The Haunted Chesapeake
By Amy Ford
When researching Chesapeake area folklore, the quest seems to begin and end at Chessie; the beloved sea creature, who has reportedly called the bay home for at least the last 80 years. Beyond that however, it seems as though the innocent and fun local urban legends that one would typically find, have instead been replaced by a darker and creepier collection of histrionic tales; ghost stories. One ghost story after another abounds, helping to keep the history of this area alive. Here are two of those tales, with sites that happen to be close enough to warrant the perfect Halloween cruise.
Point Lookout Lighthouse
Located where the Potomac meets the Chesapeake Bay lays Point Lookout State Park, a desolate peninsula that is home to what many claim to be, “the most haunted lighthouse in the America”. This stark tract of land has served as a Civil War hospital, a war encampment, a refuge for runaway and freed slaves and the site of numerous shipwrecks. The eerily quiet cape tells the fateful story of 5,000 soldiers who succumbed to illness and injury in the early 1800’s, 47 seaman who were killed in an explosion aboard the ill-fated USS Tulip as it pulled in to port in 1864, 16 souls who lost their lives during the Gale of 1878, and that of the countless others who have perished here.
The lighthouse itself is a modest two story dwelling that is only open to the general public a handful of days each year. It has played host to many paranormal investigators and has been featured on numerous paranormal television series however, each one claims that the site is very active. A full body apparition of a confederate soldier and that of an elderly woman have both been reported, as have strange lights radiating from inside the house. Strange odors such as sulfur and smoke have been described, and over 24 different sounds have been recorded, including doors opening and closing, heavy boot steps, even the whispery voice of a woman stating, “This is my house”.
Others who have lived at, and tended to the property for years refute these claims as nothing more than just stories. Maintaining that despite Point Lookout’s tragic history, its stoic lighthouse is just as quiet and serene as the waters which it so faithfully protected for so many years.
First launched from Harris Creek, Maryland in 1797, the mighty USS Constellation once carried some of history’s most fearless seaman into battle. Throughout its bloody 200 year history, the majestic warship cruised through some of the world’s most exotic waters, including ports in the West Indies, West Africa, China and Hawaii. Today it can be found quietly floating within Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, and while it no longer strikes fear in the heart of passing armadas, it continues to terrorize in other ways, and has earned the title of, “one of the most haunted sites in America”.
Much of the paranormal activity onboard the USS Constellation seems to revolve around its merciless commodore, Thomas Truxton. Known for his intolerance of treason, he once ordered a sword be driven through the sleeping body of Seaman Neil Harvey, a young man who had apparently committed the unforgivable act of falling asleep while on duty. Once killed, Harvey’s body was strung before one of the ships cannons, and blown to bits as a fateful warning set forth by Commodore Truxton. Both Harvey and Truxton are believed to haunt the ship to this day. One tourist actually claimed that he spoke to Neil Harvey, after mistaking him for a uniformed tour guide, while a paranormal investigator famously captured a photograph of Truxton at the helm of his beloved war vessel. Other reports include a white shadow-figure in uniform seen running across the upper deck, the apparition of a boisterous, young sailor enjoying a game of cards below deck, the unexplainable smell of gunpowder, and the eerie sound of disembodied moaning.
Are these beacons truly haunted? Perhaps it is just another secret of the sea. One thing that is for sure however, there is no shortage of beautiful, history-rich gems waiting to be discovered within a few nautical miles of Herring Bay.