Home & Living

Five Real-Life Baltimore Haunted House Stories

Locals share their true encounters with ghosts, demons, and everything in between.
—Illustrations by Evangeline Gallagher

There are lots of reasons for ghosts to stick around Baltimore. There are the historic battles (the War of 1812), the famous people from here who made their name in the macabre (Edgar Allan Poe), the notable cemeteries (like Green Mount), and just the simple fact that it’s old (1729)!

Charm City has never shied away from its ghost stories—just look at the number of people on ghost tours and haunted pub walks. But it’s one thing to know a ghost roams your favorite bar, and quite another to share a bedroom with one.

We talked to five people willing to tell us about their true encounters with ghosts, demons, and everything in between. A word of warning: Some of these stories are not for the faint of heart.


Rachael Avara Child grew up with a ghost. It first made itself known by playing the piano in the middle of the night—waking her parents from a deep sleep. When they went to investigate, there was, of course, no one there. That was just the beginning.

Over the next 16 years, her childhood home in Upperco would be the site of the much unexplained activity. In 1994, when her family first moved to the single-family home in northern Baltimore County, Child was four and her brother, Josh, was two. The structure, already 81 years old at that point, was big and sturdy, with three levels, a small porch, and that piano which came with the home.  Over the years, an addition was put on, but the unusual noises were always limited to the original part of the home. “The piano was the intro to everything,” says Child, 34, who now lives in Ft. Lauderdale.

More things started to happen that left her unsettled, but she never felt unsafe being home alone. “It wasn’t something that was trying to hurt us. We think it was a spirit child. Very child-like in nature. Televisions would turn on, the washing machine turned on by itself.” Her brother, maybe because he was the youngest in the house, seemed the most susceptible to activity. “His bedroom had such a weird vibe in there,” says Child, who shared the room with Josh for a few years.

—Courtesy of Rachael Avara Child

Once, Child woke up from a deep sleep feeling someone touch her back. When she turned, she saw two eyes looking at her. “I was probably six or seven—there were glowing eyes at the foot of my bed.”  Even her dad, who was a skeptic about the whole thing, admitted that Josh’s room “didn’t sit well with him.” Her mother, sick in bed one day, woke up to the feeling of someone jumping on the bed. She yelled out, “Please stop. I don’t feel well.” And it did.

During her parents’ divorce, when she was in her early 20s, Child said the activity picked up. Josh heard someone humming a lullaby. The attic door would open when no one was around. Child remembers straightening her hair and out of the corner of her eye seeing a long-skirted figure going by her bed. The cat spun around and stared. “You know something is going on when an animal acts weird,” she says.

Another time, someone pulled one of Josh’s dreadlocks. He whipped around, only to see an empty room. That felt cruel, not playful, and they decided it was time to chat with their ghost. They headed up to the attic—it had been a bedroom and now was used for storage. Dumped on the bed was a bucket of green Army men that hadn’t been seen or played with in years.

“Okay, Mr. Ghost—listen up,” Child announced to the room. “I’m sure you are wondering what’s going on. Our mom and dad are getting a divorce—that’s why Dad isn’t here. And you scared Josh. We don’t want you to touch us. Don’t try and scare us. Give us a sign you understand.” Nothing happened. No flickering light or shadowy figure. They quietly closed the attic door and left.

The next day over breakfast at Porkey’s, Child told her dad what had transpired. “Let’s go see what’s going on,” he prodded. They drove to the house and headed to the top floor. The attic door was open and there, precariously propped on the top of the door header, was a green Army man. “That freaked my dad,” laughs Child, whose father sold the house in 2017. “He got holy water from church and sprayed it all over the house.”

But for her, it was just one more piece of a puzzle she had been putting together since childhood.  “I grew up with it. It almost became normal to me.”


Renee Feiges Goldschmidt’s demon(s) lived in her Reisterstown townhouse. The home, built in the early ’90s, was calm (well, as calm as it could be with three kids in two years, including a set of twins born at 26 weeks) until about eight years in, when all of a sudden it started. “The very first thing I noticed—and my husband, Jason, kept telling me I was crazy—was the linen closet started feeling creepy to me. Like someone was standing there watching me. I couldn’t see anyone, I just had this feeling.”  Soon the basement also felt extremely unnerving.

One day Goldschmidt was sitting on the sofa in the family room and a photograph of her and Jason that was hanging on the wall flew across the room. Next came the black mist—around the size of a microwave oven—that would float around the house. (Her daughter, was who six at the time, said she also saw the mist in her room.) Even at that point, Goldschmidt didn’t reach out to anyone. “I still thought I was losing my mind.”

Soon there was the sound of footsteps around her bed as she slept and a paralysis that kept her from moving or sitting up. The presence would hold her down, and sometimes it felt like it was grabbing around her neck. Then she saw them. They were ominous child-size aliens. “Sometimes I would wake up with bruises, scratches. Even a few times the five of us are eating dinner and all of a sudden, my arm or leg would start burning and a scratch was forming on my arm.”

Goldschmidt, now 45, started racking her brain for what could cause this disturbance in her home. “I never did a Ouija board or visited a graveyard or anything,” she says. She and her husband did visit West Virginia’s Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum—but that was in late 2009. “Maybe something attached to me.”

There’s a photograph in front of her townhouse taken for The Jewish Times (about her micro preemies) that has a face—almost Friday the 13th-esque or a goblin (or maybe it’s just a rock) reflected in the window behind her beautiful family.

