Dave and Tessie Fitton are your normal couple next door. By day they work for the government, but at night they lead ghost tours in Ellicott City for Howard County Tourism & Promotion and search for answers to the things that go bump in the night.
Tessie, what got you interested in ghosts?
Dave and I both had some unexplained experiences when we were younger. We both are looking for a way to scientifically prove the things we feel and experience. The love of history helped, too. History made the ghosts into people, each with their own story to tell. That makes us want to document them more.
What is the most interesting ghostly encounter you have had recently?
That’s easy. Dave had an encounter in Ellicott City during one of the ghost tours. He was leading a group at one of our stops when a rock flew past his feet from the right to the left as if it had been kicked. When he looked back all the guests were standing on the left side of him so no guest could have kicked the rock.
I have had my own encounters in Ellicott City, too. I was telling a couple about the ghost tours and felt normal. As soon as I started to talk about Louisa the ghost at Tourism, I got very cold on the left side of my body as if she were standing next to me. As soon as I stopped talking about her, the feeling passed quickly.
What’s an investigation like?
Well the beginning is mostly legwork. We research the location and gather information about the claims of activity and about the history of the location. Then we scope out the location during the daylight. Look for any hazards you might miss at night, and pay close attention to the sights, sounds and smells. We even take daylight photographs to help us rule out logical explanations for anything unusual we might see in the dark.
Once dusk starts we begin to set up and take readings like temperature, wind and humidity. We keep the equipment pretty simple so as not to mistake a technological snafu for something more unusual.
The nighttime investigation begins with us walking around getting a sense of the location. As the investigation unfolds we gather hours of both video- and audiotape and lots of photographs. The hardest part is analyzing the data, looking at all the footage, listening to hours of bird or street noises and keeping your focus for the unusual image or sound.
Why are investigations done at night?
Investigations can be done at any time, but night offers you less people to contaminate video or audio footage and less noise to sort through. We have even done investigations indoors where the lights had to remain on.
It was during one of those investigations that we discovered some unusual things in Savage Mill. One of our meters kept going off the chart at the “tripping staircase.” After eliminating all the logical variables like step height, tread wear, disrepair, unshielded electric cables, etc., we could find no logical explanation why people seemed to trip on this staircase or why our meter was going nuts. With no logical explanation left, you have to consider that it might be paranormal.
Have you gotten to investigate many places in Ellicott City?
Not as many as we would like, but the few we have make us want to do more. We are lucky that, as ghost tour guides for Ellicott City, some of our guests on the tour do the “investigating” for us.
Guests take lots of pictures during the tours and sometimes will show us a surprise at the end of the night. One guest took a picture at one of our stops and got the outline of a human framed in one of the glass doors. Another rushed up after the tour to show me a picture of what may have been a face in the window of a museum. Frequently photos show orbs of light or even mist, especially at one particular staircase on Main Street.
Are you like those guys on TV?
Yes and no. We take a slightly different approach. Like the guys on TV, if we find something unusual, we work to find a logical explanation for it. But, unlike the guys on TV, we feel that our intuition is a worthwhile tool to use during an investigation. Our intuition isn’t proof that a place is haunted, but it can definitely help you zero in on “active” places more easily.
Do you believe in ghosts?
Yes we both believe in ghosts. We have had too many experiences that we couldn’t find a “logical” explanation for, and a few of them even happened before we moved to Ellicott City.
For more information on Ghost Tours in Historic Ellicott City and Historic Savage Mill, go to www.visithowardcounty.com.