Typically, ghost stories are simply tales. But sometimes they reach out, grab you and scare the living shit out of you. In Annapolis, that happened to me when I took the Haunted Pub Crawl.
Living Social popped into my inbox and topping the list was “Annapolis Haunted Pub Crawls.” That was the first I’d heard about it. I immediate dashed off an email — Can I tag along one night?
The response popped back fairly quickly — How about this Saturday? I showed up at the historic Maryland Inn at the 8pm meeting time, still dark on this early Spring night.
I arrived downtown a bit early so I could grab some spooky photos, which is relatively easy in Annapolis, a colonial town that was started in 1649 by Puritans. It was the seat of the Continental Congress for one year after the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Annapolis was a key slavery port from the colonial times until the Civil War. This is where Kunta Kinte landed in the U.S. There was a prisoner of war camp in Annapolis during the Civil War.
In the undertow of the Saturday night bar hopping by U.S. Naval Academy middies and St. John’s College hipsters, all out for a happy time, Annapolis has some spooky history.
None of the pictures I grabbed early compared to later that night.
Michelle Emond, a Eastern Shore high school social studies and history teach, was the night’s guide. She’s a wholesome-pretty, long-haired brunette with a sense of fun about her. A friend of her’s took the tour and convinced Michelle to apply for the part-time job to make a little money on the side.
Everyone checks in on the Maryland Inn’s porch, gets a glow-in-the-dark braclet and merrily heads down to the Drummer’s Lot, a pub in the Inn’s basement.
About one-drink in, after tracking down some late people, Michelle joins us. She begins with safety info: it’s dark, watch where you walk, etc. Then, she gets into a different kind of safety talk.
“I’m a person who can take groups of people to these locations (haunted pubs), and I’m okay with that ’cause you’re all with me,” Michelle says.
“I’m just telling a story, (and) we’re all together. (But) maybe I couldn’t stand staying in a room by myself,” as a jus’ sayin’ aside.
She then pulls it together and continues with, “What I’m going to ask is that for tonight, you signed up for a ghost tour for the next two hours, let’s just buy into it.”
Everyone glances around at others in the group, smiles break out and to show agreement, we slightly raise our drinks and do the ‘what the heck’ shrug.
All the people I’m talking about, you can’t fight me on that part. It’s researched by historicans, diaries, obituaries., etc. The ghost part, we have stories from people who’ve told us what they’ve seen and experiences. You can choose to believe those people, or you can choose not to. – Michelle Emond
In the dark basement pub of the Maryland Inn, the TV in the background fades, Peanut-the-bartender silently cleans the recently abandoned far end of the bar while the story begins on our end, in a mahogany-paneled corner of dimly lit tables.
I share these stories only for you to understand that night.
Capt. Campbell and His Bride
She’s known only as “The Bride.”
U.S. Navy Capt. Campbell brought her to Annapolis in 1817. They’d met in North Carolina but their engagement was interrupted by British piracy that spilled into the Chesapeake Bay after the Revolutionary War, which then started the War of 1812.
When the war ended and his commission was over, Capt. Campbell wrote for her to come to Annapolis to marry him. She moved into his room at the Maryland Inn to await his arrival. Ships were at the mercy of the prevailing winds back then and there was no telling when the ship would actually arrive.
Finally, the ship arrived in port, much to the relief of the Maryland Inn. But The Bride had to wait for the ship to unload before the Captain was free to be hers. She dressed for the wedding and waited next to the fourth floor window, watching for the Captain. But in an anxious moment she got up to pace.
That’s when she hears a crash on the street. Running to the window, there’s a crowd in the street. She runs down the stairs and outside. A man lay trampled and dying in the street.
Witnesses say Captain Campbell had been walking up the main street, the few blocks from City Dock, on same side of the street as the Inn. He’s watching for his fiancee in the fourth floor window and sees her for a second. With a huge smile, still looking up at the window, he steps into the street for a better look.
