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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Have spooky good time during Berlin’s ghost walk

(July 16, 2015) As visitors tour nine supposedly haunted properties and a graveyard in Berlin, their guides on the Chesapeake Ghost Walk tell tales about deceased residents who continue to be spotted years after they died.
“Berlin is the only town where we have walking dead,” said Mindie Burgoyne, Chesapeake Ghost Walk researcher and creator. “It’s a fabulous place to have a ghost walk and the most mystical town we have out of all 10 walks.”
The tour is about two hours long and encompasses 1.5 miles of the community.
The first stop, the Atlantic Hotel, is the center for hauntings in Berlin, with ghosts tied to the antique décor throughout the building and making appearances inside the rooms or hallways.
Recently, as the story goes, a woman came out of Room 16 and asked a daytime manager for towels. When she came back with the towels and knocked on the door no one would answer. After placing the towels on the bed to what looked to be an empty room, she went down to the front desk and found out no one was registered in Room 16.
Around this time last year, a woman and her son-in-law went upstairs after checking into Room 10, but the door was closed. Rooms in the Atlantic Hotel are left open when unoccupied to show off the décor. After placing her hand on the doorknob, they both heard a woman’s voice say, “Hello.” When they told the wife what happened she opened the door. No one was inside and the son-in-law said later if he was not standing next to his mother-in-law and clearly heard the voice he would not have believed her.
Another story: an employee at the Atlantic Hotel was refurbishing Room 18 when he reached down for his paint scraper that went missing. He looked everywhere, left the door open and went downstairs to retrieve another one. When he came back upstairs, the door was closed and when he entered the room, his paint scraper was standing straight up in the middle of the room. To this day, the employee refuses to do work in Room 18.
And yet another: a woman was spending the afternoon with friends and walked up to Room 23 with packages in her hands. She entered and put the packages on the bed when the door suddenly closed behind her. Later, she went to leave and saw the security latch had been locked on its own. She went downstairs and had dinner with her husband. During the entire night, they would wake up every hour and not know why.
Tour guide Maria Pippen’s favorite story is about a family of four who stayed in Room 18. They set the timer on their camera and took a few group shots before going out. The kids looked at the photographs and noticed another man standing beside the family.
“The man called down to the front desk and said he wanted to change rooms. Of course, employees wanted to try and resolve the situation,” Pippen said.
Employees were stunned and quickly changed their room after seeing the photographs of a fifth person not staying with the family.
“I was giving the tour one night and telling this story when a man held up his room key and said well that’s where we are staying tonight,” Pippen recalled.
The next haunted site is the Town Center Antiques on Main Street, which has been dubbed by Burgoyne the “Store of Crazy Characters” because unique people have worked or been associated with the building throughout the years.
“I did not know what else to call it,” she said. “You have Hudson receiving the alligator through the mail, Jake and Burbage sleeping in the window and Ned France hanging from the rafters putting on a magic show.”
In the late 1800s, Mr. Hudson owned the store and one of his friends sent him a baby alligator in a cigar box through the mail. He decided to keep the alligator, named it Jake and built him a pen in the front window of the store as he continued to grow.
“Jake became quite the attraction with people coming to see how big he’s gotten and parents were able to threaten their children into behaving,” Pippen said.
Jake grew to be more than seven feet long and had to be moved outside where people could still visit. When Mr. Hudson sold his store to Dr. Franklin, Jake was part of the package.
“He lived for years, entertaining crowds until he died in the 1960s,” Pippen said. “Dr. Franklin was not ready to let go of Jake. He had him stuffed and placed in the front window where he remained for years.”
The strange history of the store continues with story of John Howard Burbage, mayor of Berlin from 1962-1988, who once slept in the window of the shop since his actual home was not in town and he needed a residence to be eligible to run for office.
People did not find his sleeping quarters funny and on more than one occasion, a .22 pistol bullet burst through the window where he slept.
It is rumored a speakeasy was housed in the basement of the antique store during prohibition and late at night the current owner used to do her paperwork.
She could hear clinking glasses, music, people dancing, footsteps and card shuffling. When she would poke her dead down it would stop and it started happening frequently enough that she decided to stop coming in at night because it would scare her.
Ned France was another character in Berlin who owned a bargain store and would come to the center of town in a strait jacket and hang upside down from the rafters in front of the antique store.
