Ghosts of Gettysburg: 150 Years Later
by Marlon Heimerl – HalloweenCostumes.com
In nearly two and half centuries of U.S. history, no single event claimed more American lives than the Civil War. Each bayonet brandished, a bullet fired and cannon detonated was fixed to kill an American after all.
Recent adjustments count American Civil War deaths at roughly 750,000, outpacing any other U.S. military engagement by a long shot. Take the Department of Veterans Affairsestimates of the 116,516 and 405,399 American casualties from WWI and WWII respectively (in battle and non-theatre), and their combined 521,915 deaths are still greatly eclipsed by Civil War losses.
In fact, by taking another step and tossing in American deaths (battle and non-theatre) from the American Revolution (4,435), the War of 1812 (2,260), the Mexican War (1,733), the Korean War (54,246), Vietnam (90,220) and the total number of hostile deaths in the “Global War on Terrorism” (5,078), the combined total of 679,887 deaths in all other major American wars still doesn’t graze Civil War losses.
Bloodiest of the Bloody
Amid such unimaginable destruction, emotional suffering and physical torment, it’s no surprise that many Civil War sites are heralded as paranormal hotspots today. It certainly fits the mold of a prevailing paranormal theory that so many grizzly deaths in one location may fuel the likelihood of a haunting.
Prolific casualties at sites like Gettysburg and Antietam make them stand out as testing grounds for this theory. With an estimated 51,000 deaths, the Battle of Gettysburg stands ahead of the pack in terms of lives lost. While the Battle of Antietam’s claim-to-fame – an estimated 23,100 battlefield deaths in a single day – are formidable and represent the most bloodshed in a single day of American battle, the sheer immensity of losses at Gettysburg makes it hands down the bloodiest battle in American history.
The Grizzly Scene
Imagine it is July 1, 1863. You are a Gettysburg local when the sounds of war begin to fill the air.
The battle time population of your small town is no more than 2,400 people. For three days, the smells, sounds, and chaos of battle bombard the senses.
You find yourself in a unique place where advancements in weaponry greatly exceed advancements in medicine. Sickness runs rampant as men bite down on bullets and amputated limbs fester in disorderly piles. By July 4, 1863, the smell of gun smoke is replaced with the odor of 51,000 dead men, hot under the July sun.
As you open your door, corpses outnumber the locals by roughly 21 to one. Under such disparaging conditions, the logistics of burying the dead alone make proper burials difficult. Nameless faces, hastily dug graves, wells filled with discarded limbs and enough bodies to fill three-quarters of the Superdome mar the landscape. So many lives cut short in their prime – you begin to wonder if peace can be obtained this way.
Gettysburg 150 Years Later
Fast forward one hundred and fifty years. You arrive in Gettysburg on July 1, 2013. With some distance, it becomes clear that if ghosts exist at all, they certainly stand a high chance of lingering in the hallowed fields and woods of Gettysburg.
Today is the 150th anniversary of the commencement of the Battle of Gettysburg – an auspicious day to say the least. As a paranormal enthusiast and history buff, you tingle with excitement. If certain paranormal theories hold true, activity should be higher than usual; especially in cases of residual hauntings.
As you set out, names like Little Round Top, Devil’s Den, the Gettysburg orphanage, the Jennie Wade House and Triangular Field streak through your mind like specters. But what can you hope to see?
The research you conducted on top haunts in Gettysburg leading into the trip holds promise, telling tales of incredibly active sites dotting the countryside and city. Your first stop – Little Round Top – is something too surreal for words.
Little Round Top
Since gaining the upper ground is critical in battle, Little Round Top, Big Round Top, Culp’s Hill, and East Cemetery Hill, 140 to 200 feet above the surrounding countryside, each provide a valuable vantage point. From there, you can feel the power, the importance and the significance of these hills in July of 1863.
Perhaps the hills strategic value weighed into a fabled battle-time paranormal encounter between Union soldiers and someone much unexpected; as described by Charles Wetzel in Haunted U.S.A:
“The 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment had been ordered to take a hill called the “Little Round Top,” but they couldn’t find it. Suddenly a man riding a magnificent white horse and wearing a three-cornered hat appeared. He drew his sword and led the way to the hill, where the Mainers held a crucial position during the battle. The identity of the man on horseback was never in doubt; George Washington, dead since 1799, had returned from the grave to help save the country.”
