The Lord Baltimore Hotel is believed to be haunted by the ghost of a little girl with a red ball. (Anthony C. Hayes)
As the raven flies, the Edgar Allan Poe House sits a mere mile away from the Lord Baltimore Hotel. It’s a twenty minute walk, but esthetically, the two buildings are worlds apart. The Poe House is a modest brick and mortar dwelling; cold and claustrophobic once the sun goes down. Find yourself there at midnight and it’s easy to imagine how Poe could have dreamed up so many macabre tales.
Conversely, the Lord Baltimore Hotel is an imposing, stately building. The recent recipient of an attractive overhaul, the Lord Baltimore is the last place you’d expect to encounter a ghost. But look to the green patinated copper roof with the widows walk which caps the penthouse, and you might think of The Haunted Palace from the Fall of the House of Usher.
This past weekend, The Lord Baltimore Hotel – which has long been rumored to be haunted – played host to television’s Ghost Detectives. The Pennsylvania-based group, which had previously journeyed to Baltimore to investigate the Admiral Fell Inn and the Edgar Allan Poe House, were given unfettered access to several areas of the hotel where other-worldly happenings have allegedly occurred. This reporter was invited along for the hunt and spent two nights observing the paranormal investigation process. Along the way we encountered a number of eerie events – both unexplainable and disturbingly bizarre.
The ghost hunt – which was slated to start on Friday night at about 9:00pm actually began in earnest before I arrived at 8:00. What inspired this early activity was the discovery of what appeared to be a child’s hand print on the wall in penthouse suite number two. Team Historian Traci Law encouraged me to photograph the lightly visible hand print and noted that, when tested, the image had given off a measurable heat signature.
Traci is in her second season with the Ghost Detectives. An historian, archaeologist and an actress by trade, Traci said she has always had an interest in the paranormal.
“I was born into a family who embraced the paranormal. Being sensitive to spiritual things is something that goes back for several generations. I like to kiddingly say that, growing up, I sometimes felt like Wednesday Addams. We took family outings to go to historic sites rumored to be haunted. That was our weekends. Most families were going to amusement parks; it was cemeteries for us.”
After being introduced to the rest of the new crew members, lead investigator Bob Christopher briefed me on the scientific gear the detectives have added since their visit to Baltimore in 2012.
“We still have the basic recorders, the thermal imager, the EMF meters”, he said. “All that kind of stuff to do the scientific side. But we have also gotten into the white noise now, with spirit boxes. We have a device I developed called a static detector. That’s helpful for measuring static electricity in instances where you walk into a place and get that feeling that hair on the back of your neck is standing up. We think that static electricity is somehow connected to paranormal activity.
“Another thing that I developed are the lifelike toy dogs. Basically, it’s a proximity sensor. If anything comes near it, it will set off lights on the head and nose, and it will play gentle music. Some have asked why we didn’t make it bark, but we find that the children’s spirits we encounter seem to like the music. I brought the beagle and one other dog down with us, but I actually make sixteen different breeds.
“We also have the Dome, which will pick up any static electricity within two microns of the device. We’ve had instances where we have placed a series of domes on a stair case and had them light up in succession – as if something was coming down the stairs. It’s kind of weird when you see stuff like that happen.”
Turning to a contraption that looked like it could have been designed by the great Leo Fender, Bob continued, “One more device which has proven to be quite useful is the ‘spirit box’ or the ‘portal’. It incorporates a digital radio set on fast scan, which is then fed through a guitar reverb system, attached to a small amplifier. It takes a while to get used to picking out words from all the static noise, and frankly I don’t put much weight on random, single words. It’s when you get a snippet of a sentence or an entire phrase that this device really grabs my attention. We’ve also heard footsteps and a trumpet solo through this thing. When we were in Gettysburg, we heard cannon fire, but that wasn’t the strangest part of that trip. We also set this up in a place where there had been a field hospital. The noise was intense and we were having trouble making any sense of it, but we recorded everything and once we listened to that recording we could make out hospital type conversations – complete sentences – like “Nurse, get me this” or “Get me that”. It was crazy.”
