Ghost stories haunt Landon House

Thursday, Oct. 27, 2005

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Tom Fedor⁄The Gazette
Landon House owner Kevin Dolan, dressed as a Confederate ghoul, ushers visitors through the house’s Halloween haunted mansion in Urbana on Friday night. Reported haunted activity at the house includes the mysterious sound of dogs barking, a ghost floating between rooms and a Union soldier waving to construction workers.

During recent dark and stormy nights, it wasn’t unusual for visitors of Landon House in Urbana to hear barking dogs in the empty, darkened home.

Through the years, the more than 200-year-old house has developed its share of ghost stories and legends, enough to attract the attention of local ghost hunters.

Jackie Larocca, a paranormal investigator with the Washington, D.C., branch of the Society for Paranormal Investigation, said the house’s history includes some tragic deaths.

Larocca and a colleague investigated the Landon House this summer after learning some of the ghost stories from friends in the area.

Not looking for anything in particular, they found general evidence that the house could be haunted, as they felt the temperature drop in some rooms, heard random noises and felt a general eerie feeling.

She said things that go bump in the night at Landon House are most likely ‘‘residual hauntings,” or imprints of traumatic events or emotions.

‘‘The owners of the house [in the early 1900s] had a number of different animals in the house, and they kept a pack of dogs in the basement,” she said. ‘‘Most of the dogs died in the basement — a traumatic event like that is sure to leave an impression that can become a haunting.”

Scratch marks are still visible on the basement stairs and door.

Some not-so-storied ghosts of the house come alive Friday through Monday, for ‘‘Haunted Landon,” a theatrical production intended to scare the living daylights out of curious visitors. Anyone curious about the house’s history or alleged spirits are invited to tour the home each Friday night, when informational ghost tours begin at 9 p.m. Entrance for adults is $10, children pay $5. No tours will be held this weekend, due to the special ‘‘Haunted Landon” presentation.

The Landon House is most known in Civil War circles for hosting the Sabers and Roses Ball prior to the Battle of Antietam.

Get scared
The Landon House normally hosts walking ghost tours at 9 p.m. each Friday. This weekend, that tour is suspended in favor of a haunted house for the Halloween season.
What Haunted Landon: Civil War Gore
When 9 p.m., Friday through Monday
Where Landon House, 3401 Urbana Pike, Urbana
Cost $15 for adults, $10 for children More information Call 301-874-3914.
Presently, Kevin Dolan, a history buff and living historian who has ambitions of turning the house into a Civil War museum, owns the house.

Local businesses rent offices on the second floor and the house is also used for wedding receptions.

While Dolan doesn’t actually live in Landon House, he said the ghost-dog story is completely true.

‘‘I’ve definitely heard them barking,” he said. ‘‘A few weeks ago I heard a dog barking when I was out back. I asked the tenants upstairs if they had brought a dog in the house and they, of course, hadn’t.”

Randy Tuggle, of Frederick Ghost Investigations, said the house is the most notable haunted place in the county, outside Frederick city.

It’s also mentioned as one of several haunted sites in Maryland on a dozen different Web sites.

Tuggle and his colleagues asked Dolan if they could check out Landon House earlier this month.

‘‘We pretty much covered the place from head to toe with cameras and recorders. We like to record anything that goes on as proof,” he said.

While no remarkable apparitions floated through the rooms, one sharp noise was caught on tape.

‘‘Sounded like a dog barking,” he said. ‘‘It’s definitely weird, we didn’t bring one in with us, but it sounded like it was right there or right outside.”

The canine ghosts aren’t the only reported paranormal visitors to Landon House. Prior to the Civil War, Landon House was the Shirley Academy for Women. Larocca and Dolan said that a ghostly woman in white is rumored to occasionally look in on second-floor rooms. ‘‘The rumor is that she’s looking for children to tuck in at night — not an evil or malicious spirit at all,” Larocca said.

The academy closed around the time of the Civil War.

The house also became a makeshift infirmary for the wounded for the nearby Battle of Antietam. ‘‘If a soldier would have died, that would have been traumatic enough to leave a print on the house,” Larocca said.

Dolan said over the summer, construction workers near the Villages of Urbana, directly behind the property, asked if a re-enactment was being held. ‘‘I said no, and they told me that a guy dressed in a Union uniform came out of the woods, waved to them and then disappeared back into the woods,” Dolan said.