Contemporary Legend – Maryland

There’s this place in Maryland – Burkittsville – and there’s this place called Spook Hill or sometimes it’s called Gravity Hill. So the legend I heard there was that there was this freak accident with kids on a bus when they went over like a railroad track that the bus was hit and like they all died. And since then anytime you park your car on the hill and put it in neutral it’s supposed to roll uphill. And as proof, if you put baby powder on the back bumper you can see hand prints after it rolls uphill as if the kids are pushing you to safety off the tracks.

Jill learned about this legend from her friend when she was about ten years old. They were having a conversation on myths and ghost stories and such when her friend told her this story. This story falls into the legends category because it invites discussion about belief. Jill does believe that the car will roll uphill, but she is not too sure about the story and does not know if it is true. She knows that many people often go to the hill to test it for themselves. She has not visited the site yet, but she really wants to go to test it for herself. She said that she might even sprinkle the baby powder on her bumper “for the heck of it.”

Also, Jill mentioned that she has recently heard other versions of the same story. The most popular version that she heard was that it was soldiers that had died by those railroad tracks. So when people parked their car there, the ghosts of the soldiers would push the car as if they were pushing a canon up the hill to achieve victory or pushing their fellow soldiers off the tracks to safety. There was no baby powder involved in this version. This makes sense because baby powder is easily associated and tied to children but is not usually connected to Civil War soldiers.

However, Jill has found that the version involving the children in the bus is also used for a hill in San Antonio, Texas. The soldier version is more popular around her house in Frederick, Maryland, which is logical because she lives about forty-five minutes away from Gettysburg and there are many Civil War museums and battlefields in her area. The different versions, or oicotypes, and locations prove that the story of this hill is folklore because there are multiple versions and variation. Also, the historic geographic method could be used to analyze the spread of this story from one region to another, in this case, across the country.

The existence of this particular hill has been acknowledged by a book called Weird Maryland: Your Travel Guide to Maryland’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets by Matt Lake, Mark Moran, and Mark Sceurman. This book describes different places in Maryland that are tied to strange occurrences and stories in Maryland. It explains that Spook Hill is a place that seems to defy gravity and the laws of physics. It mentions the hill’s ties to the Civil War, which is that the Battle of Crampton’s Gap was fought there. The book also discusses three possible explanations for the phenomenon, which include optical illusion, exception from the earth’s gravitational pull, and the legend of the soldiers.

Lake, Matt, Moran Mark, and Mark Sceurman. Weird Maryland: Your Travel Guide to Maryland’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets. New York: Sterling Company, Inc., 2006. 26 Apr. 2008,M1.