The Best Ghost Towns to Visit in Maryland

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This guide to St. Mary’s College, Harmony Grove, Kempton, and Marion highlights some of the best abandoned architecture and slices of life from ghost towns in Maryland. 
In Maryland, you’ll find some of the nation’s best crab, historic churches and libraries, and, of course, that Baltimore charm. And for those wondering—Maryland has its share of ghost towns and legends of hauntings.
Here to provide a guide to the stories and highlights of these four abandoned sites is your personal car insurance shopper and top-rated broker Jerry.     

St. Mary’s College

Yellow and red building, cloudy sky, powerlines overhead
Old Ellicott City, Maryland

What is the story of St. Mary’s College?

The seminary of St. Mary’s College was founded in 1862. It was home to priesthood-bound students for over a hundred years, until 1972. At that point, there was simply not enough enrollment and the institution shut down. 
In the early 1980s, an investor bought the property, hoping to convert it into apartments, but the proposal failed. Again in 1988 an attempt to revive the property in some way fell through. 
This was largely because the abandoned site had become a hotspot for bored teenagers and the activities that follow them—especially vandalism. Rumors began circulating about “Hell House” and the suspicious activity therein.
The building was officially abandoned during the ’90s until it burned down on Halloween of 1997. St. Mary’s skeleton loomed a little longer until 2006 when the old college was officially demolished. 
Today, visitors can find old staircases and graffiti in the forest. Rumors abound that St. Mary’s is haunted, including a popular legend that its domed altar was the site of satanic rituals during its abandonment. 

What makes St. Mary’s College special?

The current reputation of St. Mary’s College is more urban legend than fact—and it’s up to you whether Hell House is so named because of the supernatural or the super-mischievous. 
The famous Hell House Altar where demonic rituals allegedly took place may be gone (pictures here), but you can still enjoy:
  • Old Ellicott City, the historic shopping and restaurant district where St. Mary’s students may have gathered. Other great historical sites include the Patapsco Female Institute, a revolutionary school that taught women the sciences in the 19th century. 
  • A second ghost town, the old mill town of Daniels, in Ellicott. You’ll find an abandoned Catholic and Pentecostal church, among other fading structures. 
  • Patapsco Valley State Park, where you can hike or kayak along the Patapsco River, which was visible to residents of St. Mary’s and Daniels.  

How to visit St. Mary’s College

You can access the site of St. Mary’s on foot. In Ellicott City, drive to either the intersection of Ilchester Road and River Road or find where Hilltop Road meets Buzzard’s Rock Trail
If you park at Ilchester and River Road, take the railroad bridge and find the second set of stairs in the woods.
If you go to Buzzard’s Rock Trail, you can walk along it to view the site from above.

Harmony Grove

Red crossed wooden frame of a covered bridge
Covered Bridge, Maryland

What is the story of Harmony Grove?

Harmony Grove was a bustling mill town connected by a train station and post office. It’s unclear whether economic downturn or something more sinister happened, but the mill closed down, prompting residents to leave in the 1960s. The post office shut down as well.
Today, Harmony Grove has been incorporated into greater Frederick County. Brick homes with a Harmony Grove zip code are still sold and inhabited. 
You can find some of the old foundations, including the post office, railroad tracks, and the Spring Bank Inn, which visitors claim is haunted. 

What makes Harmony Grove Special?

You can still find some of Harmony Grove’s original foundations, and the Spring Bank Inn area is preserved as a historical site. If you want to get a feel for the area’s past and present, check out:
  • The old post office, railroad tracks, and supposedly haunted bed and breakfast
  • Three beautiful covered bridges, which are all registered as National Historic Places
  • Abundant Civil War history, including a National Civil War Medicine Museum and a Gettysburg Military Park Museum

How to visit Harmony Grove

You can find some of the ruins of old Harmony Grove by taking Wormans Mill Road as it runs parallel to US-15. Look for the Spring Bank Farm historical landmark, which is still inhabited by a descendant of the original landowners.
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Kempton

Rocky waterfalls, gentle sloping wooded hills behind, cloudless sky
Potomac Falls, Maryland

What is the story of Kempton?

The town of Kempton revolved around its mine—the Davis Coal and Coke mining company owned and administered the town, and miners even used company currency to buy goods at the company-run town store. 
Residents had access to a town school, church, bowling alley, and theater. 
However,  everything went downhill in 1950. The miners went too far—literally. They accidentally hit the water table underground, which flooded the town. The cemetery was one of the only places not destroyed.
The massive flood wreaked environmental havoc on the nearby area, too. The shale exposed from the mining leeched elements into the Potomac River for decades after the catastrophic event. Eventually, the state of Maryland buried the shale with limestone and then covered the area with sod.
Today, all that remains of Kempton is the cemetery, ruins of the company store, and perhaps a few dilapidated houses. A Kempton man named Brad Corbin returned to his birthplace in retirement and represented the town’s former residents until his death in 2018. 

What makes Kempton special?

Kempton is an old Appalachian mining town with an interesting history. Straddling the border of Maryland and West Virginia, it gives a window into a different type of Maryland history than a typical East Coast fishing or colonial town. 
To get a feel for the area, explore some of the surrounding nature:

How to visit Kempton

You can drive along W Kempton Rd and follow the Potomac Headwaters upon which the mine relied for waste disposal. 
If you go west into West Virginia, you can find the designated Headwaters of the North Fork of the Potomac in Eglon. 
If you go east and turn right at a large fork, you can take Kempton Road to its end and try to spot some still-standing houses.

Marion

Doggy in the sand and dry grass, piece of driftwood to the right
Janes Island, Maryland

What is the story of Marion?  

Marion’s claim to fame is the color red—and we don’t mean anything related to foul play; it’s the sweetness of ruby-colored strawberries! 
Well, you could say that strawberries were the town’s lifeblood. Marion was the strawberry capital of the world, with trains running every day to bring the town’s delicious fruit to larger cities. 
The strawberry industry simply declined in the 1950s, and Marion was all but abandoned when the fruit stopped bringing in cash. Luckily, the area has lived on as farmland. 
Academics from New Jersey universities started an organic vegetable farm in Marion in 1983 that has since grown into the largest on the east coast!  
Today, you can find the old railroad station, bank, and several restaurants and houses which are operated by a single owner. 

What makes Marion special?

From being the strawberry capital of the world to the East Coast’s largest organic vegetable farm, Marion’s history has revolved around produce. Today, you can find:
  • Various farms, including Quindocqua vegetable farm, which is on the site of Marion’s Old Maddox Farm and may give tours to the public.
  • History-filled Chesapeake Ghost Tours (off Charles Cannon Rd) 
  • Janes Island State Park, which features unique marshland, secluded beaches, and hiking trails (10-minute drive west from Marion Station) 
  • Fishing and crabbing opportunities in East Creek or Nanticoke River

How to visit Marion

The old Marion post office and remaining architecture can be found near modern Marion Station
To access the area from Baltimore, take I-97 S, US-301 N/US-50 E, and US-13 S to MD-413 S in Westover. Then follow MD-413 S to MD-667 W in Marion Station. The drive is two and a half hours.

Find affordable car insurance

If you’re thinking about hitting several ghost towns in a single road trip—not to mention taking a hike up into the Appalachian Mountains—make sure your vehicle is protected with the right car insurance. 
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