Spooky Tales from the Mudd House Part III: “The Moving Spirit”

The final installment of Spooky Tales from the Mudd House is here just in time for Halloween! It is by far the most important “Spooky Tale” in the history of the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Society. As some of you know, the museum allegedly owes its existence to a ghost story. For those of you who know the story, it is well worth a refresher. For those who have never experienced the tale of “the Moving Spirit,” sit back, sip your favorite pumpkin flavored drink, and enjoy.

The tale of “the Moving Spirit” was experienced and told by our founder Louise Mudd-Arehart. Although she related the story to all who would listen, she shared it with the entire Society over the course of two newsletters in January and May 1979. Louise remembered that in the early 1960s she began being visited by the “Spirit” in her home. She noted “hearing footsteps going upstairs. BUT there is no upstairs here.” She also reported hearing someone knocking at her door, only to find the step empty when she opened to see who was there. She noted that even her husband experienced the mysterious vanishing knocker and was becoming convinced of supernatural interference.

As the visits continued, Louise was able to notice more details about the “Spirit.” She noted that it was a “man wearing a long brown topcoat and cap.” As time progressed, the encounters became closer. On one occasion, Louise recalled being in the house alone. She was cleaning in her kitchen. As she moved from her kitchen into her dining room she stopped at the site of the “Spirit” standing in front of her. The closeness of this encounter allowed her to note more details than ever before. On this occasion, the man was “wearing black trousers, black vest, white shirt with the sleeves rolled back to his elbows, a black bow tie, untied watching me.” She continued, “he turned and went down the hall,” disturbing the family dog in the process. When Louise followed the man into the next room, she discovered that he had vanished.

By 1970, Louise “started meditating on the things that were happening” and she was convinced that the “Spirit” wanted her to do something. Soon, Louise realized who the “Spirit” was and what he wanted from her. She became “convinced that it was my Grandfather Mudd…it dawned on me what this was all about.” She informed her husband that she needed to travel to see her brother on the family farm because “Grandpa is telling me to save the Dr. Mudd home for the next generation.”

Dr. Samuel A. Mudd “the Moving Spirit”

Louise faced a daunting task. Her brother Joe had taken over the family farm at the passing of his father, Samuel Mudd II. He was one of only three people to privately own the property and his family still occupied the house and farmed the land. Yet Louise was about to ask him voluntarily leave. When she shared here desire to turn the place into a museum, Joe surprised her with his answer. Louise noted her older brother looked at her and said “well, I guess so, because if it isn’t done in my lifetime, I just don’t know what the next generation would do about it.” With those words the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House museum was born.

The Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House as a private residence in 1976. (Dr. S.A. Mudd House collection)

The fight to create a museum was a long and drawn out process. It took over a decade from when Joe uttered those words until the first official visitors entered the museum. The bureaucratic red tape and politics involved in getting the proper permits and funding seemed never ending. At one point, Louise noted that Joe and his family were “getting disgusted with the time involved” and were considering backing out.

Disappointed but not deterred, Louise told herself “get busy here if you want to see the Dr. Mudd Museum be a reality.” One night, she noted not being able to sleep. Around 2 a.m. she saw an “all white figure” moving around her room. She attempted to wake her husband who promptly told her to go back to sleep. She then tried to convince herself that she was seeing things. Suddenly, “’the white figure’ slowly came around the wall and stopped by my side of the bed. Finally…I got the message. I said ‘OK Grandpa, I’ll get up and get busy.”

Louise began a letter writing campaign in attempt to problem solve and raise funds. She also embarked on a mission to collect as many family heirlooms as possible, many of which are on display in the museum today. By 1976 she had organized “the Committee for the Restoration for the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House” which was the predecessor of our current Society. She noted that the first meeting of the Board of Directors was held July 14, 1976. A few days before this meeting, Louise experienced the last of her visits from the “Spirit.” This encounter was different from the others. Instead of being visited by a man, she noticed an image “slowly shape up-like out of a tunnel-first small then getting larger. As I began to recognize it I said ‘why that is the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd house.’ Then, it slowly went back down the tunnel…it was the house finished, just like the old pictures of it.”

The house at the start of restoration. (Mudd House collection)
Louise Mudd-Arehart, the real life “Moving Spirit” behind the museum, fulfilling her promise to her grandfather’s ghost by getting her hands dirty removing siding from the house. (Mudd House collection)

While we recognized that not everyone believes in stories of the supernatural, we hope you were able to take something valuable away from our “Spooky Tales.” If you subscribe to experiences of paranormal activity, we hope the stories intrigued you. If you are skeptical, we hope you learned a little about the history of the region and the founding of the museum. Regardless of what you believe, I think we can all agree that we are certainly glad that “the Moving Spirit” helped move Louise’s spirit into action and create the museum we all love today.

The final visit of the “Moving Spirit,” as it looks today.