Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Katherine: The Lady of Gray's Mill


As some of you may know, I started investigating paranormal activity in 1977. Back then, there were very few investigators of unexplained phenomena. This particular investigation was conducted in 1984 at a location near my workplace. Some of Maryland’s most interesting history occurred along the Pataspco River. From Parr’s Spring to Elkridge, the river valley’s geography goes from a cold piedmont stream to a rugged, rocky gorge into a coastal plain. Many of my investigations have been in locations closely related to the river. Many paranormal investigators have concentrated on locales around Ellicott City. I like to dive deeper into the Pataspco River’s haunted history:

This investigation took place in August 1984 in a location ½ mile downstream from the Frederick Rd. bridge at Ellicott City on River Rd. River Rd. veers right from Frederick Rd. and descends to the river bank. As soon as the road levels, about 400 ft. from the turn, you will see the back wall of an old building against the hillside. Above this wall is a BG&E sub-station (on Frederick Rd.). This property is also owned by BG&E, though at the time of this investigation there was more building structure and the area was accessible to most anyone.

This area is historically known as Gray’s Mill. It was originally a Methodist Church later enlarged and fitted as a paper mill. In fact, it was advertised in 1807 as the “largest paper mill in the U.S.” Edward Gray and other investors soon purchased the mill and transformed it into a major cotton duck plant. After a major fire, Gray rebuilt the plant into the largest cotton cloth mills in the U.S. and named it the Patapsco Manufacturing Company.

Gray built a large mansion adjacent to the mill where he, his wife and daughters lived happily for many years. In 1829, Gray’s daughter Elizabeth married John Pendleton Kennedy and the couple lived together in the mansion. Kennedy was a well known writer and lawyer in Baltimore who had reached the pinnacle of social status at a fairly young age. He entered politics and was elected to Congress, and later was appointed Secretary of the Navy under President Millard Fillmore. The list of guests and friends who visited and stayed at his home was remarkable. Edgar Allen Poe, James Fennimore Cooper, Washington Irving, Charles Dickens, Andrew Jackson, Commodore Perry, James Madison, Francis Scott Key and many more important writers and statesmen spent time at this mansion.

Kennedy’s library was said to be the most impressive private library in the country containing many European first editions and works of famous friends that were never published. As well, Kennedy had a spectacular garden and grove. Washington Irving was known to spend many evenings sitting among the trees gazing onto the river. Elizabeth Kennedy would stand on the river bank and wave an American flag as the Union soldiers would hoot and holler from the train on the west bank of the river heading for Baltimore. All this would change in 1868 when the flood of the century swept through the valley and washed most of the mansion and contents away. The Kennedy’s were devastated and forced to move from their beloved valley.

Gray's Mill Mansion - engraving from 1867

For several years, I had been told about strange lights and mists that eminated from the mansion area onto River Rd. at night. For many years previous, the river bank was a hangout spot for local kids until the state built mounds and barriers on the riverbank that blocked cars from parking. The sightings began after the parking areas were removed and the area was quiet in the evening hours. I had personally noticed fog in this area because it is swampy and there is a small drainage stream that flows through the location. I decided to investigate on a night when there would be minimal traffic on River Rd. (namely when the mill down river was shutdown).

I received permission to park my car on a small private lot on Frederick Rd. and walked down River Rd. to the Gray’s Mill location. A friend who had worked with me previously accompanied me to the site. We decided to walk around the grounds as best we could and see if we could observe any activity. We started at 7:30 pm and used the remaining light to get our bearings to which areas of the site we would concentrate. The weather was very warm and humid in the mid 80’s and clear.

I decided we would stick together because of the swampy terrain. We setup along the mansion remnants that included large pieces of granite strewn randomly. There is a small part of the back wall remaining, so we sat there and waited. As dusk came, the area comes alive with “peepers”, small frogs singing in the moonlight. Behind the wall is a high bank that extends up towards “9 Mile Hill” onto Frederick Rd. We could barely hear the traffic on the main road above and behind us. It was very peaceful as the river rippled through the valley and the moonlight bounced off the water provided dancing lights against the opposite bank.

