Go, Take An Adventure Into Carroll's Twilight Side

May 05, 1991

The following is a guide to our haunted, historical spots, for visitors eager to adventure into the twilight side of Carroll:

* Westminster, the county seat of Carroll County, is also, coincidentally, the center of its ghostly population. So we'll begin our tour on the east end of town, at the tourist center located in the Historical Society of Carroll County, 210 East Main St.

* Good news: You do not have to travel far to explore your first genuinely haunted spot. The Shellman House, part of the Carroll County Historical Society, has its own ghost. Over the years, the apparition of a little girl in white has been seen on the hall steps. She is not reported to be a nasty phantom: She does not rattle chains, or levitate tea cups. In fact, she's reported to positively beam at visitors . . .

While you're at the society, take a tour of the premises.This was the home of some fascinating characters, including an architect, two lawyers and James Shellman, a poet and short story writer, and his sister Miss Mary Shellman -- author, musician, folklorist, diarist, pioneer telephone operator and woman's suffragist.

* A few more steps takes you to 216 East Main St., the home of Cockey's Tavern, where more than liquid spirits may be enjoyed by the connoisseur of spookdom. Dating back to the early 1800s, Cockey's tavern has hosted political rallies for Andrew Jackson, anti-tax meetings, antebellum cotillions, and all night debauchery. The famous, the near-famous and the infamous have found lodging within these walls. At night it isstill thought to be possible to catch the tread of invisible feet ascending the stairs to the upper floors. Pictures have been known to be relocated by invisible hands, and casual visitors who sneered at the mention of ghosts were reportedly promptly corrected of that misconception by the ghosts themselves. Anyone who wishes proof of the existence of other worlds has only to state his disbelief out loud and wait for the result . . .

* Across from the Historical Society, at the intersection of Main and Court streets, is the spot which was the site of the Main Court Inn. Before it was demolished in the 1940s, this pre-Revolutionary war structure was the center of the slave trade for Carroll County and was reputed to be haunted by the ghosts of slaves. The slave block was supposedly located on the corner of Main andCourt. One ghost, that of Jim Hopes, barber and former valet for thegreat American actor Edwin Booth, was also said to haunt the second floor. Hopes was a local "character," who often gave midnight serenades to the local belles with his guitar. He was said to have had a fine singing voice and he could also give stirring renditions of Shakespearean characters.

* Now stroll down Court Street. As you approachthe stately edifice of the courthouse, you might stop off at Ascension churchyard to see the "resting" place of Leigh Masters of New Hall, Lancashire. Beneath that weather-worn marble slab lies the granddaddy of Carroll ghosts, whom we'll talk more about later in our tour. For now, suffice it to say that Master appears to have assumed the nature of a beast as well. Some believe he has been sighted continually since his death in 1796 in the form of a huge black dog with an iron chain around his neck, whose red eyes and fierce mien have earned himthe name of the Snarly Yowl.

* Bid adieu to Leigh Masters and cautiously enter the courthouse. The main court room remains unchanged since the late 1830s, and here one may quietly sit (if court is not insession) and imagine oneself a citizen of old-time Westminster as people were tried for various crimes. Entertainments and lectures were given here as well. The courthouse has a reputation for ghosts that talk indistinctly, walk about invisibly and -- oddly enough -- cook! Still, this odd olfactory haunting has historical basis. Back in the 1840s, before the Alms House was built, poor families were allowed to stay in the

courthouse basement when the old jail was too full to hold them.

* Next we continue down Court Place until we reach the old Westminster jail. This building is said to have a large number ofghosts, but the most outstanding are Reuben and Big Tom.

Reuben is an entity that makes his presence known on the third floor of the jail. Like Dickens' Fat Boy, he "vants to make your flesh creep" -- and he does just that. Reuben clangs shut jail cell doors that no longer exist and clomps across real floors in invisible boots. Counselors for a drug rehabilitation program located in the jail in the '70s were the first to notice the ghost, and they dubbed him Reuben because they found the name scratched on a brick in the attic chimney.

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