(July 10, 2015) The Chesapeake Ghost Walk in Ocean City takes participants through the resort town’s ghostly history from the inlet to Fourth Street while visiting rumored haunted properties and hearing tales from a tour guide about people who cannot seem to leave their happy place–even after they died.

The tour is about two hours long with stops and stories about a dozen haunted places in the area.

“I love Ocean City and it’s my favorite ghost walk,” said Mindie Burgoyne, Chesapeake Ghost Walk researcher and creator. “It’s a great town with a wonderful history. The ghost tour is a good way to start vacation to get oriented with the town and find out where these historic places are.”

There are a number of reasons why ghosts come back–to relive a fun time, because of unfinished business, to leave a message, they are attached to an object, or they died quickly and cannot move on.

“Ghosts do not realize time has passed and they leave an energy behind,” said Kelly Craven, a tour guide for Chesapeake Ghost Walk. “Women are more susceptible to ghosts because they sense energy better than men, but that doesn’t mean men have not had experiences with ghosts.”

In addition, a ghost sighting is not the only sign there is a presence in the room; a tap on the shoulder, a random smell or a change in room temperature are other indications.

“Ocean City is different because it was never a hometown,” Craven said. “The energy is different because there isn’t any pain and suffering. People came to have fun so most of the ghosts are not frightening except in two places I will talk about.”

“The town history is all about being happy, romance and vacations,” Burgoyne said.

These tales date back to 1870, when Ocean City was a sandy beach barrier and fish camps started popping up along the coast to house fisherman. By 1875, the massive two-street block long Atlantic Hotel opened up on July 4 weekend for wealthy visitors from Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.

When the Great Depression hit, many locals stepped up and started purchasing property, and whose decedents remain in the area to this day, including the Trimpers, Croppers, Purnells and Dolles.

The Ocean City Life-Saving Station opened in 1891 to help distressed vessels during the coldest months of the year. Surfmen were employed in Ocean City from November to March and were tasked with saving people from the freezing water.

“There are not many records of who died and tourists have said they feel a cold air in the area,” Craven said.

A couple ghosts have been seen at the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum, at the southern end of the Boardwalk, near the life car on display.

A women reportedly saw a white faced deceased sailor in an old uniform sitting inside the life car and a young child spirit has made a few appearances throughout the years.

Craven talked about the Rackliffe House on Assateague Island, which has a negative ghostly history and is one of the most haunted places in Worcester County.

The folklore goes John Rackliffe was murdered by his slaves, his wife died from poisoning shortly after and another person died after falling down the stairs in the house.

Decades later, a distraught Rackliffe begged for her only son to be spared from the War of 1812, he wasn’t and never returned. She committed suicide by hanging herself inside the plantation.

Another tenant who moved in later would hear the piano playing at night, a random smell of perfume, a baby crying, the candles flaring up or going out, gunshots, phantom horses galloping outside and guests heard loud banging noises coming from her bedroom at night, yet she was fine.

Next on the walk was the rich history at Trimper’s and its famous carousel, which has not moved from its original spot since it was purchased in 1912, “even when flood waters were up to the knees of horses.”

In the 1980s, Granville Trimper met his first wife, Joanne, she moved to Ocean City with him and the carousel was her favorite.

Unfortunately, Joanne died young, which is when a sweet, unusual odor started appearing and no one could figure out what it was until many years later around Christmastime.

They discovered the smell coming from the carousel was Joanne’s favorite perfume and to this day visitors can sometimes catch a random whiff of the scent when riding on her dedicated horse, “Forever Joanne.”

“The Joanne Trimper story is so beautiful,” Burgoyne said. “While researching Ocean City about a dozen people mentioned her name, everyone loved her. I didn’t know a horse was named after her until I talked with the Trimper family and coincidences like that make doing this very special.”

The next stop was Henry’s Hotel, which was built to house African-Americans who worked at the Atlantic Hotel.

“In those times, they could work at the hotel, but could not sleep there due to segregation laws,” Craven said.

Charles Henry bought the hotel in 1926 and made sure to engage the community by adding a restaurant, laundry mat and jazz club across the street.

“Everyone was coming to Henry’s Colored Hotel to party,” Craven said.

Some black entertainers who stayed at the hotel include Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, County Basie and a young James Brown.

Pearl Bonner purchased the property in 1964, put her daughters to work for college tuition money and ran the hotel until she died in 2003.

During quiet moments on Baltimore Avenue, people have heard music coming from inside the vacant hotel and a person who vanishes when visitors try to get a closer look has been spotted on the front porch.

A Baltimore Sun article said Bonner made sure her guests were back by 2 a.m. and would often wait on the porch to see that they returned on time.

Craven said Henry’s Hotel is the best place for participants to capture abnormalities in pictures during the tour.

“On one of the tours someone kept complaining their camera was dying and he captured the best image I have seen to date of a figure standing on the porch,” she added.

The Atlantic Hotel started the ghostly history in Ocean City when it opened last weekend 140 years ago.

“This is where it all began,” Craven said.

Charles Purnell bought the Wicomico Street property in 1923, a devastating fire destroyed the hotel a few years later and a smaller version was put up, the same structure seen today.

