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Documentaries

ntietam Cable Television has produced several documentaries dedicated to the history, culture, and interests of Washington County. They are:

"Ghost and Legends"

Produced in 1985, this was the first in a series of programs dedicated to presenting the rich history of ghostly tales that exist in Washington County. The producers of the show set down three simple guidelines to better define the creative direction of the documentary.

First, the show would be completely objective in nature. No viewpoint - pro or con - would slant the presentation of information.

Second, all stories would have a strong tie to the actual history of the area. The goal was to chronicle the oral history of the cultures that first settled in Washington County hundreds of years ago. Understanding the culture, beliefs, and superstitions of our ancestors - how they thought - adds greatly to our understanding and interpretation of historic events.

Third, the ghosts can be scary, benevolent, angry, protecting, but NOT harmful. No "slasher" ghosts, as can be found in "B" movies.

The program was divided into four segments:

  • The Veiled Lady of Williamsport
  • The Snarly Yowl and Wizard Zittle of Boonsboro
  • The Haunting of Tipuhato of Cascade
  • The Ghost of the Maryland Theatre in Hagerstown

The program also contained an introduction by a college professor relating some of the theories behind hauntings.

"The Veiled Lady"

This segment featured an interview with the 1995 mayor of Williamsport who recounted the legend as it was told to him as a boy. A second interview was of a lifetime resident of Williamsport who claimed as a child to have had an encounter with the Veiled Lady. There were three dramatic reenactments of incidents surrounding the legend.

The legend concerns the ghost of a lady who haunts the streets of Williamsport after dark. She is dressed in black clothing with a veil covering her face. No one is sure of who she is, although speculation has produced several alternatives:

She is looking for the husband who left her.

She is protecting children by keeping them in after dark.

There is no ghost, only a series of practical jokers who dress up, frighten people, and perpetuate the legend.

"The Snarly Yowl and Wizard Zittle of Boonsboro"

Doug Bast, local Boonsboro historian, combines two short tales into one entertaining segment. Drawing from the lore of the original German settlers, Bast recounts the legend of the Snarly Yowl, also called the Black Dog. This ghost dog lurks close to the main road, challenging travelers as they make their way in and out of town. It can appear and disappear into thin air, as well as grow much larger in size than an ordinary dog. A Boonsboro resident is interviewed, and recalls a story her father used to tell her of when he encountered the ghost dog.

Much of the lore in the Boonsboro area can be traced to the Zittle family. One of the members known as Wizard Zittle was a folk medicine practitioner who had a book of spells and remedies for many ailments. One remedy for the "go backs," better known as rickets, is given a dramatic reenactment.

"The Haunting of Tipuhato"

This is a story of an old estate house in the Cascade area. It was owned by the daughter of a wealthy banker around the turn of the century who hosted grand parties and raced horses. Years later (1985, to be exact) a medical doctor bought the home. Shortly after she moved into it, strange things began to happen. Upon investigating the history of the home, she found out that the original owner had died in one of the bedrooms.

Interviews and reenactments help bring this fun, frightening tale to "life."

"The Ghost of the Maryland Theatre"

Joyce Heptner, Executive Director of the Maryland Theatre (1985), and Mike Harsh, a former executive director, recount the intriguing history of the theater as well as its legend.

Stories of a possible haunting are reenacted. The daughter of one of the theater's managers who worked from the 1930's through the '60's is interviewed. She feels that if the theater is haunted, it could be the ghost of her father, whose entire life was dedicated to the theater.

Another possible explanation is that the spirit is that of a worker who perished in a fire at the theater.

Perhaps the most humorous explanation comes from Mike Harsh, who rather coyly admits to having a "bit of fun" with the legend. (He would hide in the balcony late at night and emit a strange, ethereal whistling noise to tease the backstage hands as they finished cleaning up after shows.)

"Legends"

Produced in 1992, this was the sequel to the immensely popular "Ghosts and Legends." This installment kept the same principles and guidelines as the first show, but focused on different stories. Two communities in Washington County - Boonsboro and Funkstown - were celebrating anniversaries that year, so the producers decided to focus on oral histories from those communities, including:

  • The Indian Maiden
  • The Haunting of Chaney House
  • Spirits of Washington's Monument
  • The Mystery of Wise's Well

"The Indian Maiden"

Indians used to camp along the Antietam Creek many years ago. As this popular Funkstown folk tale relates, in 1750 a young Catawa Indian maiden fell in love with a Delaware boy who had settled in the area. Both were 15 years old. It was their custom to secretly meet at the creek at an appointed time. One day, the boy failed to arrive. The maiden found out later that he had been killed. In sorrow and despair, the young maiden drowned herself in the creek.