The eccentric magician is one of three walking dead in the town. France’s Lurch-like-figure has been spotted hunched over walking up and down Main Street near the location of his store.
“He carried everything—from housewares to pharmaceuticals and odd items such as medical implements, suits of armor and skeletons,” Pippen said. “As he got older, his selection became stranger and larger.”
Items from his store started spilling out into the street. There was only a U-shape cutout inside the store to browse around and he would take naps between serving customers.
Many of France’s oddities are on display at the Calvin B. Taylor Museum and he has been spotted, reportedly, late at night walking up and down Main Street near his store.
The second walking dead, a woman in a white dress, is seen late at night in front of Calvin B. Taylor bank and appears to be waiting on the corner.
It is said that most residents in the second-floor apartments above the stores have spotted her on at least one occasion. One man who reportedly witnessed the apparition has retold his story to Pippen and other visitors on tours she has given.
“Late one night, he saw a misty woman in white and watched her for about five minutes before he woke up his roommate,” Pippen recalled. “When they came back to catch a glimpse, she was gone.”
A medium believes there may have been a carriage stop there back in the day.
The attorney’s office of Jack Sanford was located in the current location of the Maryland Wine Bar and a coffee shop.
 “His wife, Elizabeth, never let Jack out of her sight and loved slamming doors,” Pippen said.
These days, when the wine bar still had a lounge area, a woman has been spotted sitting in the corner where Elizabeth would always wait for Jack to finish his work and doors will slam for no reason on occasions.
Last October, a couple was walking on Main Street one Thursday evening and stopped by the wine bar since its doors were open and lights on.
“The woman started looking at the wine list, grabbed a truffle and waited for someone to appear,” Pippen said. “Suddenly, they got a weird feeling, figured no one was there, shut the door and left.”
The next day, the couple returned to pay for the truffle and found out the owners would have never known if they did not come back to tell their story.
Next on the tour, is the Calvin B. Taylor Museum, where a lot of orb activity takes place and an old-fashioned gas lamp has appeared in pictures taken of the low window where Taylor’s son died as an infant.
Also, a “healing tree” is located out front of the house, which supposedly radiates heat, gives others a tingling feeling and is said to be located on a “ley line,” a geographical alignment that New Agers contend emanates mystical powers.
Although not haunted, the story of Windy Brow, home of the late Orlando Harrison and patriarch of Harrison Brothers Nurseries is essential to Berlin’s history and growth.  
Built in 1899, it sits near the railroad tracks in Berlin, which was a perfect location to ship his famous peaches to the White House, Philadelphia and all across the nation. At one time, Harrison Brothers Nurseries was the largest grower and distributor of peaches in the world.
As Orlando grew older, his son G. Hale Harrison, took over the family business and married Lois.
In the 1950s, G. Hale Harrison built the Harrison Hall Hotel on 15th Street in Ocean City as a gift to Lois, which started off the family’s Ocean City hotel history.
Ten years later, a devastating peach blight wiped out the Harrison orchards and most of their assets were lost except for Windy Brow and Harrison Hall. Also, in 1961, G. Hale passed away.
 “Windy Brow is one my favorite stories,” Burgoyne said.
The old Dairy Queen on Main Street was more recently home to Pink Box Bakery and owner Roberta Ward has spotted elementals of cats gathered around a dumpster outside supposedly looking for fish entrails. A fish market was located across the street decades ago.
“I will sum it up by saying the years I had that bakery, I never felt alone in that place,” Ward has said to Burgoyne.
There have been other mornings when she arrived to an open door, fans and lights on with no explanation. One day, she said, her assistant was cleaning the counter. She left to rinse out a rag, and found hieroglyphics written in the soap on her return.
On Pitts Street, the third walking dead of Berlin, Fred Pitts, has been reported. Pitts, who was a soldier in the Confederate army, has reportedly been seen walking up and down the street in his Civil War uniform in front of the abandoned house his father built.
“Fred is mentioned in history books because he was the one who caught J.E.B. Stuart as he fell from his horse and carried him off the battlefield at the Battle of Yellow Tavern in 1864,” Pippen said. “Maryland was a place where family members fought for the Union and Confederacy in the same family.”
Pitts was captured at Fort McHenry, released after the war ended and returned home to Berlin.
