In November, a new Poe Toaster was chosen from among the Baltimore masses. But it wasn’t time for this mysterious orator to appear, until this month.
While houses where someone died violently tend to take longer to sell (and to go for below their market price), that’s not true of every spooky structure. According to real estate website Redfin, houses near cemeteries generally sell for more per square foot than their non-cemetery-adjacent counterparts. And lucky for us, Baltimore has more for-sale homes near graveyards than any other city in the country.
I’m just going to come out and say it: a city can only coast so long on its Edgar Allan Poe associations. Lucky for us Baltimoreans, there are plenty more exciting dead people to visit around town. Here are a few of our favorite celebrity graves from around town:
Dorothy Parker: Before the New Yorker writer/celebrated wit died in 1967, she bequeathed her estate to Martin Luther King, Jr. — whom she’d never met — because she felt so strongly about the civil rights movement. After King’s assassination a year later, Parker’s estate reverted to the NAACP, thanks to another provision in her will. So, oddly enough, Parker’s ashes are at the organization’s headquarters in Northwest Baltimore. A small memorial garden features a brick circle, a gravesite stand-in for the Round Table at the Algonquin Hotel, one of Parker’s favorite haunts. A nearby plaque includes the epitaph Parker once suggested for herself: Excuse my dust.
Anyone hoping for a scare this Halloween might be tempted to visit Rosewood in Owings Mills, an abandoned mental hospital established in 1888 as an “Asylum and Training School for the Feeble Minded.” My advice is to steer clear, as the property has recently been purchased for development by Stevenson University, and the grounds monitored by constant security, a precaution deemed necessary as the old property has, in the past, been something of a magnet for ghost hunters and urban explorers (there’s a hundred-year-old burial ground from when a flu epidemic hit the hospital). For those intrepid enough, however, the hospital is supposedly haunted, and ghost sightings are not unknown. In fact, according to spook-hunters, the ghost of a woman has been sighted in the third floor window of the main building.
Overcrowded, underfunded, and understaffed throughout its existence, Rosewood was referred to as “Maryland’s Shame” in a 1949 multi-piece article by The Baltimore Sun. After the State Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene merged in 1969, the facility fell into disuse. The main building burned in a 2006 case of arson, and the remains are still fenced off, charred and ruined. The property has recently been purchased by Stevenson, though is as yet undeveloped, partly because the buildings are laden with asbestos, and there’s lead paint within the deteriorating walls and the tunnels that run beneath the buildings. Soil tests have shown evidence of various toxins, including arsenic. When I visited this summer, the old asylum was overgrown, weed-bedecked, and covered in spooky graffiti. Old file cabinets were visible amid the charred remains of what was once the main ward. It’s difficult to imagine that before too long, students will be happily playing Frisbee on the lawns. Will the ghosts of the old hospital walk the halls? We can only wait and see.
“Druid Hill is such a beautiful park,” wrote the author Upton Sinclair, reminiscing about his childhood in Baltimore. Before he was 10, Sinclair read the entire works of Shakespeare in two weeks in Druid Hill Park, and on a walk in the park one winter night he saw a vision of Shelley “on fire with high poetry.” I take my dog to Druid Hill Park every week, and while I’ve yet to see a vision of Shelley, I’ve seen fox, deer, box turtles, and — yesterday morning — a small rat snake. Is it possible some of these reptiles are sneaking out of the zoo?
The Maryland Zoo, of course, is perhaps the park’s central attraction, though it contains many other places to visit, including the Howard Peter Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens, with its historic Palm House and Orchid Room, both built in 1888. There’s also an 18-hole disc golf course, a circular jogging track round the reservoir complete with exercise machines, a swimming pool in summer and a farmer’s market every Wednesday, from 3:30 to 7:30.
Personally, I prefer the more secluded areas of the park, where other pedestrians are few and far between, especially in the early hours of the morning. The northern end of the park, which apparently contains some of the oldest forest growth in the state of Maryland, is a natural wooded habitat. Here, undergrowth covers a crumbling man-made pond, and the roads are closed to traffic. There’s a graveyard in this area too, the burial ground for the Rogers-Buchanan family, whose graves date back to the 1700s.
Interestingly, this isn’t the only burial ground in the three square kilometers that make up this surprising inner city park. St. Paul’s Cemetery, which has recently been cleaned up by volunteers, sits on a knoll between the pedestrian Safety City and a group of seven tennis courts. In fact, the graveyard comes right up against the edge of one of the courts, which makes for a nice juxtaposition, and reminds us of that in the midst of life — even when practicing our backhand — we are in death. Finally, any fans of “The Wire” remember what happened to the body of Wintell “Little Man” Royce, who was killed by Wee-Bay at the end of the first season? That’s right — it was dumped behind the Reptile House, in Druid Hill Park.