We asked Bob if the devices have ever proved to be counterproductive? Surprisingly, he turned the conversation back to the toy dogs.
“We had trouble with the dogs in Philadelphia, in a place once used by the Underground Railroad. Apparently, dogs were often used in tracking down escaped slaves, so those particular spirits are quite fearful.”
The Ghost Hunt Begins
For Friday night’s ghost hunt, investigator Katie Christopher divided the crew into two teams. The men would begin in the ballroom then move up to the 19th floor. The women would concentrate in the penthouse first, and then move down to the ballroom.
Katie explained the reason for this splitting of the sexes.
“We’ve found that, in some instances, the spirits of women and children are just more open to communicate with women. On the other hand, our guys seem to get a better response when we go places more associated with men, such as prisons or battlegrounds.”
Once ensconced in the ballroom, the men went about setting the stage for their probe. Domes were placed along walkways; cameras and recorders ringed the perimeter. Transient blips or beeps from any of the dozen or so meters were discussed, to rule out natural causes.
The investigation in the ballroom was quietly interrupted at several points by hotel employees attempting to assist the detectives in shutting down lights and any electrical equipment that might trigger a false ghost meter reading. One staff member – speaking with this reporter outside of the ballroom on the condition of anonymity – told the Baltimore Post-Examiner that he has had numerous encounters with unexplainable phenomena at the hotel.
“The 19th floor is just scary, when you’re up there alone,” he said. “I always have the sense that someone is watching me. I’ve also had experiences on the 6th and 8th floors. I’ve glimpsed fleeting shadows and seen people walk down the hall and then turn a corner, and when I got to that corner and looked, nobody was there.”
Returning to the ballroom, we joined the detectives just in time to be present when film editor Michael Herrmann caught the audible sound of a little girl screaming. The screams (there were two of them) – had been captured on one of the digital recorders. They were played over and over as the team tried to guess the possible age of the phantom “child” and determine if the cries were screams of joy, or perhaps a three year old’s temper tantrum.
Back in the penthouse, the women’s team was busy with an encounter of their own. A balloon, which had been left in a tray, along with a small amount of dusting powder, was discovered to have finger prints of about the same size as the print found earlier on the penthouse wall.
“Swing by the Neck”
Shortly after midnight, the men moved from the ballroom to the infamous 19th floor. There they had access to the flat tin roof that sits just below the penthouse suites.
There are rumors there may have been suicides from this lofty perch over West Baltimore Street. One of the domes, which was placed in an open niche on the parapet wall, lit up ever so briefly, as if to say, “This is where it happened”.
Inside the conference room on the 19th floor, team member Dave Juliano sensed a persistent, shadowy presence. A discernible voice from the portal seemed to suggest that some luckless soul had died by hanging himself.
It was now 2 a.m. and time for this reporter to call it a night. The Ghost Detectives would be back at it on Saturday; mixing up the places throughout the hotel where teams would be stationed. It was Bob Christopher and his compatriots who – returning to the ballroom – received the clearest message of the entire hunt.
Six times in the relative darkness of the deserted hall, a voice from the portal implored the team: “GET OUT”.
The Ghost Detectives’ investigation of the Lord Baltimore Hotel will air sometime this fall. When it goes live, the Baltimore Post-Examiner will link the episode here.
Bob Christopher said he sincerely hopes his team can return to Charm City to do more ghost investigations. Know of someplace haunted? Drop us a line. With summer coming, we could all use a little exorcise.
Anthony C. Hayes is an actor, author, raconteur, rapscallion and bon vivant. A one-time newsboy for the Evening Sun and professional presence at the Washington Herald, Tony’s poetry, photography, humor, and prose have also been featured in Smile, Hon, You’re in Baltimore!, Destination Maryland, Magic Octopus Magazine, Los Angeles Post-Examiner, Voice of Baltimore, SmartCEO, Alvarez Fiction, and Tales of Blood and Roses. If you notice that his work has been purloined, please let him know. As the Good Book says, “Thou shalt not steal.”