Wings at Midnight
From Ghosts and Legends of Frederick County by Timothy L. Cannon and Nancy F. Whitmore
Late in the 1800’s, South Mountain House – now a restaurant called the Old South Mountain Inn – located abut twelve miles northwest of Frederick, was poised atop South Mountain much like an old manor seat, then being the only building of any sizes for miles. Grounded in 1732 as an in for weary travelers, this old structure has had an interesting history. It is said that General Edward Braddock, accompanied by a young lieutenant named George Washington, marched his army past this old inn on his way to his death near Fort Duquesne in the French and Indian War. Later, in the 1820’s, it served as a wagon stand and stage coach stop on the National Road, now Alternate Route 40. During the Civil War, the old inn was briefly held as an overnight outpost and staging point for some of John Brown’s followers. Later, it was the headquarters of Confederate General D.H. Hill, during the battle of South Mountain.
South Mountain House, as we shall call it, is not only known for its history but for the strange stories and legends associated with it.
On night, many years ago, after an evening of pleasant conversation, one lady guest at South Mountain House was preparing for bed. It had been a long, wearying day, and the summer night seemed more oppressive than usual. She sat by the window, hoping to catch a last breath of fresh, cool air before retiring. During the day, she had a magnificent view westward over fields which had once witnessed the dreadful scenes of war. Now the fields were dark and quiet.
Suddenly, she was startled by a bright light cast upon the house. Looking up, there was not a star visible, the sky inky black.
She glanced toward the field. Not over fifth yards away stood an apparition, an eight foot tall shrouded figure of human form. There was an eerie atmosphere of bright, white light that surrounded it. Not another look was taken, the window quickly closed.
She noted the time and perceived a sudden chill. It was the exact moment of midnight.
After some initial storytelling, the incident was scarcely spoken of again. The summer passed, and another had succeeded it, when one night the hostess heard a light tapping at her door. She opened it to find one of her guests standing nervously in the doorway.
"I am sorry to disturb you, madam," the woman said, "I have just seen a ghost!"
She was offered a chair, and presently she told her story. She had not been there the summer before; nevertheless, she told practically the same eerie tale. She was standing by the window, when she saw a strange phantom about thirty yards from the house. She hurriedly looked away, but she couldn’t help noticing the strange white light that seemed to emanate from it in all directions.
They agreed not to mention the incident to anyone, as the old English clock struck midnight.
Some weeks later, the lady’s stay at South Mountain House was about to end. She was to leave early the next morning, and the hostess decided to see if anything could be done to make the following days’ mountain drive more comfortable.
The hour was late, and the two ladies were reminded of the mysterious apparition that had appeared twice in succeeding summers. They stood at the same open casement that looked out over the dark, mystic grove, where the phantom had been seen before. Suddenly, involuntarily, on of them leaned out the window and shouted into the darkness, "Who are you? Are you a lost soul?"
Scarcely an instant later, two phosphorescent wings flashed and fluttered wildly in the grove a few yards away. Then, suddenly, the two wings that had brightened the night only a moment before vanished into the darkness.
The ladies hurriedly closed the shutters and spoke of God. At that very moment, the chimes of midnight were again heard from below.
NOTE: The Old South Mountain Inn is the same location for the Midnight Battle story. I'd like to be able to recommend their food to you, but I can't. In 1984 we stopped there seeking a light meal after a visit to the Antietam Battlefield Park. We got my (then) baby son Ulysses Begone in his baby seat and were presented the menus - then went "Yipes!" and left. The food there is expensive. - Jonah