Tradition marches on in parade, Haunted House


November 03, 2006|By Janet Gilbert

One-year-old Katelyn Carneal of Ellicott City suddenly reached out for her father.

"Daddy! Daddy!" she said, her words capturing the anticipation of the crowd gathered for the annual Mount Hebron neighborhood Halloween parade, traditionally held on the night before Halloween.

Marc Carneal had gotten off duty from the Howard County police force just in time to attend -- but not in time to change out of his uniform. So Katelyn, dressed as a Baltimore Ravens cheerleader, made a striking Halloween tableau with her dad.

From her father's arms, Katelyn could see the Mount Hebron High School marching unit rounding the corner into the neighborhood -- and, most likely, feel the reverberation of the percussion section.

So marked the beginning of a Halloween tradition for Katelyn, one that began in this part of Howard County long before her father was born.

"I don't think anybody else does this," said Marc Carneal, 33. "It's unique -- it's a family atmosphere."

As the band passed by, the street filled with clowns and cowboys, princesses and witches and a few tired pumpkins perched on their parents' shoulders, all stepping in time to the rhythm of the drums. The crowd proceeded to the front lawn of Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, where the Mount Hebron marching unit was to give a short concert.

Next, many of those in attendance would wait in line to go through the Haunted House in the cellar of historic Hebron House across the street.

Allie McAdams, 21, a 2003 graduate of Mount Hebron High and former marching unit member, came to enjoy the parade with her mother, Karen, 47, and grandmother, Gerry Butler, 69.

Butler has been attending this parade since Karen was a cavalier in the band about 30 years ago.

"I love a parade," said Butler. "It takes you back to the good times."

Robert Johnston, the school's band/marching unit director, has been bringing the good times to this neighborhood for as long as he has been teaching at Mount Hebron -- 33 years.

"It's part of our mission as musicians and performers," said Johnston, "to give back to the community. You realize where your blessings come from, that we are able to have such a program. [Making music] is a talent and skill to be shared."

Lois C. Baker, 89, said the neighborhood's family-oriented Halloween traditions date to the days before the Baker land was sold to the Presbyterian Church of Baltimore in 1959. The Baker family had, for years, held a Halloween party, complete with a frightful tour of the basement of Hebron House.

"Well, I'd never been to anything like that before," said Baker, of her first experience walking through the Baker's basement on Halloween in 1937 at the invitation of Franklin Baker, whom she later married. She remembers being impressed with the event afterward.

"I could not believe the effort the family made to make this so perfect," she said.

In a journal entry titled "Me & Hebron House," Baker describes some of the creepier aspects of the original "Spook House."

"Electricity had not yet come to the Baker farm, at this time, so the use of coal oil lamps & lanterns made the party spookier," Baker wrote.

"A large ghost led the group to the cellar `spook' house. Each Baker had his or her station, where we were scared out of our wits. Even [their] mother was covered with a doughface, made out of her biscuit dough. ... The tradition is carried on even to this day."

While Baker cannot pinpoint the exact date the Haunted House in the basement started, she is certain it was going strong long before she was invited to attend as Franklin's date in 1937. That means the Howard County spooking can be reasonably estimated to have begun more than 70 years ago.

Jim Bahel, 43, of Ellicott City was coordinator of this year's Haunted House and worked with the church's high school youth group, which planned and executed the Haunted House.

"The basement, in and of itself, is one of the scariest places on earth," he said. Bahel said that, next year, there are plans to expand the Haunted House into the surrounding woods for a completely terrifying experience.

Ellicott City resident Brad Watkins, 52, remembers attending services in Hebron House in 1960, when two front rooms of the home served as a chapel until the church could be built. He first worked on the Haunted House as a teenager.

"The basement floors were all dirt -- it was chopped up, a catacomb effect," he said. "We dug graves in the floor and people jumped out of them."

Today, visitors leave by being chased by a chain-saw-bearing maniac. Still, Watkins explained, some elements of the Haunted House remain the same.

"Coffins -- someone coming out of a coffin -- is always good," said Watkins. "But you just can't beat total darkness in a basement."

Ginger Dunn, 42, of Ellicott City is facilities manager for the circa 1808 home, which now is a rental property for parties, events, and meetings.

For the past two seasons, she has opened the first floor of Hebron House for people to gather while they are waiting for friends or family members to go through the Haunted House.

"They don't want to go right home after they go through [the Haunted House]," said Dunn. "This way, they can hang out and tell each other how scared they were ... NOT," she said.

Some Halloween traditions never change.


Is someone in your neighborhood worth writing about? Is there an event that everyone in Howard County should be aware of? If there is, Janet Gilbert, our neighbors reporter, wants to know about it.

E-mail Janet at, or call 410-313-8276. Janet also has a Web site: www.janet

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