Captain Campbell is run over by a horse and rig. The trampled groom lay dying in the street. The Bride stays with him until he dies, according to the newspaper account.
The Maryland Inn maids take her back to the fourth floor room. She runs to the window, throws it open and leaps out. She died, broken, in the middle of the street.
Some say The Bride and Captain Campbell never left the place where they were finally reunited.
There’s more about the hauntings. I’ll leave that for the pub tour. But I will share this: The Bride is said to haunt the Maryland Inn ladies room. After Michelle ended her tales, she gave us time to make a pit stop before going to the next bar.
The ladies in the group paused for a minute, then one brave 20-something woman said, “I have to pee,” and off she went. Several of us pause, then follow her upstairs and into the hallway. It looks like something out of The Shining. We walk in as a group.
The woman who had to pee dashes for the first stall. Sometimes ghosts don’t matter. But before going up Michelle told us there’s one stall where the door is always open, welcoming ladies into the stall. That’s the haunted one. There are three stalls in all. But now there’s seven women. No one goes into the open stall.
I’m here for a story. I go in. Nothing unusual happens. But by time I’m out, everyone is gone. Women are never that fast in a bathroom. I’m alone. I need to take pictures. The hair on my arm tingles. I force myself to take photos and dash out, relieved to be gone.
Nothing unusual happened. “It’s just stories,” I tell myself. When I get back to the group, everyone’s paid up and off we go to the next bar: Ram’s Head Tavern.
This is happy group out for a good time and ready to be entertained. When we get to the Ram’s Head, about a two-block walk away, Michelle asks “who has a ghost story or believes?” About half raised their hands, and a couple of people shared their stories, bringing us deeper into night’s theme.
After everyone has a drink in hand, Michelle begins the next round of stories.
The building where Ram’s Head Tavern (est. 1989) is located — 33 West Street, Annapolis — has been around since the late 1700’s, when it was called “The Crown and Dial.” In addition to a pint of beer, men could hire women and go upstairs. Amy was one of those women.
Amy’s history is bit disputed, but her death at age 16 isn’t.
A sailor in port for a bit made Amy’s acquaintance. They went upstairs. Downstairs patrons were, at first, amused by the enthusiastic banging above. But then, parts of the ceiling started dusting down into their pints.
Michelle continues the story from here:
We went down into the basement pub after the stories for a look at Amy’s bed leg that is embedded in the ceiling. The dark bar is small with brick walls and a low ceiling. There’s a fireplace off to the side and cubby holes that are perfect for private conversations. The ceiling over the bar has rows of hanging pewter mugs used by Beer Club members.
The bed leg is in the back-half of the bar, among the pewter mugs. We took turns getting a look.
And that’s when things really got weird.
I was taking pictures with two different types of digital cameras. The pictures seemed in-focus when I checked after each snap, but when downloading later, this is what I found:
While I was snapping away, a woman’s cell phone froze as she was texting her boyfriend in the basement pub. She heard the return beep and put in her code. The smartphone was trapped with a half-picture showing. She couldn’t get it to work… until she left the bar. She ran over to tell me what happened.
Amy? Or just a bunch of adults “getting into” ghost stories?
Next stop was the cemetery surrounding St. Anne’s Episcopal church in Annapolis’ Church Circle.
St. Anne’s Church Cemetery
The historic St. Anne’s church is surrounded by a circular road. The sacred ground between the church and the street has been used as a cemetery since 1692 and it’s filled with bodies, although many of the markers have been removed, misplaced or stolen over the years. The graves once extended to the “Government House”. Meaning, the street was built over the consecrated ground.
A few crypts still remain, so while the group goes to look around, I start snapping pictures.
Most of the group walks around in twos or threes, too nervous to be solo. After a bit, Michelle gathers up the tour and starts herding folks out of the cemetery. I’m near one of the crypts and someone screams.
My heart leap up barely faster than my body. Everyone is scanning to find the cause.
