Elements of the supernatural have long enhanced the folklore of many cultures. Stories of ghosts, magic, and so-called aliens are transferred from generation to generation, sparking our imagination and uncovering our deepest fears. While some stories are clearly fabulous, others are believed by those who tell them. The story I wish to report is of the latter kind: an experience that generated real fear in the teller. Although the story is completely original, it contains ideas reflected in much other folklore, including similar tales from similar locations. And like all folklore, the effectiveness of the story depends upon the performance of the teller and those to follow.
First, it is important to include an in-depth description of the storyteller in order to fully analyze the meaning of the tale. My story was narrated by an 18-year-old woman. She was born in Poland, and at the age of eight moved to the Frederick. She is from an upper-middle class family; both her mother and father are chemists. The story was obtained late one night while working on homework and casually conversing. The topic of ghosts and the supernatural arose, and she informed me that she once saw a ghost firsthand. I inquired about her experience, and she willingly explained what had happened.
“At this time in my life I lived in a very old town house, where I often heard unexplainable noises in the attic. One night, when I was about 11, my parents went out to a party, leaving me all alone. The night was stormy, with crashes of lightening and thunder outside. Having nothing to do, I fell asleep after eating too much ice cream. All of a sudden, my alarm clock goes off in the middle of the night, reading 3 o’clock. I’m wondering why in the world is my alarm clock is going off in the middle of the night on a Saturday! Then, I look over to my door frame, and low and behold there is a figure standing there staring at me. The room was very dark; all I could see was the occasional flash of lightening, so I could not see his face, only a dark shadow. The only feature I could make out for sure was the tri-corner hat he was wearing. So I’m lying in my bed paralyzed with fear because someone is staring at me in the middle of the night in an empty house. I looked away quivering with fear, and when I got the courage to look back, the mystery phantom had disappeared.”
Compared to the others stories I collected in my search, this story is unique because it is a firsthand experience rather than a rumor or something that happened to a “friend of a friend”. The story is original, yet it still can be compared to other tales of ghosts and reports of ghost sightings. Similarly, many elements of my roommate’s experience are typical of the average supernatural event. Authors Timothy L. Cannon and Nancy Whitmore tell of an occurrence not far from Frederick in their book Ghosts and Legends of Frederick County. In the small town of Woodsboro, a woman named Elisabeth had...