Ramblewood's Tunnel Led to River, Freedom

The historic home at Camp Ramblewood in Darlington—once part of the underground railroad—is said to be inhabited by paranormal spirits.

Tucked away in the small village of Darlington lies what was once a key component of the underground railroad, and considered by regional paranormal investigators as a hot spot for ghostly activity.

Currently known as Ramblewood Campground and historically as the Worthington Plantation, this old mansion was home to the annual paranormal open house, hosted Jan. 7 by The Maryland Paranormal Research Team. Mike Stevenson, a historian and paranormal expert, was kind enough to show me around and share some history and stories of what has taken place on the property.

Concealed in the basement of the house is a secret tunnel used by runaway slaves as part of the underground railroad. According to Stevenson, the seven-tenths of mile long tunnel runs to the river, where the runaways would rendezvous with a barge, which would take them across the Mason Dixon Line.

Slaves would be harbored in the attic, then pass through a number of secret passageways within the house, which would lead them to the basement. During the time I spent with Stevenson, he shared with me how he believes the presence of a ghost named Nathan resides near the entrances of the tunnel. Nathan was traveling with a group of seven slaves that Stevenson has historically traced backed to the diary of Harriet Tubman.

Stevenson has also discovered the location of the Worthington Family Cemetery, where the Darlington Cemetery was built around upon a later date.

According to the paranormal investigators, they have detected numerous Electronic Voice Phenomenon other wise known as E.V.P, inside the home, mainly at the top of the second floor staircase. Paranormal researchers capture E.V.P primarily through the use of voice recorders while asking possible entities questions, hoping the recorder can pick up their responses.

While at the house, I can’t say I had any paranormal experiences, but did find the mansion extremely fascinating. I imagine due to the secret nature of its history, much of what went on at the plantation will never be known, but undoubtedly played an important role in allowing runaway slaves reach freedom. 

Have you been to the Ramblewood House? Do you know of any other homes or buildings with ties to the underground railroad? Tell us in the comments.

