The Old Line State is full of American history and folklore, from civil war hauntings to cryptids and witches. What better time to get out to explore our state’s spooky side than around Halloween? Legend tripping is a uniquely American rite of passage. It refers to a pilgrimage, often made to a site alleged to have been the scene of some tragic, horrific, and possibly supernatural event or haunting. If you were lucky enough to be raised by lenient parents in the eighties, this invokes memories of playing Bloody Mary and running through abandoned houses in the woods. Without further ado, here are three of the creepiest legend tripping destinations in Maryland to visit this year.
Spook Hill—Burkittsville, MD
Burkittsville, Maryland, is most famously known as the town behind “The Blair Witch Project,” but locals know that the real magic is a road that defies the laws of physics. Located near a Civil War battle site, Spook Hill is a stretch of Gapland Road. For decades, people have come to perform a Frederick County rite of passage—placing their car in neutral at the bottom of the hill. Legend says that Confederate soldiers push the car and its passengers up the incline.
The story behind this phenomenon claims that the unquiet dead still believe they are pushing heavy artillery out of the way when they encounter a vehicle. There is even talk of disembodied laughter coming from the woods on either side. While a daytime visit to Spook Hill is sure to delight families with young kiddos, true thrill-seekers brave the road at night. Bonus points if legend trippers place baby powder on the trunk to see if ghostly handprints will appear.
Starting from the downtown square in Burkittsville, head northwest on W. Main St./Gapland Rd. You’ll see a large red barn on the left. Drive past the barn, over the crest of the hill, and almost to the bottom of the hill on the other side. How you choose to proceed is up to you—but we urge you to exercise caution.
Goatman’s Bridge—Bowie, MD
Many states have a goatman legend, but Maryland’s goatman has the most modern origin story. Legend says that in the 1970s, a scientist at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center was performing experiments with goat DNA. Through some mishap, the scientist either injected himself or his assistant with goat blood and turned into a half-goat/half-human monster with a thirst for violence. The people of Bowie, MD, say that the goatman chases cars, kills livestock, and decapitates dogs. The story got so out of control that at one point, the USDA had to officially deny the existence of the goat man and any records of goat experimentation from the time in question.
For those brave enough to seek him out, the goat man can be found near Governor’s Bridge, which spans the Patuxent River. Park under the bridge after dark, and prepare to have your vehicle pelted with rocks. There are claims of shrill cries and screams coming from the woods and even rumors that the goat man drags thrill-seekers into the woods, never to be heard from again.
Governor’s Bridge is near the intersection of US Route 50 and US Route 301. There is no designated parking available and the bridge might be blocked off. Visitors will have to find a spot to park and walk to the bridge at their own risk. Please legend trip with caution, especially at night.
Point Lookout State Park—Scotland, MD
Located on a small peninsula at the confluence of the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay, this scenic Maryland destination plays host to more than just sunburnt tourists.
Shipwrecks troubled Point Lookout so often that in 1827 Congress ordered the building of a lighthouse for mariners headed into the Chesapeake Bay to the east and the Potomac River to the west. Some believe the lighthouse to be cursed, noting that its first keeper, James Davis, died while on duty, and two more keepers met the same fate.
The civil war brought more death and destruction to Point Lookout’s beautiful beaches. What began as a hospital for Union soldiers quickly expanded into the Civil War’s largest prison camp, at one point housing 20,000 prisoners in a camp built for 10,000. The prison was used for lower-ranking soldiers and became overrun with filth and water contamination.
Between 3,000 and 8,000 men died in under two years. Causes of death included exposure, starvation, and disease. These untimely and traumatic deaths left some spirits behind who remain to this day.
The most haunted spot at Point Lookout is the lighthouse, the subject of many paranormal investigations. Visitors report cold areas, rotten smells, disembodied voices, and the ghostly figures of prisoners who roam the grounds.
Legend trippers can visit the state park for a small entrance fee. However, the lighthouse is only open during special events.
Point Lookout Lighthouse is located at 10350 Point Lookout Rd in Scotland.
While visiting these legend tripping destinations in Maryland, please be mindful of the folks who live near these spooky spots, especially if your visit occurs after dark. Always be respectful of historic and hallowed sites. Spirits don’t take kindly to littering and vandalism. Remember to follow all state and local regulations to avoid having your investigation broken up by law enforcement. As with any adventure, wear practical shoes and make sure to tell any wayward spirits that they are not welcome to follow you home.
Lead Photo: Morgan Nebistinsky
The Burkittsville Cemetery was featured in the movie “The Blair Witch Project” and is near Spook Hill, a popular legend tripping destination in Maryland.