Karen Lottes & Dorothy Pugh,
In Search of Maryland's Ghosts, Montgomery County
(Schiffer, 2012)

The state of Maryland has a rich, storied history as well as deep-seated cultural roots that reach into the present day. With the War of 1812, the Civil War and the stain of slavery in Maryland's past, it's not surprising that the legends and ghost stories of the state are plentiful. Authors Karen Lottes and Dorothy Pugh focus on Montgomery County to bring us some of the best lore the land has to offer.

The chapters for the most part follow a formula: we're given a detailed history of a location and those who lived there, then speculation as to whom the ghostly inhabitants might be. Although many of these tales are from "some years back" and are unsubstantiated legends, the authors also speak with many current residents of the haunted sites. The speculation paired with first-hand accounts make for a balanced, well-varied result.

Some of the more unusual offerings include a spirit who likes to "kiss" glass, leaving lip prints behind on windows and mirrors, and a house that literally "lost its marbles." An antique store's marbles constantly disappeared, never to be found again. Years later, when the building was under renovation by a private party, the marbles were discovered in all manner of strange places -- under the floorboards, in the ceilings and even in some of the clocks! I know from experience that ghosts like to take things and hide them in strange places where they won't be found for a very long time.

Also, just as important as the ghost stories, the incredibly detailed research poured into this tome is impressive and unequivocally second to none. The book is a gem for officially recording the genealogy and historical accounts from around the region in a neat, thorough package. The history is engagingly written rather than being dry, and the stories are detailed and satisfying. Recommended reading is suggested at the end of each chapter.

Rarely do I ever award two thumbs up to a book that contains as much speculation as is found here. But in this case, the authors are such talented raconteurs and the detailed, well-researched history makes this an unusual case. All speculation needs some basis in fact, and the authors deliver their end of the deal. Not only do these stories make you think, the historical information about houses, battles and genealogy are more comprehensive than any other ghost-story book I have ever read. Period. Ah, makes me long for the house I grew up in.

book review by
Lee Lukaszewicz

1 June 2013

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