||The ghosts of Fells Point
According to the residents, the history of Fells Point comes alive at night. Serving as the port of Baltimore for more than 100 years, it saw many a seaman cross its path in its day. Incorporated into Baltimore City in 1797 and with deep water reaching almost all the way to its shoreline, Fells Point was a natural place for trade. Any area as old as Fells Point is bound to have a great number of stories to accompany its rich history. That history also gives one more thing to its current residents: ghost stories. According to the residents, the ghosts of Fells Point are every bit as present as the living inhabitants.
The Horse You Came In On, a pub on the last street before docks, is rumored to have been one of Edgar Allen Poe’s favorite drinking spots. In fact, one of the female employees, who declined to give her name for superstitious reasons, theorizes that the dark poet, “…had been walking home from The Horse You Came In On when he died”.
She believes it is Edgar Allen Poe’s ghost that resides in this pub. She believes the spirit, which this employee lovingly refers to as “Edgar”, is responsible for strange occurrences throughout the bar.
Aside from having seen the chandelier swing on its own, the bartender also recounts an eerie memory of one morning when she arrived to open the bar and prepare it for the evening. As she walked by the cash register, its drawer opened by itself. She closed the drawer and went about her business. To her surprise, the drawer again opened by itself. Once again, she pushed the drawer closed. Before the bar opened, she would close the drawer twice more in this mysterious exercise.
At the end of her shift as she was leaving, she told the evening bartender about what had happened. To her amazement, he told her that the same thing had happened to him several times in the past.
The employees have since nicknamed their ghost “Edgar” and now speak to him regularly. The female bartender says that when one of these occurrences happens, usually around closing time, she speaks to him, acknowledging his presence. Whatever the source of these phenomena is, the employees at The Horse You Came In On do believe in the existence of spirits, particularly that of the legendary Edgar Allen Poe.
The oldest profession
In 1726 William Fell purchased the land where the small waterfront community of Fells Point still thrives. It served as a main port and shipyard for over 100 years. As such, it attracted shipmen and other working class citizens. These men frequented the brothels of Fells Point. A block and a half east of The Horse You Came In On is another Thames Street establishment, The Cat’s Eye Pub.
During a renovation of The Cat’s Eye Pub, workman found numerous red light switches on the walls. These switches were common in brothels in the early days of the port. When a woman was not occupied with male company, she would flip a switch, that would light a red light bulb. This signal indicated that her “services” were available. This is where the term, “red light district” comes from.
According to some of its patrons, The Cat’s Eye Pub is haunted by several ghosts who lived when the bar was a brothel. According to Paige McClain, one of the employees at The Cats Eye Pub that the locations of the switches were pointed out to her. Those places are now covered up by the dry wall and paint of the renovation. She pointed to a place just below the ceiling of the small front area of the bar. She maintains that patrons and employees hear the loud clicking of the switches engaging and disengaging. Do the girls of the oldest profession still flip the switches and wait for the next of the seamen to see their signal? Paige McClain thinks so.
Stairway to heaven?
On Broadway, the main street of Fells Point, sits The Whistling Oyster. Like many of the bars and shops in Baltimore, The Whistling Oyster operates from the bottom floor of a row house. Before this pub was a pub, it was a home with a flight of stairs leading to its second floor. The pub had no use for the second floor, so the staircase was removed. According to Jane Sellman, a local columnist, patrons and employees still see an apparition ascending a staircase that no longer exists.
Mr. Fell's last call
William Fell's son, Edward Fell, laid the lots and streets of Fells Point. Stories surrounding the ghost of Mr. Fell are unclear as to whether the spirit is that of the father or of the son. Many bar patrons, including Coby Kay Callahan recount stories of seeing a man dressed in 18th century clothing walking the streets of Fells Point.
Callahan tells the story of leaving the bar known as Friends. “Some of my friends bartend at friends. I live three blocks east of Friends and I have to walk east to get home. About 2:30 one morning, I saw this man dressed in funny clothes like you would see in an old picture like from the 18th century”. Callahan was afraid. She felt somewhat protected by her boyfriend Christopher Carter who was walking with her.
The pair walked towards their home in the direction she had seen the man. She caught another glimpse of the man, but this time she saw just the back of him in motion as he walked into an alley. When they reached the alley and looked for the man, there was no one there.
Later that week when Callahan told her friends at the bar about the man, they told her about the local legend of “Mr. Fell”. It is said that late at night after last call, either William or Edward Fell can be seen walking the streets of Fells Point, just the way they might have walked after last call during the days in which they lived in the tiny port town.
Whether you believe in ghosts or not, it is hard not to be swept up in the history of this pretty peninsula. Fells Point exudes a vibrancy born of its colorful beginnings. Some people believe this vibrancy emanates from those who lived in that earlier time; ghosts reaching out and touching the hearts of the living. Others simply love the area for what it is now. No one can deny, however, an appreciation for the oldest port in Baltimore and its eclectic collection of stories and legends.