HappieGrannie January 15, 2012 at 12:09 PM
Very interesting. I am surprised there are not more stops in this part of Maryland since we are so close to PA & DE
JK January 15, 2012 at 01:40 PM
Interesting story and the photos are stunning! The 2nd floor room photo looks like a painting.
Kate Clifford Larson January 15, 2012 at 01:53 PM
There is something very wrong about this story. Harriet Tubman was illiterate and did not keep a diary. She is also not known to have traveled through this area, either. And yes, HappieGrannie, there are many, many stops in this part of Maryland, and they do not involve tunnels. My question is: how could the mansion on a former plantation, which once was the place of enslavement for many slave, be a stop on the Underground Railroad? This sounds like slot of wishful thinking and a denial of the real history of slavery at that site.
1987porsche944 January 15, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Beautiful photos! They look HDR, if so, very well done. How does one get into these places locally to take photos? I would love to see some historical stuff but won't go the trespassing route.
David Weigert` January 16, 2012 at 02:22 AM
1987porsche944 Please email me about Ramblewood.mprt40@yahoo.com
Andy Eisner January 16, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Great points Kate, and very, accurate! I too agree that the owner of the plantation or the paranormal group is adding to the actual story to enhance the paranormal appeal to the property.
Andy Eisner January 16, 2012 at 02:56 PM
Actually after doing a little bit of research, the property is now utilized as a summer camp ( I use the term loosely). It seems the original house is touted as a paranormal hotspot, however not much evidence to back that up. Also the whole railroad theory in my opinion is hype, nothing more, that is used by the private owners to enhance the ambiance on the property. Nothing notes any slavery or underground railroad on that property. There is however lots of articles on the "come as you are" summer camps that are offered. I personally find it very disturbing that children ages 6 yrs old and up are mingled with adults in a nudist setting. The nudist (MARNA Summer Camp, Maryland Area Naturist Association) share the property in the summer with the CPC (Chesapeake Pagan Community). Their website reads "Camp Ramblewood styles itself as a "unique, rustic resort," and it really is just that! For more than 20 years, the camp has been a preferred venue for naturist and alternate lifestyle groups from New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland. The entire site is clothing-optional". Wonder why the Patch failed to enlighten us about all that is now Camp Ramble wood ?
Jim Chrismer January 16, 2012 at 06:14 PM
If this reply indeed came from THE Kate Clifford Larson, it has even more merit than it does at face value. Ms. Larson (Ph.D. University of New Hampshire) is the author of Bound for the Promised Land (Random House, 2004), one of the two best known scholarly biographies we have on Harriet Tubman. I have researched fugitive slaves and Harford County for some fifteen years, and have found nothing credible that links Ramblewood to the movement of escaped slaves through this area. I think Mr. Eisner has the right idea.
Kate Clifford Larson January 16, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Hi Jim, thank you for the compliment on myTubman biography. The tragedy - aside from the information that Andy Eisner has provided us - is that false history is being provided to unsuspecting visitors who expect the truth, and as a result, they miss out on the real and truthful stories of the region. All these fake UGRR sites, with their tunnels, quilts, etc., never provide information about any one brave person who was actually part of the history. The history of the Undergound Railroad and slavery becomes sanitized and made cute for consumption by a public who deserves better. To hook visitors by making up stories about events that never happened there or people who never lived or traveled through there does a great disservice to those like Jim, who have been in the trenches researching the incredible stories of the UGRR and the pursuit of freedom in that area. As for the tunnel, why didn't the reporter follow that tunnel to the river, or was that just another "fact" that the reporter failed to check up on? In the 20 years I have been researching the UGRR, I have never seen a tunnel that had been built and used for escaping slaves. Most "tunnels" are really basement storage rooms or cisterns. I am still shaking my head about Mr. Stevenson tracing the escape of Nathan and seven slaves to the house through a diary kept by Tubman. I wish the reporter had asked more detailed questions.
John Of HarCo January 18, 2012 at 05:08 AM
Ms Larson, could you perhaps write a short article for The Patch giving a synopsis of the activities of the UGRR passing through Harford County? I think you possess a wealth of knowledge and it would be great to learn another facet of the county that I grew up in. I have always enjoyed reading about Harford Co history, and would enjoy learning more about what happened during the Civil War here. Thanks for the feedback you have provided about Ramblewood, I am glad you spoke up!
Kate Clifford Larson January 18, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Thanks John, but I think Jim Chrismer would be a great resource for an article on the local UGRR. Other resources readily available includes the Maryland State Archives website called "Beneath the Underground" which documents escapes from Maryland. The database has thousands of records, and a simple search of for Harford draws up 180+ hits. Check it out at http://www.mdslavery.net/ugrr.html . Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore is also building a database. If anyone is interested, I can send you a multi page list of online and locally available resources/organizations/institutions, etc., where you can conduct your own research. What we have come to know is that the UGRR wasn't so secret and loads of information is waiting to be unearthed.
John Of HarCo January 19, 2012 at 03:21 AM
Ms Larson, thanks so much for the reply and for the information. I am going to that website now. Appreciate you taking the time to reply. Thank you!
Jim Chrismer January 19, 2012 at 07:29 AM
John of H/C: HCC has a program scheduled for April 15 on the Fugitive Slave in Harford County. Also, groups/organizations can schedule speakers on county topics by contacting the Historical Society of Harford County in Bel Air
Robbin Van Pelt January 21, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Actually there is a book that makes for great reading by Constance Ross Beims and Christine Presberry Tolbert, Author And Educator, A Journey Through Berkley. This tells about the escape of the slaves and the history in the Darlington and Berkley area..Christine should know, her family lived it..........
Robbin Van Pelt January 21, 2012 at 07:28 PM
The research I have done for Havre de grace has not linked Harriet herself to this area but it has placed certain aspects of escaped slaves through the area... Frederick Douglass succeeded in escaping on September 3, 1838. He boarded a train going to Havre de Grace, Maryland, dressed in a sailor's uniform and carrying identification papers provided by a free black seaman. After crossing the Susquehanna River by ferry at Havre de Grace, he continued by train to Wilmington, Delaware from where he went by steamboat to "Quaker City" - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He eventually arrived in New York.
Cy leba June 12, 2012 at 11:13 PM
