Saturday, October 31, 2020

Ghost Hunting at Cockey's Tavern

Westminster, an historic town in central Maryland, has a lot of history, many historical buildings and with that history and historic buildings, some say the town also has ghosts.

Built around 1820, the building at 216 E Main Street, known as Cockey's Tavern, provided a home for several families over the years, including the Cockeys) before serving as a tavern, a boarding house, a restaurant, and finally, a museum for the Historical Society of Carroll County.  

By the early 1830s, the home served as a tavern, run by Joshua Cockey. This building is haunted by the apparition of a soldier, who has been heard marching up a flight of stairs to the second floor. Doors often slam for no apparent reason, and one particular painting, often believed to be of General Ulyssis Grant but is actually of an unknown gentlemen (it's frequently mis-identified), often gets dropped from the wall where it hangs.

This room, on the third floor, is furnished how it may have looked during the boarding house period.

During the Civil War, it's believed that Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart briefly used the building as a temporary headquarters leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg. Later on, Confederate sympathizer John Brooke Boyle acquired the property in 1872; both of his sons served in the Confederate army, and some speculate that the resident ghost may be one of his sons.

A photo of an historical photo; Cockey's Tavern in the early 1900s.

The property stayed in Boyle’s family until the 1920s when it was bought by Frank and Mary Hoffman, who renamed the property Hoffman’s Inn. It was both a boarding house and restaurant. In 1969 Hoffman’s Inn again became known as Cockey’s Tavern, a name that stayed with the property ever since. In 2000, a fire that devastated parts of the first floor and former enclosed back porch shut down the restaurant. The Historical Society of Carroll County bought and restored the building in 2009 and it is now a museum of Carroll County history.

The historical society often allows paranormal investigations at the historic building. A curator from the museum on the night we were there said she's heard heavy footsteps going up the first floor stairs.

The bay window of this second story central room was added in the early 1900s.

The evening started with the realization that several pieces of equipment, despite being loaded with new batteries, were drained. Likewise, my husband's phone charger, which had been fully charged, was found to be out of juice. The evening looked promising.

This is the painting that the ghost of Cockey's Tavern delights in removing from the wall.
No, the man's right hand is not bleeding -- the varnish was not applied well, and it looks
as if there's blood. It's not. Neither is the man in the painting former U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant.

Once the ghost hunt formally started -- we were divided into two groups, with one heading down to the basement and the other up to the second floor -- the expectations didn't translate to actual performance. 

The stair case to the second floor, and also the stairs upon which visitors and
historical society volunteers and curators often hear heavy footsteps, as if from boots.

The EMF readers were non-conclusive, as all the outlets seemed to be exuding a lot of energy, not shocking giving the historic building's antique wiring. The cat ball stayed dark. Things just weren't clicking. It seemed as if the entitites had retreated to their safe space: they didn't want us here and they didn't want to play.

The setting sun streaming through the hand-blown windows creates interesting shadows.

In fact, it seemed as if any activity taking place was occuring in another room -- whichever room we weren't in. A few times I wondered off from the main group, crossing the hall to take a few photos into a room. I'd get a few orbs the first few photos, then nothing as I continued shooting. I didn't get any orbs from photos I took in a room the group was in, which also corresponded to the lack of activity on our EMFs (other than from the electrical wiring itself), the K-2 meter, and even our cat ball. 

The exception to the activity was the basement. The other group heard footsteps on the first floor above them when they were in the basement -- so much commotion that they trotted upstairs, believing it was time to switch locations. But our group was busy on the third floor, and tests afterward revealed that the sound from a bunch of people on the third floor doesn't transfer to the first floor. 

When our group was in the basement, several things occurred: I asked, a little in frustration, "Are you hiding from us?" The cat ball lit up, teasing us. We started asking other questions, but no further response, until again, "Why are you hiding from us?" The cat ball lit up a second time. 

But between those two questions, Lisa heard a hiss, coming from her location in a corner of the basement. She moved closer to the rest of the group, standing near me. Right after we asked a second time about hiding, and the ball lit up again, we both heard "aahhh." 

The only other significant activity was during a dowsing rod session. The rods seemed to be responding to Lisa; another ghost hunter was asking a variety of questions. It was then that I felt a touch on my hand -- almost like a how a whisper would feel, and then it was gone. The entity had just been asked "Where are you standing" and the dowsing rods pointed to a spot between Lisa and me. 

The first and third frames indicate an orb, visible against
the backdrop of the window; taken in a second floor meeting room.