Around 10:30 pm, we heard sounds on the hill directly behind us. I figured it was a raccoon or a possum looking for a meal. After a couple of minutes, I heard a rustling in the high weeds to our left and could see movement. I pointed the flashlight towards the area and noticed nothing. As soon as I turned the flashlight off, I sensed a presence of something. My friend suddenly commented that he felt a chill sweep by his right ear. The being I sensed was definitely that of a woman. She seemed to be joyful and was definitely enjoying herself. I started to get a deeper sense of this spirit and started to 'see' the name Katherine. There were a few cold spots along the wall but there was no vibration normally associated with a vortex. Her presence continued off & on for another half hour. I tried to get an indication from this spirit if she was aware we were present. I walked around to see if I could get a better gauge of the presence. The best sign we could get was an occasional sweeping sound in the high grass.

Gray's Mill, MD - engraving from 1865

This activity continued past midnight until we noticed a scent of honeysuckle. There were no honeysuckle bushes in the area and the scent was getting very strong, almost to the point of being sickening. Then we noticed her! Directly in front of us at a distance of about 20 yards we became aware of the misty shape of a woman with blonde or gray hair in a light blue dress moving left to right, then proceeding towards the road. Then she would move back towards us. It was a very spooky sight because it seemed she would “light up” occasionally revealing her facial features and hair. We watched this for a few minutes when I decided to try to communicate. I slowly got to my feet and walked towards her. I stopped and watched her move around me when suddenly she started moving towards me. Instantly, I was hit in the face with that sickly honeysuckle scent, this time it made my eyes and nose burn. I tried to look around me but could not see nor sense her. My eyesight was blurry and I was very uncomfortable. My partner said she moved off towards the road and he lost sight of her. I then realized that I should have restrained from making physical contact. This could have easily been a serious situation if this spirit was malevolent and, frankly, I know better. All indications are that this was a visiting spectre and that there was no residual haunting, at least by this spirit. We waited for another ½ hour but noticed nothing further. Frankly, that odor of honeysuckles was still on me and I was ready to get home wash it off. One interesting side note, when I did get home my wife thought I was crazy because she noticed just a slight scent of honeysuckles. But the stench continued to get stronger, until she couldn't stand it any longer. It just wouldn't wash off...though it finally faded away about a week later.

I have checked the name “Katherine” for many years and the best I can speculate is that Katherine was either a guest or friend of the Gray or Kennedy family who is drawn to this location. I never received any indications of sorrow or evil from her while she visited us that August evening. It’s too bad that this is not the case with most of the entities I have encountered.

Investigation Report: Lon Strickler (1984)


The Patapsco: Baltimore's River of History

Ghosts and Spirits - Insights from a Medium

Ellicott City's Guide To Haunted Places B+W Edtition: The Haunted Travel Guide Series

A Guide to Patapsco Valley Mill Sites: Our Valley's Contribution to Maryland's Industrial Revolution



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Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Few Classic Tales For Halloween


Since the Halloween season is upon us, I hope you enjoy these short classic tales:

The Benevolent Goblin

By Gesta Romanorum - In the kingdom of England there is a hillock in the midst of a dense wood. Thither in old days knights and their followers were wont to repair when tired and thirsty after the chase. When one of their number called out, "I thirst!" there immediately started up a Goblin with a cheerful countenance, clad in a crimson robe, and bearing in his outstretched hand a large drinking-horn richly ornamented with gold and precious jewels, and full of the most delicious, unknown beverage.

The Goblin presented the horn to the thirsty knight, who drank and instantly felt refreshed and cool. After the drinker had emptied the horn, the Goblin offered a silken napkin to wipe the mouth. Then, without waiting to be thanked, the strange creature vanished as suddenly as he had come.

Now once there was a knight of churlish nature, who was hunting alone in those parts. Feeling thirsty and fatigued, he visited the hillock and cried out:

"I thirst!"

Instantly the Goblin appeared and presented the horn.

When the knight had drained it of its delicious beverage, instead of returning the horn, he thrust it into his bosom, and rode hastily away.

He boasted far and wide of his deed, and his feudal lord hearing thereof caused him to be bound and cast into prison; then fearing lest he, too, might become partaker in the theft and ingratitude of the knight, the lord presented the jeweled horn to the King of England, who carefully preserved it among the royal treasures. But never again did the benevolent Goblin return to the hillock in the wood.

-----

The Old Witch

By The Brothers Grimm - There was once a little girl who was very wilful and who never obeyed when her elders spoke to her - so how could she be happy?

One day she said to her parents, 'I have heard so much of the old witch that I will go and see her. People say she is a wonderful old woman, and has many marvellous things in her house, and I am very curious to see them.'

But her parents forbade her going, saying, 'The witch is a wicked old woman, who performs many godless deeds - and if you go near her, you are no longer a child of ours.'

