The Josiah Bayly House – Oldest House in Cambridge
When new owners moved into the Josiah Bayly House in the 1990s they found shackles on the walls in the attic. They believe the shackles were to constrain enslaved people held by early residents. These same owners found the attic full of stuff left from owners over the past 100 years.
One of the items found was a cheval mirror (a full-length mirror on a stand that allows it to swing and lock into the desired angle for reflection). The woman who’d bought the house cleaned it up and put it in her bedroom. She reported that on occasion she would see the reflection of a little girl in the mirror – a reflection that would quickly vanish, but the child’s facial features were discernible… and it was always the same child.
These former owners admitted in a personal interview that there were many spirits in the house. A teenage daughter was tormented in her sleep by a woman who stood at the foot of her bed slapping her feet trying to get her to wake up. The same teenage daughter and her mother on separate occasions would hear someone out on the second-floor balcony yet no one was there when they investigated.
These were just some of the things that happened to this family that caused them to know that they were not alone in their beloved home.
And they did love their home.
Who Was Josiah Bayly?
The Josiah Bayly House is believed to be the oldest house in Cambridge. It was originally built around 1750 in Annapolis by a man named John Caile, but he dismantled it and loaded it onto a barge, and shipped it to Cambridge where it was first rebuilt near where the current Courthouse stands. Later it was rolled up the hill and down a block to its current location.
The house is best known as being owned by Josiah Bayly who was born on Halloween in Somerset County. He served in the Maryland House of Delegates (1803, 1804), was District Attorney in 1818, and was also Maryland’s Attorney General from 1831 to 1846. Josiah died at age 77 and was the oldest member of the Maryland bar, but he is probably best remembered as the attorney who defended Patty Cannon, the famous ringleader of a bunch of thug kidnappers and slave catchers.
The Floating Ghost
The Josiah Bayly House has been associated with the spirit of a “floating ghost” for many years. Oral tradition tells us that as far back as when the house was being reassembled, a workman saw a man in a red coat standing in a second-story window. … but this was before they had put the floors in. So how could anyone be seen in a second-story window?
That same redcoat has been seen throughout the years looking out from the various windows in the Bayly House according to folklore. He’s standing in 2nd story windows, seen in the upper gallery (although the gallery was added much later by Josiah Bayly. For years people believed that the redcoat came with the house on the boat from Annapolis.
There’s a belief that spirits will attach themselves to buildings or objects and travel with them wherever they go. This Redcoat has been called the “floating ghost” because he floated across the Bay from Annapolis and he floats around the house.
The current owner, though not a big believer in ghosts has stated that there has been a presence felt in the house from time to time …. a quiet, peaceful presence with a sense of belonging – almost like it’s a part of the structure. There have cold spots and what seems like rushes of air.
Time Standing Still at the Josiah Bayly House
An old newspaper contained an article about a child back in the 1940s who went missing. It was a boy of about 10 years old who had been playing in the yard of the Josiah Bayly House. Evidently, the boy went into the house … but didn’t come out before his playmates moved on. When he didn’t come home for dinner, his parents were naturally worried. And in this small town, the neighbors were all alerted and everyone went looking for this boy. No one found him. 2 days later, to his parents’ surprise, he walked into his house like nothing was amiss. When his parents asked him, “Where have you been? Are you all right? Did someone take you somewhere?” The boy simply said that he was playing in the backyard of the Josiah Bayly House. He wandered into one of the buildings and when he came out his friends were gone. To him…. he was only gone a few hours.
Recently, an outbuilding on the property has been excavated by members of the Smithsonian Institute. It appears that the building was once a slave cabin that houses people enslaved as house workers.