A “non-stop jazz spook”—Baltimore, MD

The Evening Sun (Baltimore, Maryland)
June 12, 1923 

“GHOST” HOLDS SWAY AS DOUBTERS FLEE

Family Moves From Dulaney
Street House And Schemes
To Lay Spook Fail. 

A “spook” thought to be the spirit of a departed long-distance dancer, has visited the house at 2630 Dulaney street and has driven the tenants away, residents of the block say.

Those who have gone to the house to scoff have departed very suddenly when the “haunt” came forth and gave visible demonstrations of its power, and today the ghostly visitor from the nether world reigns supreme.

Mr. and Mrs. John Welk, who moved into the house from Woodberry six months ago, have been driven out. Residents of the block who have seen strange things happen in the house are inclined to agree with them, and neighbors tread softly as they walk past the deserted house at night.

Non-Stop Jazz Spook.

But though the “ghost” haunts the house, it, too, seems ill at ease, as though it is doing penance. For as it does its stuff it groans mournfully, and the sight of a shoe seems to exercise an unbreakable power over it.

This has caused some to think that it is the ghost of a long-distance dancer who passed out after shuffling for 167 hours and who is doomed as punishment to shuffle for an eternity on the Elysian fields.

Mrs. Welk first became conscious of its presence when a pair of shoes she left on the floor started to shuffle wearily about the room, while heart-rending groans emanated from somewhere in the empty space where the person in them should have been.

Nor is it only Mrs. Welk’s shoes which are moved by the unseen ghost. According to neighbors, it is perfectly impartial and say shoes which are places in the building are seized with a desire to get somewhere else.

This includes not only unattached shoes, but those on the feet of investigators. Persons who have, in a calm and scientific spirit, sought to plumb the depths of the visitations have found that their shoes have suddenly carried them out of the house when the manifestations commenced.

Robert Mason, 2611 Dulaney street, was one of the scoffers who tried to show up the ghost. A pair of shoes were placed on the first floor as bait, and presently they began to move without any visible shanks in them. They moved to the accompaniment of a low moan, and at the same time a sweater which had been placed in the shoes was thrown a foot away.

Goose flesh began to appear on the backs of the necks of the investigators, but they stayed to see what would happen. A moment of shivery silence passed and then Mrs. Welk suddenly screamed, “There he is!”

A shadow appeared on the wall, a shadow which Mrs. Welk declared was the spirit of her dead father. But, unlike Hamlet, she did not stay to converse with it.

“Come with me,” said a hollow ghostly voice.

For a moment the group stood unable to move. Then their shoes got restless and they went out the front door.

George Pettingill, a carpenter, 2638 Dulaney street, is another who tried to lay the ghost. He piled up more shoes then six ghosts could wear in the middle of the floor and put some of his tools on them to weight them down. Suddenly the tools were scattered to the corners of the room and to the cadence of the same lugubrious groans, the shoes began to waltz. Everybody seemed satisfied with this and left.

_____

Dulaney Street lies southwest of downtown Baltimore, just off US 1 in a neighborhood called Mill Hill. Looking on Google Maps, it appears that the house where this haunting took place is no longer standing. The street is derelict with many of the town homes boarded up. A residence that was once a neighbor to 2630 still stands and appears to be occupied by tenants.

Dance marathon 1923
Dancers participate in a marathon 20 April 1923. Photo by the National Photo Company, courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

This article is interesting, not only in documenting this strange phenomenon, but in linking it to a “long-distance” dancer. It seems that the article is referring to the dance marathons that were popular in the 1920s. In these marathons, couples danced for as long as they could endure. As long as the couple remained moving, they were still in the running and rules sometimes allowed one partner to sleep, while the other remained dancing. The article notes that this particular dancer danced for 167 hours, which is more than six days, which was possible. The current record for marathon dancing, according to Guinness World Records, for an individual is 124 hours and for a pair is a mere 41 hours. Dancers setting records before the advent of Guinness World Records, which was first published in 1951, have not been included.

Sources

  • Dance marathon. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 27 December 2020.
  • “Ghost” holds sway as doubters flee. The Evening Sun. 12 June 1923.
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