Ghostly mutt mourns for master so the story goes

NEIGHBORS

October 21, 1993|By MICHELLE HOFFMAN

Back when what is now Carroll County was primarily wilderness, and Indians traded hides on Main Street in Westminster, there was a peddler named Jack.

It is said that he traveled to every corner of Carroll County repairing clocks, selling odds and ends and telling tales.

The story of "Peddler Jack and His Marvelous Dog" is in the book "Ghosts and Legends of Carroll County, Md." by Jesse Glass Jr., published in 1982 by Carroll County Public Library. The quotations are from pages 24 and 25.

"He was German, with a wide bald head and two black teeth that hung over his bottom lip -- these were quite possibly the only teeth he had."

Jack brought an unusual calling card, a mongrel dog he had taught to dance when he whistled popular tunes of the time.

Whenever the children saw Jack and the dog, they would follow him around the dirt streets and beg for a show. Of course, a show meant business, so he obliged. As he whistled, he wrapped up the wares he sold to their parents.

The most popular item Jack sold was a cure-all -- "Doctor Zollickhoffer's Vegetable Purgative." It contained prune extract, whiskey and laudanum, an opium derivative. Mothers gave it to their children for every imaginable complaint; "it quieted them down."

When their husbands discovered the tonic's soothing effect, they began taking it for the least little cold or pain. They enjoyed its effects: "a slowing of heart beat and respiration, a feeling of well-being, and glorious waking dreams."

Families bought and bought, with bottles of the nostrum sometimes escaping the locked closets and turning up in hay mows, stashed for a quick swig. What the people didn't realize, however, was how addictive it was and the toxic effects it would have if taken in large amounts.

As you may have already guessed, Jack was addicted to the formula and carried it with him more for his own use than for selling it to others.

One night, Jack stopped at a farm just outside Taneytown. What a sight he was! Jack had a full sack and wore a "pot on his head like a cap, spoons tied to his belt, and pans clanking together at his hips."

He was followed by the mongrel, which did tricks and danced on the tips of its toes in circles as the peddler whistled and the children clapped.

Jack decided to take a leisurely evening to display his wares to the farmer and his wife, while their children played with the dog. After dinner, he told stories to the family.

About midnight he retired to the barn, accompanied by his dog, his bottle and a few pennies from sales of a penknife and a bonnet to the farm family. He slept in the hay.

When the farmer went to check on Jack the next morning, he found him "curled in a knot, face blue, eyelids fluttering." After carrying the peddler into the house, the man went to get the doctor in Taneytown.

"Jack's dog howled so much that the farmer's wife put it outside." When the children tried to play with it, the dog growled and ran off to be alone in the woods.

Jack died before help could arrive. The farmer took up a collection among the congregation of Baust Church "and buried him there in a pauper's grave, between the apple tree and the road."

"Carroll countians claim that on moonlit nights, one can still see the ghost of Jack's mongrel, running between the headstones, searching until Judgment Day for his beloved master."

*

Of the people I spoke with at Emmanuel (Baust) Church in Tyrone, including a historian, no one could remember where the apple tree was or where the pauper's grave could have been.

Shelley Sykes from Gettysburg, Pa., who investigates haunted graveyards and houses, accompanied me to the cemetery. We brought three tape recorders and invited Jack and his dog to spend time with us.

We walked around the cemetery for almost two hours. Although we did not see anything out of the ordinary among the headstones, we kept going back to the pond, where we saw rippling, and the area of older stones on the far right of the cemetery grounds.

Through some questioning, I found that some of the cemetery plots may have been moved just before the 1800s to accommodate the pond, so if Jack was actually resting in the area, he could still be there, somewhere, in an unmarked grave.

When we listened to the tapes, we heard ourselves talking, the man up the street cutting his lawn and, mysteriously and ZTC inexplicably, a dog howling. It sounded like a small dog that was far away. We also heard rustling in the water of the pond, as if someone wearing rubber waders was walking through it.

Was the peddler Jack story just a legend, or did it actually happen? And what could explain the dog's howl, when neither of us had heard a dog?

Owowoooooooowwwwwwww. . . You decide.

*

If you are looking for a delicious, all-you-can-eat meal this weekend, the Taneytown Volunteer Fire Department is putting on a shrimp feed Saturday night at the Activities Building on Memorial Drive.

For $15 per person, you may enjoy shrimp, fried chicken, bologna and cheese, chips, pretzels, beer and soda from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. You must be 21 years or older to attend.

Tickets are available either at the door or by calling 756-6253.

*

After eating, twist on over to the Union Bridge Fire Company's Activities Hall on West Locust Street and dance to the music of the Hub Caps.

If you are a nostalgia buff, or just want to remember when rock and roll lyrics were distinguishable, this night is for you. The group will be playing the best of the music of the '50s and '60s from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Tickets are $17.50 per person and includes beer and setups. You must be 21 or older to attend.

Information: Earl Fritz, 775-2515.

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