“Old folklore accounts claim Fred was never the same. He came back very withdrawn and was a loner,” Pippen said.
From time to time, Fred would put his Confederate uniform on and walk up and down the street.
When he died, the house was vacant for extended periods of time because no one would stay.
“The last family to live in the house bought it with the hopes of restoring the property,” Pippen said. “They packed up in the middle of the night and would not tell anyone what they saw.”
Another woman said her ex-husband lived in the house and every time her daughter would come to stay, she would get a phone call to pick her up.
The girl would wake up to see an older man at the end of her bed and the sounds of footsteps going up the stairs after her father fell asleep.
At nearby Baked Desserts Café, the previous home to Ayers General Store, owners have seen strange occurrences that cannot be explained except possibly Mr. Ayers’ spirit returns to check up on his store.
“He ran a tight ship and made sure his store was always well organized with nothing out of place,” Pippen said. “Occasionally, Mr. Ayers comes back to express his displeasure with the current owners messiness.”
They claim to have seen doors fly open, ceiling fans changing speeds and lights going on and off. Once they came in to find a refrigerator door open a couple inches, even though it automatically closes and will not stay open on its own after being closed.
“Mr. Ayers liked listening to AM talk radio,” Pippen said. “There have been times when the radio quickly changes stations, it will go from FM to AM and stop at a station with talk radio on.”
During these unexplained instances, the current owners are convinced Ayers is revisiting his old stomping grounds.
The last stop on the tour is in St. Paul Episcopal Church cemetery, where Pippen recounted a few stories of the dead, including a woman named Sally who died young after losing four children. There is an empty spot between her headstone and the children.
“We think her husband is buried there, but no one was left to put a headstone up,” Pippen said.
 “My personal belief is we are all energy, which doesn’t disappear or go away,” Pippen said. “If someone doesn’t cross over, their energy is all around and it makes their presence stronger.”
In addition to Berlin, ghost lovers can check out walks in Ocean City, Snow Hill, Pocomoke City, Easton, Cambridge, Denton, Crisfield, Princess Anne and St. Michaels. Burgoyne has two more in the works in Oxford and Chincoteague.
More than a decade ago, Burgoyne moved into her current home in Marion Station with her husband and experienced ghosts and a presence for the first time.
“We had never thought about ghosts before moving in and I became curious about the stories,” she said.
She said unexplained noises were heard, footsteps, coughing, objects starting moving, plates flipped off the walls, their dogs barked at nothing and it became scary when a globe fell off a chandelier and crashed into a bouquet of Valentine’s Day roses.
“Our grandchildren would not stay at our house,” Burgoyne said.
Her haunted house led to research by interviewing residents, visiting libraries for regional books or newspaper articles and she used the folklore collection at the Nabb Research Center at Salisbury University.
Burgoyne continued to collect tales, researched town history and developed a popular book full of stories about 26 different haunted sites in the nine counties throughout Maryland.
“Once I talk with someone, they usually lead me to somewhere else and only places that have several unrelated sources at different times are used in my tours and books,” Burgoyne said. “It’s amazing how these stories unfold … it’s really something.”
One of her novels, “Haunted Eastern Shore: Ghostly Tales from East of the Chesapeake” built her a following in the community and she was constantly being asked if she did ghost tours.
By 2010, bus tours started taking place on the Eastern Shore and the following January it was decided to try out a walk.
“Our Cambridge walking tour sold out three times in a row with 60 people a night taking everything in with snow on the ground,” Burgoyne said.
By 2013, 10 walks were researched, developed and conducted for visitors to experience. Burgoyne led 40 ghost walks that year.
“Every single one sold out until Halloween,” Burgoyne said.
The following year, Burgoyne hired six tour guides and an administrator to help with the popular tours.
“In 2014, we put on 160 ghost tours and served more than 10,000 customers,” Burgoyne said. “It’s amazing how much it grew.”
Chesapeake Ghost Tours take place year-around and the offseason will feature a mix of bus and walking tours.
“It’s great family entertainment from the best storytellers around,” Burgoyne said. “Berlin was the most cooperative, helpful and easiest town to work with.”
Tours cost $15 for adults and $9 for children 8-12 years old. Advanced registration is recommended on Call 443-735-0771 for more information.