There is a lot of controversy about orbs. Many in the paranormal field believe orbs are not a good indication of paranormal activity -- they could be dust or bugs (or dust or whatever). 

The staircase leading up to the third floor.

But some believe orbs are signs of ghosts. I'm in the latter camp, although I reserve some doubt. During this ghost hunt, it seemed that all the orbs in photos were caught outside of the rooms where the group was asking questions, etc. 

One of the first floor history exhibits.

When you take photos, it's best to take a string of photos -- at least two, with three or more being optimal. I was often taking five or six in a row in a position, then shifting and taking another string. I've included the orb photos here: you can decide for yourselves whether this signifies paranormal activity.

The second and fourth frames show possible orbs; the four photos were taken in sequence.

If you want more ghosts in Westminster, then check out the Paranormal Walking Tour at

From the back of the downstairs hallway, looking toward the front door.

Getting there: 216 E Main Street, Westminster, MD

Hours: Your group must work with the Carroll County Historical Society to arrange a ghost hunt at this location. We participated as part of the Inspired Ghost Trackers meetup group.

Website: Historical Society of Carroll County's website is; the Facebook page for the meetup group is

Follow the MidAtlantic DayTrips on FacebookInstagramPinterest, and LinkedIn.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Albany Rural Cemetery

The Albany Rural Cemetery is as much a park as it is a burial ground. There are a variety of species of trees, and the roads lead you through undulating hills. 

Erastus Corning (1794-1872) – Founder and president of the New York Central Railroad,
and is located on a large circular plot in Lot 2, Section 31. Erastus Corning 2nd (1909-1983) –
Great-grandson of Erastus Corning and the mayor of Albany for 41 years. He is also in the Corning family plot.

But it is a cemetery, and there are some interesting monuments, as well as a few famous people, buried there, including one former president, Chester Arthur, the United States' 21st president.

The angel standing guard over Chester Arthur, 21st president of the United States.

Before Albany Rural Cemetery was established, people began objecting to the over-crowded church burial grounds within the Albany city limits. 

The concept of rural garden cemeteries -- "rural" because these were usually a few miles outside of the cities -- were just becoming the fashion, and the citizens of Albany wanted their own.

Thus, Albany Rural, true to its name, opened October 7, 1844; it is one of the oldest examples of this style of picturesque cemeteries in the country. 

The rural cemetery movement reflected how death was beginning to be viewed. Gone was the puritanical pessimism, and in came images of hope, immortality and salvation. 

You'll find beautiful angels and hopeful cherubs, doves, as well as botanical motifs such as ivy representing memory, oak leaves for immortality, poppies for sleep and acorns for life.

Originally 100 acres, the cemetery now encompasses 467 acres.

If you like ghosts, then this cemetery, unlike most others, might offer you some good ghost-hunting -- or at the very least, some interesting ghost stories. 

There's the ghost horse, who died suddenly after bolting from its owners and careening into a headstone. Or the young girl who wanders the grounds in a long gown -- still trying to get to her Prom. On the right days, you may find yourself face to face with a mysterious and sad lady in gray, who likely drowned in a nearby pond. Or you may encounter Anna Osterhoudt, who shot herself on her husband's grave or Mary Douglass Scott, who drank arsenic on the cemetery grounds, and died alone and forlorn. 

Oscar Lenz sculpture on the Hilton mausoleum, owners of Hilton Bridge & Construction Company.

Then, as now, the Albany Rural Cemetery is a beautiful and peaceful location to walk, run, ride a bike, or take a drive along its winding roads, wooded hills and beautiful burial monuments. 

It is also a beautiful place to visit to enjoy the autumn foliage. 
Among the more than 135,000 people buried in Albany Rural Cemetery are a panoply of famous and interesting people. 

In addition to former president Chester A Arthur, you'll find 34 members of Congress, eight presidential Cabinet members, five New York State governors, and 55 mayors of the City of Albany. And of course, the cemetery is also the permanent home for many artists, architects, sculptors, writers and business people as well as those who served and died in the Civil War.

Know before you go: This is still an active cemetery, so please be respectful if you encounter mourners or a funeral. Move to a different section and avoid photographing toward the group.

