Cemeteries are common stops in many of the Chesapeake Ghost Walks. (Photo by Sean Clougherty)

Leading up to Halloween, houses, meeting halls, corn mazes and woodland trails get converted to fright-filled fall events with plastic masks, fake blood and any other manner of deceptive gore.
But the creepy histories of some of the oldest towns on the Eastern Shore don’t just come out this time of year.
These ghost walk tours are happening nearly year round.
“October is big but because we’re so tourist-driven, summer is huge,” said Mindie Burgoyne owner of Chesapeake Ghost Walks, which hosts 11 walking tours from St. Michaels to Ocean City and as far South as Crisfield.
The ghost tours spread across 80 linear miles in five Eastern Shore counties.
By day the landscape there is wide open and flat, rich with farmland, marshes, rivers and massive blue skies.
But at night — a hauntingly powerful nightscape emerges with moonlit swamps and stark fields framed by the silhouettes of loblolly pines.
The bones of the old plantations rise up, and the spirits of sea captains, slaves, soldiers, and townspeople come forth.
The tours started in 2014 as a better alternative to bus tours Burgoyne started following the success of her 2009 book “Haunted Eastern Shore: Ghostly Tales from East of the Chesapeake.”
“That created a fan base who asked for tours,” Burgoyne said. “I wouldn’t have done it otherwise.”
Now there are about 75,000 people in what she called their “ghost walk universe” through social media and outreach.
Burgoyne researched each tour herself, finding details about each town that have made tour goers shiver for several years. More than 130 stories and sites flesh out the 11 Shore tours.
“Every time I’d focus on one story, it would be related to another, and then another,” Burgoyne said. “I was overwhelmed by the amount of haunted lore.”
Some of the sites and stories on the tours include the ghost of Robert E. Lee seen in an upper room at the Kemp House in St. Michaels, the spirit of Harriet Tubman heard calling across the farm fields of Dorchester County, calling her people to freedom.
In Snow Hill, the spirit of a former governor of Maryland speaks to little children inside his old mansion.
In Cambridge at the courthouse, some people still hear the creaking of rope against wood — said to be the rope around the neck of “Bloody” Henny Insley, an African slave who was hanged for hacking her mistress to death.
And in Ocean City, the spirit of a woman still leaves the scent of her perfume around the old carousel at Trimper’s Rides and Amusements.
“I really love Cambridge and I really love Ocean City,” Burgoyne said. “The stories are amazing, the folklore is so rich there.”
She also ranked Pocomoke as probably the scariest tour as it ventures into a forest and swamp; and the Princess Anne tour as the most disturbing, detailing two harsh lynchings.
“We don’t allow kids on that tour,” she said.
With experienced guides leading the way, Burgoyne said each tour is designed for about an hour and a half to two hours and covers a distance of one to two miles.
At each stop, the guide shares about the history of the site, the paranormal activity or haunting associated with and what people say today about the haunted activity. Tours do not enter the properties as most are privately owned.
“It’s a unique attraction,” Burgoyne said. “It’s a lot about history, a lot of storytelling and ‘What’s this all about? There’s not a lot of this type of venue.”