October is here, and for some, that means cooler days, crisp nights, and the smell of fallen leaves on the ground. For others, October brings the mysterious and magical a little closer to our everyday lives.
Straddling fall and winter, October has a history of celebration as well as superstition. 2000 years ago, an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain (pronounced sow-win) was celebrated sometime in the month of October. Villagers would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. Samhain roughly translates to “Summer’s End” and was a time of tribulation of conquests, stock-taking/harvesting for the long winter months, and possibly, honoring and communing with the afterlife.
In the 7h century, Pope Boniface IV declared that there would be a celebration called All Saint’s Day (also known as All-Hallows or All-Hallowmas) to honor Christian martyrs and saints, with the day before known as All-Hallows’ Eve. 100 years later, Pope Gregory III moved All Saint’s Day to November 1st, effectively merging the pagan holiday Samhain with All-Hallows’ Eve. This created a blended celebration with bonfires, costuming, and offers of food and drinks to the poor as gestures of charity (this is thought to be the origins of trick-or-treat).
As Europeans settled in the United States, they brought many of their traditions with them, including All-Hallows’ Eve. Some areas of the Colonies had limited celebrations of All-Hallows’ Eve due to various religious beliefs, but was much more common in the southern colonies, especially in Maryland.
For such a small state, Maryland delivers BIG on folklore. With a rich history of All-Hallows’ Eve celebration, it’s not surprising that superstition and the paranormal is an integral part of Maryland’s culture. Wars were fought here, history made here, and many different peoples settled here. Mix that all together and you have a state that is ripe with tall tales and spooky stories. Edgar Allan Poe, one of the most famous horror writers of all time (and arguably the father of modern horror literature), lived in Baltimore for a time. Perhaps he was inspired by the stories told around the hearthfire on those cold, fall nights to craft some of his bone-chilling tales.
As with most folklore, Maryland’s tales are typically tied to a location that has experienced tragedy (like a battlefield or hospital) or a desolate area that was far from the safety of a village. Many of these places are said to be haunted by spirits of the dead or plagued by unusual creatures. Some of the most famous characters from these tales are Chessie, the Demon Truck of Seven Hills Road, the Goatman of Beltsville, Moll Dyer, the Snallygaster, and the Blue Dog of Charles County.
And it’s not just folklore characters that these tales are centered around, there are plenty of places in Maryland that are rumored to be more than they appear. Spread out across the land, Old Line State locales have long histories of mysterious happenings.
Whether or not you believe in the unexplained, October is the perfect time to curl up with a creepy read, listen to a chilling tale, and have some spooky fun. And what’s better than some “real” scary stories to do that? Check out the curated list below for a frighteningly good read about one of these famous characters or places!
(All summaries are from the publishers. Staff picks are chosen by CCPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We’d love to hear your ideas too, so write to us and tell us what you’d recommend!)
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