A ghost tour it is not. Historic London Town and Gardens’ Sins & Secrets tour digs up the salacious history of this Colonial settlement…not the haunted. And with a complimentary adult beverage in your hand as you stroll the darkened gardens, you’ll step back in time to the Colonial tavern atmosphere recreated by your guide through vivid true stories. I attended Sins & Secrets on a misty October evening, apropos for the night ahead wandering the historic grounds. The evening began inside the Visitors Center where London Town offered a spread of hors d’oeuvres and Colonial guides served beer, wine, sodas and water. People were gathered around tables enjoying the nibbles and conversation. From there, guests were invited to join a guide to begin the tour.
Amelia, a Museum Educator and my guide for the evening, led our group by candlelight out to the grounds. The sky darkened around us as we listened intently to the stories she shared and moved from one stop to the next. When we began, Amelia said, “Now I may pull out my note cards during the tour and if I do, please forgive me. I want to make sure I get all the stories right.” Amelia never did pull out her notes but if she had it would have been fine. The stories shared on the tour are thoroughly researched and her notes include a bibliography and exact citations for each. Drawn from legal documents, ship manifests, newspapers throughout the American colonies and in Britain, memoirs, land records and court judgments, the stories are not exaggerated. Amelia and her colleagues strive to only tell the truth.
London Town served as a ferry point for crossing the South River to Annapolis and as such, this town described then as “small but hospitable” saw many visitors in its early history including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Its water access also allowed it to serve as a prominent place in the local slave trade. After slave ships left Annapolis, they came to London Town where slaves were sold on land; a piece of the “Sins” nomenclature in the tour’s title. The slaves arrived terrified and fearful they’d be eaten. Rumors of the cannibalistic white man made their way to Africa because no one there understood why their loved ones never returned. Free blacks living in London Town served as translators to calm the slaves and tell them they were brought here to work. This story is woven into the evening to shed light on the moral darkness that is part of our history and can’t be ignored.
Other tales involve tavern fights, piracy — including a vanished flock of sheep who left behind hoof prints in the sand — that family with the boys you’re supposed to stay away from, indentured servitude and espionage. In fact, a French spy who stayed in London Town kept a secret journal of his time in the colonies. Over a century after the Revolution his journal was discovered in an attic in Paris. You’ll have to take the Sins & Secrets Tour to learn what key piece of history he documented in its pages! The guides at London Town are passionate historians with an equal amount of passion for storytelling. The stories range from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries and will stay with you for some time. The food and drinks, included with admission, are icing on a very spicy cake and London Town maintains its reputation as “small but hospitable” thanks to its engaging guides. For this tour, dress warm and wear shoes that can trek through grass that may be damp. Sins & Secrets is offered on Fridays in October through October 27 at 6 pm.
Photos courtesy of Katie Redmiles