Look around the Chesapeake Bay watershed this time of year, and you’ll find ghost tours all over the place: Annapolis, Gettysburg and Richmond, to name a few. 

And why wouldn’t there be ghosts here? The Chesapeake region was among the first areas in the United States settled by English colonists. Since that time, the Bay has experienced land-altering and life-taking hurricanes, mysterious shipwrecks, and bloody battles during the nation’s early wars.

Just in time for Halloween, we’ve compiled an eclectic list of hauntings, sightings and purely strange spooks from throughout the Bay watershed. Many of these places would make a perfect outdoor escape this weekend – if you’re brave enough, that is!

Approximately one hundred years ago, Holland Island was a five-mile-long, 300-person fishing community, with more than 60 homes, a church and a doctor.

But then sea level rose – and rose fast. Residents abandoned the island in the 1920s, some of them bringing their homes with them. 

Image courtesy baldeaglebluff/Flickr

Stephen White, a former minister and waterman who first visited Holland Island as a young boy, was inspired to save the island after visiting one of the island’s three cemeteries, where he saw a gravestone that read, “Forget me not, is all I ask.”

White was taking a photograph of the gravestone when he noticed a ghostly girl standing nearby.

Inspired to honor the gravestone inscription, and not let the world forget about this little girl and her home, White launched a massive campaign to save the island, hoping that a donor or the government would assist him. But they didn’t.

Still, White and his wife made it their personal mission, spending hours distributing sandbags to try and stop erosion along the island’s edges.

But last October(2010), the island’s final house fell into the Bay, despite White’s best efforts. Today, two of the island’s three graveyards are reportedly underwater.

More vanished islands: Captain John Smith first described and mapped Sharps Island, once located at the mouth of the Choptank River. A lighthouse built here in the 1880s is now surrounded by more than 10 feet of water. And that’s not nearly the only one: pick up a copy of The Disappearing Islands of the Chesapeake to learn about the dozens of islands that have vanished beneath the Bay’s waters.

Experts say that Smith and Tangier islands – both still inhabited – may be next. Sea level in the Bay is rising faster than the world average due to a warming climate and natural sinking of the land. In Maryland alone, 260 acres of tidal shoreline erode into the Bay each year, drowning these vulnerable islands under more water and burying any historic artifacts (or graves!) that may remain.

by Caitlin Finnerty, Chesapeake Bay PRogram