Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Phantom of O'Donnell Heights

In July of 1951, the east Baltimore district of O'Donnell Heights was prowled by a phantom. The black-robed, black-capped figure made his forays from a graveyard, jumping six-foot fences topped with barbed wire and leaping off of roofs in the manner of the British phantom Spring Heeled Jack, all without leaving a single track or trace. And for the two-week period the ghostly prowler patrolled the streets, late-night music was heard emanating from the graveyard's chapel.

The figure was reported to lurk underneath cars, calling out to young girls, beseeching them to "Come closer, my dear." He also apparently broke into old women's houses, and several people claimed that they heard him running on rooftops. Men armed with clubs, guns, and knives patrolled the streets, attempting to run down the phantom. At one point, they gave chase and the leaping phantom vanished in the graveyard. This was the last he was to be seen. By August, he had vanished as mysteriously as he had appeared.

According to an article on Maryland ghost stories appearing in the Baltimore City Paper, there were instances in which rooftop pipes and German Shepherd dogs were mistaken for the Phantom. There were also numerous instances which saw teenagers causing trouble and blaming it on the Phantom. By August, when the Phantom vanished, the police had begun arresting teenagers trespassing in the graveyard.

Whether the Phantom of O'Donnell Heights was a true Spring-Heel manifestation, a product of mass hysteria, or a real-life criminal given supernatural attributes may never be known.

As a reporter for the Baltimore Sun said on those hot nights during the Cold War,
The question of the prowler of O'Donnell Heights however, continued to be not one of phantoms, but of real people reacting to (and possibly creating) the unknown with their imaginations.

No comments:

Post a Comment