Typically, ghost stories are simply tales. But sometimes they reach out, grab you and scare the living shit out of you. That happened to me when I took the Haunted Pub Crawl in historic Annapolis.
“Annapolis Haunted Pub Crawls” popped into my inbox, part of a LivingSocial blast email. Ghost stories and cocktails? I immediately 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. Key battles of the War of 1812 took place just outside the Annapolis Harbor in the Chesapeake Bay and along its shores.
Annapolis was a slavery port from the colonial times until the Civil War. A prisoner-of-war camp was located in Annapolis during the Civil War.
Annapolis has a lot of ghost potential.
But none of the pictures I grabbed early compared to later that night.
Michelle Emond, an Eastern Shore high school social studies and history teacher, was the night’s guide. She’s a wholesome-pretty, 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.
Tourists check-in on the Maryland Inn’s porch. Each person gets a glow-in-the-dark bracelet then merrily heads down to the Drummer’s Lot, a pub in the Inn’s basement where we wait for the tour to start.
Michelle joins us after about one drink in. 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; we’re all together.” She hesitates then adds, “Maybe I couldn’t stand staying in a room by myself.”
Everyone glances around at others in the group, smiles break out and we slightly raise our drinks, while some 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, 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 Captain 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.
Captain Campbell was called to fight in what followed; the War of 1812.
When the U.S. put an end to the British attempt retake the colonies, Captain Campbell ended his commission and wrote for his bride to meet him in Annapolis where they would get married.
She moved into his room at the Maryland Inn to await his arrival.
After months of waiting, the ship sailed into port. But the ship had to be unloaded before the Captain was free to be hers. The Bride dressed for her wedding and sat next to the fourth floor window, watching for the Captain. In an anxious moment she got up to pace.
That’s when she heard a crash outside. Running back to the window, she saw a crowd in the street. The Bride sailed down the stairs with her dress billowing and ran out of the Inn. A man lay in the street, trampled.
Witnesses said Captain Campbell had been walking up Main Street, the few blocks from City Dock. However, he was on the same side of the street as the Inn when he saw his soon-to-be bride in the window. With a huge smile, still looking up at the window, he stepped into the street for a better look.
Captain Campbell was run over by a horse and rig. The Bride stayed with him until he died, according to the newspaper account.
The Maryland Inn maids took her back to the fourth floor room. She ran to the window again, but this this time threw it open and jumped out. She died, broken, in the middle of the street near where the Captain died.
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.”
Several of us follow her upstairs and into the hallway. It looks like something out of The Shining.
We enter the Ladies Room as a group.
The woman who had to pee dashes for the first stall. Sometimes ghosts don’t matter.
Before going up Michelle told us there’s a stall where the door is always open, welcoming ladies to go in. That’s the haunted one. The third stall.
But there are seven women waiting in line. 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, which is literally a minute or two, everyone is gone. Women are never that fast in a bathroom.
I need to take pictures. The hair on my arm tingles. I force myself to take photos and dash out, relieved to be gone.
Off to the next bar. When we get to the Ram’s Head Tavern, about a two-block walk away, Michelle asks “who has a ghost story or believes?” About half raise their hands, and a couple of people share 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 recently in port made Amy’s acquaintance, and they went up.
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 take 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 from 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 — 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 in our tour was 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 that I caused.
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 apologies for interrupting because she’s not part of the tour. She got caught up in the story being told near her table.
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 in the dark.
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.
“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.
“It’s pretty freaky when you hear a fox scream,“Corp. Miquez says,
So I ask if officers have talked among themselves about seeing spooky things.
“There’s a lot of old things in Annapolis,” Corp. Miquez responds. “It can be pretty spooky when (you’re) by yourself in one of those places.”
It took me more than a month before I started writing this story.
I was too scared to look at the pictures.
Ghost tours are offered year-round in Annapolis.
- Annapolis Ghost Tours & Pub Crawls
- Annapolis Historic Ghost Walk
- Haunted Harbor Tours
- Ghost Tours Around the Chesapeake Bay