Happy Halloween: Where is Wicomico haunted?

A burn mark remains on a floor of Poplar Hill Mansion. According to local lore, the mark was made when a servant named Sarah had her dress catch on fire, which led to her agonizing death.


Over the last 10 years or so, I’ve written about strange things on the Eastern Shore in four different books, and Wicomico County has figured into all of them, especially Poplar Hill Mansion.

Andy Nunez.

For this Halloween, I’m going to share some tales that I have run across in my years of research.

Poplar Hill stands out because its ghost is well-documented. Several former curators have related the story of Sarah, a servant to Dr. John Huston, who lived in Poplar Hill during the early 1800s.

He had four daughters and the streets around Poplar Hill are named for two of them: Elizabeth and Isabella. Sarah cleaned and helped with the girls.
Up on the second floor, at the top of the stairs, the first room on the right belonged to the girls. There, one day, Sarah was sweeping the floor next to the fireplace.

The crackling flames billowed out at times, and she turned too close to them. The next thing she knew, her dress tail was ablaze. Though the flames were snuffed out before she was burned to death, she was in agony.

Infection spread through her wounds and she died painfully.

It is said her ghost haunts that room and will appear sometimes if only ladies are present.

The burn mark is still in the floor, covered by a leather patch.
There is a child’s rocker in that room that one former caretaker told me would turn completely to the wall. A friend of mine once put a piece of black electrical tape on the floor under one of the runners.

Unable to see the tape, we went downstairs and came back. The chair had moved sideways about a quarter of an inch and we could see the black line of tape. Somehow, the chair moved — or was moved.

Not crazy people

In this modern age of electronic wonders and push-button warfare, you may easily scoff at such superstitions. Ghost stories are as old as civilization and even the Bible makes mention of ghosts and spirits (such as the spirit of Samuel appearing to King Saul).

Over the years, I have interviewed people from all walks of life: politicians, policemen, priests, mail carriers, teachers, watermen and just everyday people. Supernatural experiences know no color barriers, creeds or religions. These aren’t crazy people that tell me their stories. They are your neighbors.
Besides Poplar Hill, there once was supposed to be a ghost at Allendale Cottage.

I nicknamed her the “Rude Lady Wraith” because she liked to pinch men on their backsides. Her name was Laura Hitch, buried in the nearby Allen churchyard. The finale to her story is rather touching.

Somebody told me that a young girl died of cancer in the community and out back of Allendale, a witness saw Miss Laura, as she was known, swinging the child in the yard. Then they vanished, and Allendale cottage has been silent ever since.
A lady in Pittsville who lived in an old farmhouse where they raised horses told me she was unnerved by a bearded old man in bib overalls who would look in the kitchen window at her. However, the window was 8 feet off the ground and when she went outside, there were no footprints.

Later, when a 24 year old horse passed away, she saw the old man mount the spirit of the horse and off they went into the night sky, never to be seen again.
A pleasant woman and her daughter told me one cold December that they once were caretakers at Pemberton Hall and woke up in terror when the ghost of a slave in chains appeared to them. Later, when they moved, they were troubled by a Native American spirit who would take their jewelry and not give it back until they begged him and then it would appear in a location that was obviously checked.

He would also appear to the daughter in full regalia. They moved.

Other locations

Eyewitnesses also report activity at the old Whitehaven Inn. During a Valentine’s Day event, several witnesses watched in amazement as a candlestick slithered across a table in front of a fellow who watched it move, then tip over.

He protested that he was not doing it. Other guests heard noises and mysterious empty candy wrappers would appear in the hallways.

Apparently this ghost liked food and celebrations.
Lastly was the tale of the Devil’s Woodyard. I first heard of it in a book by Vernon Griffith, but had no other information until a young fellow and his dad spoke to me about it in Mardela.

The legend of the Devil’s Woodyard, which lies off Catchpenny Road was this: According to my witnesses, 13 witches were hanged there in colonial times. Naturally, there is no record of this even actually taking place, but the son related that once when he was riding his four-wheeler through there when suddenly something grabbed hold of the back of their vehicle and forced it to a stop.

Even at full power, it would not budge. There was something behind them, something invisible. Then, as soon as it started, the effect stopped and they roared out of there.
So, before you totally disbelieve, consider the possibilities. Are there thin places in this universe where the dead return to the land of the living?

Or did the death of the individual leave behind some sort of energy imprint, that endlessly replays for those sensitive enough to behold it. Scientists accept that quantum physics allows for multiple dimensions and multiple universes in the vast infinity of existence.

People ask me if I have ever been afraid during an investigation and my answer is always no. I pray before I enter any area supposed to be haunted. Nothing has ever bothered me. Can I explain that when people have been terrorized by ghosts.

I can’t, but neither can I explain quantum physics either. Either you believe or you don’t.

And, oh … yes — Happy Halloween!

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