A woman opened the large door to the Lilburn Mansion, a grand stone-faced structure perched atop a steep hill in Ellicott City's historic district, and identified herself as a bookkeeper for the home's owner.
She said the owner, Dr. Randall G. Brandon, was away, but she said not to bother coming back. Brandon was selling the place after living there three years, and didn't care to talk about the ghost stories so as not to scare off prospective buyers.
For years now, Lilburn has been reputed to be the residence of Margaret, a 19th century ghost.
An elderly neighbor has heard many stories about Margaret since moving across the street from Lilburn, in the 3800 block of College Ave., 20 years ago.
"My son's friends used to live in the carriage house behind the mansion," said the woman, who is convinced Margaret is there. "There was a chandelier in the dining room of that house that would swing. They'd say, 'Now, Margaret,' and the chandelier would stop swinging."
Howard County District Court Judge R. Russell Sadler, who lives next door to Lilburn and toured it once, said he enjoys the ghost mystique. He said the mansion's interior looked like a haunted house should.
"There was huge mahogany furniture," Sadler said. "The dining room table seated 20 people or so. It reminded me of [the old television show,]'The Munsters' "
He said he appreciates the mansion's Gothic architecture, with its castle-like tower, bay windows, brick chimneys and black shingle roof. It is nestled among enormous trees on eight hilly acres. The house has 20 rooms, a guest house, a carriage house, a smokehouse and a swimming pool.
The mansion was purchased for $585,000 in 1987. Brandon is asking $850,000, a real estate agent said.
Lilburn was built in 1857 by Henry R. Hazelhurst, according to the 1988 book "Ghosts & Haunted Houses of Maryland" by Trish Gallagher.
Legend has it that Hazelhurst's daughter died in childbirth at Lilburn. Hazelhurst died in 1900 but it wasn't until about 50 years ago that mansion residents began reporting footsteps of Margaret in the tower.
A couple who lived upstairs in the mansion nearly three years said they never saw or heard any ghosts. They said the stories began after they moved out in 1938.
"We never saw a ghost," said the woman, who still lives in Ellicott City. "I think somebody started it to get attention."