Sunday, November 29, 2020

Does Daniels, Maryland's Ghost Town, Actually Have Ghosts?

Daniels is a little known ghost town sprawled on both sides of the Patapsco River within the Patapsco River Valley State Park, which we've written about before (several times actually). The hike along the old road into Daniels on the Baltimore County side of the river is about a 4.5 mile there-and-back hike, with a brief there-and-back detour up to an old church included in the mileage.

Of all places, it seems as if Daniels SHOULD be haunted. The landscape all but screams spooky. There are stone ruins, forgotten foundations buried deep in the vegetation, derelict cars scattered around the valley slopes, a truck overturned in the river, and a hidden cemetery with multiple graves of children and babies who died between 1912 and 1919. It is a certifiably creepy place. And we were there to see whether it would be worth planning a nighttime ghost hunting expedition into Daniels.

Although the internet reveals nothing about potential hauntings in Daniels, if you're lucky enough to find the right local -- a former resident of the mill town or one of their descendents, perhaps -- they'll likely bend your ear a bit with some spooky stories about the forgotten mill town. 

You may end up hearing about the ghosts of children who've drowned in the river or the dam, or hearing the mysterious disembodied screams of a woman who died tragically giving birth, or maybe they'll mention the spectres of people killed in accidents at the mill -- although in hind sight, of course, the stories sound more speculative and wishful than true. 

Whether you're looking for ghosts or simply want to check out the ghost town, the best time to explore Daniels is in the late fall and early winter, when the thick summer vegetation dies back a bit, revealing the forgotten foundations and detrius of human life now past.

We noticed a bright white bathtub along the side of the trail, which follows the old Alberton Road back into the ghost town. Alberton was one of the names of the town: the first was Elysville when it was founded in the 1820s, then came Alberton, and finally Daniels when the Daniels company purchased the entire town and the mills. It was Daniels when the mill ultimately shut down and the town abandoned, and that is what it's known as still.

Me being me, I headed through the brush to photograph it and then, of course, remembered why we'd decided to hike into Daniels in the first place. So I slipped out the EMF reader and started holding it to the bathtub. And it flickered up to red a few times -- so exciting! 

I called over my companion and started asking questions. The EMF reader flickered up to red again once or twice, then stuck stubbornly at green. Lisa got out her dowsing rods and began asking questions. The rods crossed and we were hopeful! But the wind was blowing and we had to ensure that the wind wasn't causing the movement. We asked a question, with the request to uncross the rods for yes. The rods stayed stubbornly crossed. We asked another, different question, again to uncross the rods. And another. Nothing.

The ruins of the Saint Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Church, built originally
in the 1800s. It was struck by lightening and burned in September 1926.

We decided to move on, heading up the hill to the Saint Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Church. Again, as we scanned the area, the EMF reader flickered a few times, then it stayed stubbornly dark as we sat it on a tombstone, introduced ourselves and asked a question. Likewise, nothing with the dowsing rods. 

We thanked whomever, if there even was a whomever, and moved over to the church itself. The EMF reader didn't even flicker in the church for the scan, and it stayed stubbornly dark when I asked questions. We knew the battery was working just fine because it flickered merrily whenever I moved my phone near it. 

As it turned out, the abandonment of Daniels was fortuitous and likely saved lives -- the remnants of Hurricane Agnes, then a tropical storm, raged through the Patapsco Valley, destroying the remaining buildings, washing away a cemetery full of grave stones, and tossing cars and trucks around like matchbox cars.

Later the state of Maryland obtained the acreage and added it to Patapsco Valley State Park, further protecting the fragile river that runs through the park and through Daniels into the Chesapeake Bay.


We eventually continued our hike into Daniels and arrived at the pentacostal church and tried again. Again, a few flickers, apparently in response to our questions, and again, the dowsing rods seemingly moved, but again, perhaps in response to the breeze. We really didn't find anything that encourages us to consider a nighttime expedition, which was the point of today's paranormal exploration, truly a hunt for ghosts.

We left Daniels satisfied that we'd enjoyed a peaceful morning's hike into the past. And as before, we reflected about the lives of those who'd lived in Daniels as we walked the old road out of the park. I wondered about their hopes and dreams, and I wondered whether their ghosts still lived in this forgotten ghost town.

To get a trail map of the Daniels area of PVSP, click here.

Getting there: The Daniels Area can be accessed off of Daniels Avenue, and also from Alberton Road (trail access only in this area). Take Route 40 West to the second light, which is Rogers Avenue. Turn Right. Follow Rogers Avenue to Old Frederick Road. Turn right. Then turn left onto Daniels Road.

To get to the Alberton Road trail into the ghost town, take US 29 north to the end, turn right onto Rogers Avenue. Follow Rogers to the roundabout, then turn left onto Old Frederick Road. Follow Old Frederick Road; eventually it turns into Holifield Road after it crosses the Patapsco River. Hollifield Road Ts at Dogwood Road. Turn left onto Dogwood, then almost immediately left on Alberton Road and the trail's parking lot. The trailhead for the Alberton Road Trail into Daniels is hard to find, but click here for Google Maps directions.

As it turns out, the only secret we were able to discern was the lovely mural some
graffiti artist had created on the back of the pentacosta church. In the foreground might be the
burial ground. The son of a former resident said that Hurricane Agnes had washed away the tombstones. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Hippos, Kookaburras, and More at Adventure Aquarium

Adventure Aquarium offers a fun, unique exploration of the wonderful animal life in the ocean, as well as some cool land animals, such as hippos, and birds, such as penquins and kookaburras.

You can easily spend two to three hours exploring as you walk around the exhibits.

