Vance Miles House - My Haunted Domain

Ten years ago today, Dan and I moved into this Victorian home in Marion Station, Maryland.  Marion Station is one ten ghost towns in Maryland designated by Ghosttowns.com.  Oddly, my hometown of Riverdale Maryland is also one of the ten. 

Our house was the first one built on "Millionaire's Row" - a street that was eventually decked out with ornate Victorians built by those who made big money during the strawberry boom, when amount of strawberries auctioned in Marion Station is one day equaled those auction in all other locations worldwide. Old houses on "the Shore" often have names. Our house is named for the man who built it - Vance Miles, a seafood wholesaler and farmer who died in the 1950s of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. 

the Vance Miles House - Marion Station, Maryland
The house is largely unchanged since the Miles family built it in 1892, save for some aluminum siding, storm windows, and renovations in the bathrooms and kitchen.  The wood trim, the mantles with beveled glass, the slate roof and Corinthian columns on the wrap around porch are all the same.  I look out the same glass windows that Vance and his family looked out.  And a walk in our yard weaves through the now-hundred-year-old pecan trees that Vance planted.

Front Garden - St. Brigid's cross in boxwoods behind birdbath


The yard, however has changed.  When we got here ten years ago the yard was a flat piece of crabgrass with ugly yew trees hugging the foundation of the house.  Now, there are over 100 species of plants and shrubs along with a pond, rock garden (and lots of religious statues).  Dan and I met in a garden center, and fell in love over plant talk.  We were married in an oak grove in that same garden center.  The slide show at the end of this post show has our garden has grown... but let's get on to what haunts the Vance Miles House.


Vance Miles (on right) and his family on our porch - c. 1918

Finding the Vance Miles House


I knew the second I crossed the threshold of the Vance Miles House, that it was going to be  our home.  I'd seen every historic home for sale in Somerset County that Spring of 2002, but my time was running out.  Our home in Laurel had sold and Dan had already started his new job on the Eastern Shore.  We needed a house.  In March I did one last drive around the county, surveying each of the four houses we were considering.   

The first three houses were a bust.  None of them were right for us.  The fourth house we were considering was in Marion Station.  It was a Victorian Queen Anne style, but it was too big and was priced at the very top of our price range.  I sat in my car in front of that house for a long time - studying it, trying to imagine it being our home.  It didn't fit us.  There was no magic.  And I was out of houses to consider.

As I pulled away I noticed a For Sale sign in front of a Victorian house across the street.  The sign had just gone up.  I pulled in the drive and could see the house was vacant, so I called my realtor and insisted he show me the house that day.  I waited an hour and half for him to pull a showing together with the listing realtor, and in that time I walked the grounds and took pictures.  It was an amazing property. 

When my realtor opened the front door and motioned for me to walk in, I remember feeling good as I entered the Vance Miles House.  It was warm - welcoming.  The turned, Queen Anne style staircase had an oak newel post and balusters that had never been painted.  All the floors were the original hard wood. The richness of the oak woodwork throughout the house was stunning and included two 8-ft. mantles with beveled glass mirrors and chandeliers that had been converted from gas lights to electric.  The house had 32 windows and was full of light that day.  It was perfect.  We made an offer that day, and signed a contract by the end of the week.

Pots on the Porch


Who Haunts the Vance Miles House?


I woke up for the first time in the Vance Miles House on April 26, 2002 - my 43rd birthday.  It was a beautiful spring day and Dan cut some lilacs from an old bush in the backyard as a birthday gift.  It felt strange to live in such a different landscape (I was a suburban girl) - but this house was like a refuge.  It offered great comfort. 

Not long after we moved in we noticed strange noises, banging and clanging. My college-aged daughter was coming home on the weekends and felt uneasy most of the time she was in the house.  She heard the noises, and experienced unexplained events.  I discounted the noises and the strangeness, and played down her fears.  I loved the house. 

One evening I was watching television in the living room with my daughter, while my husband slept upstairs. We heard a crash above that sounded like a bookcase or shelf falling over. It woke my husband and he rushed downstairs.  We investigated all the upstairs rooms and the attic. The only thing we found was an open window in my daughter's room and an 8X10 picture frame that toppled over due to the wind. The open window was one of the few in the house that had no screen.  Because we have wicked mosquitoes here day - and night, that window would have never been opened - not by one of us, anyway.  We never figured out what the crash was…. even though three of us heard it and felt the house shake. 

Storm over the Vance Miles House

 A Visit from a Stranger


About three months after we moved in, a man in a van with North Carolina tags pulled into our driveway.  I walked out to meet him, and as he was climbing out of the van he said, "Hi. I'm doing genealogy research an my aunt Lillian was married to the man who built this house."  The stranger moved closer to shake my hand and continued … "His name was Vance Miles and he shot himself to death right in your front parlor."

I remember thinking, "Nice to meet you."

After several visits and conversations with this stranger, we became friends.  He produced much information on the Miles family and the history of our house.  He even provided us with the photo of  Vance and his family on our front porch (pictured above).  We later discovered that while Vance did commit suicide, he did not kill himself inside the house.  As Vance grew older, he'd become ill and was having financial difficulties.  My neighbor,Virgie knew him well and said that Vance went fishing every day down the road at Colburn Creek.  One day, he chose to end his life while doing what he loved best - fishing.


