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Pocomoke Forest: Haunting or hoax?

Staff writer Julie Mace uses a dowser pendulum to attempt spiritual communication.

Maryland’s most haunted forest lies only miles away from Salisbury University. The Pocomoke Forest is supposedly home to a haunted church, spirits with tragic origins and various unexplained phenomena.

Author and Chesapeake Ghost Tours operator Mindie Burgoyne explained the historical connection between recorded paranormal activity and dense woodlands.

“Forests have always been [an] otherworldly place [halfway in another] dimension” throughout folklore. Halloween, fairies and elemental stories stem from this other dimension, according to Burgoyne.

Does the Pocomoke Forest lead to this other dimension? Do any stories from centuries of haunted history ring true?

I was determined to discover the truth.

The Flyer’s staff and videographer Tim Gordon of TAG’d Film Productions visited four locations throughout the Pocomoke Forest on Oct. 21. These areas were publicly accessible 24 hours per day, according to Maryland Forest Service Forest Manager Mike Schofield.

The original cemetery of the Old Nazareth "Heavy Bible Church."

First, we visited the cemetery near the original site of the Old Nazareth Church.

Stories tell of a Bible becoming heavier when carried away from the church’s altar and towards the exit, according to Chesapeake Ghost Tours.

The building was relocated to Furnace Town Historical Site. Our team investigated the Pusey Branch Trail near the church’s original site and cemetery.

The team explores the woods near the original site of the Old Nazareth Church.

The team used a dowsing pendulum to attempt communication with ghostly entities. This paranormal tool supposedly “[swings] in a particular direction for [spirits to answer] yes and in another direction for no,” according to Haunted Happenings.

Results were inconclusive with the pendulum at our first location. However, a nearby guttural scream interrupted our activities. It turned out to be a Blue Heron call.

Some members of the team were not convinced nature could produce such a sound.

The Furnace Town Historical site entrance.

Next, we investigated Furnace Town.

Furnace Town was operated by the Maryland Iron Company in the 1800s. About 300 people lived in the area and worked mines and iron furnaces until bankruptcy struck in 1850, according to Furnace Town Historical Site.

The spirit of former Furnace Town resident Sampson Harmon and his cat supposedly haunt the area.

Harmon lived 107 years before passing away in Snow Hill in 1897. “His final wish of being buried at [Furnace Town] was never granted and instead he was buried in Snow Hill,” according to Furnace Town Historical Site.

The relocated Old Nazareth "Heavy Bible Church" in Furnace Town.

The historical area was closed to visitors, but the nearby Yellow Loop Trail operated by the Maryland Forest Service is also supposedly haunted by Harmon and his cat.

Some of our team initially believed we sighted Harmon’s cat while hiking the trail. However, it ended up being a deer that emerged.

Before departing, our team observed the Furnace Town site from outside its perimeter fence and attempted spiritual communication with the pendulum.

The tool swung heavily in the yes direction when asked if there were any spirits present. I observed no wind or significant movement interfering with the pendulum.

The pendulum again swung toward yes and a loud bang was heard from within the site when we asked if the spirit wanted us to leave. The team obliged the supposed spirit’s request and quickly returned to our vehicles.

The next stop near the Cellar House was the climax of our paranormal journey.

This historic house holds a chilling legend within its walls and surrounding woodlands.

“A sea captain returned early from [an expedition] to find his new bride pregnant [at the house] with a local [man’s child] from Pocomoke City,” according to the Cellar House Farm webpage.

The sailor banished the mother from the Cellar House.

The mother and her newborn son returned in a raft years later to beg forgiveness from the sailor. However, the raft overturned and she lost her son in the Pocomoke River.

The sailor murdered the returned mother via repeated stabbings in the house’s master bedroom, according to the Cellar House Farm webpage.

He supposedly haunts the surrounding woods and warns visitors to stay away by leaving handprints on cars. The mother’s cries for her lost son can also be heard in the forest, according to Haunted Eastern Shore: Ghostly Tales from East of the Chesapeake.

The Milburn Landing Trail near the woods outside the Cellar House.

We walked the Milburn Landing Trail through woods within a few miles of the Cellar House.

Multiple team members felt uneasy and a few heard distant female cries on the trail.

Communication via the pendulum supposedly revealed the sailor was in our presence.

A handprint found on the team's vehicle in the woods near the Cellar House.

Handprints were observed on our vehicles upon returning from the trail.

The handprints were larger than other team members’ and left a stronger impression on the window than those who tried to replicate the prints.

However, one team member remained with the vehicles while others hiked the trail. The member did not claim responsibility for the handprints.

I remain skeptical regarding the marks’ origins.

Finally, we visited the East Creek Bridge on Tulls Corner Road.

Three-year-old Annie Conner died on the bridge in 1875 from a horse cart accident during a storm. Locals have reportedly heard her cries on site, according to Chesapeake Ghost Tours.

A somber tone fell over the team during the visit.

Conner’s tragic death has been supported by relatives and her grave at St. Paul’s Cemetery in Marion Station, according to Chesapeake Ghost Tours.

No signs of communication occurred at the location. No cries were heard. Only wind disturbed the still silence on the bridge.

The Pocomoke Project Team

What did I learn from the investigation? Did The Flyer really contact spirits from beyond?

It is difficult to scientifically evaluate the origin of paranormal experiences.

The brain can “sometimes [find] meaning in meaningless things” through pareidolia, according to Science News for Students.

Furthermore, I could not find scientific support for dowser pendulums and other methods of communicating with the deceased.

The Pocomoke Forest is home to centuries of tragic legends. Some may hold truth. Others could be fiction passed through generations.

Beyond somewhat unexplainable occurrences, I do not believe The Flyer encountered or communicated with any spirits.

However, the area is loaded with folklore for students to research and legally investigate to decide for themselves.

Keep an eye out on our website for an upcoming video and podcast about the Pocomoke Forest.



Editorial editor

Featured photos by Brad Boardman

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