The highlight was the shark tunnel, suspended directly through the center of the 550,000 gallon tank, an enclosed tunnel that allows you to walk through the tanks as the fish, including a variety of sharks, swim above and beside you. It's the closest thing to being in the tank with them, short of actually being in the tank with them!

Above the shark tank is the 81-foot, v-shaped suspension bridge over the shark tank, allowing you still another perspective into sharks and their habitat.

We particularly enjoyed seeing the Nile hippos, Button and Genny -- we caught the tail end of a feeding session -- and we looped around and visited them twice. I also enjoyed just seeing them lounging underwater. It's crazy how huge these animals are!

We weren't the only ones enjoying the hippos!

Although a for-profit aquarium, Adventure Aquarium also helps the species it has on display. Its African penguin exhibit has been part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' species protection program since its creation in 1998. Since then, it has bred 26 African penguins.

You can make a day of it there, as there is a cafe/restaurant onsite.

Although this aquarium is definitely kid-friendly, it's also just plain fun for adults as well. Grab a kid if you know one to bring along, but it also makes for a fun afternoon for adults to hang out and enjoy the wonders of our oceans.

Know before you go: Late summer, fall and early winter are generally the LEAST busy times at Adventure Aquarium. The MOST popular days are when school is not in session, such as holidays:
  • President's Day Weekend
  • Spring Break (the weeks before and after Easter Sunday)
  • Memorial Day Weekend
  • July 4th Weekend
  • Labor Day Weekend
  • Christmas Holiday Week (from the day after Christmas through the Sunday after New Year's Eve)
  • Martin Luther King Jr Weekend
During the Day: For the best experience consider visiting in the afternoon on weekdays after the majority of Group/School Group visitors have left for the day or before 11a.m. or after 2 p.m. on weekends and holidays.

Getting there: 1 Riverside Drive, Camden NJ 08103

Hours: The museum is open every day of the year; please check website for operational hours.


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Saturday, November 21, 2020

Staying at Grandma's Place -- an AirBnB Vacation Fabulous Find


We were looking for a fairly inexpensive house to rent while we explored the Catskills and we found "Grandma's Place" in Woodstock NY.


Perfect for a couple or small family, Grandma’s Place is walking distance to the center of Woodstock. The house sleeps four comfortably: one double bed and one queen bed. 

The owner's mother bought this cute house as a second home for when she comes to visit from Virginia. Her suite is a separate apartment, allowing privacy for all. 

Although the listing notes it's furnished with a "flair for the 1950s," we were thrilled with the retro vibes when we walked into the home. It felt comfortable and cool at the same time. 

Big picture windows opened up the space of the 1950s era home to the woods behind the back yard and the beautiful trees out front. 

We also appreciated the paintings of Dorothea Fischer, a local Woodstock artist. "Dorothea is my mother-in-law -- she was happy to have a place to hang her art," noted Hana, the owner of Grandma's Place.

We were pleased with the location in Woodstock -- neaby there are scenic drives, historic sites, hiking, railtrails, and waterfalls to visit. We easily filled up our week staying at Grandma's Place!

The breathtaking Kaaterskill Falls.

Look for upcoming articles in about the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail and the Rosendale Trestle (but notably, although we didn't get a chance to explore them, there's also the Ashokan and Kaaterskill railtrails); hiking to Kaaterskill Falls and up Overlook Mountain (the latter of which stands behind Woodstock and is visible from the backyard of Grandma's Place. It's worth noting there are a number of other lovely waterfalls to visit -- we're saving those for our next visit!

We were there, accidentally, during prime leaf-peeping season -- the autumn leaves were just before peak, which made our stay even more special, and was why we devoted a day to the Shawangunk Scenic Drive, which took us 88 miles through the countryside and the Mohonk Preserve. 

We picked up a brochure at the Mohonk Preserve's visitors center to file away for future trips. We also stopped by one of the several farmer's market stands to pick up some fresh picked apples. Along the driving tour is the mysterious -- and supposedly haunted -- Widow Jane Mine.

Because we visited earlier this fall and Covid-19 was on an up-swing, we decided NOT to take any chances -- we were really conservative with our choices of what we did. So we didn't check out Woodstock or the other really quaint towns in the area, such as Kingston (other than to dash in to photograph the lighthouse). But after the pandemic, the numerous restaurants and boutiques would definitely keep us busy for multiple afternoons!

You can't visit the area and not do activities on the Hudson River. Check out Walk-Over-the-Hudson State Historic Site, preserving an old truss railroad bridge, or visit Kingston and the Roundout Lighthouse.

Autumn leaves in front of the Old French Church in Historic Huguenot Street.

Near that, there's historic New Paltz and Historic Huguenot Street -- the interiors of these 400 plus year old buildings were closed because of the pandemic but it was really fun to walk around outside. 

The angel guarding Chester Arthur's grave in the Albany Rural Cemetery.

In the opposite direction, there's the Martin Van Buren National Historic Site -- and because we are really into history, we dashed up to Albany and the Albany Rural Cemetery to see Chester Arthur's gravesite.

From the Walkway-Over-the-Hudson Historic Site you get splendid views of the Mid-Hudson Bridge.

Into art? There are art museums, including Art OMI/Fields of Sculpture and Opus40 nearby (we couldn't get an appointment to see the latter -- next trip, sigh). 

On our way back home, we checked out the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrom and its historic aircraft and automobiles and then made our way to Washington's Headquarters State Historic Site, also called Hasbrouck House, in Newburgh overlooking the Hudson River.

And all those activities didn't even scratch the surface of all there is to see and do in the Catskills. As one immortal movie character stated, "I'll be back."

Getting there: Woodstock NY


The ruins of the abandoned Overlook Hotel, near the top of the
Overlook Mountain Hike, just a couple of miles away from the house..

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