The quiet farm has a haunted past.

By Valerie Fraser Luesse
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Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House Museum
Credit: Getty Images/Mark Gail/TWP

On a quiet family farm deep in rural Maryland, an early-morning doctor’s visit found its way into the history books. There, in the predawn hours of April 15, 1865, a stranger came knocking on the door of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd—or so the doctor said. The alleged stranger was actually John Wilkes Booth, who had shot Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D. C., just hours before.

A successful actor and Southern sympathizer, Booth originally planned to kidnap Lincoln, but his abduction plans failed. So did the additional assassinations that Booth's co-conspirators were meant to carry out as the actor fatally shot Lincoln at the theater, then leaped from the State Box to the stage, yelled "sic semper tyrannis" ("thus always to tyrants"), and escaped before a stunned audience could stop him.

As Booth landed on the stage at Ford's, he broke a bone in his leg and made his way to Mudd's house, along with co-conspirator David Herold. After Booth received treatment from the doctor, he and Herald moved on, eluding Federal troops for several days before being caught in Virginia, where they were hiding in a barn. Herald surrendered. Booth would not. The troops set the barn on fire and Booth was shot (though there's some question as to whether a soldier or Booth himself fired the fatal bullet).

Prosecutors would argue that Mudd knew Booth well, but the doctor claimed they had met only once and insisted that he didn’t recognize the distressed patient who showed up at his door that morning.

Mudd spent four years imprisoned at Fort Jefferson in Florida’s Dry Tortugas but was pardoned for coming to the fort’s aid during a yellow fever outbreak. His house is now a museum, where no one is allowed on the bed where Booth was laid. However, the staff members claim that they sometimes find a human-size impression on the bed when they arrive in the morning. Even though no one has been in the room all night.