Some spirits just won’t stay dead. Oh, and usually they aren’t friendly like a certain cartoon ghost.
Karen Yaffe Lottes, an historian and museum educator, and Dorothy Pugh, a lifelong history buff and former volunteer for the Montgomery County Historical Society’s Library and Archives, have published “In Search of Maryland Ghosts Montgomery County.”
The book, printed and released by Schiffer Publishing, offers more than 50 accounts of ghosts in the Montgomery County area.
“For many years, I ran an event called ‘In Search of Ghosts’ which was a storytelling event to reach a young adult audience with stories of Montgomery County ghosts and the county history,” Lottes says. “Dorothy had done a story about [Montgomery County] ghosts and over the years we have compiled a lot of stories.”
For Lottes and Pugh, it was a matter of putting the stories together — and occasionally going out to visit some of the spooky sites themselves.
Pugh had extra material from the historical society and along the way the duo collected more stories.
“We started with 35 stories and I thought that was plenty,” Lottes says.
In total, 53 stories, ranging from headless horsemen to Tommyknockers, grace the pages of the book. However, don’t ask the authors to tell you their favorite stories.
“I can’t name my favorite story,” Pugh says. “I think the most interesting stories are the ones where people are telling what personally happened to them. People wanted to write their stories and we included them in the book.
“I felt those carried the most interest to me because those are people living today that told their story. They grab you the most.”
Granted, let’s not forget the spooky and creepy factor when it comes to ghosts. Sure, some can be playful, even friendly. Some can even be a chicken, according to Lottes, but ghosts for the most part just scare the socks off unsuspecting victims.
“My creepiest experience was the story called ‘Nanny,’” Pugh says. “Norma Miller, poor Norma isn’t with us anymore, I went to find the house I had talked with Norma 25 years ago. The house is totally overgrown and it’s near a cul-de-sac that’s nice and neat, but this house is just ... there.
“It was a two-and-a-half story house and a chimney went up and on either side of the chimney were oblong windows. On one side the windows were out and a vulture was sitting there.”
While Pugh cautiously walked around the unkept yard, the vulture would follow, stalking her as she looked over the house.
“It was eerie because no one else was around and it was dark because the trees were full of leaves and it was overgrown,” Pugh says. “It was kinda spooky with the bird up there.”
For Lottes, the heebie-jeebies began with the first story in the book, in which teens encounter a ghost on Old Mine Road in Sandy Spring.
“After the first story in the book, I think that was pretty darned scary,” Lottes says. “Also the Herman Rabbitt story because of the manifestation of Herman Rabbitt, with the chair flying across the room and things like that. He was a very active ghost.”
Despite putting together a killer read — no pun intended — Lottes and Pugh say when it comes to the supernatural, they’re both firmly on the skeptical side.
“We wrote the book because ghost stories are fun and they give you a unique way to look at local history,” Lottes says. “Anyone who reads the book will find out a lot about the county, but I think I speak for Dorothy when I say we’re both still very skeptical.”
As for the history, there are many references to ghosts from the Civil War and even ghosts involving presidents.
“I didn’t realize how many presidents were in there,” Pugh says.
“You can’t dispute the sightings. I think the sightings are interesting. There are some things that kind of make you wonder. My neighbor says, ‘I don’t know how you could write a book about ghosts when you don’t believe in ghosts!’”
Belief in ghosts is not required to enjoy their book, all that’s needed is a little imagination and maybe a flashlight — just in case.