If this is indeed true, then perhaps the gravity of the events of Gettysburg was already tugging at the veil, revealing goings-on from the other side?
While you don’t honestly expect to see the ghost of George Washington atop Little Round Top, as you scan the area, you swiftly shift your gaze in search of another ghostly legend that seems somehow less farfetched. According to author Dennis William Hauck, if you are lucky, a headless officer on horseback may be seen from Little Round Top – his appearance speaking volumes about the violence of his death (perhaps decapitation by cannon fire). You snap as many pictures of the Hilltop as you can, before moving onto your next destination.
Not too far off, your next stop is the site of one of the most iconic images from Gettysburg – the picture of a Rebel sharpshooter, posed after his death (rather disgracefully) by photographers in Devil’s Den for a more dramatic effect.
As you gaze upon Devil’s Den – a pile of boulders that according to Wetzel was used by Texas sharpshooters to fire upon Union soldiers atop Little Round Top – you wonder if perhaps the legends are true.
“Scruffy, rifle-toting phantoms have been appearing there ever since.” writes Wetzel.
You look about, running your hand on a stone. Mark Nesbitt, author of Haunted Pennsylvania: Ghosts And Strange Phenomena of the Keystone State, comes to mind.
He wrote of two separate sightings in the area “of a man with shoulder-length hair, bare feet, ragged unkempt clothing, and a floppy hat.” Interestingly, Texas sharpshooters who died in Devil’s Den during the battle match just that description. To think, 150 years later, they still may be steadying their mark, you feel an urge to move on.
Rosa Carmichael and Gettysburg Orphanage (a.k.a. the National Soldiers Orphans’ Homestead)
Dark history abounds in one part of Gettysburg for reasons outside of the battle itself. The next site on your list – an orphanage once headed by Rosa Carmichael – is one such place. You get a sinking feeling in your gut as you enter the fabled basement of the site.
The orphanage in Gettysburg was the source of injustices suffered by children at the hand of an abusive headmistress, Rosa. Julie Griffin, the author of Ghostly Photographs, visited the orphanage herself and spoke about Rosa’s ill-treatment of the orphans.
“Rosa was known to have abused some of the children in her care by placing them in shackles in the basement or in the outhouse, and hiring older boys to beat the disobedient ones with a stickâ€¦ Being in the cold, damp, confined area intensifies how restrictive this place would have been. After only a few minutes in there I wanted to get out of this space.”
Indeed, prolonged imprisonment in a dark, musty basement just might do the trick for creating something residual and unexplainable. The tightness of the room makes you feel uneasy, so you pack up shop for an encounter with a happier spirit at the Jennie Wade House.
Jennie Wade House
Knowing that a trip to Gettysburg would not be complete without paying a visit to Jennie Wade, you set off on a search for the ghost of the only civilian killed in the Battle of Gettysburg.
In an ironic and unfortunate turn of events, the story holds that Jennie (Virginia) Wade, did everything she could to stay out of the fray. When on July 1, 1863, Confederate shells from the west began to explode on the village, Jennie was eager to get out of harm’s way.
In The True Story of “Jennie” Wade: A Gettysburg Maid, author John White Johnston writes, “The commotion and serious danger resulting from these concussions suggested to the householders that they either betake themselves to their cellars or leave for points of safety, quite naturally in the section of the town to the south, as the battle was on the north and northwest.”
Johnston goes on to explain the remainder of Jennie’s sad tale. Believing she was fleeing for safety, Jennie left for the home of her sister near Cemetery Hill. As day faded to evening and Jennie settled into her sister’s house, it became clear that the battle lines moved and in so doing, placed Jennie’s “safe haven” squarely in the line of fire. The night grew long, and in time July 1 slipped over the horizon to reveal a July 2 sunrise.
Soon Union sharpshooters took up posts around the brick house, taking Confederate fire. That afternoon, a 10 lb. Parrot shrapnel shell fired from Oak Ridge struck a brick wall on the south side of the house; though fortunately, it did not detonate. The remainder of the day was filled with fighting around the house, and sleep that night was not easy to come by.