Getting there: Cemetery Ave, Albany, NY

Website: Click here for a map to the location of the gravesites of famous individuals buried in the Albany Rural Cemetery. The cemetery's website is

Looking for more tombstone tourism? Check out our other cemetery visits:

Follow the MidAtlantic DayTrips on FacebookInstagramPinterest, and LinkedIn.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Haunted Historic Waverly Mansion

The first ghost hunt for us in a while, we really looked forward to a visit to Waverly Mansion, in western Howard County, MD. Electronic voice phenomena (EVPs) are common. An inexplicable moving blue light has been seen indoors, a woman's voice, and footsteps when no one has been there have been reported as part of the paranormal events that occur within this lovely old mansion.

But nevermind the ghost hunt -- I think part of the thrill was the opportunity just to get a peek inside of this historic house!

Waverly Mansion, located in Marriottsville, was built in the mid 1700s and lived in by several generations of the Howard family, for which, of course, Howard County is named. John Eager Howard was born just a few years before Waverly Mansion was built, but is its most notable owner, although all the Maryland big names are associated with the property: Carrolls, Dorseys, Ridgelys, and of course, Howards.

Soldier and politician, John Eager Howard took part in the Revolutionary War and afterward, became fifth governor of Maryland (serving three one-year terms between 1788 - 90), served in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, and was a Federalist Party vice presidential candidate in 1816 (they lost); throughout his life he enslaved black people. The Howard family owned the Waverly Plantation between 1786 and 1846.

Howard's son, George, also was a governor of Maryland, and is the only governor of Maryland to have been born in the Governor's House and then later lived there as governor. He died in 1846, and the property passed to new owners. Like other members of his family, he enslaved a number of individuals on his various properties. I think it's important to give the individuals the Howards enslaved their names, although we only have the names of the 25 men, women and children the Howards enslaved at the time of George's death on Waverly: Elias, Jim, Peter, Henry, Jolen, Jake, Bell, Dan, William (Mimah's son), Joshua, Henry, Joe, Mary, Prudence, Lizzie, Frances, Sidney, Sally & child, Mimah & child, Fanny & child, Betsey, and Old Nancy.

Also on the Waverly property are a small ​stone overseer's cottage, a frame-and-stone barn, and the ruins of a log cabin that housed some of those the Howards enslaved. It is sad that the Howard's house remains, but the buildings that sheltered those the Howards enslaved have been erased.

This was a short investigation, just three hours long, and arranged by Inspired Ghost Tracking, a meetup group that sponsors ghost hunts and other meetings to explore the paranormal world. Throughout the evening, we tried out various equipment, from thermal imagers, voice recorders for evps (electronic voice phenonemon), dowsing rods, cameras (both traditional and full-spectrum), EMF (electro-magnetic field) meters, spirit boxes, and even light-up cat toys.

We think we may have had a discussion with either a young enslaved individual or servant (we never narrowed down the time period) and also members of the Howard family, although the responses weren't consistent and were sporadic, leaving much to doubt. Our imaginations may have filled in some of the gaps!

In one bedroom on the second floor, which had creeped me out when I was there earlier in the evening taking photos (with the lights on), we got nothing when we were there with our ghost hunting equipment and asking questions. Dead quiet. Then we moved across the hallway to another bedroom, and our dowsing rods sprang to life.

Later, we moved to the basement, where our EMF (for electro-magnetic field) reader flickered lackadaisically. Actually, the EMF barely moved at every location in the house, except in the dining room, although others who had visited previously with Inspired Ghost Tracking reported that the house had been quite active at times.

Today, Waverly Mansion is owned and managed by the Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks for weddings, special events, paranormal investigations, interpretive history events, scout programs, school groups and living history summer camps.

My camera didn't even catch any orbs during this visit -- it was really quiet during the entire evening. A spirit box session didn't throw out any words in response to questions. And we didn't notice any temperature fluctuations although we did get an unusual image of a really cold spot hovering above my friend, but I wonder if that could be debunked by the painting hanging behind her, above the couch. I have to admit, if it weren't for its reputation, I would have thought the mansion was NOT haunted (creepy feelings just aren't enough evidence).

That said, I'd probably give it another try. Ghosts aren't trained seals, performing on command. And perhaps they didn't want to deal with visitors, or the environment just wasn't as conducive as it might be on other occasions. Who knows?