On September 12 each year - the anniversary of the event - the ghost of the Indian maiden can be seen paddling her canoe up the creek, calling and looking for her boyfriend. The legend is told through an interview with a Funkstown resident who thought he saw the ghost many years ago when he was a boy filled with youthful imagination.

"The Haunting of Chaney House"

The Chaney House, now Ruth's Antiques in Funkstown, was used as a makeshift hospital during the Battle of Funkstown in the Civil War. This segment uses the story of a ghost at Chaney House to explore in-depth the actual history behind the legend.

For years, mysterious events at Chaney House have fueled the legends of a ghostly presence. A maid who worked at the home claimed to have seen a woman in Civil War nursing garb in one of the upstairs rooms. Strange sounds of piano playing could often be heard in the dead of night. Suddenly, the events seemed to have stopped. Shortly thereafter, Ruth's Antiques received a call from a customer who had purchased a table and then moved to the Midwest. She claimed to have been sold a haunted table! The customer went on to describe the same types of events that had once occurred at Chaney house. She even claimed to have seen the ghost - a woman dressed as a Civil War nurse! Since the customer was not from the area and had purchased the table when she was just passing through, she was unaware of the history and legend of Chaney House.

The legend is told through interviews with the owner of Ruth's Antiques, the customer who bought the table, and dramatic reenactments. Many local Civil War reenactors volunteered to appear in the program, lending great authenticity to the segment.

"Spirits of Washington's Monument"

The first monument erected to George Washington is in Boonsboro, Md. It sits high atop South Mountain overlooking the valley. Just below it are a labyrinth of caves among the rocks. Legend has it that it was in these caves that two young lovers became entombed for eternity.

Doug Bast fills in the details of a young Civil War soldier who stopped for a drink of water from a well. There he met the daughter of the landowner, a beautiful young girl who quickly fell in love with the handsome young soldier. She feared for his life and begged him to run away with her to a place of safety, far from the dangers of the war. He relented and, deserting his unit, fled with her to the caves. Unfortunately, a rock slide trapped them inside where they finally expired. Now, late at night, their mournful cries for help can be heard ringing out across the valley.

"The Mystery of Wise's Well"

Local historian Doug Bast shares another fascinating legend dating from the Civil War era. After the Battle of South Mountain, the government offered to pay local citizen's to bury the dead - some accounts report as much as a dollar a body. Old Man Wise took the government up on the offer. However, instead of giving the soldiers a proper resting place, he chose to unceremoniously dump them down a dry well on his property.

Later that night, Wise was resting on his porch when he spotted a man walking down the lane toward him. As the man got closer, it became clear that he was wearing a soldier's uniform. When he got even closer, Wise could tell that the man seemed to be floating instead of walking. Wise was paralyzed with fear. Finally, when the ghost reached the porch, he repeated the same phrase over and over again, "Turn me over, Mr. Wise, turn me over!"

Wise recognized the man as one whom he had buried earlier that day by dropping him head first down the well. Wise pulled every last soldier from the well and buried each properly, one at a time.

In addition to the legend, the segment focuses on the Battle of South Mountain. A local author is interviewed who published a book on how the authorities during the Civil War handled disposing of the casualties. The historian traces the legend to its origins.

"The History of Jews in Washington County"

In 1992, congregation B'nai Abraham celebrated its 100th anniversary, as well as the 250th anniversary of the Jewish presence in Washington County. To commemorate this event, Antietam Cable TV was commissioned to produce a documentary on the history of Jews in Washington County.

The production chronicles interviews with a number of people, including historians, politicians, Jewish citizens, and holocaust survivors. It is interesting to note that the first recorded citizen of Washington County was a Jewish man named Levi Cohen.

Senator Donald Munson and Professor Larry Sharpe are interviewed concerning Thomas Kennedy. Born in 1776, Thomas Kennedy became a Maryland delegate from Washington County. Although he was not Jewish, he authored the landmark "Jew Bill" which was signed into law in 1826. The bill sought to secure the civil liberties of Jews in Maryland, and according to Senator Munson, "in doing so, guaranteed freedom for us all." Senator Munson was instrumental in making Thomas Kennedy the first in a long line of legislators to have a plaque displayed in their honor at the State House in Annapolis - part of a program called "Maryland Legislators Who Made a Difference."