Imagine walking into a building and feeling a sense of dread, hearing the disembodied sounds of children playing and noticing objects move with no explanation, you’d probably think you were in a paranormal horror movie. But if you’ve ever visited the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, those experiences might not sound as crazy as you think.
The haunting of the museum can be traced all the way back to the late 1990s when the building underwent internal construction and renovation. Construction workers claimed they heard sounds of Civil War soldiers screaming, some even said they saw soldiers walk through what would eventually become the galleries. The activity frightened the workers into leaving and being replaced with a new construction team.
“Back when the building was being renovated, the elevator shaft used to be a staircase and allegedly that staircase was the home to a demon which I’ve been told has been excised from the stair well,” said Micheal Mahr, the National Museum of Civil War Medicine Education specialist, “But sometimes the elevator doors will open randomly, and no one will press a button, and no one will be near it and it will open for no apparent reason.”
Mahr added that the camp life gallery and third floor office area are prominent locations of paranormal activity. Bedroom and living areas would’ve been located on the third floor during the 19th century when the building was used as an undertaker and furniture store. The building was also used for embalming deceased Union soldiers.
A previous executive director of the museum, George Wunderlich, supposedly interacted with the spirits on the third floor. “He was up at the museum doing work at around 2 a.m. and he just started hearing kids running around, sounded like they were just playing while he was on the phone with someone,” Mahr said, “He told them to knock it off and to stop playing while he was working, and they just stopped.”
Over a decade ago, the museum allowed a group of paranormal investigators to explore the building at night. A second group, with no connection to the previous one, did the same a couple years later. Neither group wanted any knowledge of what employees had already known about the building’s haunted history before they began their inspection. The two teams determined that the camp life gallery and a door on the first floor were definitive locations with some type of presence.
“I know one of my coworkers refuses to go into our camp life exhibit just because of that one experience that she had where she felt this sense of dread and dark presence in the gallery maybe 10 years ago,” he said.
Mahr said another coworker, “sat down at her desk, she said that her phone was thrown at her, essentially things flying at her in the office she pretty much had to get up and yell at what she believed to be the ghosts of the office to knock it off.”
Each October, the museum offers tours that explore its haunted history. Volunteers and staff share firsthand accounts of the paranormal activity they’ve experienced while touring the galleries. The event also provides exclusive access to the third floor.
“They can expect to hear some of the more of the creepy stories surrounding this museum that people have actually experienced,” Mahr said. “They can also listen to some of the stories that we do not get to tell the general public about civil war medicine. Some of the more gross history of civil war medicine, some of the slightly bloodier history civil war med history, that we can’t really tell in our general tours.”
The National Museum of the Civil War Medicine is at 48 E. Patrick St. in Frederick. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday (Monday-Wednesday by Appointment), and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, go to www.civilwarmed.org.