Museum to Reopen May 1, 2021

The Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House Museum is set to reopen at 11 am on Saturday May 1, 2021. We will then be open Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays per our usual schedule. Our hours of operation remain the same.

For the safety of our staff and to remain compliant with Maryland’s Covid-19 regulations, we ask for your patience and understanding with some restrictions. Masks are mandatory for all visitors over the age of 2. Masks must be properly worn (covering mouth and nose) when visitors are indoors and where proper social distancing cannot be met. Tour sizes will be limited to accommodate for proper social distancing regulations. Tours will be filled on a first-come-first-served basis, however we reserve the right to fill out smaller tours as needed. Additionally, all visitors must answer several questions regarding Covid-19 exposure and symptoms, as well as pass a temperature check to be eligible for a tour

All visitors on the tour must comply with the above regulations. We are asking that if you cannot currently meet the above guidelines that you wait to visit us until you are able.

We are excited to once again welcome visitors into Dr. Mudd’s home!

Please email muddnews@gmail.com with any questions.

Christmas at the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House

The holiday season is always a magical time at the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House. Unfortunately, this year we were unable to host our annual Victorian Christmas due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We understand how disappointing this was to visitors and volunteers alike! Many of you have made the Victorian Christmas a family holiday tradition and we take great pride in welcoming you all each and every year.

While a physical gathering was impossible, we wanted to give everyone the opportunity to see the house we love in all of its holiday splendor! We decided to keep the decorations simple and appropriate for the Victorian era. We hope you enjoy!

Let us begin with a quick message and a Civil War era holiday story told in our parlor…

Now, take a quick peek at the parlor decorated for the holidays!

The parlor at Christmas

Our simple tree was decorated with candles, a string of cranberries, dried orange slices, Victorian period candy in cheesecloth, and hand cut paper stars. All of the decorations were hand made, with the exception of the candles.

The “presents” from Saint Nicholas hold significance, as well. Hidden among the childrens’ toys, you may recognize a few of our artifacts under the tree! The cribbage board was made by Dr. Mudd while imprisoned at Fort Jefferson. Additionally, the wooden dolls chairs were made by Ned Spangler when he lived on the farm. He made them for Dr. Mudd’s daughters who placed them under the tree as decorations every Christmas.

Saint Nicholas has arrived! Look at those presents!
The greenery and fruit on the mantel

Per Victorian era custom the flat surfaces, such as the mantels, table tops, and window sills were decorated with greens. We used pine and holly.

Greenery on the window sills
(Please note that we are not permitted to light real candles in the house. We did a few modern electric candles to add to the presentation.)
The pianoforte decorated in holiday greens.

And now, let’s turn our attention to the dining room!

The mantel with greens and Victorian Era Christmas cards
A closeup of the cards. These were from the late 1870s and 1880s. They are privately owned.
Mrs. Mudd’s sideboard decorated for the holidays.
The table is ready for a Christmas feast complete with a wreath of greens and period candies!
Mrs. Mudd’s cruet set and the eucalyptus wreath make a splendid centerpiece!

While we missed each and every one of our volunteers and visitors this season, we hope this was able to remind you of fond memories of Victorian Christmas celebrations gone by. Please consider this as your invitation for 2021!

We would be remiss if we did not extend a sincere thank you to our curator Dorothea Barstow who refused to let the pandemic stop the tradition by making this happen!

The Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Society wishes you all a happy and healthy holiday season! Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

If you enjoy what you see here, please consider donating to the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House Museum! It is simple and easy to help! Just click the “make a donation” button on our home page, or by clicking the link below:

https://www.paypal.com/donate/?hosted_button_id=P3YMNX6MQ465Q

Giving Tuesday 2020 is upon us!

December 1, 2020 is “Giving Tuesday!” Please consider making a donation to the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Society by going to our webpage and clicking on the “make a donation” button. We are a non-profit organization in every sense of the term. Our only source of funds comes from ticket sales and donations. The COVID-19 pandemic kept our doors closed for the entire season and we would love any support you are willing to give. Donations can also be made by check or money order to: The Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Society, Inc. 3725 Dr. Samuel Mudd Road Waldorf, Md. 20601.

As always, we thank you for your continued support and cannot wait to see you in 2021!

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.

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!