Footsteps, Apparitions, Shadows and Mirrors


Throughout that first year of living in the Vance Miles House more strange things happened.  We bought a new clothes dryer had to carry it into the basement from an outside entrance. We had difficulty getting it through a narrow passage. While struggling with the dryer, we heard the side door of the house open and and then close. Then we heard footsteps walking across the living and dining room floors above us.  We felt the house vibrate with the pressure of those footsteps. We thought this strange because we heard no car in the driveway  (which was just outside the basement entrance). I looked out the basement door. No car. The dog didn’t bark. We knew whoever entered our house would have had to walk up to the door and somehow missed distracting our dog.

Dan took the dog and checked the house…. he checked all the rooms - even the attic.  He found nobody there - nor a trace that anyone had been there.

The dog would often bark at nothing in the front parlor - but only at night.  The front parlor was the room where my daughter heard the rustle of clothing as if someone entered the room from the foyer.  She thought it was me.  When she looked up to speak to me, there was no one there, in fact, Dan and I were both asleep upstairs. 

Dan kept sensing someone watching him when he was in his workshop.  He'd occasionally see a figure – head and shoulders – of a man with his peripheral vision, but when he’d turn to look directly at the apparition, it would vanish.  I was also having difficulty sleeping. I’d be in that twilight stage half between wake and sleep, and would see a dark figure hovering above my bed. Sometimes it would choke me. It was awful, terrifying. I feared going to sleep.

One day Dan noticed the chandelier in the dining room begin to sway. It built momentum and went faster. Just as he was reaching to stop it, one of the antique globes from the chandelier shot down and crashed into two dozen Valentine’s Day roses he had bought for me. The globe hit the roses with such force, that it toppled the large vase, and broke.

We also had difficulty keeping a mirror in the upstairs bathroom.  I had a large sideboard mirror hanging in that bathroom, and it fell one day.  The nail was pulled out of the wall.  Dan secured it better and made sure the hook was in a stud.  We rehung that mirror, but It fell again a few weeks later.  The wire on the back of it had broke - it almost looked like it was cut.  The frame of the mirror had broken and it was unusable.   A few months later - in that same bathroom - the mirror that fit in the door to the medicine cabinet slipped out and shattered all over the sink and floor.  Both of us cut ourselves cleaning that up.  We hung an old mirror over the the empty door of the medicine cabinet.  A few weeks later, that mirror fell into the sink.  It didn't brake, but I gave up and put that mirror in a closet.  We went without a mirror in that bathroom for over 3 years.

None of our children - not one (we have six - all grown) will sleep in our back bedroom next to that bathroom, nor will they allow their children to sleep there.  Even today, our family members would rather sleep on the hard floor anywhere else, but not in that back bedroom.  No one will give a reason why.  We all know the reason why.



The Event that Pushed Us Too Far

The event that pushed me over the edge had to do with an antique plate that my friend Helen gave me. It was a 1918 Homer Laughlin calendar plate in the bluebird pattern. It was one of two special plates I displayed in plate stands on my sideboard.  The other plate had belonged to my great grandmother.  As I was walking into the dining room from the kitchen, I saw the bluebird calendar plate flip off the sideboard and break in two. There was no cause, no bump, and no vibration. I stood there for a few minutes asking myself if I really saw that. Worried about the other, I placed my great grandmother's plate inside my china closet and locked the door with a key.  Then I tested the door to make sure it was locked. I went to bed.

As I tried to fall asleep, I recounted all the incidents of madness in that house.  All the sounds, the crashes, the footsteps, the swinging chandeliers, plates and lamp globes flying, mirrors shattering and a bedroom no one would sleep in.  I considered what it would take to move out. As I drifted off to sleep, I was again disturbed by the shadows that hovered over, choked me and threatened me.  I'd gotten good at reciting the prayer of St. Michael - over and over in my head - even in my dreams I recited ….

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him we humbly pray.
And do thou oh Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl the world seeking the ruin of souls.

The next morning I began telling Dan about the plate incident. He said, “You should lock that china closet. When I came down this morning, the glass door was wide open.”

I decided to to try and sell the house.

I bought a For Sale by Owner kit at the hardware store and made a made listed it online (the listing is still live)  http://houseforsaleeasternshore.com/miles/index.htm.  I called all my realtor friends and offered them 3% if they brought a buyer.  We had immediate interest from a couple in Pennsylvania.  They spent about an hour walking through the house with us.  Just before they left, the woman asked if she could take one more look at the attic.  She was gone for about 15 minutes.  When she met us back in the foyer she mentioned that she's had a nice conversation with the man upstairs about the house.  She asked if he was my father.  There was no man upstairs.  My father had been dead for years.

Though the incident with the potential buyers was disturbing, I realized after about a month that nothing strange had happened to me or my husband since I put the house for sale.  All the strange noises, and strange happenings stopped.  I explained the whole series of events to a psychic and a mystic.  They both said the same thing.  "Whatever is haunting that house  - it doesn't want you to go."

Gardens around the Fish Pond


So we ended our efforts to sell the house, and we've never been bothered again.  Other people - our children and a few guests have been bothered.  But Dan and I are at peace and happy in our little  Marion Station home. 

About a year ago, I decided it was time to put up a mirror in the bathroom.  Dan took the medicine cabinet frame to a glass shop and had a nice piece of beveled glass installed in it.  As I carried it upstairs to the bathroom I said out loud, "Vance, so help me … if you mess with this mirror, I'll have an exorcist in this house within 24 hours and kick your sorry ass straight to hell."

The mirror is still in place - undisturbed. 



Photos of the Vance Miles House on Flickr