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Great Ghosts of Gettysburg

Between the first and the third of July, 1863, more blood was shed in a formerly little-known Adams County farm community than at any battle in history. The deaths on the battlefield at Gettysburg numbered 7,500, and probably a tenth of the wounded died later. With around ten thousand men down in a few horrific days, it’s hardly surprising Gettysburg has its fair share of ghost stories. But oddly enough, one of the stories comes to us from the time of the battle itself.

Although the Confederates were ultimately devastated on July 3rd, 1863, the Union soldiers were actually in trouble at one point. The 20th Maine Division had arrived to reinforce the flagging troops, but they had no idea where to go. The division told the story that a striking figure in an old-fashioned uniform appeared on a white horse and led them up to Little Round Top, a strategic

point that enabled them to rout a flank of Confederates and ultimately win the battle. The soldiers insisted that the glowing apparition they followed bore an uncanny resemblance to George Washington. There’s no denying this story reeks of propaganda—it’s only one step away from the old claim that “God is on our side”—but the story has had remarkably long life nevertheless.

If you visit the National Military Park on a clear summer night, you will sometimes see fog creeping in and surrounding the field where so many people fell. Fog is always brings a creepy sensation with it, but such sudden ground mists are not exactly unusual weather for this kind of topology. But what’s inside the fog is a little more unusual. Lights flash on and off, appearing to advance along the same path that the Confederates took to Little Round Top. Sometimes, shadows or transparent apparitions appear on horseback. Although it’s hard to see anything in those conditions, these riders are often reported as being headless—though this may be due to an overactive imagination fired by too many readings of Sleepy Hollow.

When you visit the huge boulders of the Devil’s Den, you may get helpful advice for framing the perfect photograph from a shabby looking youth sitting around in a big floppy hat. He’ll drawl from his perch that a certain pile of rocks would make a great photograph—but once you’ve snapped the scene, he’ll have disappeared. Folks call him the Helpful Hippy of the Devil’s Den.

But far and away the most common ghostly phenomena at Gettysburg concern cameras. There were many photographs taken during the battle, but it seems nowadays that an unusual number of cameras malfunction on the field. Visitors often experience a chill when this happens—maybe because of the weather, maybe from a sudden supernatural fear, or perhaps from the presence of something not of this world.

Spectral Sounds and Smells at the Farnsworth House, Gettsyburg

The Farnsworth House Inn on Baltimore St, Gettysburg, was 53 years old when it was riddled with bullets from the famous Civil War battle that takes its name from the town. It displays the hundred bullet holes from that battle proudly, and its staff is well versed in lore and legend of the era. The staff also has a spirited way of promoting the place as one of the top ten most haunted inns in America. Whether it’s the Mourning Theatre, the candlelit ghost tours, or the ghostly dinner theater presentation, the hostelry has a knack for turning occult happenings into palatable entertainment.
But it’s not all fun and games at the Farnsworth

House Inn. One of the rooms, the Garrett, is closed and padlocked because things used to get too hairy there. The lock on that door sometimes rattles of its own accord, and meanwhile, up in the garret’s ensuite bathroom, a bloody mess that’s almost impossible to clean sometimes appears. The room was apparently a post for three Confederate sharpshooters during the conflict, and presumably at least one of them was seriously injured or killed there. In another upstairs room, a bereaved man is heard sobbing inconsolably, and seen carrying a child wrapped in a quilt. The door to the cellar often opens to an apparition carrying a wounded comrade down to the catacombs, where a voice is heard singing quietly. And in true Sixth Sense mode, the temperature suddenly plummets inexplicably.

Other rooms feature less frightening occurrences. The McFarland Room often contains strange sounds, including unusually heavy breathing (and close-up, not from neighboring rooms). The Schultz Room is supposedly often visited by a solicitous midwife who tucks you in, and a little boy. Both are considered very benign presences, but apparently one of them smokes cigars. The smell of particularly acrid cheroot often pervades the room in the wee hours of the night.

With all the media attention paid to the Farnsworth House, it’s amazing they can fit any paying guests into the place. Carol Kirkpatrick the psychic, Ghost Hunters International, the Sci-Fi Channel, Unsolved Mysteries, and The History Channel have all visited and reported on the place. None of them reported getting tucked in for the night, but one can only assume that they just attracted a different ghost.

A Brush with a Farnsworth Ghost

It's hard to get into the haunted part of the Inn, but we lucked out last summer...kind of. When we went to bed, the covers and pillows were wrinkled, though we'd locked the door on a sharply-made hospital-corner bed only a couple of hours before. The bed moved during the night, as if someone sat down on it and got up again. The damn thing creaked even when we weren't moving. I was glad when my husband began stroking my hair—it comforted me to know that he knew how much it was freaking me out. The trouble is, when I told him the next day how it had calmed me down a lot, he looked baffled. "I was asleep all night," he told me, "I didn't stroke your hair." –Maggiruth

The Kids Thought it was Funny

I don't think I'll be staying at the Farnsworth House Inn again. They say that there are good spirits and bad spirits there, but something about the loud sounds of children laughing wigged me out completely. I should point out that there were no children staying in the inn at the time, and it went on too long to be something on TV. –S. Gallagher

Chased by Ghosts from Gettysburg Cemetery

 I am a huge Civil War buff, so I travel to Gettysburg a lot.  I always stay in the same hotel downhill from the Gettysburg National Cemetery. Last October I went there with a friend of mine. Around ten at night on our second night there, I decided that I'd take a trip to the cemetery.  I climbed up the muddy hillside and got about 500 feet into the cemetery when I heard this weird chiming noise. I looked around for its source, and about 150 feet to my left was this pulsing, shimmering blue ball of light. It started floating towards me about four feet off of the ground. I got to the hill and slipped all the way down it on my butt. I heard that noise again, this time really close. I picked myself up and made my way running to the hotel room. I was pounding on the door. My buddy Dave opened the door and I pushed my way past him into the hotel room. I’ll still go back to Gettysburg but I won't stay in that hotel or go back to that cemetery again. –Lucas Reeves

You can read about all of Pennsylvania’s other haunted hotspots in Weird Pennsylvania.

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