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!
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.
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.
And now, let’s turn our attention to the dining room!
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:
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!
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.”
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 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.”
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 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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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!
In October 2020, the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House Museum was featured in the mid-Atlantic edition of Southern Living magazine as having one of “the South’s Best Ghost Stories.” As you know, most of our efforts rightfully focus on the rich history that unfolded on our property. Since we were highlighted in the magazine and with Halloween just around the corner, we could not help but have a little fun and share some of the supernatural stories that originate with our site.
Throughout the years, we have heard of many “encounters” happening at the House. While many of these stories seem a bit far-fetched, there are a few that have resonated throughout the life of the museum and hold a special place in our history. In fact, one of these stories allegedly led to the creation of the museum itself! Throughout the week, we will try to share a few of the spooky tails of the museum.
The first story we’ll share was the one highlighted in the Southern Living article. It was a favorite of Danny Fluhart, the Society’s second president, who often shared it with inquisitive visitors. The story focuses on one of the rope beds in the front upstairs bedroom called the “Booth Room,” due to its most infamous occupant. Legend holds that despite how tightly tucked the sheets and coverlet are in the evening, a human impression can clearly be seen in the bed by morning. While some see this as the natural settling of an old bed, others see it as the spirit of John Wilkes Booth returning to the room he occupied just hours after committing his horrific crime. Regardless of what you believe, the story has been shared in several publications through the years and is one that many visitors know and about which they inquire during tours.
Many thanks to Southern Living magazine for sharing our story!
Thank you for reading and stay tuned for more Spooky Tales from the Dr. Mudd House!
 “The South’s Best Ghost Stories,” Southern Living, October, 2020.