With Bigfoot sightings, a ghost child’s hand prints in a Main Street shop, a basement of old jail cells and the scent of wafting cigar smoke from years past, Sykesville is an apt location for ghost tours.
And with the help of Baldwin’s Station and Patapsco Distilling, the town’s ghost tours are continuing for their second consecutive year — led each Friday through Nov. 2 by Sykesville resident and mentalist Daniel Eckert.
The two establishments and the tour guide stepped up after learning last year’s hosts, the Downtown Sykesville Connection, would be unable to lead the tour this year.
“I’m a mentalist, [and that] is one of the reasons I got involved in the ghost tours,” said Eckert.
Mentalists perform like magicians, but use their skills to display highly developed mental or intuitive abilities — through hypnosis, telepathy, clairvoyance, divination, precognition and other feats.
“A magician is interested in making things appear and disappear,” said Eckert. “A mentalist is interested in the the mind — to see things that are not there, tricks of the mind.”
“I’ve always been intrigued by ghosts, Bigfoot, UFOs,” he said, “and I'm very much a skeptic. Being a mentalist, I'm very familiar with how people trick other people, and the unreliability of the first person narrator. So even if you see something you think you're seeing, you might not really be seeing it.”
Eckert said during the tour he takes the group to the edge of the Patapsco River where local resident Lon Strickler reportedly saw Bigfoot in 1981 while flyfishing — a sighting that resulted in the police collecting a cast of the creature’s print and a 2014 feature on Destination America’s “Monsters and Mysteries in America.”
“[Strickler] looked up and across from him was an 8-foot-tall hairy ape creature,” Eckert said, recalling a conversation he had with the resident. “He freaked out ran into the town, contacted state police, police were able to take a cast of the Bigfoot foot.
“If you're into the Bigfoot community, this is considered one of the only Bigfoot impressions that has a lot of detail,” he said. “If you look into any podcast or research group, you’ll see the ‘Sykesville Monster’ come up as a very unique case — with the police activity, and fact that the person who saw it is still alive today. They also have a description of the monster.”
Eckert will also take residents down Main Street to recount the sightings of mysterious black hand prints left from a child at the Cowboys & Angels Boutique — on the side of the register where shoppers are not allowed — and to the home of Mike Kasnia, where 1800s jail cells are preserved in the basement.
The Sykesville Town House, another site on the tour, is also “allegedly quite haunted,” the mentalist said, “with employees and volunteers claiming that they hear creaking in the attic and on the staircase — like someone walking with heavy boots — and can smell cigar smoke in the old entryway of the building at odd and impossible times.”
The tour, which debuted on Sept. 28, will continue each Friday through Nov. 2, beginning at 7 p.m. at Patapsco Distilling Company, 7609 Main Street, Sykesville. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online. The proceeds will benefit the Downtown Sykesville Connection.
“In short, though I am a skeptic,” Eckert said, “conducting the research for this tour may have convinced me that there is something unexplained in the town of Sykesville.”
Eckert will also have a show this month, called “The Eckerts, Mentalists and Mindreaders,” where he will showcase mindreading, telepathy, and mystery at the Patapsco Distilling Company at 7 p.m. on Oct. 13. Tickets are $10 and can also be purchased online.