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Haunted Eastern Shore: Ghostly Tales

St. Paul's Cemetery near Rock Hall - Kent County, MD
The ghost of Tallulah Bankhead

Historic St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is located near Chestertown. It was built in 1713 in a grove of oak trees on land offered by a local businessman. It is one of the oldest churches on the Eastern Shore and has a stunningly beautiful if not spooky churchyard. While most of the graves date from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, there are earlier graves, most of which lay close to the church building. The church is located off Sandy Bottom Road. Upon entering the parking lot, the visitor can’t help but notice the 120 foot high swamp chestnut tree that sits just at the path leading up to the church. The tree is believed to be over 400 years old. It is 23 feet, 7 inches in circumference and approximately 10 feet thick. The 90 foot canopy created by its spread of branches nearly shades the entire parking lot.

Despite the age of the church and graves, the entire 19 acre parcel is tidy and well kept, with an aura of “sacredness” about it. The church is currently home to an active faith community – apparent by the personal attention given to the buildings and holy ground around them. The sacred graveyard is set on a millpond and heavy with forty different species of trees that include majestic pines, firs, magnolias, oaks, maples and cedars. Peeking out under their shaded branches are flowering dogwoods, azaleas, boxwood and ornamental trees. Wandering among the graves is like walking through a forest with the deep shade and strong, but comforting sound of birds. There are two Confederate and three Union soldiers buried here. One remarkable grave near the church is that of Daniel Cohen who died in 1727.

His headstone clearly reads:

Behold and see where I now lye;
As you are no, so once was I;
As I am now, so you must be;
Therefore prepare to follow me.

Though St. Paul’s is famous for its trees, it historic church building and its well kept cemetery, it’s also famous for one of its “sleeping” residents – movie star Tallulah Bankhead. Born in 1902 in Huntsville Alabama, Tallulah ended up at St. Paul’s for her final rest because her closest living relative, her sister Eugenia, lived in Rock Hall. The two sisters eternally rest side by side at the Northeastern corner – the newer section – of the cemetery. Tallulah was a member of a political family, her father serving in Congress as Speaker of the House, and her grandfather and uncle both serving as US Senators. At age 15 she won a beauty contest, then headed for New York where she became famous not only for acting, but for her infectious personality, raucous behavior, fast life, salty language and outspokenness.

It was well known that Tallulah used drugs and alcohol to excess. Her biography states that she smoked over 100 cigarettes a day. One famous quote attributed to Ms. Bankhead is, “Cocaine, habit forming? Of course not, I ought to know, I’ve been using it for years.” It is also known that Tallulah had a fondness for children, having several foster children from other countries that she corresponded with and sent gifts and money. By 1968, she had emphysema and went to stay with her sister, Eugenia in Rock Hall. She stayed in a cottage on Eugenia’s property and became more depressed as her illness progressed. She returned to her home in New York, contracted the Asian flu, and her frail body couldn’t fight it. She died at age 66. Eugenia brought her body back to Kent County and buried Tallulah in St. Paul’s cemetery. Eugenia died eleven years later and was buried beside her tragic sister. The slabs are identical – only the names and dates being different.

Some people in Chestertown told me that when they were young there was a haunted story attached to Tallulah Bankhead’s grave. It was said that if you went down to St. Paul’s cemetery at night and lay down on Tallulah’s grave with your ear pressed to the slab, you could hear the dead Hollywood star singing. According to these folks (who were in their 40s), many a young person pressed an ear to the slab, and many of those miraculously heard a her lyrical singing voice. Oddly, Tallulah was not known for singing or having a lyrical voice. Her voice was raspy and harsh, and memorialized in her reference to many persons as “dah-lings” due to her self-proclaimed inability to remember names. Lyrical or not – her voice has been heard and living persons have personally given me this testimony.

I went to St. Paul’s to investigate and research the Tallulah Bankhead supposed “enchanted” grave. But I couldn’t find the grave. I arrived on a Saturday, so no one was in the office. I searched for two hours through headstones and markers and couldn’t find it. So I approached the Church to see if it was open so I could sit down and think of what to do. It was open. It was lovely with its rich wood and stained glass windows and the most beautiful light fixtures – a converted gas chandelier. I just sat and thought a minute. Where would the grave be? How could I find it? After a few minutes it occurred to me look at the far end in the new section. I had assumed Tallulah’s grave would be in with the older markers. I was motivated. I rose from the pew, walked to the door, reached for the knob …and the door opened … on its own …without my touching the knob. Almost as if someone was on the other side of the door opening it for me. I wasn’t frightened, rather I was comforted. It was as if I had a friend leading me. .....


More tales can be found in Haunted Eastern Shore: Ghostly Tales East of the Chesapeake ... be sure to get a copy.

Big Lizz | Capt. Leonard Tawes  |  Crisfield Tales   |  Hanging Tree  |  Hope House  | Kitty Knight House  |   Patty Cannon  |  Richardson Maritime Museum   |  Marshall Price -Murder of Sallie Dean  |  Shoal Creek Manor  |  St Paul's Cemetery - Rock Hall   |  Tales From Down Below, Lower Dorchester  |  Two Haunted Tales from Somerset  |  Whitemarsh Cemetery  |  Willson's Chance - Ghost of Annie Belle Carter  |  Wish Sheppard - Caroline Jail

Haunted Eastern Shore by Mindie Burgoyne

Haunted Eastern Shore
Ghostly Tales from East of the Chesapeake
by Mindie Burgoyne

ISBN: 1596297204
PRICE: $17.99
160 Pages
Published by History Press
Haunted America series

Order Your Copy Today
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Book Description:

They walk beside the murky waters of the Chesapeake Bay, linger among the fetid swamps and roam the manor halls. These are the tormented souls who refuse to leave the sites of their demise. From pitiless smugglers to reluctant brides, the ghostly figures of the Eastern Shore are at once terrifying and tragic. Mindie Burgoyne takes readers on a spine-tingling journey as she recounts the grisly events at the Cosden Murder Farm and the infamous legend of Patty Cannon. Tread the foggy lanes of Kent Manor Inn and linger among Revolutionary War dead to discover the otherworldly occupants of Maryland's most haunted shore.

Haunted sites mentioned in the book include:

  • Cecil County - Holly Hall, Old Bohemia, Mitchell House

  • Kent County - Cosden Murder Farm, White House Farm, St. Paul's Cemetery & Bridge, Kitty Knight House

  • Queen Anne's County - Bloomingdale, Kent Manor Inn

  • Caroline County - The Tale of Wish Shepherd, The Murder Sallie Dean, Athol - a Child's Ghost in Henderson, Willson's Chance

  • Talbot County - The Lost City of Dover, Whitemarsh Cemetery, The Wilderness, Tunis Mills Hanging Tree

  • Dorchester County - Shoal Creek Manor, Patty Cannon's Trail of Tears, Suicide Bridge, Green Briar Swamp & Big Lizz, Tales From Down Below

  • Wicomico County - The Ghost Light Road

  • Worcester County - Cellar House, the Snow Hill Inn

  • Somerset County - Ananias Crockett's House, Holland's Island, Vance Miles House.

Tales include narratives given to Salisbury University Folklore students thirty years ago, describing hauntings, ghosts and legends of the Eastern Shore.

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