“The energy is fantastic and happy. Dr. Purnell has not left, guests and staff have seen him a number of times,” Craven said.

Guests should not be alarmed if they see an older man with glasses [Purnell] or an unidentified child in a blue dress since they are common ghosts at the hotel.

“If this was your happy place, would you want to return?” Craven asked.

Employees receive phantom phone calls from rooms that are unoccupied and many times a faucet is leaking or the air conditioning is not working.

“One night, a man came downstairs, gave his key back and left in a hurry,” Craven said. “Housekeeping went upstairs to clean it and came back to say there were additional individuals in the room.”

It turns out, the key ended up being 20 years old, “he must have had unfinished business and wanted to return the key he held onto for years.” In addition, no one was registered to the room in question.

The Tarry-A-While House or the current home of the Ocean City Development Corporation was once home to troubled 21-year-old Calvin Cropper. Late one summer night he locked himself in his room, lit a cigarette and shot himself in the head after childhood friend, Savannah Dennis, refused him.

To this day, people can smell cigarette smoke on the second floor and occasionally the rocking chairs outside will rock violently even though no one is there.

The Plim Plaza hotel or Plimhimmon Hotel, as it was known in 1890 when Rosalie Shreve built and named the structure, is also a tour stop.

Shreve has never left according to employees who have someone there to help when it gets busy.

They have found silverware already wrapped, dirty tables all fixed back up and a single lollipop appeared when an employee was looking for one.

In addition, Shreve has been spotted walking back and forth in the middle of winter on the sectioned off porch of the Plim Plaza.

The last stop on the tour was the Shoreham Hotel on Fourth Street, which opened in the 1920s and is the most haunted place in Ocean City.

About 10 years after opening, a writer commited suicide in one of the rooms and in the 1980s a drunk seasonal worker, Betsy, fell to her death from the fourth floor trying to scale the ledge to a friend’s room.

Betsy’s room has mysterious flickering, even after the television and room lights have been turned off.

Soap and Suds, now Shenanigan’s, also has a tragic story tied to it. A belligerent man who kept bothering and taunting a green beret was eventually punched one time, which was hard enough to break his neck and he died.

“Ever since, the basement of Shoreham has been haunted by a negative energy and the staff will not go down there,” Craven said.

Ocean City is the most popular out of Burgoyne’s 10 tours, which she credits to tourists coming down in the summertime.

Research for Ocean City’s Ghost Walk was tedious with not much history written down about hauntings.

“Glenn Irwin [executive director of the Ocean City Development Corporation] was the one who opened doors and led me to people in town,” Burgoyne said. “I had to take off from my full-time job for two weeks to interview people and visit sites. It’s my favorite tour and I worked the hardest on it.”

In addition to Ocean City, ghost lovers can check out walks in Berlin, Snow Hill, Pocomoke City, Easton, Cambridge, Denton, Crisfield, Princess Anne and St. Michaels. Burgoyne has two more in the works in Oxford and Chincoteague.

More than a decade ago, Burgoyne moved into her current home in Marion Station with her husband and experienced ghosts and a presence for the first time.

“We had never thought about ghosts before moving in and I became curious about the stories,” she said.

All of a sudden unexplained noises were heard, footsteps, coughing, objects starting moving, plates flipped off the walls, their dogs barked at nothing and it became scary when a globe fell off a chandelier and crashed into a bouquet of Valentine’s Day roses.

“Our grandchildren would not stay at our house,” Burgoyne said.

Her haunted house led to research by interviewing locals, visiting libraries for regional books or newspaper articles and she utilized the folklore collection at the Nabb Research Center at Salisbury University.

Burgoyne continued to collect tales, researched town history and developed a popular book full of stories about 26 different haunted sites in the nine counties throughout Maryland.

“Once I talk with someone they usually lead me to somewhere else and only places that have several unrelated sources at different times are used in my tours and books,” Burgoyne said. “It’s amazing how these stories unfold, wow it’s really something.”

One of her novels, “Haunted Eastern Shore: Ghostly Tales from East of the Chesapeake” built her a following in the community and she was constantly being asked if she did ghost tours.

By 2010, bus tours started taking place on the Eastern Shore and the following January it was decided to try out a walk.

“Our Cambridge walking tour sold out three times in a row with 60 people a night taking everything in with snow on the ground,” Burgoyne said.

By 2013, 10 walks were researched, developed and conducted for visitors to experience. Burgoyne led 40 ghost walks that year.

“Every single one sold out until Halloween,” Burgoyne said.

The following year, Burgoyne hired six tour guides and an administrator to help with the popular tours.

“In 2014, we put on 160 ghost tours and served more than 10,000 customers,” Burgoyne said. “It’s amazing how much it grew.”

Chesapeake Ghost Tours take place year-around and the offseason will feature a mix of bus and walking tours.

“It’s great family entertainment from the best storytellers around,” Burgoyne said. “When you’re done, you will know Ocean City from being up close, walking through and hearing stories. It imprints in your memory and Ocean City will become an old friend.”

Tours cost $15 for adults and $9 for children 8-12 years old. Advanced registration is recommended on www.chesapeakeghostwalks.com. Call 443-735-0771 for more information.

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