pocomoke City. It's about 40 minutes southwest of Ocean City, and it dates back to the 17th century. That's when it's original settlement, a place called Stevens Landing, was founded. But here's the thing about Pocomoke City.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
With such a long pedigree, it's developed a bit of a ghostly reputation. Bryan Russo visited Pocomoke this week with horror writer Mindie Burgoyne to learn more about some of that haunting history.
MR. BRYAN RUSSO
There's a brisk chill in the air on this pitch black Pocomoke night. The ancient cypress trees look like people moving in the darkness, and author and historian Mindie Burgoyne is carrying a lone flashlight to guide us through Maryland's reportedly most haunted forest. She says, historically, the scariest and best places to find ghosts, are swamps and forests.
MS. MINDIE BURGOYNE
In this forest, you have both. It's a swampy forest.
Great. And what's even more great is that there is no shortage of stories of people having paranormal experiences here. Burgoyne says there are all kinds of spirits in these woods, from former slaves to moonshiners to the murdered wife of a sea captain smuggler, to Civil War draft dodgers, to something called elementals.
Elementals are non-human spirits. We have lots of names for them. Fairies, goblins, things that aren't human on the other side. And the last tour I had here, I talked about the elementals, and we were standing right here, and we had people taking pictures all in the forest.
And there were four or five of them that came out, not with orbs or things like that, but actually misty shapes and shadows. And that's usually how you see an elemental come forward.
Okay, so no flash photography in the Pocomoke Forest, so as not to annoy the fairies and goblins. No big deal, right?
I had a child that said he was touched. It was at the end of the line, and he got very upset and ran up to the front because somebody touched him on his back. And then he turned around and realized he was at the end of the line.
And the stories get no less creepy as we walk out of the forest and alongside the deep black and eerily still waters of the Pocomoke River, where Burgoyne says people have seen ghosts walking on the shoreline. Or at the old city armory, which used to be the jail, where former guards swear they've seen video surveillance camera images of a former inmate, who had committed suicide there. There's also the story of a friendly spirit at The Marva Theater on Main Street, who often helps the volunteers find things they've lost, flips the lights on and off.
And as the tour goes on, it feels like every street has a ghost story. Burgoyne says many locals have told her about experiencing something weird at one old Victorian house on Second Street. John Thomas Rafter is one of those locals. He used to live in the house. And at night, he often realized he wasn't alone.
MR. JOHN THOMAS RAFTER
There would always be a shadow, like a presence, down at the base of the stairs, down by window, looking out the window. But the shadow was small, I mean, like a child, maybe, or a teenager.
Did it ever freak you out? I mean, did it get to a point, after living there for a while, that it just became a part of the house, like an end table?
It just became part of the house. It never freaked me out, because it just, I always heard it was a trick of the light or something. I mean, but it was always there, you know? It almost became reassuring.
So, you might be asking yourself, why does this little riverside city on Maryland's eastern shore have so many ghosts? Here's Mindie Burgoyne.
You know, Pocomoke has all the elements. It's got this really dark, black river that runs through it that's very deep and still on the top. And it's got the forest on either side, so it's got that kind of marshy swamp. And then the energy of the town. I don't know why it is, but if you walk through the town, alone, and just take in the buildings, it's not, I don't mean to say that it's a spooky place, but it's a place that is thick with presence.
And so in this small eastern shore community, where nature, history, folklore and the supernatural all meet and coexist in the eeriest of ways, Mindie Burgoyne says Pocomoke City isn't just a historic town. It's also a ghost town. I'm Bryan Russo.
After the break, it's the return of our series, "The Location," as we go creeping through the catacombs in northeast D.C.
MR. FERNANDO PEREIRO
When I do the tours here, I tell the people, well, from now, from the Holy Land, we are going to go straight to Rome because we're going to see the catacombs.
It's coming up on Metro Connection, here on WAMU 88.5.
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