I am a ghost-story teller. I live in a haunted house, but I am not afraid of anything from the spirit world anymore – except the spirits in the Pocomoke Forest. Out of the 130+ stories I’ve integrated into our ten ghost walks, there are only a handful where I’ve had a personal experience …. The Snow Hil Inn, the Trimper’s Carousel, the Robert Morris Inn, The Atlantic Hotel (Berlin), the Marva Theater AND – The Pocomoke Forest… and that one scared me so bad, that I couldn’t get out of that forest fast enough — but I had to act like I wasn’t afraid so as not to startle the 24 people following behind me (who were already scared by what had happened).
Maryland’s Most Haunted Forest
The Pocomoke Forest amazes me because people have been saying it’s haunted for the last two hundred years. The folklore collections are full of Pocomoke Forest ghost stories, and some of them are the most legendary ghost stories on the Eastern Shore – like The Cellar House, The Heavy Bible, Sampson “Hat” Harmon, the Goatman, the walking dead, phantom crying babies and barking dogs and screaming women. I can’t think of one other single place on the Eastern Shore – except maybe the Denton jail – that has so many different stories told by generations of people over a period of two hundred years.
Citizens from Pocomoke City crafted a fabulous boardwalk path that allows a visitor to do a one-mile loop walk into the forest without having to step into the swamp. In the daytime it is beautiful with every season showing a different side of the forest and cypress swamp. But in the dark, the forest is thick and it’s easier for us to sense the spirits that live in the forest – both human and elemental… at least that’s what I tell our guests.
During the Pocomoke Ghost Walk, the guide leads guests along the Pocomoke River and through the town telling stories of haunted sites there. Then … at the end of the town part of the tour … the guide leads the guests across Cypress Park and down into the forest. The guide will stop in various places and have guests turn off the flashlights so that the full sense of the forest darkness can be absorbed. Then … in the dark… the guide will tell various stories about spirits – both human and elemental – that haunt the forest and swamp. I’ve led the tour many times, and have to admit that some very weird stuff happens to the guests – particularly when it comes to a phantom hand on the shoulder, a brush across the neck, a tap on the head …. the guests seem to get “touched” by something.
I’ve led the tour many times, and have to admit that some very weird stuff happens to the guests – particularly when it comes to a phantom hand on the shoulder, a brush across the neck, a tap on the head …. the guests seem to get “touched” by something.
A Touchy Ghostly Experience
I led the very first ghost walk in Pocomoke and we had a few children on the tour. They loved getting scared in the forest, but when we came out and all lined up on the path outside the forest exit, a little boy at the end of the line said to his mother, “Someone touched me. Did you touch me?” She responded, “How could I have touched you? You were behind me.” The boy persisted and got agitated, so I said, “It was probably just the brush of a branch. We’re all here now. Everyone is okay. You’re allright now.” He calmed down but kept whispering, “I know someone touched me.”
After that incident, I wondered if the walk was appropriate for children. But we kept on. And people kept saying they got touched. Other things happened too. I took a guide in training on that tour and he said he saw a shadow behind me – not a guest but someone – something standing outside the circle of guests, just behind me. This occurred in the deepest part of the forest.
Lights in the Forest
On the next Pocomoke Ghost Walk that I led after that guide-in-training saw the shadow behind me, I had not one, but THREE personal experiences. On our first stop when we (25 of us) were pausing on the boardwalk in the middle of a swampy part of the forest, I had them shut off all flashlights and I told the story of Captain Job Emmons. The captain drowned with his son after they fell from his schooner, The Arabella, while it was docking at the Pocomoke port.
After the story a guest pointed to the leaves and underbrush that flanked the boardwalk. In the leaves were about six or seven sparkling white lights – too white to be lightning bugs. The didn’t move – they simply glowed. Guests commented – “can’t be lightning bugs” and “must be some kind of …. uh” and “what IS that” Understand that these lights were situated among leaves that are above swamp mud and water. I thought they might be flint or some kind of reflecting rock. But there aren’t any rocks in the swamp and there wasn’t a bit of moonlight. The guests started to get agitated. I said, “Oh, it’s just some swamp gas” even though I know swamp gas isn’t white.
Understand that these lights were situated in leaves that were above swamp mud and water. I shined the flashlight on the leaves and they vanished. There were no flowers or spots on the leaves and no moisture droplets. When I turned the light off – the appeared again. I thought they might be flint or some kind of reflecting rock. But there aren’t any rocks in the swamp and there wasn’t a bit of moonlight. The guests started to get agitated. I said, “Oh, it’s just some swamp gas” even though I know swamp gas isn’t white.
I thought they might be flint or some kind of reflecting rock. But there aren’t any rocks in the swamp and there wasn’t a bit of moonlight. These things reflected on their own. The guests could see that I was stunned. They started to get agitated, so I blew it all off and said, “Oh, it’s just some kind of swamp gas” even though I’ve seen swamp gas and it isn’t white.That site still baffles me.
The site of those little white lights still baffles me.
There’s Something Strange in There.
Later on that same walk, I came to that spot in the deepest part of the forest where previously, my guide-in-training had seen a shadow following me. I told the story of the Cellar House and phantom animals seen in the forest. I was anticipating something strange might happen since I was already disturbed by the lights. But nothing happened… until
But nothing unusual happened… until we left that space.
As I turned to get back on the path, the brush in front of me moved -forcefully- like there was an animal or a person in the brush in front of me. But it was at my eye level, not at my feet. A guest said, “What was that?” I acted like I didn’t hear the comment. I was leading a long line of guests and I kept walking. here’s swampy ground behind that brush. But I continued walking faster than normal, encouraging the group to hurry
It happened again … like it was following me. The brush beside me was rooted in swampy ground littered with cypress knees that shoot up through the mud. I continued walking faster than normal, encouraging the group behind me to keep up the pace. I was mentally picturing what it could be. A deer? Why would a deer come that close to a group of people. They can smell us a mile away – and a deer certainly wouldn’t follow us. A raccoon? It wouldn’t be up my eye level. The noise was in the brush – not the trees. A person? No way. They’d sink in the mud and get eaten alive by the bugs.
While I’m walking quickly and wondering what the heck that rustle in the brush was, we started to get pelted by something – nuts or small stones. Our group stepped onto the boardwalk portion that goes over the swamp and something hit the boardwalk… like a stone that smacked the wood and then rolled across a few boards. Several guests started saying “did you hear that?” or “Did you just throw a rock or something?”I gathered the guests
I gathered the guests in a group and made sure all were accounted for. And just as I was going to make an effort to calm everyone down, we all heard it again — and then again. Stones or some small object being pelted at the boardwalk and rolling across the boards. I shined my high powered flashlight down either side of the path. There was no one there – and this environment didn’t allow for someone to hide … unless they wanted to step into the swamp.
My guests started to get scared and I led them out as quietly as possible constantly assuring them that some lone squirrel (who would certainly not be pelting walkers with nuts at 10pm) or highly intelligent, five-foot raccoon was just messing with us.
We got out safely and I think they could see that I was a bit frazzled. One guest said, “I thought being scared would be fun. But that got weird.”
He was right. I now let our guide, Christopher do the walks in Pocomoke. Being a paranormal investigator, he’s a bit more comfortable with blatant spirit manifestations… and he agrees, there’s something strange in that forest.
by Mindie Burgoyne, author of “Haunted Easton Shore” and founder of Chesapeake Ghost Walks.