October 29, 2007

Ghosts, Spirits and Books at Point Lookout, Md.

"In terms of important historical associations with ghost stories and a grisly past, Point Lookout Lighthouse in St. Mary's County is right up there. It's five stars out of five stars," says Ed Okonowicz, semiretired college professor and Maryland's premier collector of ghost stories, regional folklore and supernatural tales. According to Okonowicz, the lighthouse at the tip of the island has garnered the title of "America's Most Haunted Lighthouse."

According to a story in the Baltimore Sun, the 530-acre site, including the lighthouse, has been a state park since 1962. It was once one of the most feared and notorious Union prisoner-of-war camps, where more than 4,000 Confederate prisoners died during the Civil War. "The tale of the camp," writes Edwin Warfield Beitzell in his book, Point Lookout, Prison Camp for Confederates, "is a horrid story to tell. It is a story of cruel decisions in high places, a story of diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid and typhus, of burning sands and freezing cold in rotten tents. It is a story of senseless shootings by guards. It is a story of the despair and death of 4,000 prisoners, many of whom could have been saved." Beitzell's book was privately published in the mid-1970's and then reprinted by the St. Mary's Historical Association in 1979. Copies seem hard to come by and tend to be priced in the $75 range.

Primary source recollections from Confederates who were imprisoned at Point Lookout also exist and can be quite pricey. Three Years in the Confederate Horse Artillery by George Neese (Neale, 1911), In Vinculis: or, The Prisoner of War by A.M. Keiley (1866), and In Prison at Point Lookout by G.W. Jones (1898) are just three of numerous titles that tell a tale of woe at this infamous Union POW camp. All three of these titles in the first edition command over $100. The Neese book in particular is quite sought after since it is also a Neale Book and is in demand for content that goes well beyond Point Lookout.

They say that Gettysburg is one of the most haunted places in America. Apparently Point Lookout, though not nearly as famous, might give the sleepy Pennsylvania town a run for its money!

1 comment:

Naturalist C said...

The gift store at the Point Lookout State Park Nature Center/Civil War Museum sells copies of Beitzell's book for approximately $38 plus state tax