Near 7 a.m. on Friday, July 3, Confederate sharpshooters continued their firing at the north windows of the house. One hour later, while cooking in the kitchen, Jennie Wade was struck and fatally wounded by a Confederate sharpshooter firing from the Rupp Tannery office through the North door.
Falling dead “without a groan,” it’s natural to assume that Jennie was anything but ready for her death. To this day, her house is frequented and the hole from the bullet that claimed Jennie’s life can still be seen in the North door. You feel sad for the poor soul caught up in the whirlwind of battle, and move along to one last site before the day is done.
As seen on Parnormal.About.com, a 2001 video shot by Tom Underwood of the next destination – Triangular Field – offers what some have called “one of the most compelling ghost videos ever recorded.” In the video, orbs and wispy figures move in and out of a frame and at times, seem to resemble the contours of a shoulder or head from a disembodied entity.
Nebitt tells of a bloody skirmish that ensued in Triangular Field, perhaps adding credence to the visions seen on Underwood’s video:
“A part of Smith’s New York Battery held the top of Devil’s Den, and their guns swept the Triangular Field. Several assaults by Hood’s Texans failed to dislodge the guns or the Union infantry that backed them up. Then Benning’s Georgians tried to take the field. Alongside the Texans, they were successful, but not without great cost. Benning’s brigade had well over five hundred casualties, many of which occurred during the fight for the Triangular Field.”
With such a concentration of casualties, ghostly sightings or not, you feel an auspicious chill run up your spine. As you take a final look over the fields and hills, you stop for a moment and ponder the contrast. How could such a beautiful, pastoral place be witness to something so dark without being changed forever?
A House Indivisible
The 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg will be a spectacle for historians, paranormal enthusiasts, patriots, and people from all walks of life. Whether the Anniversary will yield more ghostly revelations is yet to be determined. Yet perhaps that is less important than simply remembering the lives the men of Gettysburg, and how they laid down life and limb for country 150 years ago.
As men in Union uniforms and the Confederate grey take to the field this July to send out cannon echoes from 150 years hence, it is important to remember the words of Abraham Lincoln: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” As the wind rustles through the grasses between cannon volleys, we remember the 51,000 men who were silenced forever so that liberty could live. Together, united, with our moral compasses intact, those present on July 1, 2013, can pay homage to the lives of the fallen, who certainly live on through us.
Gugliotta, G. (2012). “New Estimate Raises Civil war Death Toll.” The New York Times. Link
“America’s Wars.” (2011). Department of Veterans Affairs. Link
“Battle of Gettysburg: The Battle of Gettysburg and The American Civil War.” GettysburgFoundation.org. Link
Gettysburg National Military Park. “Scenic Vistas.” National Park Service. Link
Hauck, DW. (2002). Haunted Places: The National Directory: Ghostly Abodes, Sacred Sites, UFO Landings, and Other Supernatural Locations. Penguin. Link
Nesbitt, M. (2006). Haunted Pennsylvania: Ghosts And Strange Phenomena of the Keystone State. Stackpole Books. Link
Griffin, J. (2012). Ghostly Photographs. AuthorHouse. Link
Johnston, JW. (1917). The True Story of “Jennie” Wade: A Gettysburg Maid. Link
Happily Haunted – Ghosts in the Real World
by Joanne Emmons
I Think My House is Haunted! Available Now on Amazon.com!
Ghosts are scary, right? No, not necessarily. Sometimes a haunted home can be pleasant and welcoming.
For those of us who watch the myriad of ghost shows on TV, the term “happily haunted” doesn’t usually come to mind. Many of these shows focus on the more dramatic hauntings, and I have no doubt that the events depicted get at least a bit of a negative or dramatic twist in the editing process. It just (sometimes) makes for good TV and it’s what viewers want to watch. But what is it really like to live with a ghost?
First, let’s address the topic of demonic entities. Personally I used to think there really wasn’t such a thing; now, unfortunately, I’m more convinced. In any case, demonic hauntings and possessions are thankfully rare. They are a whole different ballgame, and if you are venturing into the field of paranormal investigation, or if you have a negative or potentially demonic haunting in your own home, you might want to learn a bit more about the topic.
Aside from demonic cases, some spirit hauntings can also be negative in nature. Ghosts were people once, too, and people come from both ends of the niceness scale. Once a spirit is crossed over it is returned to its purest form, but the ones that are earthbound retain whatever personality traits, prejudices, and negativity they had while they were alive. Sometimes that’s not a good thing.
