University Libraries’ Collection Offers Spooky, Old Bay-Infused Stories
Photos by Sala Levin; collage by Valerie Morgan
Just reaching into the boxes that contain University Libraries’ Maryland folklore collection might be enough to convince someone that the supernatural is real: the translucent typewriter paper, the musty smell that rises from the piles of manilla folders, the sepia tinge on the pages. If ghosts exist anywhere, these troves seem a likely spot.
The cache, part of the Libraries’ Literature and Rare Books Collections, comprises 141 linear feet of reports collected by students from the 1960s to the 1980s in the English class “Introduction to Folklore.” The papers cover a range of topics, but many of them focus on supernatural stories from the state of Maryland.
Among the pages, two animalistic figures loom large: the Goat Man and the Bunny Man.
In all the differing versions of the creatures, a gruesome half-man, half-barnyard animal Frankenstein stalks Marylanders, searching for prey. “This guy, he’s called the Goat Man,” said Sara Wilson, an Annapolis resident, in 1978. “He was in a car accident and was defaced. Somehow his temples were crushed so that his forehead bulged out like two horns. He went crazy, and people say that he lives down (Governor Bridge Road in Anne Arundel County) with a shotgun and waits for kids to come around and blows them up.”
In other iterations, the Goat Man lives on Tucker Road in Prince George’s County, where he guards a small one-lane bridge, and that he “hates kids because they tried to burn his little shack,” Clayton Cheever IV, a Washingtonian, reported in 1971.
The Bunny Man, meanwhile, was reported by some to be a 6-foot-tall, hatchet-wielding man dressed in a furry rabbit costume. “He would walk up and down the street and he would scare everybody in cars,” said Pam Beasley, an Upper Marlboro resident, in 1973. Others claimed he’s smashed a car windshield to frighten a young couple parked on his property. (The Bunny Man is, in fact, partially based on actual incidents that occurred in 1970 in Northern Virginia)
Other stories in the collection reflect local history. In 1982, Baltimore native Selma Adler declared that the ghosts of Francis Scott Key, John Skinner and William Beanes, all of whom witnessed the British bombardment of Ft. McHenry as prisoners on a British ship, reunite at the Maryland Historical Society (now the Maryland Center for History and Culture) in Baltimore every year on the anniversary of the 1814 attack to recite “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Some tales stay even closer to home. Dave Lisle ’89 reported that Marie Mount Hall, long rumored to be haunted, was home to a student who died in the building. “Legend has it, every Halloween night at midnight, if you go sit outside in front, you can hear her playing the piano. The funny thing is that there is no piano in Marie Mount Hall.”
Brave enough to try it tonight? The lesson of this archive is: Take notes.
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