S.E. Schlosser,
Spooky Maryland
(Globe Pequot, 2007)

In Spooky Maryland, author S.E. Schlosser brings us Maryland's storied history through a detailed look at its legend and lore. The first bloodshed of the Civil War occurred here during the Baltimore Riot in 1861 and, after assassinating Lincoln, it was to the Maryland countryside that John Wilkes Booth originally fled and was hidden by Confederate sympathizers. Schlosser gives us much to consider as we investigate the rich heritage of Maryland. Most intriguing are the tales she weaves around real historical events, and those that look through the eyes of a ghost.

In "The Well," a young confederate soldier recalls his last battle, the battle to keep Fox's Gap, as he reflects upon his experiences after death. He ponders how he has become rooted to one spot, waking night after night with an uncontrollable compulsion to make the same trek again and again as he longs for freedom.

In "Traitor," we look through the eyes of Mrs. Mary Surratt, who was hanged as a co-conspirator to Lincoln's assassination, as she reflects on her memories of happier times, days of laughter and camaraderie. Her memories are blurred now. She is confused, and is unsure of how she came to the place she is in now. Had she assisted the assassins? Now, she is uncertain.

In "Dawn's Early Light," we look through the eyes of a modern-day visitor to Fort McHenry, who is compelled to visit the fort after learning that the battle here in 1814 inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the words to "The Star Spangled Banner." As our visitor, who I like to imagine is the author, steps into the interior of the fort, she is no longer blinking in the bright sunlight. She has been transported back to the night of September 13-14, 1814, the Battle of Baltimore, as a thousand brave American soldiers hold off the British who were attacking from the bay. After a night of heavy artillery exchange, she sees that, as dawn breaks, the American flag flying over the fort has indeed survived the night.

Spooky Maryland brings us an interesting blend of history and folklore. Ghosts, ghouls, pirates and the devil abound in the legends of Maryland. Schlosser's ability to invent and craft an engaging short story around a fantastic legend, no matter how implausible, is a refreshing way of looking at legend and lore. Lovers of both history and a well-told tale will enjoy this interesting collection. However, the reader must keep in mind that Schlosser's Spooky States series is pure folklore. If you are looking for true, contemporary ghost stories complete with eye-witnesses, look elsewhere. If you enjoy a tale born solely of legend and lore and crafted by a master raconteur, you'll find it here.

book review by
Lee Lukaszewicz

14 April 2012

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