Spooky Tales from the Mudd House Part II: A Series of En-light-ening Encounters

The second installment of Spooky Tales from the Mudd House should be an en-light-ening experience! The story comes to us from our founder, Mrs. Louise Mudd-Arehart. In the August 1978 edition (Vol. 1, No.2) of the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Society newsletter, she related several turn of the 20th century stories of a mysterious “light” that seemed to occupy the area of the museum.

Louise was one of Dr. Mudd’s grandchildren and was the daughter of Samuel A. Mudd II. Her father took over the farm when the doctor passed away in 1883. Louise recalled first learning of the “light” as a small child. She noted, “I recall Papa (Samuel A. Mudd II) calling the family together and showing us the ‘Light.’ It was an eerie feeling I recalled as I climbed up the five board fencing by the well house to see the ‘Light,’ as it went around (maybe into) the barns and along the fence line.”

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A view of the rear of the Dr. Mudd House. Note, the five board fence Mrs. Arehart remembers climbing. The well house is the small white building to the right. (Library of Congress)

Mrs. Arehart went on to provide several accounts from neighbors to corroborate her story. The first involved a nephew of Dr. Mudd named Joe Gardiner. According to Louise, Joe lived in “Oak Hill,” the former home of the doctor’s father. He once boasted to a neighbor that “there was a ghost over on the Dr. Sam farm,” stating that a light “used to go into the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House, all through the rooms, around the house and down through the fields.”

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A photoshopped rendition of the “Light” at the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House (Photo by Bob Bowser)

Joe had a close encounter with the “Light.” He related that on one occasion he and his sister were on their way home from St. Peter’s Church near nightfall. When they reached the old St. Peter’s Cemetery, the “Light” suddenly came out of the graveyard and fixed itself near the top of the buggy. Then, the siblings noted that the “Light” began moving around their carriage. Alarmed, Joe’s sister exclaimed, “Joe, we have to get home, what do we do?” Joe put the reigns to the horse and headed south as fast as he could. Allegedly, the “Light” followed them down the road for some distance before it ultimately turned into the Zekiah Swamp and vanished.

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The Zekiah Swamp on the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd property (Bob Bowser)

Another tale of the “Light” involved a neighbor named Fred Bender. Mr. Bender moved on to the farm adjacent to Oak Hill in 1910. One day he was in the fields with a hired worker named Ambrose Gross. Bender remembered that Ambrose looked up and shouted “look at that light going over Mr. Joe’s (Gardiner) field.” The “Light” passed Joe’s house (Oak Hill) and headed north toward the Mudd house. The two men chased the “Light” as fast as they could, but were stopped by the flooded stream that connected the two farms. Today, modern visitors pass over this stream as the travel south on Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Road.

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Oak Hill, the farm of Dr. Mudd’s parents. Occupied at the time of the “Light” by Joe Gardiner. The farm was located about 1/2 mile south of Dr. Mudd’s home. (Osborn Oldroyd, 1901)

The final story concerning the “Light” regards its near capture. Mr. Bender and another neighbor named Mr. Petzold spotted the “Light” hovering over a cornfield. The two men decided to arm themselves and “went over to the big wood pile and got a big clump of wood and started following the ‘Light’-going slow.” The “Light” entered one of the barns on the Oak Hill property. The two men rushed to the building hurried as fast as they could saying “now we can catch it.” When they arrived at the closed barn door, the “Light” shot out of the building and disappeared into the swamp.

While the story of the “Light” may not be as sensational as Booth’s ghost sleeping in an upstairs bedroom (see part I), it seems to have been a mainstay in the neighborhood around the turn of the 20th century. We hope you found our second Spooky Tale as en-light-ening as we did. However, like any good story teller…we’ve saved the best for last!  

Thank you for reading and stay tuned for part III!