I actually camp there every year for rhe weekend with my Sister Space group And we as a group go in at night and explore and yes we even heard noices i Even heard chains and after reading this article i know why. Very interesting theres a lake On the property as well and i fished and canoed im definitely going to look for the other End of the tunnel since in the home the door to the basement is locked. Very cool history.
Jeff B. July 13, 2012 at 10:38 PM
How does corssing the Susquehanna into Cecil County take you "Across the Mason-Dixon line"???? Unless they barged up the Susquehanna?
Les July 27, 2012 at 04:43 PM
My family owned Camp Ramblewood for thirty years. My family and my father's partners family lived there durring the eight weeks of summer camp. It was actually a summer camp for children from the Baltimore-Washington areas. We always recognized that the sub-basement was a holding area for runaway slave, however we had no proof. As far as paranormal activities, I remember as a child that strange events were always present. The upstairs (third floor) was really creepy. The lake on the property had areas that were referred to as "Dead Mans Lagoon" and an area that we always thought contained a craddle with a dead baby. These are the memories of a 58 year old that will always remember the White House, the Lake and the camp fondly.
Sherry September 22, 2012 at 05:56 AM
I worked at Camp Ramblewood during the summer of 1975 when it was a residential summer camp for rich kids who parents boarded them there while they went off trapsing through Europe for the summer. I was a camp counselor in one of the girls bunkhouses. Those little rich girls were snotty and spoiled! They didn't feel they should have to clean up for themselves because "my maid does it for me at home". I had to explain that I wasn't their maid! LOL I don't remember anything being said about the white house being haunted, but I guess they kept that sort of thing quiet back then.
Judy (Samuelson) Brandman November 17, 2012 at 08:28 PM
I believe they did "barge" up the river. I spent all of my summers at Camp Ramblewood when it was a coed, overnight camp until my senior year of college. You see, my father was one of the owners of the camp at the time. We knew for many years about the tunnel. There was also supposed to be one out in the woods somewhere, but we were never able to find it. I knew people who believed in the paranormal, and they would tell me that they could "see" spirits dating back to the Civil War. I was not able to see or hear anything related to that, but my sister, brother, the 3 sons of the other owner, and I always felt that the farm house (which we called "The White House") was "haunted". For many summers, we slept in that house before and after camp officially started. It was a bit "spooky" at night sometimes, especially on nights when I had trouble sleeping. I would imagine all sorts of things, "hear" noises, etc. Maybe I really was hearing something! But the whole experience led to my keen interest in history (which was shared by my father, Irvin Samuelson). I now teach in Texas, and I share the information about this wonderful farm and farm house with my students when we reach the time in the year that includes study of the Civil War. I am very proud to be associated with the place and its connection to the Underground Railroad!
Judy (Samuelson) Brandman November 17, 2012 at 08:33 PM
Hi, Les! There was "proof" that the tunnel existed, but when we were there, we couldn't really go down in the basement to see what kind of activity was actually going on in Civil War, etc. times. Maybe all of those Saturday campfire stories we heard were true!?!?!?!
Judy (Samuelson) Brandman November 17, 2012 at 08:37 PM
I'm sorry you had that kind of experience, Sherry. For many years prior to when you were there and my parents owned the camp, you'd get your occasional "brat", but for the most part, everyone pitched in to do what needed to be done. I'm sure the White House being haunted would have been kept a secret. After all, they wanted people to want to send their kids to the camp not give them a reason to stay away. LOL
Judy (Samuelson) Brandman November 17, 2012 at 08:47 PM
I don't know where the connection to Harriet Tubman originated, but when I was there in the 50's, 60's, and very early 70's (my parents were one of the couples who owned the property at the time), there was never any claim that associated her with the tunnel under the farm house. And the summer camp at the time was not "all natural", "come as you are", or whatever you want to call it. Unfortunately, both couples (my parents and my father's best friend and his wife) are no longer living. Any "proof" they may have had has gone with them.
Lynne A Shapiro November 20, 2012 at 06:25 AM
I attended Camp Ramblewood for a number of summers as a CIT and also a counselor....and do not remember anything about a tunnel for slaves to escape in. I do remember stories about the part of the lake being known as Dead Man's Lagoon and other scarey stories as well....hearing many of them at night time around camp fires. I have been friends with the Samuelson family for many years since I attended summer camp....at Camp Ramblewood. As for the comments of Sherry...I do remember that many of the children that attended the camp came from privileged families...however they did not appear to whine or act spoiled to me. I was at the camp during the 1960's and maybe times were different when you were there Sherry. You always have some people who tend to act better then others in that type of environment. I found Camp Ramblewood to be a wonderful experience in my life...one that I thoroughly enjoyed and also found it to be very educational as well. I have some wonderful friends from summer camp....that I have had from the time of my childhood and still have as my friends in my adult years. I am grateful for the times that I spent at Camp Ramblewood...and the many memories that I have from summer camp. When the Samuelson and Cohen families owned Camp Ramblewood it was a wonderful summer camp...filled with a wide variety of activities and a wonderful way to spend the summer.
Ahmad0001 December 18, 2012 at 05:15 AM
There is something very wrong about this story. Harriet Tubman was illiterate and did not keep a diary. She is also not known to have traveled through this area, either. http://www.onlinedatastoragesite.com/software-tools/software-program-for-building-desktop-programs.html
Alexander December 24, 2012 at 06:31 AM
I know the owners now and they do not believe that Harriet Tubman was at this location in Maryland nor do they spread false information that she was there
Cindy Willett May 25, 2013 at 02:45 PM
Les, I went to Ramblewood for 6 years as a kid, and have wonderful memories of Izzie and Irv - who are you related to?? Yes, the White House upper floors were always creepy, and it didn't help that the nurse's station was upstairs. She was a little scary herself! lol Judy, were you a counselor there? I think we've met, and I was in your bunk in the horseshoe.
Judy (Samuelson) Brandman May 25, 2013 at 08:17 PM
Cindy (Willett), Les was Izzy's son. Irv was my father. Yes, I was a counselor there in the "Horse Shoe" for part of the time. My memory of all of the names of the kids I had isn't the greatest anymore, but you do sound very familiar!!! And yes, the top floor of the White House was very creepy! To respond to the controversy about Harriet Tubman.....I have not found anything to indicate that she herself was at Ramblewood, but that land, house, etc. was definitely part of the Underground Railroad. Many "paths" went through that part of Maryland. It would have been nice if she had actually been there, but just the fact that camp was part of the Underground Railroad in and of itself is very exciting!!! And I'm proud to have been associated with it!!!


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