Ghost Dogs

From Ghosts and Legends of Frederick County by Timothy L. Cannon and Nancy F. Whitmore

Most areas of the world have their accounts of strange creatures. Several come to mind quite easily – the Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas and Bigfoot of the Pacific Northwest. Not to be left out, Frederick County, too, has had its share of strange animals. Tales of the Dwayyo and the Snallygaster have amused Frederick Countians for many years. Less well known are the accounts of numerous four-legged friends.

Probably the most famous dog of this sort is the Snarly Yow, or Black Dog. He was often seen in the last century on South Mountain coming down a favorite path toward the National Pike, now Alternate Route 40. Here, he would sometimes stop, scaring any passing travelers, before continuing his journey down the mountain. Any attempts made to follow the strange beast would usually result in the dogs’ sudden disappearance.

It is interesting to note how accounts of strange animals are often associated with the deaths of cruel men. There was such a man who lived in the Urbana district on an estate called Addison in the 1830’s; a slave owner named Singleton Burgee. That the slaves despised Singleton was common knowledge, and they took great pleasure in initiating stores about him, probably leading to the belief that Addison is now haunted. On his deathbed, it is said that a strange man wearing a black cape and riding a black horse came to Singleton’s house. As he stood over Singleton’s bed, he chanted, "Are you ready, Singleton Burgee?", then vanished. Three days before Singleton died, a strange black dog appeared on the steps leading to the room where he lay. The dog kept the strange vigil until Singleton Burgee was dead, then it too vanished.

Another strange dog, seen in the Emmitsburg area, is said to be the ghost of a cruel landowner named Leigh Masters. Apparently the dog has been sited in the Emmitsburg region for over one hundred years.

In 1887, two men were riding at dusk near Ore Mine Bridge when suddenly a large black dog cam through a fence on one side of the road. The two men watched aghast as the strange animal crossed the path in front of them and then passed through a fence on the other side.

There have been other apparent sightings. Once, a man tried to strike the creature with a whip, only to see it go right through. Another man claimed it had intelligence, for when he spoke to the dog, "Come here and walk beside me," it did. A man driving a wagon once reported a large black dog wearing a chain walked beside his wagon for about one hundred years and then vanished.

The strange black dog is said to be about three feet tall, usually seen with a huge chain around its neck. Legend has it that the strange animal is never seen more than once by the same person.


Rose Hill Manor is an historic, two hundred-year-old mansion located in the northern part of Frederick. Once owned and lived in by the first governor of Maryland, Thomas Johnson, the former estate is now owned by the county and serves as museum for children.

Many ghosts reportedly haunt it, one of which is the blue ghost of an old dog that sometimes wanders the grounds at midnight.

The story is told of a wealthy man who lived there many years ago with only his dog for company. Not one to trust in banks, he buried all his money somewhere on the property. In his will, he left directions where to find it, presumably six feet from an old oak tree. After he died, many people searched the estate for the buried treasure, but no one has been successful.

Some nights, the old blue dog can be seen roaming the grounds and on occasion has been heard to bark. I is believed if the dog can be followed while barking, its pursuer will be led to the buried gold. However, the ghostly blue dog always disappears before any treasure can be found.