So if you happen to move into a home that’s already occupied, it’s pretty much pot luck as to whom you’ll get as your new roommate. There are a lot of spirits out there I wouldn’t want to run into anywhere, much less in my own home. More often than not, though, earthbound spirits are generally benign and can even be helpful. Over the years they may annoy you at times, but they can also tend to grow on you.
Most hauntings themselves aren’t as dramatic in their manifestations as those you see on TV. Knocks and banging are common symptoms, as are ongoing issues with electronics. Other subtle signs of a haunting include hot or colds spots, the feeling of being watched, unexplainable smells, and mechanical issues in the home. More significant hints that you’re sharing your home with an unseen houseguest can include disembodied voices, object manipulation, and physically being touched. And actual sightings of shadow figures and full-bodied apparitions are always strong hints.
These types of symptoms aren’t usually an attempt of the spirit to do harm or express discontent. Often they are just trying to get a little attention, or possibly to stir up a little emotional energy to draw from. Of course if the activity is causing undue fear or stress, or is keeping you awake at night, you’ll need to take a few steps to get it under control. I usually recommend starting out by verbally laying down the ground rules. I don’t mean that you should tell them it’s your house now and they need to get out. Hopefully it won’t come to that, and declaring that type of ultimatum could potentially backfire. Of course it always depends of the specifics of the case, but often I’ll recommend something along the lines of a compromise. For example, you could start with something like this:
“Listen, I know you’re here but this is my house now. I’m willing to share it with you if you follow a few ground rules. First, you need to stay away from the children. I know you like to play with them but you’re scaring them, so they’re off limits. Next you can’t do anything to bother us at night. Once we’re in bed it’s quiet time. Period. If you’d like to let us know you’re around during the day, that’s fine, as long as you don’t do anything to harm us. But we must have our sleep so you need to be quiet at night.”
Use a firm but unemotional tone, and never yell as the energy could stir things up in unwanted ways. Approach it as you might when setting boundaries with younger child. Or, if you’d prefer, handle it like a conversation with a friend or relative who has come to stay but needs a bit of a reminder as to proper etiquette.
I’m amazed at how often this approach alone can help get unwanted activity under control. It may not have perfect results, and with an extremely negative haunting it could potentially backfire, but I’ve seen it get serious cases under control, allowing the clients to finally get good night’s sleep.
Once you and your ghost are on better terms we can finally get on to the “happily haunted” part. As long as a spirit isn’t being disruptive or affecting your energy, living with one can be a pleasant, even an uplifting experience. Some of the things they can do are nothing short of amazing, and they serve as a constant reminder that his physical plane of existence isn’t all there is. The universe is so much broader and more amazing than we can see with our five senses, and paranormal experiences offer us brief glimpses through the veil.
Many of the clients I work with are quite content sharing their home with a spirit. They may want to learn more about them, or even want to help them cross over, an extreme gift of kindness in my view. In one particular home I’ve investigated I believe there is a child’s spirit that is attached to the woman of the house. On my first investigation there we captured an EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) of a little girl’s voice clearly saying “I like you.” On another visit we captured a child’s voice saying “mommy” just after the female homeowner asked if she should leave the room. Knowing a little about the spirits in your home can often make living with the paranormal a little less frightening.
On the whole, many of the clients I work with might consider themselves “happily haunted”, or at least they are comfortable with their circumstances. I put myself in that category as well. My current home used to be visited by a young boy’s spirit. Although I believe I have helped him cross over, there is still at least one older male energy here. Our property used to be part of a farm, and I think our spirit was associated with that homestead and just drops by on occasion. Maybe he’s here more often than I realize, but in any case, he’s more than welcome to share our home.
There’s a quote from Dr. Michael Newton’s book Destiny of Souls that I think is very fitting:
“There is a mystery to that which is invisible to the living, when only our senses tell us something is there. I wonder if spiritual travelers don’t engender memories within us of recognition of what we once were and will be again.”
Maybe that’s exactly what our fascination with the paranormal is all about â€“ a stirring of something deep inside us that remembers the other side of the veil. If we think of our ghostly housemates along these lines it may bring us a little closer to being happily haunted as well.