A snallygaster relaxes in a moment of contemplation about whether or not there are any ghosts at the Westminster Cemetery.
A snallygaster relaxes in a moment of contemplation about whether or not there are any ghosts at the Westminster Cemetery. (Photo by Kevin E. Dayhoff, Oct. 22, 2013)

Carroll County's oral and written traditions are full of references to ghouls, goblins and ghost stories.

Historian Joe Getty reported that during his research for the Historical Society of Carroll County many years ago, he found that the belief in witches and supernatural spirits were part of a Northern European-German culture brought to this area by its early settlers.


"Newspapers articles from the turn-of-the-century also document other Halloween customs such as trick-or-treating and parties held in the homes," wrote Getty. "Pumpkin pie, gingerbread, cider, apples and homemade candy were popular refreshments at Halloween parties."

One tradition that fortunately never caught on in Carroll County was the practice of "the hanging of women assumed to be witches …"

If you will recall, in Salem, Mass., in the summer of 1692, 19 men and women, were convicted of being witches and hanged.

Hundreds of townsfolk were accused of being witches and many spent months in the lock-up awaiting trials, until everyone went back on their medication and just as quickly as the hysteria began, it stopped.

According to Getty's research, Judge Francis Neal Parke, a Carroll County native son and celebrated jurist, wrote an "article entitled 'Witchcraft in Maryland' that was published in the December 1936 edition of the Maryland Historical Magazine, in which he examined five cases of alleged witchcraft that took place in Maryland colonial courts."

A local attorney, and my childhood Babe Ruth League baseball coach, Neal Hoffman, is named for Parke.

Getty wrote, "The earliest cases involved the hanging of women assumed to be witches while aboard ships traveling from England to the colonies in 1654 and 1658. … The first four cases occurred between 1665 and 1686, and the fifth was in 1712.

"These cases involved the prosecution of four women and one man. In general, the charges were practicing the black arts upon their victims to cause their bodies to be wasted, consumed and pined. … The results in the five cases involved one death penalty for which the defendant was executed, one death penalty for which there was a reprieve, two acquittals and one case where the charges were dropped."

When not looking for chocolate to ward off the evil spirits, Kevin Dayhoff may be reached at kevindayhoff@gmail.com.