Lucie Shelton was alone when she walked down the stairs to the basement of her new business.

Once she was down the steps, she found a large door made of wood planks. She opened the door and saw a huge giant dirt mound.

For reasons she can't remember, she took a photo. When she looked down at the photo she had taken, she couldn't believe what she saw.

Shelton opened her business, Cakes to Die For, in March in the old Farmers and Mechanics Bank Building at North Market and Second streets. Before the bank was there, the property was home to the Tory Jail. Built in 1775, the jail held prisoners from the Revolutionary War. Three men who were found guilty of treason were hanged behind the jail.

When Shelton looked down at the photo, she said she saw what appeared to be a man sitting on top of the dirt mound, with a jail hat on.

"I definitely, like, ran upstairs," she said.

When Shelton named her business, she had no idea how ironic the name would become.

At more than 250 years old, downtown Frederick has everything you need for a perfect haunting: Revolutionary War prisoners and hangings; the blood of the Civil War; and the historic buildings, with their creaky floorboards and squeaky doors.

The employees who work in these buildings have story after story to tell.

For someone who spooks easily, this column was slightly terrifying to write.

Ron Angleberger, owner of Maryland Heritage Tours, asked me just how much time I had to listen to the stories he had heard. His company hosts ghost tours in several locations, including downtown Frederick.

The building of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine on East Patrick Street was once a furniture and undertaking business, Angleberger said. Civil War soldiers were embalmed in the back rooms.

Museum employees have heard boots stomping down the hallways when no one is there, have seen visions of a woman with a long dress and frizzy hair, have felt the touch of a cold hand, and have seen office supplies move across the room, he said.

"It sounds terrible to say, but it's all in a day's work over here," said April Dietrich, a museum employee.

Almost every time Dietrich works late, she said she hears sounds that make it seem as if everyone else is in the office.

"Doors closing, mumbled conversations," she said.

But when she checks the building and looks next door, she realizes she is obviously alone, she said.

Dietrich said she isn't one to scare easily. She doesn't think the stories she has heard about the building are making her imagine things.

At Brainstorm Comics and Gaming next door, in the same building, owner Dan Webb said he feels a definite paranormal presence.

Webb said he didn't know the stories of the building's past when he opened the comic book shop four years ago. The building was once home to Carty Funeral Home.

"I didn't believe in anything like this," Webb said. "A week after I moved in, though, I started becoming plagued with nightmares. It was really odd. I felt drained at the end of every day. And there is nothing that is draining about working here."

In the basement, Webb said he always feels a sense of "impending doom."

He had ghost hunters tour the building a few weeks ago, and they heard voices and saw visions, he said.

If nothing else, the spirits of the past keep Frederick alive.

The museum sees many tourists who come downtown just for the ghost tours, and many residents who have heard stories about the building, Dietrich said.

The ghosts in the building are more irritating than ill-intentioned, she said.

Paperclips often fly across her desk, onto her keyboard.

"I tell them, 'I'm trying to get some work done,'" she said. "But I don't make it a habit of talking to dead people."

Follow Jen Fifield on Twitter: @JenAFifield.

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