Saving the living and the dead in Maryland

Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum
813 South Atlantic Avenue
Ocean City, Maryland

On October 28th, Dead of Night Paranormal Investigations will host an investigation of Ocean City’s former Life-Saving Station. Constructed in 1891, this white, wood frame building housed a keeper and a team of “surfmen” who monitored the local coast for ships in distress. Once a distressed ship was spotted, the team would leap into action and attempt to rescue any souls aboard the vessel. It was dangerous work that sometimes claimed the lives of the rescuers as well as those who they tried to rescue.

Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum, 2014. Photo by Preservation Maryland, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Life Saving Service—organized by the federal government in 1848—was merged into the Coast Guard in 1915 and this building was in service until 1964 when a new structure opened nearby. When the town considered demolishing the building in 1977, locals organized to save the structure and install a museum of local history. Today, packed with local artifacts and memorabilia, the building remains occupied by spirits who flit through the exhibition reminding visitors and staff of the lives that have been led and may have ended in this unassuming building.

Among the many relics is life-sizes rag doll with a grotesque gap-toothed grin known as “Laughing Sal.” Sal once greeted visitors to Jester’s Funhouse, one of the attractions located along the Ocean City Boardwalk. With a terrifying laugh and jerky animatronic movements, Laughing Sal invited visitors into the thrills of the funhouse. When the funhouse closed Sal was stored away, though vandals attempted to destroy the doll, she was restored and returned to greet visitors to the museum. Like Key West’s famous Robert the Doll, Sal continues to frighten visitors and staff alike. While the doll is no longer rigged to move, her disconcerting laugh can be heard by pressing a button in front of her display. However, Sal has been known to laugh when no one is around and when no one has pressed her button.

Laughing Sal’s creepy guffawing is not the only paranormal activity encountered in the old life-saving station. A little, blonde haired boy has been seen running and playing in the museum. Once, as the museum staff was closing, the little boy dashed through the front door into the museum. A staff member pursued the child into the museum, though he had apparently vanished. Despite checking every space a curious child might hide, the staff member could not locate him. The life-saving station has saved many a life and a few spirits as well.


  • Boardwalk Birdie. “Ghost hunting in Ocean City.” com. 11 September 2017.
  • Burgoyne, Mindie. Haunted Ocean City and Berlin. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2014.