With pumpkin spice readily available again, fall is in the air, and that means Halloween can’t be far behind. With the anticipation for Halloween, The History Press recently released “Haunted Southern Maryland” which is part of its “Haunted America” series.
The author of “Haunted Southern Maryland” is Southern Maryland native David Thompson.
“I’m in Loveville. [My family has been here] going back, three or four generations, at least, we’ve been in Loveville,” Thompson said. “Before that, I can trace some family members to coming over on The Dove.”
The Dove, for the uninitiated, was one of two English boats — the Ark is the other — that first explored Maryland in the 17th century.
The history of Southern Maryland plays an essential part in the structure of Thompson’s recently published book. He dovetails historical eras with their historical hauntings. From Moll Dyer and Rebecca Fowler to Point Lookout Lighthouse, allegedly one of the most haunted places in America, Thompson tells nonfiction tales of how historical events affect folklore, and the ghost stories told around local campfires.
Thompson is no stranger to the haunted local folklore.
From start to finish, the book took about a year to complete. It is hard for Thompson to pick favorites of his many subjects in the book, but the one he is partial to is Anne Chew. Anne is the daughter of the prominent Samuel Chew. She was said to be the ‘Gray Lady’ that haunts Calvert County’s Maidstone mansion.
“I really like the story of Anne Chew,” Thompson said. “It was chronicled by one of her descendants in the 1960s. Earl Hicks wrote about her story.”
Thompson likes Chew’s story, but with it being well chronicled, he wet his eyes on another Calvert resident, Rebecca Fowler, who was the only Marylander ever to be tried and executed for witchcraft in the 17th century.
“I kind of think I would like to do one on Rebecca Fowler in the future as I’ve found her story very interesting,” he said.
He also has a three-book fictional series that is based on Moll Dyer of Leonardtown.
Dyer was a 17th-century resident of the St. Mary’s town. She was accused of witchcraft and chased by the townspeople from her home. A few days later, Dyer was found frozen to a large rock, according to folklore.
“I had written a few short stories for magazines and that sort of thing when I was trying to earn my keep down on” Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Thompson said. “After I retired from the Navy, I was looking into doing writing a little more seriously. I found it very relaxing and fulfilling. My thoughts turned to Moll Dyer, who I’ve heard about since I was a little teeny tike listening at campfires to my elders telling their tales. I guess, that is what started it all.”
“Sister Witch” was his first book on Moll Dyer.
“It was my interpretation of the Moll Dyer story using the feedback I had received from a whole bunch of local families,” he said. “It seems like everyone has their own Moll Dyer story.”
Recently, Thompson’s second book in the series, “His Father’s Blood,” was awarded second place in Readers Favorite Book Contest in the fiction/fantasy/urban category.
“There were a lot of little talking points with Moll Dyer, and you had to put the story together from that entire list,” Thompson said. “It was a little difficult, but with the historical record, and I took the local legend and lore around her and tried to weave together something that was believable. This book that is coming out now is kind of an extension of that because one of the ladies that works in the local museum recognized the amount of local historical research that had went into ‘Sister Witch.’ She told me that History Press was looking for a local author that would write up something for their ‘Haunted America’ series. It was something new to me.”
And with that, the ball was rolling. He wrote up a proposal for “Haunted Southern Maryland,” and History Press responded by sending a contract to Thompson for the book.
Not only had Thompson already done a lot of the legwork researching local lore, but he is a believer in the paranormal.
“First of all, I really believe in ghosts,” he said. “It is probably an odd thing to admit. Having seen a couple, I have no doubt of their existence. They were people that were very close to me, and it was when I was a young child. Nonetheless, the memory is still very real.”
While he may believe, now he had to get other people to talk about their experiences.
“I put out requests on my own Facebook page and on everyone that I could find that was related,” he said. “I got quite a bit of feedback. I got a lot of private messages from folks that didn’t want anyone to know their story but for me, and I promised not to tell. I had quite a few folks, too that I put in the acknowledgments at the beginning of the book. I put in everyone that told me that they didn’t mind being included.”
While Dyer and Fowler had their place in history, Thompson also sees their stories as very topical today.
“Going back with Moll Dyer and Rebecca Fowler, they were kind of social misfits,” he said. “It is what you would call them, but because of that, they were called witches. What would they be now? They would still be pariahs. They would be castigated.”
There is an old saying that those that don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and Thompson found people want to talk about their history.
“It is funny because there are some folks that can’t wait to share their stories with you,” he said. “And other folks would tell me that they wanted to tell someone about it, but they didn’t want anyone to know it was from them. You get both spectrums. People are people, and you respect what they want. I enjoy hearing the stories, and folks probably recognize that as well.”