Clouds drifted hauntingly across the moon in the evening sky, as flashlights beamed through the dark in the church cemetery.
Children searched for telltale clues on the wall of the old jail and scanned the roof of the old Opera House.
About 30 ghost hunters, of all ages, walked to familiar haunts, frequented by specters from the city's past.
The Westminster Library's Ghost Walk, a guided tour of five "reported" sightings, began just after sundown. The hunters met at the library to exchange their ownspooky stories and haunting experiences. Every hand in the room shotup when Blair Reid, librarian and leader of the hunt, asked "Who believes in ghosts?"
"We used to live in an old schoolhouse on Stone Road," said LaDeane Tracy, 11. "The lights would flicker and things would move by themselves. Some people said it was the ghosts of the children who went to school there."
Lindsay Pettingill, 11, said sheknew of a neighbor's house on Brehm Road, where the inhabitants occasionally spot a Confederate soldier's ghost.
Reid said the participants just might encounter a few of that soldier's comrades as they headed up Main Street to the first spooky stop.
"Let's go back in time," Reid said, as she passed out the "Ghost Hunter's Handbook."
Although most people like their ghostly residents and don't want to part with them, Reid said, the walkers might scare a few out of the shadows.
"I have always enjoyed Halloween and haunting tales," said Chuck Gramens, walking with his son, Andy. "We are new here, too, andthought this would be a good way to learn about the town."
The children, who were all 10 or older, said they were more curious than scared as they stood before the Opera House, scene of an unsolved century-old murder. The victim, an itinerant comedian, reportedly has beenseen trotting across the roof of the building.
"The kids might besleeping with their eyes open tonight," said Deborah Scriba, accompanying her son, Gilbert, 10.
"I have seen ghosts in filmstrips, butI really don't want to see them in real life," said Gilbert, as he warily looked up to the roof.
At the Shellman House, original home of several prominent city families, Reid gave a brief history and said the site often is used now for small wedding receptions.
"What if you had a ghost in your wedding?" asked one child.
Cockey's Tavern diners, who boast of their disbelief in ghosts, often get gentle reminders, Reid told the walkers, as they stood before the restaurant.
"Pictures fall off the walls or diners hear stomping boots over their heads," she said with a smile. "Never eat here and say you don'tbelieve."
As the group entered the cemetery at Ascension Episcopal Church, Reid related tales of Legh Master. The coffin of "Carroll'smost famous and cruelest ghost" was transferred to the churchyard when it wouldn't stay in the ground at Master's home, Avondale.
"Theghost might come out of the crack on the tombstone," said Jennifer Hunt, 12, who had heard Master's story during a Girl Scouts sleep overin the church hall. "Those stories kept us awake all that night."
The headless ghost of Tom Parks frequents the Old Jail on Court Street, last stop on the tour. The inmate, who took his own life in 1844,lost his head to Doc Zollickhoffer, who had a penchant for phrenology, the study of bumps on the head.
"When the doc heard of Parks' untimely demise, he zoomed over to the jail and asked for the criminal's head," said Reid. "He wanted to study Parks' bumps."
Buried minus a head, Parks reportedly still roams the jail in search of his missing part.
Andy Gramens, 10, found red stains on the jail's stone walls and wondered if they could be blood.
After the last hauntingtale, the group ambled slowly back to the library, still sharing stories.
Gilbert provided some comic relief when he asked, "You said they buried Parks' body, but, where's the head now?"
The library is sponsoring one more ghost walk this season at 6:45 p.m. Thursday.
Registration is required and participants should be 10 years or older. Younger children, from kindergarten through second grade, can hear "Something Spooky" at 4 p.m. Thursday, too.
Several other organizations will draw you into the Halloween spirit with costume parties, magic shows and dances:
* TheNew Windsor Lions Club has a parade starting at the middle school at7 p.m. Friday, followed by a party at the Fire Hall.
* Westminster has a parade, too, at 10 a.m. Saturday, down Main Street.
* For hearty souls, Patapsco Valley State Park sponsors its ninth annual Halloween Spook Hike from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Friday.
Participants trek along for one mile and meet Big Foot and other surprise visitors. Bring flashlights and dress warmly.
Cost is $1 per hiker. Begin at theMcKeldin Area in Marriottsville.
Information: (301) 461-5005.
* Westminster United Methodist Church will have an All Saints party from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday in the church hall, 165 E. Main St. Admission is 50 cents and a can of food for the needy.
* Adults can dress up and celebrate, too, at a Halloween Dancewith music by Lucifer from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday.
Cost is $10per person. The festivities are at Pleasant Valley Fire Hall, 2030 S. Pleasant Valley Road.
* At 1 p.m. Sunday, children of all ages are invited to a free magic show and costumeparty at Westminster High School. Organizers promise a frightfully good time.
HELPFUL HINTS TO HUNT GHOSTS
*Get permission from the owner of the property before you begin your vigil. Many haunted houses still are inhabited by the living and, unfortunately, haunted woods, valleys, etc. are still property of somebody somewhere.
* Get to know the area in the daylight. If it's a house, map it out. Know where all the cupboards, doors and stairwells are. If it's an outside area, explore it, noting particular landmarks.
* Research your ghost through the local historical society or talk to people most closely connected with it.
* Be objective. Bring measuring devices with you, such as thermometers, watches, a tape recorder and camera. Also invite a couple of trustworthy people to come with you and station them at various places in the haunted area.