Meet the Ghosts of Gaithersburg

Photo | City of Gaithersburg Meet the ghosts of Gaithersburg: learn about the history of the Kentlands Mansion and those who used to inhabit it at candlelit ghost tours on Oct. 26 and 27.

Photo | City of Gaithersburg
Learn about the history of the Kentlands Mansion and those who used to inhabit it at candlelit ghost tours on Oct. 26 and 27.

Know anyone with a crypt in their backyard? Ever encounter an apparition in an old house? What about exploring an area that has Native American healing power? Hear a short lecture about ghosts that may inhabit the area? No? In that case you’ll want to go along on the Ghosts of Gaithersburg Candlelit Tours on the evenings of Friday and Saturday, Oct. 26 and 27.

Karen Lottes, Gaithersburg Community Museum program coordinator, said that on those evenings people interested in the Kentlands Mansion and those who used to inhabit it—and perhaps still do—should come to the mansion for a candlelit tour. Be sure to make a reservation beforehand by buying an advance ticket at For safety’s sake bring along a flashlight.

The land that is now Kentlands was owned by the Tschiffley family, who used it as a summer retreat from Washington, D.C. Their mansion, barn and gatehouse were built in 1900.

Lottes noted that if your house was built before 1920, it’s very likely that someone has died in the house. That might explain the sightings of women inside the mansion dressed in the garb of the 19th century. A crypt and a grotto also were built on the property; today, these rest not too far from the mansion in a resident’s backyard. Is the crypt occupied? No one knows the answer for sure.

In 1942 Otis Kent purchased 600 acres including the Tschiffley property and turned it into a wildlife preserve and gentleman’s farm. Perhaps it is Kent that some people have seen looking out an upstairs window in the mansion late at night.

On the evening of the tours, a parapsychologist will attempt to detect if spirits of the departed still roam the mansion. He will be inside the mansion alone and viewers will be elsewhere and be able to see the drama play out on closed circuit television.

Lottes is the co-author of “In Search of Maryland Ghosts: Montgomery County.” She will start each tour with a few stories about ghosts that frequent other parts of Gaithersburg.

One of her favorite stories is that of the Headless Horseman of Game Preserve Road. About a mile from St. Rose of Lima Church, there is a one lane railroad underpass built before automobiles when there was no need for more than one lane. The story of the man without a head has been passed from one generation to the next, but explanation for his fate varies. Consensus seems to revolve around a skirmish during the latter days of the Civil War when a Confederate cavalryman had his head separated from his body. Legend says that on a starlit night if you turn off your engine and park along the road, you’ll hear the cries of the horseman and the charge of his horse. Another tale holds that if you park beneath the underpass and flash your car lights, blood will start dripping onto the windshield.

Still curious about our old friend Herman Rabbitt, the reclusive millionaire who buried his fortune over half of Gaithersburg? In the last house that he lived, the apparition of an older man dressed in ragged clothing held together with safety pins has been seen by the current owners.

Another favorite story involves the janitor at Gaithersburg High School near the turn of the 20th century. He is said to have served there so long that the keys on his belt could be heard jingling when no one else was in the building. Has his spirit been passed on to the 21st century school? You will have to read Lottes’ book to find out.

Be sure to purchase your tickets online in advance. The tour is not recommended for children under 12. For more information
about the tours, contact Monica Harwood at