Sunday, July 11, 2010


12. Do the Fells Point Ghost Walking tour.

So last night I managed to convince my neighbor Tassie to go on the Fells Point Ghost Walking PUB tour with me. I figured this would be a bit more fun than just the original walking tour, as alcohol tends to make everything more interesting. Being a relatively new resident of Baltimore I thought she'd be a great choice to come along. Fortunately it didn't take too much convincing since I was able to promise history, ghosts and beer.

Me trying to look "spooky."

Ever since I heard about this tour several years ago I wanted to do it and thought it would be fun, but worried that it would be too touristy. While in London years back I did the Jack the Ripper walking tour and loved hearing some ghost tales in my own backyard sounded even more enticing--and it was. We had about 20 or so folks in our group, and about two-thirds were tourists. The rest claimed to be Baltimore residents. Tassie says it was about a 50/50 split or tourists to Baltimorons, but she didn't even identify herself either way, so we'll take my estimate over hers.

The tour started at 7pm and lasted about 3 hours. Our fearless leader, Cliff, (pictured above) started off explaining the difference between spirits and ghosts...spirits, he explained, are people who have passed on into "whatever comes next." They may come back to watch over us or guide us, but they are aware they are no longer of this earth and mean us no harm. Ghosts, on the other hand, are "stuck" between the physical world and the afterlife. In most cases, they were people who met their demise in a violent or tragic manner...they continue to repeat the same routine they did while alive because they are unable to pass on. They don't realize that they are no longer alive. They continue to go through their normal paces....and sometimes we
"encounter" them...MUAHAHAHAHA!

Cliff took us through 4 popular Fells Point pubs--the Whistling Oyster, Duda's, The Horse You Came in On, and the Wharf Rat. I've been to all of these pubs at some point or another in the past 8 years of my life, but never did I know of the fantastic tales that Cliff spun. Stories of haunted fireplaces, polka mysteriously playing on jukeboxes, wine glasses falling of their glass racks for no reason, knives flying out of a kitchen, and old pub owners (who were no longer alive) appearing to new barstaff and patrons. In some cases, the current pub owners and barstaff nodded along with Cliff, confirming his stories and adding their own experiences with the ghosts.

During each stop we had plenty of time to sit down, have a beer or a quick snack, and pick Cliff's brain. In addition to being the host with the most in the Fells Point Ghost Walking Tour, he is also a history professor at a local community college. He may even be a mall Santa during the holidays, I don't know for sure, but the man was pretty amazing and lots of fun.

My favorite story on the walk was actually about my favorite pub in Fells Point---the Horse You Came in On. I learned that it is, in fact, the oldest saloon in Baltimore, serving its guests since 1775. It's the only bar in Maryland to exist before, during and after prohibition (scandalous!) and it's the 7th oldest pub in the United States---though they claim to be the oldest continually operated pub in the U.S.

The best part? Edgar Allan Poe himself used to frequent this pub, and it is said that it was at this very pub that Poe staggered out and collapsed in the street before later dying at a nearby hospital. A sign inside the Horse (and on their website) boasts: "Our Most Famous Patron: Edgar Allan Poe, Jan 19, 1809 - Oct 7, 1849." Fan-freakin-tastic!

In between pubs Cliff would continue to showcase his vast knowledge of all things Fells Point. He walked us down Shakespeare street to show us the Fell Family Cemetery where founder William Fell is actually buried. I've walked past this street many times and never knew it was there! He also explained the history of Bethel Street, which was once the heart of the red-light district in Baltimore. After the use of red lights was banned in the city, the ladies found other ways to "advertise" their business and hung their petticoats on clotheslines between the narrow streets---yielding the nickname Petticoat Way.

It seems Baltimore's always been prone to our current "red light district" on Baltimore Street is referred to as "the Block."

We learned why Thames Street is pronounced "Tames" instead of the correct English pronunciation of "Tems." Apparently the aristocracy back in the day voted to pronounce it as "Tames" as their own little middle finger to the British.

For reasons I will not go into in this post, Tassie like this part best. :)

When the tour was over Cliff thanked us kindly and we all offered up tips and drinks for him. He certainly earned it, if for no other reason, for surviving a three hour walk in layers and layers of HOT black clothing (including gloves and walking stick!) in the sticky July Baltimore heat. Tassie and I grabbed some crab dip and hushpuppies (and more beers, of course) and then hung out in Fells Point for the rest of the evening. Overall a great time was had by all.

I definitely learned more about my little city with this 30 Before 30. I'll always be a hometown girl, but I tend to stay away from the "touristy" features my city has to offer. I learned how very fun it can be to be a tourist in your own city once in awhile. Go out and learn about where you live. You'll be glad you did.


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