The Hanged Man in Princess Anne

The Hanged man
Photo taken by guest – Bridget Perry, on the first Princess Anne Ghost Walk.

The Ghost Walk in Princess Anne, Maryland is the only walk where children are not permitted to attend. This is due not only to the harsh content shared on the walk, but also to the strange things that occur on the ghost walk. The picture above was one of the first “strange” occurrences that happened on the Princess Anne Ghost Walk.

Getting the image of what appears to be a man hanging from a tree is rare indeed, but it is particularly rare when you get it in a town famous for two lynchings that took place there. The image was taken in St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church graveyard with an Android cellphone by Bridge Perry who was a guest on the tour. Just as the tour was ending, Bridget asked me to look at something (I was the tour guide). When I first so the phone screen it looked black, then when she expanded the image, it was startling. The blurry figure looking remarkably like a man hanging from a tree was so disturbing that I ended the tour early. Since then, we’ve had guests get more images in photos taken in or near that same location. It’s a thin place.

The Princess Anne Ghost Walk

We don’t let the dark history of what happened in Princess Anne color the overall mystique of the Town. It’s a beautiful, historic town with gorgeous Colonial and Victorian buildings, including Teackle Mansion – a building that resembles a Scottish Manor house right on the main drag. (and it’s very haunted). The town also has friendly people who have been most helpful to us in crafting the tour. But back near the turn of the 20th century, two brutal murders happened when vigil-ante groups lynched two men 36 years apart.

Armwood Lynching

In 1933, according to several newspaper accounts, Mary Denston, a 71 year old woman was collecting her rents and was assaulted by George Armwood, an African American who worked for a Caucasian farmer named John Richardson on a nearby farm. Armwood robbed Mrs. Denston by reaching down her dress and grabbing her rent money (according to the media). Mrs. Denston was able to identify Armwood and police launched a search. The police picked up Armwood but were afraid to bring him back to the jail in Princess Anne for fear he’d be lynched. They drove him to Baltimore to await trial.

Understand that this occurred shortly after the highly publicized Worcester County case of Orphan Jones (aka Ewell Lee), an African American farmhand who brutally killed his employer and the employers wife and children by bludgeoning them to death. Because the locals were so likely to lynch Orphan Jones, law enforcement took him to Baltimore for his own safety to await trial. The bureaucracy of the judicial system allowed Jones to sit around in jail for years before justice was finally carried out. This enraged many of the locals, and they screamed for justice when it came to George Armwood.

Judge MacMaster Duer assured Governor Richie that Armwood would be safe if he was sent back to Princess Anne. Duer believed he could convince the locals to trust him to see that justice was carried out swiftly. So the Governor sent Armwood back to Princess Anne to await trial.

Judge Duer did bid the locals who gathered at the jail to greet Armwood to settle down and go home and trust him to see that Armwood went to trial quickly. The crowd dispersed and Judge Duer went to a dinner party.

At around 11 pm the crowd came back to the jail. The jailer and his family were inside and they locked the door. But the crowd broke down the door with a battering ram, dragged Armwood out, cut off his ears, dragged him down the street behind a car and hanged him from a tree in front of Judge Duer’s house. Afterward they took Armwood’s dead body and set it on fire at one of the street corners and finally threw the charred, beaten body into a vacant lot near the lumber yard.

William Andrews Lynching

In 1897 an African-American man named William Andrews was found guilty of assaulting a white woman. The trial was held in the Princess Anne courthouse. After the guilty verdict was proclaimed, Andrews was escorted out the front door by the Sheriff in several deputies. A mob had gathered outside the door. Someone from the crowd grabbed Andrews, pulled him away from the deputies and Sheriff and the crowd beat him nearly to death. In fact they thought he was dead. But the sheriff walked over Andrews’s lifeless body and noted that he was still breathing. The angry crowd then dragged Andrews across the street and hung him from a walnut tree. Then they shot him and left hanging there until 2:30 PM. Somebody finally cut his dead body down and buried him in the alms house cemetery.

When doing research on that story, I tried to identify the place where they hanged and shot William Andrews. The only reference to “place” was in a news article that said, “He was hanged within site of the Episcopal Church.”

As I told this story to the first Princess Anne ghost walk group it inspired Bridget Perry to take several pictures around the Episcopal Church and in the graveyard itself. And the picture you see above is one of the ones she got.

Imagine hearing those two terrible stories and then … seeing that picture. We were all shocked.

More Strange Occurrences

If it wasn’t strange enough having Bridget get the image of a hanged man in her photo, it was stunning to be approached after the tour by the relatives of Mrs. Mary Denston. Her great granddaughters were on the tour and they politely waited until the tour was over to confide that Mrs. Denston was raped by George Armwood – not just pushed down and robbed. They also remarked that she was never the same and died shortly after. Because the papers didn’t report a rape, the family has tried in vain to get people to realize the extent of the true crime.

No one can prove now what happened. But I promised the Denston descendants that I would always include their side of the story when we told it on the ghost walk – and I include it here.

It’s some gruesome business …. but the energy around Princess Anne is charged with the past – the awful past like the lynching of Armwood and Andrews, but also the happy past of Judge Sanford, Eliazbeth Upshur Teackle and the spirits at the Fire House. They all linger around the town and have become part of the stories we tell on our ghost tours of Princess Anne.


The Hanged Man and other Princess Anne stories are all featured on the Somerset Ghost & Graveyard Bus Tour on January 24, 2015

8 thoughts on “The Hanged Man in Princess Anne

  1. Dentson was raped by Armwood.. according to my great grandfather… or at least that’s what they were accusing him of. His father was one of then men that led the crowd and lynched Armwood.

    1. Did anything bad happen to your grandfather before he died for leading that mob? I’ve been told by many people that those who committed heinous acts in the name of the ‘law’ in Pr. Anne, suffered before they died. Armwood had mental issues. During that time white farmers would hire mentally deficient Black men for cheap wages.

  2. Have you contacted any descendants of William Andrews to see if there is any written record or verbal history of their interpretation of the story?

    1. I have no contact information for William Andrews family. HIs death occurred in 1897. I have, however scanned every possible public document regarding the death. I welcome any and all new information people would like to add.

      1. must have been fascinating court records!
        By the way, I saw a mention of Snow Hill in the book ‘Fairies’ by Janet Bord…not a ghost but interesting nonetheless.

        1. Snow Hill? Really? The one in Worcester County Maryland? There’s another Snow Hill in North Carolina – and then, of course there’s the Snow Hill in Somerset England. I think I ‘ll snag a copy of that book.

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