Twilight Tales: The Tales of Maryland’s Haunted Past

Matt Mattingly, manager of historic interpretation, plays the star of the Twilight Tales event, “Jeremiah Swift.

As you enter the haunted farm, Jeremiah Swift offers you a warm, spooky welcome from inside of his gibbet. Desiring freedom from his dangling prison, he desperately looks to the crowd for his escape. Creeping closer, and closer, a young girl appears from the dark. Swift, looking to a young guest, coaxes him to assist in freeing him from the gibbet. After being let out, Swift encouraged the dead girl to come to him, displaying his “way with kids.” Telling the girl to leave, she hesitated at first but ran away, screaming in fear of the dead soul of Jeremiah Swift.

After this first encounter, the guests began their tour of the haunted colonial farm towards the farmhouse where they were greeted by the unfamiliar ghost of Patty Cannon and her slave. Her slave, Cyrus ,approaches the crowd with fervor. Cannon leaves her house when she hears the disturbance and tells her slave to let Swift live, only because she wants to kill him herself. She leaves the house and comes to meet the crowd. As she approaches she tells her story; beginning in the last half of the 18th century, Cannon ran a reverse underground railroad, kidnapping free black and runaway slaves and then selling them back into slavery in the south. Because her plantation was conveniently located on the Maryland-Delaware border, Patty Cannon was able to evade conviction. Unfortunately for Cannon, she was caught in 1822 and was sent to prison in Delaware where she died mysteriously while in custody.

Time was running out, so the crowd moved through the farm to the old tobacco barn to hear the Legend of Moll Dyer. Appearing to be a ghost in the dark, a women named Moll Dyer began her story; 300 years ago from St. Mary’s County, she was accused of being a witch, and was left to freeze and die upon a rock. Legend still has it that a stone with her hand and knee print are still visible in Leonardtown. Swift quickly intervened, saying that the only woman ever executed in Maryland for witchcraft was Rebecca Fowler in 1685, right here in Prince George’s county. The witches gathered around the cauldron giving Swift and his guests a chance to escape. Not too quick, there is a catch; the crowd has to get three questions right first before they can proceed on. Making it out safe, the witches cast one last spell and the tour precedes to the last stop.

Farmer Becky takes a break from farming to play the part of Lucy Hatton, a 1772 burn victim, during Twilight Tales at the National Colonial Farm.

The final stop. Guests arrive at the Tavern of Lost souls, where Swift introduces the group to the Spirits responsible for the night’s troubles: Lucy Hatton, William Dunlop, and Richard Grenough. Proclaiming his love, Swift insists that Lucy is the “yin to his yang,” and tells about Lucy’s death. Lucy died one night in August when her house caught on fire near Piscataway in 1772, heroically attempting to save her two sons and failing, only to have suffered fatal burns. Swift even goes as far to say that that while Lucy died trying to save her children, he died for killing two children. Unhappy, Dunlop says, “You see what you did? You people let out a murder of children, after we worked so hard to put him in.” Lucy rushes over to call Dunlop, and tells Swift to leave him alone. Swift returns with the story of Dunlop; one November day of 1772, he threw himself overboard and was drowned. Disagreeing, Dunlop assures it was the mermaids, “I can hear them now, singing their seductive song, luring my men and I to our deaths!” Then Swift turns to Grenough, who is slowly playing his violin. Swift tells the story of Richard Gernough; “having too much too drink fell into the docks and was drowned.” Swift orders Grenough back to the river, and Lucy to stay right in the fire where she belongs, while the rest of the guests are to follow Swift on a path to safe travels.

Walking down Cedar Lame, Swift talks of the spirits, “Can you feel them?” Shouting and singing down the lane, Swift says, “Hear me, spirits! I can sense you, I can feel you ling’ring near me! You’ve been naughty, very naughty, Now my vengeance Swiftly finds thee. Come forth spirits! Make yourselves known!” Slowly, from behind the trees, spirits appear and move out from among the brush, returning to their places. Swift meets Patty Cannon’s son-in-law, Joe Johnson, William Hamilton, a young girl killed by a tree, until Swift has run out of room. Dunlop tells Swift that it is the end of his line. Spirits rush towards Swift as he he blames everyone else, claiming they are the ones who deserve to be punished. The spirits swarm Swift, dragging him quickly back down Cedar Lane.

“Forget what you’ve seen. Go home, enjoy what life you have left,” Gunlop says while revealing himself as the “King of Terrors,” death. The history and legends of Maryland’s haunted past continue to lie all around us, all you have to do is look, you’ll find it.

This account of this year’s Twilight Tales event which took place on two evenings in October was written by volunteer, Sarah Hummel (aka: “Small-pox Ghost Girl”). Thanks to all of the staff and volunteers. Without their help and dedication, this event could not have been such a success. We hope to see you next year… if you dare! For more images from this year’s event, visit our event album on Facebook.