“It was a black-robed spectre who crawled from among the tombstones of an East Baltimore graveyard to terrorize an entire neighborhood during the hot summer of 1951.
They called him “The Phantom of O’Donnell Heights” — and his nocturnal wanderings over the rooftops of the blue-collar section sent teams of vigilantes into the streets, armed with sticks, shotguns and butcher knives.
He was reported hiding under automobiles enticing little girls to “come closer my dear.” He was seen jumping from 20-foot high walls, but left no imprints on the ground. This galloping ghost vaulted over 6-foot graveyard fences, trimmed with barbed wire, and vanished among the tombstones.
During his two week romp, eerie, haunting music was heard coming from the graveyard chapel at 1 A.M. Whatever he was, the phantom did not fear the armed mobs that set out to catch him, but openly defied them. He would come within view, and, like a wily fox, lead them on a chase.
One night the chase ended amid the moonlit graves. Several of the pursuers swore they saw the phantom jump into a sarcophagus. “He’es returned to the grave.” one said.
And as the August moon cast a pale glow on the tilting tombstones and the small crowded streets of O’Donnell Heights. the community began sleeping again in their second floor bedrooms.
Shells were ejected from shotguns. the butcher knives put back in the kitchen drawer, and the lookout posts went unmanned.
Somewhere a dog barked and knocked over a garbage can, but nobody started screaming. A baby cried for its 1 A.M. bottle, but then the lights were turned out again.
And nothing more was ever heard of the terrible Phantom of O’Donnell Heights. “
- Baltimore’s Phantom of 1951
The sightings of the phantom ended as suddenly as they began, but the cause was never discovered.
By Frederick N. Rasmussen (The Baltimore Sun, 10/30/1999)