With a town this old, some ghosts are certain to be lurking about. Shopkeepers and residents report slamming doors, mysterious noises, eerie footsteps, and apparitions flitting about Ellicott City.
One of the most persistent legends is of girls who died of pneumonia haunting the Patapsco Female Institute. Another tale is about the ghosts of Lilburn. The owner of the massive stone Lilburn Mansion owned a foundry in Baltimore. A Confederate sympathizer, Richard Hazelhurst sold inferior iron to the Union cause during the Civil War. A few years later, his toddler daughter, his wife, and two other daughters died. During a Christmasparty, the house burned down. Hazelhurst died in the home, and specters and strange noises are reported in the house.
Ghost tours are offered through the town’s spookiest sites, including Tersiguel’s Restaurant, a former dentist’s home where servers report chandeliers swinging and lights flickering on and off.
It’s fitting, then, that the wife of one of the direct descendants of the Ellicott family wrote this poem about a girl ghost, spurned and deserted by her wealthy lover. Elvira Ann Jones married Thomas Ellicott’s son James in 1857, and they lived in Southern Maryland.
Ellicott’s poem describes a poor maiden, led along by a wealthy man who stops every day to ask for a drink of water at her cottage. This excerpt is the beginning of the poem, written in the voice of the ghost. The rest of the verse reveals that after years of waiting for a proposal, the girl dons her wedding dress and drowns herself in the pond they used to visit.
The water, the ghost writes through Ellicott, “had a chill/ and cruel heart, an icy hand/ to clutch me down, and keep me still.” One of the poem’s last images are of the white lilies that spring up overnight in the cemetery.
“Strange footprints in the frost,” as Ellicott wrote, have not been reported in Ellicott City, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if they were.
by Elvira Ann Ellicott
From gloom to gloom of cypress shade,
From tomb to tomb in shroud arrayed,
Flit the wandering ghosts unlaid:
The restless ghosts that something crave,
Something denied by the merciless grave.
All eager for their midnight power
Accorded to the souls so lost—
They rise and glide in their moonlight hour,
And leave strange footprints in the frost.
White are the tombs in the churchyard glooms;
And dark are the yews between:
And chill is the note the grey owl croons.
Prating of doom as he hides unseen
In his ivied haunts of green.
Why do the black bats circle ’round
One tallest, proudest stone,
That lifts its column cold and lone,
As tho’ its sculptured Angel frowned
On every rustic lowlier mound?
So still, one shrouded shape doth stand
To read the scroll in the Angel’s hand;
Shudders to read where the marble lied—
This goodness, fame, and bounties wide
But reads on still as if compelled
By an urgent fate to read at night
The words while every moonray held
A taper to his goaded sight.
An excerpt from “Ghost Talk,” published in 1925 in Poems, by Elvira Ann Ellicott. This poem is in the public domain.