Wye Mills is a quiet and unpretentious little Eastern Shore village which dates back to the 17th century, and straddles the rural-suburban Maryland counties of Talbot and Queen Anne’s. The Wye East River, running north and west of the town, and, to the south, Skipton Creek, create a ragged 90-degree capital L permeated at its edges with a supersensory end-of-the-road vibe, especially after the sun sets.
Before U.S. Rt.50 was expanded in the late 1940s, allowing the rest of the western world easy access across ‘The Shore’ on their way to ‘The Beach’, the stretch of two-lane highway between Queenstown and Easton was part of Rt.213, and even back then, like today, Wye Mills, tucked back just out of sight from the beaten path, must have seemed like a place lost in time.
The place is old.
The town’s namesake flour-producing mill has been grinding it out since 1682. It’s the oldest operating mill in the United States. Wye Mills Lake was formed from the Wye East early in the colonial era to divert water to the mill. http://www.oldwyemill.org/
The Old Wye Church was established in 1712.
The Wye Oak, until struck down by a thunderstorm in 2002, was believed to be almost 500 years old.
Old. Old. Old.
And old places have histories, sometimes histories with mysteries.
This mystery began in November, 1934.
Two gravediggers were preparing the final resting place for a recently deceased member of the Wye Mills Methodist Church congregation when their shovels hit something. Something solid. Something unanticipated.
They uncovered a rusty iron coffin about five foot in length and shaped like a sarcophagus, tapering at the shoulders to fit the general form of the human body.
Partially according to the Star Democrat newspaper of November 16, 1934, and partially according to legend, a top section of the casket was loose, and while officials decided what should be done with their graveyard Jane Doe, some kind of liquid dripped from inside her iron entombment and brought with it a stench that worsened the longer she spent topside.
A sliding faceplate was part of the coffin’s design.
The men slid the faceplate back and stared into the dead eyes of a woman, skin turned dark with decay, but possessing beautiful teeth, along with hair and skin that was “like new.”
The authorities were called and after what appears to be some cursory investigation, including various hypothesis provided by neighbors and local school children, the body was reinterred, and the recent dearly departed was deposited next to the mystery corpse, roommates of a sort, forever and ever.
Over the decades, rumors and guesses lingered as to who the mystery mummy may have been, and where her remains might now be kept, as her location was once again lost to memory. It wasn’t until 1970, when a man named Robert Lord, armed with a high quality metal detector, got a ping that would indicate perhaps the large metal coffin had once again been found.
Judge B. Hackett Turner of Maryland’s Circuit Court approved a petition filed by church elders to excavate, and on August 8, between 1,000 and 1,500 onlookers showed up to take a look at the Mummy of Wye Mills.
As described in the August 13, 1970, Bay Times “tension and excitement mounted” as the casket was raised to the ground for all to see.
And what some saw was something different than they’d seen before.
Onlookers who had been on hand back in 1934, including Alfred Covington, Ralph Ireland, and Buddy Miles, insisted this was not the same coffin they’d seen almost forty years before. The old reports and what was now on display in that hot summer sun seemed to bear out their assertions.
First, weighing almost three hundred pounds, this coffin was much larger than the original. Inside, as opposed to the woman who was seen the first time, this cadaver was obviously a man. He had a mustache and a long black beard. Whereas her eyes appear to have been exposed, the male corpse’s eyes were sewn shut. She had beautiful teeth and skin, this fellow, dressed in a collarless white shirt and suspenders, had sutured lacerations to his face, and large irregular teeth, which due to substantial parts of his lips and gums being missing, seemed locked into a permanent sneer. The Star Democrat ran a photo with their article:
It was determined by research performed by Easton radio station WEMD news director and general manager George Dietrich that both coffins were probably made by the Fisk Company. Designed to be airtight and as light as possible in most cases, typically the air would be removed from inside and a liquid or gas would be injected to keep the body in viewable condition far longer than typical wood caskets. Fisk Iron coffins were not cheap. Though neither Wye Mills mummy was ever identified, it has always been assumed they had to have been well-off and perhaps important people when they walked among the living.
Nevertheless, at the end of the day, after hundreds and hundreds of the curious took their turn peering into the sliding glass viewing window, as per the court order, the male mummy of Wye Mills, like his female predecessor, was once again interred, and once again in an unmarked grave.
Many believe both burial sites have been lost forever now.
Yet, in the silent and still night of an old, old, old place, it’s easy to get the feeling we may not have yet seen the last of the Mummies of Wye Mills.
After all, in spirit, they might be right there beside you. And they might not be alone.
What a great post, Brent.
Thank you, Mala! Glad you enjoyed! Hope you have a great Labor Day weekend!
Pretty cool stuff. I did not know .
So cool. Thank you Brent. Keep those stories alive!!!!
Thanks Helen – miss your smile!
Reblogged this on easternshorebrent and commented:
A Halloween repost – hope you enjoy the Mummies of Wye Mills!
Thanks, Brent! Giving you full credit and a pitch for your blog, I may have to share this with my Methodists on Sunday….it is the Sunday before Halloween!
Thank you for posting this Brent. I do remember all of these stories, having lived in Wye Mills most of my life and attended the viewing of the man. We didn’tget close enough to see the face because the odor coming from it was sickening. I still find it so very interesting. I’ve heard before that there are many bodies buried around Wye Mills. I’ve always felt a kind of spookyness in this town at night that I didn’t feel in other places. It scared me as a child. I was also hesitant about moving to my parents home because of it. I have a different feeling as an adult. Still a little spooky but a peaceful spooky. I think I’m here for life now!
hey April! Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I agree, Wye Mills has a spooky feel to it, but its one of my favorite places on all the Shore! Glad you’ve come to terms with your life membership! Glad you enjoyed the story!
Don’t have a clue it might be, but I’ll put my buddy up against any of your mummies!
He’s already faster than most mummies. mine included!
Wow, just wow! Thank You Brent for my Halloween local lore 🙂
Thank you for taking the time to post, Cheri! Glad you enjoyed!
Man, Ill never forget the day my Dad took me at age 8 to stand in line to peer through the glass on the casket, revealing the scariest thing I’d ever seen in my life. A corpse’s face was suddenly inches from mine, with long, yellow teeth and wild black hair. I had many a nightmare involving that image. It was something I can still envision in my mind’s eye today. Maybe it was my young age, but I believe Stephen King would’ve been frightened by what was seen beneath that glass. Creepy!! Stafford
Very cool, Rene! You have the best memory of this out of anyone I’ve talked to! Thanks for sharing this creepy memory!
Wow Rene, you definitely have some great scary campfire tales to tell….Jealous 🙂
Not me! I have enough images to haunt my sleep!
My grandfather was a witness to the opening of the coffin. He is even shown with a fire hose cleaning off the coffin the the paper. He told me that they thought it was a Confederate soilder
That’s cool, Luke. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment! Hope you read more easternshorebrent.com!