Know before you go: It's important to do your research before you go, so the questions you ask can be more pointed. Here's the info I think you should start with, if you're planning to visit Waverly Mansion on a ghost hunt:

Names of those enslaved on the property: 
  • Likely living and working on the property between 1756 - 1773 (possibly longer): Peter, Robin, Joo, Ben, Hagar, Pol and Jenny
  • Likely living and working on the property leading up to 1856: Elias, Jim, Peter, Henry, Jolen, Jake, Bell, Dan, William (Mimah's son), Joshua, Henry, Joe, Mary, Prudence, Lizzie, Frances, Sidney, Sally & child, Mimah & child, Fanny & child, Betsey, and Old Nancy
  • There were enslaved people on the property until the Civil War but only their ages and genders are recorded.

Names of the families which owned, managed or lived in the mansion (and roughly when):
  • Nathan Dorsey (1756 - 1773), married to Sophia Owings (who may have continued living on the property after her husband's death
  • Edward Dorsey (Nathan's brother) (1773-1786)
  • John Eager Howard (1786 - 1822), married to Margaret ("Peggy") Chew
  • James Frost, rented the mansion/plantation (1798 - ??)
  • George Howard (1811 - 1846), married to Prudence Gough Ridgely (13 children, 8 of which survived to adulthood); Prudence died in 1857
  • George Howard Jr (1847 - 1858)
  • Joseph Judick (1858 - 1881)
  • Frederick Brosenne (1881 - ??) Passed down within the Brosenne family until 1964.

Getting there: 2319 Waverly Mansion Dr, Marriottsville, MD

Hours: Howard County Recreation and Parks will be opening up Waverly Mansion for house tours in the future. Check with Recreation and Parks for how to arrange a paranormal investigation or join Inspired Ghost Tracking, which periodically revisits Waverly Mansion.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Let the Autumn Colors Inspire You to Daytrip Too!

We would see amazing things if we could learn to be travelers in our own neighborhoods, Henry David Thoreau said.

Fall is a great time to explore your own neighborhood and see it with new eyes. Grab a camera and take yourself out for a fun afternoon daytrip!

One of my favorite things to do in the fall is to go on road trips to see the fall foliage -- the colorful leaves make the photos.

These wonderful photographs you will take are perfect for Instagram!

All the photos included here have been taken with my (now aging) DS90,

a Coolpix point and shoot,

a waterproof Olympia (for when I kayak and bike), which allowed me to capture this plover wading in the wetlands in Cape Henlopen State Park near Lewes, DE, and

various android phone cameras, such as this one in the chapel of the Patapsco Female Institute in Ellicott City, MD. Lately, I've been getting my best shots with those.

One thing I've learned is you don't need a fancy camera to get photos you'll be really thrilled with.

Over the years, I've enjoyed photographing autumn colors in lakes and

national parks and wildlife refuges, such as Dolly Sods National Wildlife Refuge.

But also anywhere, really.

Play around with perspective by using the portrait setting to focus in on one thing in particular and blur out the background.

Don't forget to check out local cemeteries. During the Victorian age, cemeteries were treated as parks, where you could go to hang out and picnic. Not creepy at all. Somewhere during the last hundred plus years, that trend faded away.

You can find lots of cool grave stones -- often created to be looked at and impress folks. And add the colorful leaves, and the cemeteries are even prettier.

Look for Halloween decorations -- sometimes these are fun to photograph!

One of my favorite times to go out to photograph things is during or

right after rain. I waited for several minutes for water droplets to collect and roll to the leaf tips for both of the above photos.

Foggy mornings are another favorite time.

Fog adds mystery, and autumn leaves pop out of the white blur, such as these trees in a parking lot at Harpers Ferry National Park, right before a bikeride.

Reflections of leaves in water -- so many opportunities to catch that cool photograph.


I love my barns.

I often make unplanned stops just to photograph a particularly lovely old barn.

Barn doors can be fun.

I frequently go on barn tours, such as the barn tour of Butler County, PA.

Speaking of Butler County, I was thrilled when I spotted a kayaker wearing the same colors as the autumn leaves!

Covered bridges are also a favorite subject, anytime of the year, but especially in the fall, such as this one in Frederick County, MD.

But don't overlook an unusual subject, such as these colorful buckets of horse manure, all lined up. The colors were too pretty to not photograph. I tried from several different angles until I got what I was looking for.

Or weeds.

Or old, falling down houses, such as this one in Davis, WV

So although this post wasn't about a particular place, I hope you'll be inspired to daytrip too, with your camera in hand and with your eyes open to the unique and wonderful place you live in or near!

Please share your photos on MidAtlantic Daytrips' facebook page -- I'd love to see them!

Follow the MidAtlantic DayTrips on FacebookTwitterInstagramPinterest, and LinkedIn.