WASHINGTON – Scary apparitions lurk in the dark corners, stalking the night at Maryland’s colleges and universities.
Perhaps the most haunted of all colleges in Maryland is, fittingly, the largest: The University of Maryland, College Park.
The university is prime territory for ghost-hunting, said Beverly Litsinger, president of the Maryland Ghost and Spirit Association, which tracks and documents apparitions around the state.
At least three or four buildings at the university have a ghoulish presence, she discovered on one of her regular ghost-hunting trips: “It was really fun. There were so many places I found that were haunted. That was a hoot.”
UMCP embraces its spookiness. University archivists have put together different exhibits in the past two years examining the university’s paranormal past.
This year’s “Mysterious Maryland” display, at Hornbake Library, tells the university’s eeriest tales.
Anne Turkos, one of the archivists, took students and families last October on a tour of the campus’ most haunted locations.
The Rossborough Inn on U.S. Route 1, a centerpiece of both, is home to “Miss Betty,” one of the university’s “most famous” ghosts, Turkos said, who is rumored to have been a nurse at the inn during the Civil War.
Larry Donnelly, who was a dining services manager and had an office at the inn, saw her there in 1981, wearing a yellow dress. The sighting, Turkos said, was confirmed by one of his employees.
There are also mysterious noises and smells that come from Morrill Hall, and on stormy nights, Turkos said, people have heard a piano playing in Marie Mount Hall, even though there hasn’t been a piano in the building for years.
A portrait of Marie Mount, the college’s first dean of home economics, seemingly watches visitors, its eyes following them around the room.
Litsinger especially enjoyed the inn on her last visit to campus, a few years ago.
“When I walked in, I actually saw the ghosts,” she said — even Miss Betty, whom she described as “not too tall” with “dark hair.”
UMCP is just one of many sites she has visited; in fact, Litsinger has compiled a list of 232 “hauntings” throughout Maryland and posted them on her Web site. She, however, knows of about 1,000 sites overall and is putting them together for a book, tentatively titled, “Haunted Maryland.”
Colleges pepper the list of sites.
One of the most compelling, Litsinger said, is Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg. There, the ghost of Elizabeth Ann Seton walks the hallways.
Seton, the first American-born citizen to be canonized by the Catholic Church, lived near the university’s National Shrine Grotto in the early 1800s.
Now, the association says, strange noises, which can’t be accounted for, come from behind closed doors, and Seton’s ghost glides through the hallways in her nun’s habit, escorted by a man carrying a doctor’s bag.
“It’s a very good story,” Litsinger said. “She’s been seen by so many people. … the fact that she’s continually seen makes it even better.”
Mount St. Mary’s acknowledges that there have been some sightings of Seton.
“Occasionally, I think she’s guiding us. If not her ghost, then it’s her persona,” said Linda Sherman, a university spokeswoman.
Litsinger goes out on “investigations” in search of the paranormal once or twice per month, on average.
Halloween doesn’t hold much special meaning for her, since she investigates these spooky occurrences year-round.
“People call me to come investigate their homes and business,” she said. “I will take pictures to show people who their ghost is, and tell them more about their ghost before I leave.”
Litsinger takes recording and detecting equipment — including a camera, audio recorder and electromagnetic field detector — with her on these investigations.
She hasn’t seen Seton’s ghost, but “would like to.”
“Colleges are not always very friendly,” she said. “They don’t want it to get out about ghosts. They don’t want people to hear.”
In addition to her investigation at UMCP, she got ghostly voices on tape at Loyola College.
At McAuley Hall, she said, objects tumble off shelves and eating utensils fall off counters by themselves. Doors also close by themselves, sometimes slamming shut.
College spokeswoman Courtney Jolley, however, wasn’t familiar with any ghostly activity at Loyola, even anecdotally.
A pair of notable ghosts haunts the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, said Mike Carter, a follower of the city’s ghosts and owner of “Ghosts of Annapolis Tours.”
Carter has been leading ghost tours of Annapolis for five years and plans to start taking guests out on ghost hunts.
James Sutton, a lieutenant who died at the academy in 1907, has been known to appear as midshipmen lie in their beds, he said.
John Paul Jones, a captain in the Continental Navy during the Revolutionary War, was interred at the academy’s chapel and now meanders around the grounds.
The notable thing about Jones’ ghost, Carter said, is that it has talked to people inside the crypt. It asked of one: “What is your name, sailor?”
“Most people don’t hear ghosts,” Carter said. “Ghosts don’t generally talk or make noise, unless they’re banging into things.”