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While this house may not be easiest place to find in Ellicott City, hidden among the building of the County Courthouse complex, it does play host to perhaps one of the most unique ghosts in this small and very haunted town. This ghost is different because it is not so much seen as it is smelled!

The Hayden House, or Oak Lawn as it is called is located near the Howard County courthouse. If this is not a ghost story that makes you hungry... then I don't know what is!

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The old Hayden House, or Oak Lawn as the house was called, is a small stone house that was built back in the early 1800's. Once located on its own lot, the house is now surrounded by additions that have been made to the Howard County Courthouse over the years. It is not an easy place to find, but well worth a look should you ever get the chance.

The house was built by Edwin Parson Hayden, the first county clerk in Ellicott City, and he lived there with his wife and six children up until the time of his death in 1850. After that, the house saw several different owners, including the Howard County Board of Education and the District Court. In 1981, the house sat vacant for several years before being taken over by the county law library.

Stories about Oak Lawn and the mysterious events going on there began many years ago and continue today, although they probably peaked during the 1970's when the house was occupied by the district court and the county office of parole and probation. Clerks and secretaries often reported lights turning on and off by themselves, a coffee pot that would heat up.... even when it was unplugged and the sounds of phantom footsteps echoing through unoccupied parts of the building. There were also stories of a rocking chair that moved by itself and of a staff member who came to work early one morning and saw a man through the glass panes of the front door. A check of the building revealed that no one (living, that is) was inside.

Frankly, I find the stories of the coffee pot which heated up on its own to be the most entertaining, especially in light of some of the phenomena that accompanied it. The most commonly reported strange events were the phantom smells of Oak Lawn..... the smells of soup and bacon and eggs that would waft through the building during the day and into the night.
It was not the odors themselves that seemed to disturb the staff but the source of them... or rather the lack of a source. At the time, there were no cooking appliances in the building and no cooking done there at all. Soon, the ghost was dubbed the "cooking ghost" and the smells of various foods became commonplace.

The smells of food were not the only way the ghost chose to make its presence known however. One staff member, who probably had more strange encounters than any other because of the late and solitary hours he worked, reported a number of events like seeing cloth napkins fold and re-fold themselves before his eyes and hearing a number of noises that he could not explain.
On one occasion, he believed that he actually saw the ghost itself. He was working late one night and was on his way to the second floor when he noticed what appeared to be a "white haze" out of the corner of his eye. He looked quickly and saw the misty ball of vapor hanging in the air. It was very dense but he could see the way behind it.... and then it vanished.

Oak Lawn remains a haunted place today and visitors are able to see it on the Haunted Ellicott City Ghost Tour.

Copyright 1998 by Troy Taylor

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