A reflection on the historic Mitchell House, and the lives that passed through it
Updated: Mar 2, 2020
A home built nearly 300 hundred years ago surely has seen a lot of lives pass through it. Is it beyond the realm of reason that some part of them remains tied to the house?
Such could be the case for the Inn at the Mitchell House in Kent County. It is located in Tolchester, which, back in the steamboat days, was a bustling tourist destination on the Chesapeake Bay complete with amusement park.
To visit the inn today is to step back in time. And some of those times were tumultuous.
The War of 1812 passed by what was then Joseph Thomas Mitchell’s plantation, with a battle having been fought at nearby Caulk’s Field. Mitchell also was a slaveowner.
The original portion of the Mitchell House dates back to the 1700s. The addition came in the 1800s.
At other times prior to its life as an inn, the Mitchell House served as a nursing home and possibly a school.
Tracy and Jim Stone bought the Inn at the Mitchell House in 1986 and they continue to operate it as a bed and breakfast.
Tracy first heard stories about potential hauntings at the inn from the previous owners — after she and her husband purchased it. While she cannot report any ghostly interactions herself, she does not deny there may be more to the house than its walls and roof.
“Just really strange things have happened,” she said. “As far as that feeling of a presence, I’m not receptive to it. And I think some people are more sensitive than others.”
One manifestation Tracy said the previous owners described to her involved a rocking chair in one particular room. She was told it would rock on its own. The fix for that was simple.
“I took that rocking chair out,” she said. “I didn’t want to see that.”
Tracy said guests have reported feeling something brush against their legs in one of the rooms. She said the previous owners claimed to have seen their dog appear to be playing with someone or something in the same the room. And the Stones’ cat at the time, which had the run of the house, would have nothing to do with the space.
“You could not toss him into that room. He had the hair on his back go up and he would bolt. So that was odd,” Tracy said.
All of which begs the question: How do you play fetch with a ghost dog?
Neither she, nor Williams-Sonoma, could explain 10 or 12 years ago why one of the gourmet kitchenware company’s tempered juice glasses exploded into a thousand pieces, as Tracy described it, while two couples staying at the inn were enjoying their breakfast — and talking about the ghost dog.
“I thought somebody had dropped a glass, so when I walked in, all four were just frozen over what’s left of their French toast and glass is everywhere,” Tracy said. “I did call Williams-Sonoma.”
But it appears there is more going on at the Inn at the Mitchell House than someone’s canine companion that did not fully pass to the great beyond, and journalists, filmmakers and ghost hunters have been through to try to document it.
One tale associated with the house comes from the Battle of Caulk’s Field, fought in 1814 between American militiamen and marauding British troops. It was said that following British officer Sir Peter Parker’s death in the fight, his body was taken to the Mitchell House and pickled in a barrel for the return trip home across the Atlantic.
While the battle did occur, with the Americans victorious, Peter Parker’s pickling turned out to be nothing more than local legend.
State tourism officials brought a journalist to the inn in the 1990s and Tracy was asked about Parker. When she responded that it was just a story, the chandelier in the front hall went off.
The electricity did not go out, nor did the air conditioning shut down. It was just the chandelier.
“I can’t explain that. I can’t explain exploding glasses,” Tracy said.
Ghost hunters presented the Stones with some of their evidence of a presence in the house: an audio recording that sounds like a little girl in the dining room saying “I want Dad” and another voice, a male this time, possibly calling that ghost dog with a “Hey buddy.”
Tracy said none of this elicits the hair-raising frights of “Poltergeist.” For her and her husband, whatever may be in the house brings a positive energy.
“I can make fun of it,” she said. “I can laugh and not be frightened.”
And while recounting these stories, guests reactions and her responses, Tracy was laughing.
There were a couple cases of a presence felt in one room that occurred a little too close together for Tracy, but she handled them with her usual aplomb in such matters, just like she did with that one rocking chair.
“I had to have a little talk with the room,” she said.
Who knows, maybe it was that ghost dog acting up?
Still, early on in their days as the proprietors of the Inn at the Mitchell House, the Stones asked a group of Catholic priests staying there for a retreat to bless the premises. It is better safe than sorry, after all.
Tracy said tales of the hauntings have not hurt business. Sure, she said some people may come across the stories of ghostly goings-on at the Inn at the Mitchell House and decide it is not the place for them. But for others, the stories may be what draws them to the inn.
“We probably get more people, like I said, out of curiosity when they have read something or heard something than the opposite,” Tracy said.