They say historic Ellicott City is haunted. Maybe it's the granite, the underground water or he flow of electricity.
Things are about to get a little spookier. Howard County Tourism and Promotion offers three different ghost tours, leading visitors along Main Street to hear about paranormal sightings — or inside a local pub for a longer tale.
For the first time, writers of paranormal fiction — authors who focus on vampires, ghosts and other such other-worldly beings — and their fans will gather for HallowRead, a weekend conference in town at the end of the month.
And above it all, through the month of October, Dracula will reign in the ruins of the Patapsco Female Institute when the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company presents a classic play about the world's most famous vampire.
Now don't be scared, but here is more freightful information about the upcoming events:
Ghost experts who visited historic Ellicott City have said the town's granite, electricity and water make it hospitable to spirits. "Ellicott City has all of those — with sprinkles on top," said Rachelina Bonacci, chief executive officer of Howard County Tourism and Promotion. "There's a reputation now."
And at night, she said, when the moon illuminates thin clouds stretching across the dark sky and spider webs glisten in the corners, Bonacci sees why its a good ghost town. "The town can definitely have a different vibe at night," she said.
Bonacci admits she was skeptical. But then one Sunday morning when she was alone in her office, she heard someone walking around on a wooden floor above her — where all the floors are carpeted.
"All of us in our office have had an experience," she said.
Two walking tours, the original, Ye Haunted History of Olde Ellicott City Ghost Tour, and a second, the Double Dare, are offered two nights a week from April through November.
A third, the Spirits of Ellicott City tour offered once a month all year, takes visitors inside local restaurants and bars for a drink and longer ghost stories.
Marty Schoppert collected the stories — such as the tragic tale of an accountant — by talking to residents and shopkeepers who readily told him about things they couldn't explain. The eyewitnesses live in the 21st century but the ghosts come from as early as the mid-1800s. There were ghostly apparitions, furniture that moved on its own, strange sounds. "I was very surprised and very pleased when people volunteered the information," he said.
He helped weave these eyewitness accounts into scripts for all three tours, as well as a new one at Savage Mill.
"We have quite a few entities we talk about," he said.
Schoppert, who dresses in a top hat and cape when he leads a tour, recalls a young woman standing nearby as he told the story of Confederate soldier. When he finished, she surprised him by confirming that all he said was true — she had lived in that building and seen him.
Schoppert, who is retired from both the U.S. Army and the police department, used to do historical interpretations for the U.S. Park Service. He and his family have also taken part in Civil War reenactments for years. And he was often asked about ghost stories.
Now he tells them in Ellicott City. "I don't mind being the center of attention — as long as it isn't a hanging," he quipped.
Does he believe in ghosts? He remembers driving his patrol car on Route 1 and seeing a bewildered man standing on a driveway. After driving past, Shoppert worried the man was in trouble and turned around. When he got back to the spot, the man was gone but Schoppert continued down that driveway, where he found a graveyard. And a newly-dug grave.
"Did I see a ghost?" he says in a warm tenor voice. "I don't know."