Hager House Offers Haunted Ghost Tours

Hager House Offers Haunted Ghost Tours
by Jennifer LB Leese
j.leese@picketnews.com

Is the historic Jonathan Hager House haunted? What kinds of things "go bump in the night" in the home of the founder of Hagerstown? The answers to these questions will be revealed when the staff of the Hager House offers Haunted Hager House Tours on October 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 26 and 27, 2008. Tours will take place at 7pm, 8pm and 9pm and reservations and a nominal fee are required.
Tours started about 5 years ago. Stories come from previous staff and visitors to the Hager House. "All the stories are true things; nothing has been made up," said Bryan. "There are stories for each room in the Hager House from the attic to the basement."
According to John Bryan, Historic Sites Facilitator, the Haunted Hager House Ghost Tours came about because many visitors to the House have asked if the house was haunted. "Sometimes they're serious and sometimes they're joking. But I can tell you that we do have incidents that go unexplained, and the best way to relate them is to offer our special Haunted Hager House Tours during the Halloween season."
Bryan said the staff will present true stories of things that occur in the house, such as objects that move and reports of actual sightings of ghosts. "We'll let the tourist decide if there are ghosts or not, we're just relating what we have experienced. The stories come only from staff, volunteers and tourists at the Hager House. It will be up to the visitor to determine whether these stories have logical explanations."
One of the intriguing stories involves reported screams coming from the basement. And the most popular stories is of a woman in Victorian dress (wearing green) in the upstairs hallway window of the Hager House. She has brown hair and keeps it in a "snood" (bonnet). "A lot of the stories seem to focus on the Hammond family in the early 1800s, probably 1830 up until after the Civil War. They occupied the house for a chunk of time. It was a chaotic time - a time of disease. We think that the groups focus on one of the epidemics that occurred in the 1840s."
In fact through research staff at the Hager House discovered that the Hammond children (then adults) died in a quick procession of time (roughly a six month span). They believe that was due to an epidemic of some sort. "The woman may be one of his children," said Bryan. "Things happen outside the Hager House, too, and those stories will also be related. The phenomena range from darting shadows to the smell of pipe tobacco, and these things tend to always occur in the same locations."
Bryan himself has not seen an apparition, but he has experienced objects being moved and placed in a different location, footsteps, cold spots, and the feeling of being watched. Last winter he and his niece heard a woman laugh from behind them (the upstairs hallway area).
A previous curator related a story that a candle came up off the windowsill and broke.
"Sensitives" have explored the house and found the same feelings and sightings of the stories told. "There's a record of 13 deaths occurring at the Hager House."
Registration is required. Admission for the tours is $3.00 per person, with free admission for children under the age of six. The tours are at 7, 8, & 9pm and consist of groups of 20-25 people. Bryan suggests that if you are planning to bring children, parents should take into account how easily their child scares. Although there is nothing particularly scary about the tour, it is still a ghost tour. The house is dark inside in the evenings especially.
This is a candlelit tour that does very well every year, as does the Witchcraft Presentation. Bryan believes the Antietam Cable series "Legends" has really fueled the public in participating in the Haunted Hager House Ghost Tours. He also believes that movies such as "Harry Potter" and TV shows like "Charmed" helped with their Witchcraft Presentation.
The Witchcraft Presentation is also an event that is heavily researched. They figured that the witchcraft trials couldn't only have happened in Salem, so they conducted their own research and found that there were many cases of witchcraft in the Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania areas as well. They looked into historical documents, newspaper reports, and court records going back to the early 1600s.
This free lecture will take place on Thursday, October 30, 2008 at 7pm. The Hager House staff invites you to explore the little-known tales of witchcraft in Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Through research staff of the Hager House have found that the witchcraft hysteria of the late 17th century was not limited to the colony of Massachusetts. Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania also witnessed men and women charged and some even executed for the crime of witchcraft.
"Many people may not be aware that witchcraft was well known in many American colonies, even before the hysteria that swept through New England," said John Bryan. Although the term witchcraft surfaced in numerous slander cases, there were actually several women who were found guilty of sorcery and executed-some by court order and other by people who took matters into their own hands. Some of the accused had to undergo various tests to prove their innocence. Research has uncovered at least 23 cases in these three states, including three in Pennsylvania, nine in Virginia and 11 in Maryland.
Bryan explains that Maryland had its own witch hunter, the Reverend Francis Doughtie. Although he cannot be compared to the Reverend Increase and Reverend Cotton Mather, both of whom were involved in the infamous cases in Salem, Massachusetts, Reverend Doughtie was instrumental in the accusations brought against Joan Mitchell in 1659. Hagerstown also had its very own witch named Mary Tyler. Tyler appeared in a local newspaper account in 1900 when she was arrested for invoking witchcraft on the streets of Hagerstown in an attempt to drive away evil spirits. Mary Tyler and her husband Dennis were arrested and jailed. Other accounts from this period describe Dennis Tyler as a voodoo man.
All of the known details of the witchcraft cases in these three states will be discussed during this free slide show program at the Jonathan Hager House.
The Jonathan Hager House is the original home of Jonathan Hager and was built in 1739 and proudly celebrates the 269th anniversary of its construction this month. Hager later founded Hagerstown in 1762. The house is located at 110 Key Street, in Hagerstown's City Park.
"We enjoy doing this every year and it's a great opportunity, this time of year, to do something interesting. We think our tours are unique in that it's all stuff that's related and...true.
"There isn't going to be anyone jumping out at you [during the Haunted Hager House Ghost Tours]," said Bryan.
Get in the Halloween spirit and come out for some interesting and true stories from our own backyard. Call 301-739-8393 or email hagerhouse@hagerstownmd.org for more information and to register.