The ruins of the Patapsco Female Institute stand high above historic Ellicott City. A roofless structure with columns supporting the sky, the former school for girls is often the setting for weddings, plays and other joyous gatherings.
It was while closing the site after one of those happy gatherings that Allison Meyd and Emily Mosher discovered that there might have been more than just the living guests attending the event.
“We heard a loud bang. Metal banging on metal,” said Mosher, living history and heritage program coordinator for Howard County Parks and Recreation. “We were the only two left.”
“We were closing at the end of the night when we heard it,” agreed Meyd, the PFI’s rental and event coordinator for Howard County Recreation and Parks. “It was my only experience.”
From little girls roaming the property to a man in a top hat, the ruins of the PFI have long been believed to be haunted. Since 2016, Howard County Recreations and Parks have hosted Ghostly Guide tours at the site as well as at the B&O Railroad Ellicott City Station to allow the community to discover for themselves what they believe.
“Your mind and eyes can play tricks on you,” Meyd said. “A lot of people don’t see or hear anything but have more of a sense or feeling.”
On a recent Friday evening, a group of nine people arrived at the ruins. A brief history of the structure was provided by Rebecca Dobbs, a docent, as she led the group through the empty rooms.
“I love it at night but it does creep me out a bit,” Dobbs said beforehand. “Last year during a Ghostly Guide tour down in the chapel, I felt a tap on my shoulder.”
After the tour, everyone was given the opportunity to explore the site on their own with the option of using the paranormal equipment the tour offered, including dowsing rods, spirit boxes, electric magnetic chargers and recording devices.
Mosher gave a brief overview on how to use the equipment and how to speak to a ghost.
“Allow one to 15 seconds to respond,” Mosher said. “Be clear about what you are asking.”
She also reminded the group that ghosts from the past may be scared of such modern conveniences as lights — whether from a flashlight or phone.
“Light is fire to them,” Mosher said. “Tell them ‘light won’t hurt you.’”
For friends Jennifer Lastova, of Columbia, and Bobbie Rosnik, of Highland, the tour was a fun night out.
“I have never done this before,” Rosnik said, as she and Lastova sat with a pair of dowsing rods in a room and quietly asked questions.
“I always do research before I go somewhere. This has one active ghost,” she said. “I think it is kind of fun but I take it with a grain of salt.”
Lastova enjoyed learning the history of the building, she said, and was pleased that so far no spirits had contacted them.
“I really don’t need to find any,” she said.
*Ghostly Guides at the Patapsco Female Institute, 3655 Church Road, Ellicott City. Features a tour of the ruins and use of professional ghost hunting gear. Campfire and s’mores included. Fridays through Oct. 19, 8-11 p.m. $25. 410-313-0419.
*Ghostly Guides at Baltimore and Ohio Ellicott City Station Museum, 3711 Maryland Ave., Ellicott City. Features a tour of the building and use of professional ghost hunting gear. Bottled water and snacks included.
*Meet the Friendly Ghosts of Belmont Manor, 6555 Belmont Woods Road, Elkridge. Members of the Inspired Ghost Tracking team will talk about their experiences with the numerous ghosts that call Belmont Manor home. Oct. 23, 7:30-9 p.m., $15.
Elkridge Furnace Inn, 5745 Furnace Ave.,will offer Poe’s Last Stanza on Oct. 19, from 7-11 p.m. Readings of Edgar Allen Poe and a three-course dinner.
“We do events every month, “ Sarah Hardy, special events manager said. “This one is new and a little more darker.”
Reservations are still being accepted. $80. 410-379-9336.
Savage Mill Ghost Tours, 8600 Foundry St., are held at 8 p.m. every Friday and Saturday through Nov. 24, both inside and outside the mill and are led by Marty Schoppert, a historian. Tickets are $12 and must be purchased prior to the event. 410-792-2820.