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The ghosts of Carroll County stand poised and ready this October to entertain the imagination and chill the bone. Join the gathering of ghost hunters at the Westminster branch of the Carroll County Public Library on Oct. 18 and Oct. 25 at 6:30 p.m., if you dare to have a different frightful experience this Halloween season. This is a must for lovers of local lore and those seeking ominous places to peek areas of interest in paranormal activity in their local community.

The anticipation of Halloween incites childhood memories of Charlie Brown in his ghostly sheet with too many holes, each child wanting his or her most prized costume and talk of strategies on how to get the most candy. But this October, the Westminster library offers an awesome adventure to put on your calendar of events. This experience may change your Halloween perspective.

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Although the streets will be filled with ghoulish haunts of decorated yards filled with fake spider webs, Styrofoam tombstones and children dressed as skeletons, witches and ghosts on Oct. 31, Carroll County history holds its own terrifying tales of graveyards, entombed bodies, and apparitions; making the streets of Westminster a ghostly playground of spirits who have passed.

Carroll County’s history unleashes an interesting craze of colorful characters with a Halloween feel when acknowledging the haunting activities at Avondale, the old county jail or Westminster’s Main Street. According to Ghosts and Legends of Carroll County, Maryland compiled by Jesse Glass, Jr. and published by Carroll County Public Library, fascinating preservation of centuries-old narratives live on. As told by Glass in the essay “Legh Master,” “Sometimes, Legh Master would be seen followed by three glowing imps carrying lanterns and creeping along as if searching for something. Sometimes, the screaming ghost of Legh would appear on a certain portion of the hill at full moon, astride a horse that spouted fire from its nostrils.”

Another gruesome event whispered through the ages of Westminster history is eerily reminiscent of the legendary Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Local legend tells of the taking of Tom Parkes’ head upon his death by Dr. Zollickhoffer for scientific research. According to Glass’s essay “Big Tom,” “Over the years Carroll Countians have encountered a huge decapitated man walking the grounds of the jail with his arms outstretched as if in wonderment and pain.”

Who knows what lurks behind the old Opera House on Main Street if you dare venture to the back alleyway at night? Dare I tell you the scary scene told to me when I took this tantalizing tour? You’ll need to come and hear for yourself the gruesome scene of the smiling figure spoken of by local residents.

Encountering these spooky ghost stories written on paper is one way to experience the tradition of folk-lore, but to actually walk the streets of the community and see the once-cracked tombstone of Legh Master in Ascension Cemetery with your own eyes or stand on the grassy knoll of the old county jail first-hand to catch a glimpse of a headless body strolling the grounds is a spine-tingling twist that teaches local legend in a fun, imaginative way.

I highly recommend this wonderful walking tour to celebrate the spooky season of Halloween with a perspective of historical significance. The tour will give insight to the serious ghostbuster who may want to explore deeper the whispered ghastly rumors based in truth passed down through the ages. Who knows, you may catch your own ghost this October by strolling the haunted streets of Westminster first-hand to see for yourself. For serious ghost chasers, you’ll be given the inside scoop to know where to aim your camera or conduct an EVP session.

For those who come in the spirit of discovery, experiencing looming local legends will definitely shape your Halloween experience. Instead of the season being just about candy and dressing up, history can play a role making the experience more educational and captivating.

This family-friendly tour begins with an introduction to some of Carroll county’s oldest tales handed down through the generations and then by taking the 1.5 mile ghost walk, participants are introduced to a personal and up-close experience with eerie adventures that in the telling, lure the ghosts of the past to the present. While walking, keep your eyes open for that slight movement in the corner of your eye, or the image that makes you do a double take of a looming figure staring back at you through a window. It may not be your imagination!

Kat Helms writes from Taneytown.

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