The girl, however, would not turn back at her parents' command, but went to the witch's house. When she arrived there the old woman asked her:

'Why are you so pale?'

'Ah,' she replied, trembling all over, 'I have frightened myself so with what I have just seen.'

'And what did you see?' inquired the old witch.

'I saw a black man on your steps.'

'That was a collier,' replied she.

'Then I saw a gray man.'

'That was a sportsman,' said the old woman.

'After him I saw a blood-red man.'

'That was a butcher,' replied the old woman.

'But, oh, I was most terrified,' continued the girl, 'when I peeped through your window, and saw not you, but a creature with a fiery head.'

'Then you have seen the witch in her proper dress,' said the old woman. 'For you I have long waited, and now you shall give me light.'

So saying the witch changed the little girl into a block of wood, and then threw it on the fire. When it was fully alight, she sat down on the hearth and warmed herself, saying:

'How good I feel! The fire has not burned like this for a long time!'

-----

The King of Cats

by Ernest Rhys - Once upon a time there were two brothers who lived in a lonely house in a very lonely part of Scotland. An old woman used to do the cooking, and there was no one else, unless we count her cat and their own dogs, within miles of them.

One autumn afternoon the elder of the two, whom we will call Elshender, said he would not go out - so the younger one, Fergus, went alone to follow the path where they had been shooting the day before, far across the mountains.

He meant to return home before the early sunset - however, he did not do so, and Elshender became very uneasy as he watched and waited in vain till long after their usual suppertime. At last Fergus returned, wet and exhausted, nor did he explain why he was so late.

But after supper when the two brothers were seated before the fire, on which the peat crackled cheerfully, the dogs lying at their feet, and the old woman's black cat sitting gravely with half-shut eyes on the hearth between them, Fergus recovered himself and began to tell his adventures.

"You must be wondering," said he, "what made me so late. I have had a very, very strange adventure to-day. I hardly know what to say about it. I went, as I told you I should, along our yesterday's track. A mountain fog came on just as I was about to turn homewards, and I completely lost my way. I wandered about for a long time not knowing where I was, till at last I saw a light, and made for it, hoping to get help.

"As I came near it, it disappeared, and I found myself close to an old oak tree. I climbed into the branches the better to look for the light, and, behold! there it was right beneath me, inside the hollow trunk of the tree. I seemed to be looking down into a church, where a funeral was taking place. I heard singing, and saw a coffin surrounded by torches, all carried by. But I know you won't believe me, Elshender, if I tell you!"

His brother eagerly begged him to go on, and threw a dry peat on the fire to encourage him. The dogs were sleeping quietly, but the cat was sitting up, and seemed to be listening just as carefully and cannily as Elshender himself. Both brothers, indeed, turned their eyes on the cat as Fergus took up his story.

"Yes," he continued, "it is as true as I sit here. The coffin and the torches were both carried by CATS, and upon the coffin were marked a crown and a scepter!"

He got no farther, for the black cat started up, shrieking:

"My stars! old Peter's dead, and I'm the King o' the Cats!" Then rushed up the chimney, and was seen no more.

-----

The Guest

By Anonymous - A young man and his wife were on a trip to visit his mother. Usually they arrived in time for supper, but they had had a late start, and now it was getting dark, so they decided to look for a place to stay overnight and drive on in the morning.

Just off the road, they saw a small house in the woods. "Maybe they rent rooms," the wife said. So they stopped to ask. An elderly man and woman came to the door. They didn't rent rooms, they said, but they would be glad to have them stay overnight as their guests. They had plenty of room, and they would enjoy the company. The old woman made coffee and brought out some cake, and the four of them talked for a while. Then the young couple were taken to their room. They tried to insist on paying for this, but the old man said he would not accept any money.

The young couple got up early the next morning, before their hosts had awakened. They left an envelope with some money in it on a table near the front door, to pay for the room. Then they went on to the next town. They stopped at a restaurant and had breakfast. When they told the owner where they had stayed, he was shocked. "That can't be," he said. "That house burned to the ground, and the man and the woman who lived there died in the fire."

The young couple could not believe it. So they went back to the house. Only now there was no house. All they found was a burnt-out shell. They stood staring at the ruins trying to understand what had happened. Then the woman screamed: In the rubble was a badly burned table, like the one they had seen by the front door and on the table was the envelope they had left that very morning.

A Halloween Reader: Poems, Stories, and Plays from Halloween Past

Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction

The Topaz Story Book: Stories and Legends of Autumn, Hallowe'En, and Thanksgiving (Classic Reprint)

Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween