The Unluckiest Street Corner in Laurel?
By Richard Friend | October 29, 2015
Last weekend, I had the pleasure of hosting a walking tour of historic Main Street. It was part of a prize I'd happily donated (along with five Lost Laurel books) to the Laurel Historical Society's silent auction at their Annual Gala back in April. I had nearly forgotten all about it; I'd noticed a few older folks at the Gala start to bid on it, only to have second thoughts—they seemed to change their minds when they realized that we'd be walking all the way from the Laurel Museum at Ninth & Main to the train station... and back.
Thankfully, that didn't deter winner Katie Meixner, who'd emailed me recently to say that she'd wisely just been waiting for the weather to get a bit cooler before claiming the prize. Katie and family were not only up for the extended hike, they asked if I could point out any particularly spooky—possibly haunted—locations along the way. (It is almost Halloween, after all.)
I find that type of stuff equally fascinating; particularly when you learn about specific, documented events that might very well have created the ideal circumstances for a haunting. They're events that will forever haunt the community, at any rate.
Main Street has a few recurring themes of tragedy from block to block—namely fires and suicides through the years—but nothing comes close to the bizarre history of the corner of Sixth & Main.
In the early 1900s, (from 1902 to 1925, to be exact) the corner of Sixth and Main Streets was home to the final stop on an electric trolley line that ran from Laurel to the Treasury Building in Washington, DC.
In fact, the building that is currently Oliver's Old Towne Tavern was the trolley station. It was rotated 90° after its trolley days, so its longer side would face Main Street.
It was here in 1904 that a speeding trolley hurtled off the barricaded end of the track, killing the motorman.
An even more horrific accident occurred six years later in 1910, when a trolley traveling down Sixth Street toward the station frightened a horse—which was hitched to a carriage being driven by a Mrs. Burroughs. The woman was thrown from the carriage and killed—impaled on the iron fence at St. Philips. Mrs. Burroughs had lived at the house on the Sixth Street corner across from the church.
But wait, it gets even more bizarre.
In 1918, The Laurel Leader reported the suicide of a jockey named William Allen—at his home in the same house on the corner of Sixth and Main. He was married to Mary Burroughs Allen, who was the daughter of the carriage accident/fence impaling victim.
Six months later, in April 1919, a disturbed Joseph Englehart shot and killed his sister and two others before taking his own life. While this incident occurred over 2 miles south in the Oak Crest neighborhood of Laurel, it still had an eerie connection to the corner of Sixth and Main—one of the victims was the sister-in-law of the aforementioned jockey, William Allen.
Needless to say, ever since learning of these stories, I'm always a bit leery of parking my car on that corner... even if I find a primo spot near Oliver's. For such a picturesque location, it's got quite the tragic, gruesome history.
Information for this story was found in A Church and Its Village: St. Philip's Episcopal Church Laurel, Maryland by Sally Mitchell Bucklee, and in archived copies of the Laurel Leader and Washington Times during research for the Laurel Museum's 2015 exhibit, "Ripped From the Headlines: Laurel in the News".
Laurel Leader, October 11, 1918
St. Philips Church sits at the corner of Sixth and Main Streets.
Laurel Historical Society collectiion
Excerpt from "The History of the Maryland Line of the Washington Railway and Electric Company" by James N. Wallace (1929)