A northeast Harford farmhouse is known for colorful architecture, wartime history and things that take phone calls in the night.

October 30, 2005|By CASSANDRA A. FORTIN | CASSANDRA A. FORTIN,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Driving along Route 136, Indian Springs Farm is hard to miss, with its dilapidated structures protruding from gently rolling hills. A three-story brick barn with silos adorning each corner stands out among the assortment of aging buildings on the 850-acre farm.

The history of the property is as colorful and alluring as the architecture. It served as a stopover point for French troops during the Revolutionary War, an alleged hiding place for Confederate weaponry during the Civil War, and a backdrop for a scene in a feature film in 2004.

But according to resident William McDaniel, the stories of strange events that occurred within the walls of the farmhouse at Indian Springs over the past three decades intrigue visitors most:

Like the time when a candle in the house suddenly snapped in half.

Or when overnight guests heard a phone ring and a person answer it in a part of the house where there was no phone and no person.

Or when McDaniel's wife, Connie, ascended from the basement, where she reported seeing a scuffle between figures in Colonial garb.

Or when a deaf girl who was visiting heard voices, prompting her parents to take her out of the house.

"I share what I know about Indian Springs, and then I let people decide for themselves what they want to believe," said the 55-year-old McDaniel, who manages the property that his parents bought in 1959.

To support his assertion that unusual things go on in his home, McDaniel recounted several stories about events he and his family have witnessed over the years.

For example, one evening while McDaniel and his wife, Connie, were sitting in the dining room, a candle on the fireplace mantle suddenly broke in two.

"No one was anywhere near it," McDaniel said. "And the candle was free of defects. We had no idea what to attribute it to, then or now."

On another occasion, McDaniel's in-laws had come for an overnight visit and slept in a first-floor bedroom. The next morning they told of being awakened by the telephone in the middle of the night and asked who had called.

"I told them no one called," McDaniel said. "They adamantly told me they heard the phone ring upstairs and heard someone talking on it. I told them and then showed them that there were no phones hooked up in any of the upstairs rooms. Their reaction was one of disbelief."

Then there was the time Connie McDaniel went to the boiler room in the basement to check on the heater, which wasn't working properly. She came upstairs a few moments later ashen-faced and said she'd seen ghosts, McDaniel said. When she flicked on the basement light, she saw a flash of a man dressed in Colonial attire accosting a woman.

"I told her it was probably the shadows. She said she didn't think so," he said. "It happened during one of our first evenings in the house. So maybe it was a warning from someone who didn't want us here.

"I don't study it too much, because it would just end up scaring us if I did."

The story McDaniel finds most unnerving is one of a 5-year-old deaf girl who was staying at the house with her parents.

"During the night the girl - who had never heard a sound - started hearing noises, and it scared her so badly she had to leave the house," said McDaniel. "I hesitate to tell that story because people will think I'm nuts."

McDaniel's brother, Dennis McDaniel, is the deputy mayor of Springfield Township in New Jersey. He had a frightening moment in the house about 30 years ago that he said he remembers as if it had happened yesterday.

Dennis was fresh out of college and helping his brother on the farm.

"At around 2 a.m. I was awakened by footsteps in my room," said Dennis McDaniel. "I got out of bed and picked up the baseball bat I had next to the bed. I could hear the footsteps coming near me. My heart was thumping out of my chest. I had the baseball bat in my right hand, and I flicked on the light with my left hand. And there was nothing there. I heard a swooshing sound at the door, and the sound was gone.

"I know it sounds like I'm making stuff up, but I'll never forget it," he said.

Whatever the merits of the various accounts of bizarre happenings, there is little dispute over the vibrant history of Indian Springs.

The land was owned by the British during the Revolutionary War. But according to William McDaniel's dossier on the property, it was the French who set up camp at Indian Springs during the march to Yorktown.

"When the soldiers arrived at the Susquehanna River, they determined it was too deep to cross," said McDaniel. "As an alternative, they crossed at the Conowingo Dam and then set up an encampment at Indian Springs."

During the Civil War, Union soldiers sabotaged locations and supplies throughout the area, and Confederate soldiers reportedly hid weapons on the farm for safekeeping.

"I don't know if this story is true or not," McDaniel said. "But there are many people who believe it. They come out from time to time and want to dig for the weapons."

However, McDaniel shies away from searching for the weapons.

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