—Courtesy of The Jewish Times

Desperate, she reached out to the leader of her synagogue and explained her plight. “He probably thought I was crazy—but he came over and put up mezuzahs on all our doorways and he did a blessing on the house. But that didn’t do anything. That didn’t help.”

Finally, Goldschmidt took to Facebook and outed herself—revealing everything from the figures to the whispering and growling she’d often hear—and pleaded for help. A friend recommended a shaman to Goldschmidt and he came over free of charge and walked around her house. “There’s something here—it’s in the corner of the basement,” he told her. There was a lot of sage and prayers, and Goldschmidt’s body shook as she released something.

“And I was like, this is confirmation for me that I wasn’t crazy. And I told my husband, ‘I told you so.’ Because he didn’t believe me the whole time. So, it’s confirmation that I wasn’t crazy.”

Since the shaman, Goldschmidt hasn’t had any more experiences. “I think whatever it was, he got rid of it.”


Whatever haunted Sean Paul Murphy’s childhood home in Hamilton has become a bit of an obsession for him. He’s written 20-plus blog posts called “The Haunting of 21 St. Helens Avenue”—which was the house’s original address before the city’s boundary moved and the name of the street was changed—and a book of fiction called Chapel Street, loosely based on his family’s history. “The Conjuring meets Hereditary” the book jacket reads.

Murphy grew up as one of six kids—and moved into the St. Helen’s house when he was 14. The foursquare structure had three levels including an attic. The entity—whatever it was—mimicked voices. It would trick people in the house into thinking they were communicating with someone they knew. That included his mother having a whole conversation with his brother’s friend and hearing his footsteps come up to the attic where she was sewing—only for there to be no one there. His mother used holy water and put salt in the corners. But the hauntings continued.

—Courtesy of Sean Paul Murphy

Murphy, 62, lived in the attic in his mid- 20s. He would hear scurrying on the roof—which could easily be explained as squirrels or mice. But as soon as he opened his eyes it would stop. Then the scurrying became human footsteps.

“I could hear it moving across the length of the room,” says Murphy. “Whatever it was, it’s on the roof, but it can see me. It knew when I was opening my eyes.” His bed would also shake, then it was his mattress. “It felt like a huge 30-foot boa constrictor moving in the mattress. That’s what it felt like. I would look under the mattress to see if there were any holes in it. But even as I was doing that, I was like, this is so illogical, because how would it even get in there?”

“When you go through this, you’re constantly asking yourself if you’re crazy. You wonder whether it’s all in your mind. I want people to know these things happen.”

Then three nights in a row, around 3 a.m., Murphy woke up to find himself attempting to climb out of his rear window, like some deadly form of sleepwalking.

“When you go through this, you’re constantly asking yourself if you’re crazy,” says Murphy, who describes the spirit as a shadow person. “You wonder whether it’s all in your mind. I want people to know these things happen.”

The Murphy family eventually moved out and a new family moved in.


Laura Kerris shares her Bond Street home in Fells Point with a “little girl ghost.”

Kerris moved into the rowhouse—which dates back to around 1880—in 2005, and threw herself a housewarming/birthday party. “You know you have a ghost here,” one of her friends casually told her nodding towards a corner of the room. “Did you ever wonder why the cat won’t go in this room with you.”

Kerris was shocked. Her cat, Nemoy, an affectionate snuggler, would sit just outside the room when Kerris watched television, and refuse to enter. But she hadn’t mentioned this to anyone. “I was a little bit freaked out,” she says. “I didn’t watch TV for a week.”

Later that week, while working in her home office on the third floor (a newer addition), she heard a thump thump from downstairs and figured a picture had fallen off her plaster wall. But upon inspection she couldn’t figure out what had made that noise. The cats were both on high alert. “Animals are a great judge,” says Kerris.

The noises went on all week. “Maybe they were trying to get my attention,” she says. The sounds got louder and more frequent and then by the end of the week they started to dissipate.

The ghost had made herself known. And they both found peace with each other.

—Illustrations by Evangeline Gallagher

Jennifer Keith Ciattei’s first spirit interaction didn’t happen until she was an adult, though she was “definitely a believer in the unseen.” Her mom had died in March 2012, and she was getting ready to spend her favorite holiday without her for the first time.

“She and I always loved getting ready for Christmas—my birthday is December 24—and she made that and Christmas a big deal.” She pauses. “I was really missing her.” It was mid-December and Ciattei, her husband, and niece were all sound asleep when they were suddenly awakened around 3 a.m. by the sound of music.

Years earlier, a friend, knowing Ciattei was such a “Christmas freak,” had given her a “big, kind of corny, snow-globe nativity music box.” It was displayed in her North Baltimore home, but she hadn’t played it that season—hadn’t even wound it once. But now it was playing, “Silent Night,” very, very fast. And it was loud enough for Ciattei and her husband to hear it 15 feet away in their bedroom.

“It was eerie and really cool,” she remembers. Her brain was trying to come up with a plausible explanation to calm her beating heart. They all went back to bed after discussing “it was weird, and it was probably my mother.” A half hour later the music box suddenly started up again at the same volume and pace before falling silent. “It definitely wanted our attention.”

As Ciattei, now 63, lay in bed, she remembers a feeling of wonder, not fear, coming over her. Then on Christmas Eve, Ciattei and her husband were on a walk talking about the music box. She turned to her husband and said, “I would just love to believe that music box was her reaching out to me.”

Almost on cue, it started snowing.

It was—she believes—a sign from her mom saying it was her.

“I’m a big fan of ghost stories at Yule. But this one is true.”