Standing in what once was Ellicott City’s firehouse, Anthony Hoos, senior tour guide for Maryland History Tours, tells a group of people that the room is haunted.
The former fire chief, Benjamin Harrison Shipley Sr., is rumored to make himself known to those in and around the building, which now houses The Wine Bin, through paranormal experiences.
“When the owner came back into the building the next day, an empty pint glass was sitting on a safe in the back room, and the light was on,” Hoos says. “The light was off and there was not a pint glass near that room when they left the night before.”
The response is a few gasps and several shocked faces.
Stories like these are many during the ghost tours on Ellicott City’s Main Street. They’re among a number of walks that show the county’s spooky side.
“There are never a shortage of ghost stories in Ellicott City, and we try to add a new little twist when we hear something new or find something fun and odd in our archives,” said Shawn Gladden, executive director of the Historical Society, which offers ghost tours in partnership with Maryland History tours.
“Almost every building in town has a story associated with it, and I would say at least 95% are not sinister,” said Ed Lilley, owner of Maryland History Tours. “They are interesting stories, pranks by ghosts and unusual happenings. I think that people will be surprised by all that has gone on in Ellicott City through the years.”
“Ye Haunted History of Olde Ellicott City” walking tours are offered weekly through October. The Friday night “Mt. Misery” tours cover the hills north of town including the old jail, the Patapsco Female Institute, the courthouse and Castle Angelo, while the Saturday night “Haunted Main Street” tours cover the sites on Main Street.
A “Spirits Pub Tour,” offered on the second Thursday of every month for those 21 and older, takes an inside look at some of the “haunted” taverns on Main Street and includes special pricing on selected drinks throughout the tour.
Joanne Taylor of Catonsville, who describes herself as a “skeptical ghost walk attendee,” says that no matter whether you believe in ghosts, the experience is one that isn’t easily forgotten.
“I like the historical aspect of the tour, so that intrigues me just as much as the supernatural stuff,” Taylor said. “The walks are charming and really open your eyes.”
When it comes to “seeing” ghosts, Hoos said that he’s witnessed several photos from walks that show lights, mist and other signs of potential spirits that weren’t visible when the photo was taken. That’s why they encourage attendees to take pictures during their walks.
There are also ghost tours offered at the Historic Savage Mill led by costumed tour guide and historian Marty Schoppert. These cover the Mill’s haunted history and the spirits that are rumored to roam the halls.
“It certainly brings people down and then exposes them to the different businesses and gives them a little something to talk about,” said Mark Thomson of Ellicott City, who went on a recent ghost tour with his wife. “It teaches people to appreciate the history of the area, and I think that’s really important.”