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Voices from the Road

Chasing ghosts and state parks on Maryland’s South Shore

If Maryland was a pair of silly pants, the lower right leg is what we refer to as the Eastern Shore. The left leg, running parallel to the right, is generally called Southern Maryland; both shores hug the Chesapeake Bay. At the southernmost tip of the left leg sits Point Lookout State Park. While mainly known for its Civil War history and blue crab fishing, I’ve decided to visit for an entirely different reason: I’ve heard several stories indicating that this park and its lighthouse are haunted.

I scheduled my trip to Point Lookout a few months ago, after deciding to start exploring all of Maryland’s state parks. With more than 53 to choose from, I figured this project would keep me occupied for some time. As much as I enjoy traveling around the world and the U.S., I thought it was time I applied the same exhaustive approach in my own backyard. 

a three-story white lighthouse sits near the waterfront

Not everyone is not up for a day of potentially paranormal South Shore shenanigans, but I manage to recruit my friend Yolanda and we set our expectations low. Point Lookout is less than a 2-hour drive for us and I figure it won’t feel like a bust if, for whatever reason, we don’t find any ghosts. 

Christmas trees and Civil War

We leave in the morning, when the temperature is brisk; luckily, time goes quickly when you’re catching up with an old friend. We stop outside of the park entrance at the Confederate Memorial Marker, sparking our first—but not last—conversation about the Civil War. The obelisk stands alone, towering into the air, and bears the following inscription: “Erected by the State of Maryland. In Memory of the Confederate Soldiers Who Died Prisoners of War At Point Lookout From March 1, 1864 to June 30, 1865.”

It’s a cold and cloudy winter day and I’m not expecting anyone else but us, so I’m pleasantly surprised to see that the park entrance has a line. The beachfront is located a short walk down a cement pathway. I’m always amazed that no matter my mental state or situation, I can immediately be swept away and surrender to the melodic sound of crashing waves. On the beach, Yolanda spots a little Charlie Brown-esque Christmas tree growing alone in the sand. 

an informational sign for the point lookout prison

We’re steps away from the last remaining of three forts constructed at Point Lookout during the Civil War. Built as a cannon fort that could house a company of 100 infantrymen, the site includes several buildings, including a reconstruction of the enlisted men’s barracks. Between the bleakness and bare bones of the buildings, and the soft, cloud-covered sky, it feels like the right time to start our hunt. Using an app to assist us, Yolanda checks the electromagnetic fields (EMF) for any energy changes—but nothing registers.

Closed for renovations

We take a short walk over to the former Point Lookout Prison, the site of one of the largest prison camps of the Civil War. Between 1863 and 1865, the Union held more than 50,000 captured Confederate soldiers here. In front of us are perfectly triangular tents that can’t cover much more than our heads. One tent structure is identified as the post office, where both soldiers and prisoners dropped their outgoing mail. 

an explanatory sign for the officers' quarters is hung on a white wooden wall

We get back in the car to find the (allegedly) haunted lighthouse. Above, the sun is starting to slowly make its way closer to the horizon. The drive takes us over a small road to the water’s edge, where the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay meet. We spot a square building with a slight jut of a lighthouse tower protruding over the roof line; both the land and water are flat and calm, with only the slightest of breezes blowing through brown beach grass.  

No one is at the lighthouse proper. Eagerly, we pop out of the car to get closer. According to Bob Crickenberger, chairman of Friends of Point Lookout State Park, the lighthouse was built in 1830 to decrease the number of shipwrecks caused by shoals on the Potomac River. It’s closed for renovations, but we walk onto the porch, press our noses to the glass, and peer inside.

Too many spooky stories exist about this place; I feel like we’re ready for something potentially paranormal—even if we have to find it outside of the lighthouse. 

Souls and spirits

In addition to Yolanda’s energy app, I have one to detect electronic voice phenomena (EVP). EVPs are sounds found on electronic recordings and interpreted as spirit voices. I ask a few questions and when I play back the recording, it sounds like a little girl speaking another language. Even though the app clearly states it’s for entertainment purposes only, Yolanda and I crawl around, pointing our phones in different directions, hoping to get more paranormal cooperation. We detect nothing further, but remain unconvinced. From what we can see, the lighthouse renovations are going well—but a shiny coat of paint and new floors won’t take the souls out of a place. 

a white wooden historic structure

The cold air and our empty stomachs finally get to us. We agree it’s time to leave and score some food—and that we need to come back when it’s dark to get the full haunted monty. On the way out of the park, I make one last stop, jumping out to take a picture of a historical marker. I want a reminder of the deep significance of a park that, until today, I had only thought of as a crabbing destination. 

Related I didn’t believe in ghosts until I spent a night alone at the notoriously haunted Shanley Hotel

We stop at Hacienda Los Guayabos for some truly delicious Mexican food. While we share an order of fried ice cream, we discuss our day. Stuffed, and fully aware of the almost 2-hour drive back home in the dark, I promise Yolanda that we’ll come back to Point Lookout in the summer. We plan to camp so we can stay after sunset for a proper paranormal investigation. I also promise to take her to Calvert Cliffs State Park, which we pass on the way home. One state park down, only 52 more to go.

Carla’s road trip

Meet the Roadtripper

Carla Brown

Carla's background is in making art, but little did she know that the creative road would lead her to the "actual" road. Her work has recently manifested itself into a documentary film in production called Everyone But Two. In the film she documents her grandparents' travels by trailer to the 48 contiguous states starting in 1965 by retracing their travels identified in their 35-year travel log. During this journey, she had an epiphany about the origin of her own wanderlust, it must be genetic. Any given day, she is daydreaming about the next place she will visit to share her travels to inspire others to join along on the adventure.