It was a dark and stormy night. Well, it was dark because it was night. The storm was in the heavy, gray clouds that built in the sky, blocking the sunset and the stars, strong winds whipping through Westminster.
On such a night, the Westminster branch of the Carroll County Public Library launched this year's series of ghost walks. The participants ventured into Westminster for the walk early in the evening of Oct. 10.
The ghost walks were inspired by the book "Ghosts and Legends of Carroll County, Maryland," compiled by Jesse Glass Jr. and published by the library in 1982. Glass grew up in Carroll County and had researched the local ghost stories and legends.
The ghost walk experience begins with a 15-minute video, shown in the library, describing four ghost stories from Carroll County outside of Westminster. Librarian Pat Hahn encouraged attendees to go looking for Peddler Jack's dog at Baust Church in Tyrone, Chief Twenty Bones in Lineboro, or the Silver Run silversmith Arhwud and his daughter.
After the video, Hahn and fellow librarian Donna Marie Berneski split the attendees into two groups, so as not to have too large a crowd blocking the sidewalks in Westminster. The first stop was in the St. John Catholic Church Cemetery, just behind the library, where Hahn described early county residents' fears of being buried alive.
The walk proceeded up to the Opera House on Main Street. Hahn told the story of Marshall Buell, who was murdered after a performance there and who, some say, still haunts the alley by the building.
Hahn stood on the carriage block - used as a step to enter carriages - in front of the Shellman House and told of ghostly happenings at the Shellman and Kimmey houses. In the back of the Shellman House, "Lydia Shellman" explained the story of "God's Well."
Cockey's Tavern was the last stop on Main Street, with tales of bootsteps on the stairs and the bleeding portrait of President Grant. The tour then moved along Court Street to the graveyard of Ascension Episcopal Church and the grave if the legendary Legh Master.
While Master supposedly haunts Furnace Hills west of Westminster, riding at night on a black horse, his body was moved to the churchyard after his coffin kept coming out of the ground at his home. Even now, Master's solid concrete grave top bears numerous cracks.
After the visit with Master, the tour was treated to a stop at the Carroll County Court House. Joseph Struck, a bailiff at the Circuit Court, gave a tour of the second floor of the courthouse and the balcony overlooking Court Street - a view that, minus the cars and electric lights, evoked thoughts of days in Westminster past.
The final stop on the tour was the old jail, built in 1837, before the courthouse was even constructed. Hahn recounted that three people were hung on the gallows beside the jail, and at least one of them supposedly haunts that building to this day.
Strange happenings in the building are often attributed to "Reuben," a nickname given to a ghost suspected to be Solomon Sudler, who was hung on the gallows. Hahn told of Tom Parkes, a prisoner who committed suicide and had his head removed by Dr. Zollickhoffer, of Uniontown. The headless man who wanders the grounds is supposed to be Parkes.
Hahn said the library's ghost walks fill up rapidly. She said, "I think people really like being able to go into a building and see presentations like Lydia Shellman's."