Stores are stocked with costumes and giant bags of candy in preparation for the droves of children who will go trick-or-treating at the end of the month. But hand in hand with the fun side of Halloween is the spooky side, and Harford County is not exempt from local ghost stories.
Lisa Ryan opened Havre de Haunts Tours & Paranormal Research last year to investigate and share those stories. Through Havre de Haunts, Ryan offers a 1½-hour guided walking tour of Havre de Grace that includes a history of the town as well as local ghost stories, all of which are true, Ryan claims.
Ryan took the time to share two of those ghost stories — one of a young woman named Agnes who, she says, haunts the local American Legion, and the other, better-known tale of Hattie Stone, the murderous wife and mother who once lived on Bourbon Street.
A woman of the night
The story of Agnes is one of Ryan’s favorites. The building that now houses the Joseph L. Davis American Legion Post was built in 1834 and was a boardinghouse before becoming the Lafayette Hotel. Agnes, Ryan says, worked on the third floor of the hotel as a “woman of the night.”
“[Agnes] was a very sad person and had many demons in her life,” she explains. “She decided to take her own life by hanging herself. Some locals claim she hanged herself from the third-floor banister, [and] others claim she was found in one of the bedrooms.”
Regardless, the ghost of a woman has been spotted at the American Legion, Ryan says. Many know her by another name — Mary — from local legends.
“Mary seems to like to touch people, mainly men,” Ryan says. “She is also known for turning lights on and off and making a lot of loud noises by moving things around.”
The American Legion is also doing renovations of the building, which Ryan says can create more paranormal activity and has led to sightings of the woman and other “odd” things at the bar and on the first floor of the building.
The Havre de Haunts team set up a ghost investigation at the American Legion in August, and according to Ryan, a psychic discovered the ghost many called Mary and corrected her name to Agnes.
These kinds of investigations, Ryan explains, often use simple tools like voice recorders and flashlights. In a prior investigation at Havre de Grace’s Bahoukas antiques store, the team asked a spirit a series of questions. They recorded EVP, or electronic voice phenomena, and got the spirit to turn on a flashlight, Ryan says.
“Using a flashlight and having a spirit turn it on is just one way of showing us that there is presence,” Ryan says.
501 St. John St., Havre de Grace
Havre de Grace is also home to a ghost with an infamous past. In 1929, Hattie Stone, a resident of Havre de Grace’s Bourbon Street, was accused of poisoning her husband and two sons by feeding them a “good hearty meal with strychnine mixed in,” according to Ryan.
One of her sons, George, was a mere 15 years old when he died, she adds. It was rumored that Stone, a Sunday School teacher, orchestrated their deaths for insurance money, Ryan says. She would have been the sole beneficiary in her family.
Stone was put on trial for the murder of George, convicted and served her time.
“Her house still stands today on Bourbon Street, and there have been several reported paranormal experiences,” Ryan says.
Guests at the home (now a private residence) have reported having strange dreams, including one of a man who has been seen in spirit form at the residence, Ryan says.
“Many still feel the presence of the entire family, and items get moved around the house,” she adds.
300 block of Bourbon Street, Havre de Grace
Havre de Haunts
Havre de Haunts tours run every Friday and Saturday evening through Nov. 8 this year.
Last season, the group welcomed between 60 and 100 people per night, and tours went out in groups of 15 to 20, Ryan says. Because demand can be high, Ryan recommends tour-goers buy tickets in advance through the website.
Although Havre de Haunts is only a year old, Ryan has plenty of experience with the paranormal. She conducted the Havre de Grace Main Street Haunted History tours for eight years and spent much of her childhood visiting Gettysburg, Pa., a town known for its three-day Civil War battle and the paranormal activity some say resulted from it.
Robbin Van Pelt, a paranormal investigator who worked with Ryan on the investigation at Bahoukas antiques store, called Havre de Grace a town with “a lot of activity in it.”
“I never had the great results in all my years as I have had here,” he says, adding that he’s never come across a negative spirit in Havre de Grace.
The Havre de Haunts team conducts “thorough interviews” with residents who have had firsthand experiences with the paranormal in town.
“I personally have had an experience or two while out on tour with a group,” Ryan says. “Our tours are interactive, so we do encourage audience participation.”
Last season, Ryan was leading a tour through Lafayette Square, diagonal to the American Legion, telling the group that Agnes the ghost likes to play tricks on people by touching them and flipping light switches. As she was talking, she and several people on the tour saw a light on the third floor of the building turn on and flicker off.
“The interesting thing is, it’s very rare that anyone goes up to the third floor,” Ryan says. “The third floor is vacant and due to be renovated. I later learned that the room where that light came on was a small and very old bathroom, which no one ever goes into.”
There’s no guarantee that guests on Havre de Haunts tours will experience the ghosts, but the group trains its guides to use multiple paranormal detection devices, like electromagnetic field detectors, temperature sensors and video cameras.
This season, Havre de Haunts is offering a “Phantom Footsteps of Lafayette” tour focusing on the Main Street district of Havre de Grace.
Take the tour:
Dates: Fridays and Saturdays, through Nov. 8
Times: 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
Concord Point Coffee
217 N. Washington St.