By Emily Parks, SoBo Voice magazine
Federal Hill has a rich and storied history. The Star Spangled Banner was written at nearby Fort McHenry. The rowhomes that line the cobblestone streets date back to the early 1800s. Noted literary figure Edgar Allen Poe once roamed the area.
So it should come as no surprise that ghosts and spirits fill Federal Hill with their presence, energy and antics. Through the new Historic Federal Hill Ghost tour, you’ll get a new eye-opening perspective on this historical community. Barry Werner, who owns Scarborough Fair Bed & Breakfast (801 S. Charles Street), has teamed up with Margaret Perry Ehrlich and other members of Inspired Ghost Tracking, a local paranormal investigation group, in creating a new tour that combines science, technology, spirituality and legend into a unique tour exploring the neighborhood of Federal Hill.
“This is a great way for people to learn about our wonderful neighborhood for the first time or to get reacquainted with not only what makes it so charming and fun, but the decades of history that happened on our streets, not to mention the dearly departed who still choose to hang around,” Werner said. “I hope in sharing the stories and some of science and technology behind paranormal investigation, we will have people discover a different side of our community.
The tour begins at Scarborough Fair Bed & Breakfast. At the start of the tour, our guides Ronda Dixon and Margaret Perry Ehrlich told us a little bit about how they got started in the world of the paranormal. Both had always had an interest, but Ehrlich was lucky (or unlucky) enough to live in a house that appeared to be haunted. “We had instances where when a family member would get home late at night we’d find the attic door open, just for it to be closed the next morning,” she said. “Dropped ceilings would move, and we’d all seen a ghostly figure dressed in 1800s clothing.” Turns out three deaths took place in the house — in her room, her mother’s room and a formal sitting area.
In preparation for the tour, Rob Gutro, a medium, along with Inspired Ghost Tracking, conducted extensive research in the neighborhood. Gutro would feel strong positive or negative emotions near a certain area, or receive communication from the spirits. Some of the communication was very piecemeal, be it a facial appearance or letters in the alphabet. Dixon talked about how she would then spend several hours digging into information at public libraries, in newspapers and through Internet searches. “I try to back up what he feels,” she explains. “If he has a letter of the alphabet come to mind near a residence, I look for information about past residents to see if there’s a match.”
The tour covers many known areas of Federal Hill, including Federal Hill Park and Cross Street Market. One of the more colorful tour destinations includes the corner of E. Cross Street and Patapsco. There Gutro encountered a ghost sitting on the corner, who told him this was “his corner” as he would often sit there to sober up before heading home to his wife. Gutro and members of Inspired Ghost Tracking gathered that he had died during the riots around the 1890s, and offered to put flowers on his grave if he would give his name. The ghost then replied “Flowers were for sissies.” According to the ghost, his wife couldn’t afford a proper burial so his friends reclaimed his body after he died in the riots and threw it in the water.
Gutro has a scientific bent as he is also a meteorologist. He explained the difference between ghosts and spirits using the idea of displaced energy, noting that when synapses are fired to make thoughts that energy coupled with the soul provides even more energy. “Since energy can’t be created or destroyed it has to go somewhere,” he explains. “Energy that ‘crosses over to the other side’ is spirits, while the energy that chooses to stay is ghosts.”
The information learned on this tour will not be found in any guidebook. After learning about the historical ghostly presences all around you in Federal Hill, you will never look at a certain block or street the same way again.
The tour lasts about an hour and is offered on Saturdays at 6pm and 8:30pm. There is a 15-person limit per tour. For more information and tickets visit http://federalhillghosttour.ticketleap.com.