I’d left my black, puffy, nylon jacket over a pole. Michelle had been walking backwards while talking to the tour. She whirled around, saw the coat and thought it was a body.
It shows the impact of how these ghost stories build, and emotions heighten, even for the tour guide.
The last pub of the night is 1746 Pub in the basement of Reynolds Tavern. It’s the original kitchen of William Reynolds’ hat shop in 1737, with the original stone and brick walls, a low ceiling, walk-in fireplace and brick floor.
There’s live music and the glow of a dying fire on the night of our crawl. A pleasant welcome after what we’ve been through as a group. Most of us belly-up to the bar for a drink. I order a hard cider, my first drink of the night. My nerves are tingling after the scream, caused by me. We’ve all gone through the experience together and have bonded. Friends for the night, now.
The singer takes a break and it’s time for stories by the fire. A bright TV is on in the background so it doesn’t seem so scary here.
But it turns out that strange events have been taking place in Reynolds Tavern since Jill and Andrew Petit bought the place in 2002. Kitchen items move around without explanation. A woman singing Christmas carols in an empty room. The Petits even brought in paranormal researchers in 2004 to check it out. They saw signs of ghostly activity. A sudden drop in temperature followed by a spike in heat in one corner of the room. In the end, paranormal researchers found five ghosts hanging around Reynolds Tavern.
But the most haunted house in Annapolis, according to Michelle, is the Brice House . The James Brice House was not part of this tour, but Michelle suggests we stop by the house on the way home. It’s a Georgian mansion originally built in 1767 and is now headquarters of Historic Annapolis, a not-for-profit which owns several of the Colonial mansions in Annapolis.
“Stop. Turn off the car. And just feel,” Michelle recommends. “I’m not kidding, there’s an energy, there’s just something.”
“That house is creepy as fuck!” a nearby women shouts. She then apologises for interrupting because she’s not part of the tour and got caught up in the story. But they’re right. That house IS creepy. Michelle points out that while the other Georgian mansions are used for weddings and other special events, Brice House is not.
At the end of the night, the group disperses. Many say their goodbyes and leave. A few stick around for another drink. As I’m walking out the door, I turn to a young, blonde, all-American guy who was part of the tour and ask, “Was it worth it?”
“Drinking and history?” he responds happily. “Absolutely!”
Just When You Think It’s Over
After the tour ended, while walking back to my car, I decide to double back to the Maryland Inn and take a photo from the street where the Captain was killed. I used two different cameras, trying to get a good picture.
I did not go by the Brice House on the way home.
A few days after the tour, I decided to call Maryland Inn to see if they think their boutique hotel is haunted. An older woman answers the phone. I explain who I am and ask her.
“I’ve been here 46 years and haven’t seen anything haunted yet,” she says. They’ve gotten reports from tours, she says, but not the guests. Any unusual sounds or occurances are attributed to the age of the building.
When I ask for her name, she refuses to tell me and says she’ll have one of the managers call me. I have yet to hear from them.
I then called the Annapolis Police Department. Michelle said police have gotten calls about a woman’s scream from the dark Brice House.
Public Information Officer, Corp. Amy Miquez, cheerfully tries to help me out. She didn’t know of anything recent. “We’ve never encountered anything that couldn’t be explained another way,” she says.
I push a little further and she flips through records, stopping in October of 2003. They had a call that reported a female yelling for assistance from the Brice House. Nothing was found.
As for the occasional reported screaming from the historic buildings in Annapolis, it could have been a fox. Corp. Miquez says, “it’s pretty freaky when you hear a fox scream.”
So I ask if officers have talked among themselves about seeing spooky things.
“There’s a lot of old things in Annapolis,” Corp. Miquez says. “It can be pretty spooky when (you’re) by yourself in one of those places.”
She goes on to say that with a good story, told at a certain time of night, you can believe almost anything.
True dat! It took me more than a month to write this story. I was too scared to look at the pictures.
Also (from the Washington Post):