Gettysburg: 150 Years of Hauntings

Posted by US Ghost Adventures Contributor in US Ghost Adventures

Gettysburg’s history is intrinsically connected to hauntings. Why, you may ask, is this location such a paranormal hotspot. The first reason should be quite obvious. Hauntings often exist in an area that witnessed an extreme expenditure of human emotional energy and violent physical exertion. These emotions seem embedded in the physical surroundings of Gettysburg. This nearly mythical Civil War battle took place on July 1st to the 3rd in 1863, when nearly 165,000 soldiers from the Union and Confederate Armies clashed with each other. Over 52.000 people lost their lives in that short period of time. Thousands more were grievously injured. Emotions were at a fever pitch during the conflagration of this battle, every soldier knowing what was on the line: reunion for the North; independence for the South.

Many who died on the battlefield lay where they fell for days, rotting away in the sun and swarming with infesting maggots. Other fallen soldiers were placed in shallow graves subject to the rain and winds. Thousands of these soldiers died far from home, leaving their former lives behind, their jobs, family, and friends, to fight for a cause that would forever divide or unite this country. It is as if the violent fury of this battle scarred the land itself and people often witness a release of that energy into the environment, manifested as apparitions, smells, sounds, or tactile feelings. There is a theory that the very geology of Gettysburg, the granite and limestone upon which this site rests, actually recorded the emotions of that battle and internally stored the fear and bewilderment of those involved in the Battle until those acts and deeds became the land itself.

These types of environmentally recorded hauntings are often manifested as residual hauntings, a play-back of events and deeds that occurred over 150 years ago. But intelligent hauntings also exist in Gettysburg, which means the very soul of the person resides in this plane of existence not just an instant from a life. Intelligent hauntings are created in this extreme conditions as well, making the events of Gettysburg the perfect storm for recording and manifesting paranormal activity. 

Let us take a tour then, and wander about the fields and various locations of Gettysburg, and investigate some of the famous and some of the not as well-known locations as we continue our quest for the ghosts that continue to haunt Gettysburg.

Devil’s Den

The first obligatory stop in Gettysburg must be the site known as Devil’s Den, an area indicated by large boulders in between two rocky hills known as Little Roundtop and Big Roundtop. While most people assume it got its name during or after the war, it was called Devil’s Den well before the Civil War. People living in the area claim that a Native American war, colloquially called the “Battle of the Crows,” occurred in this very area, hundreds of years before the first cannon was fired on these fields. It seems this area was already soaked with human blood well before the Battle of Gettysburg.

On July 2nd, 1863, the second day of the battle, the area around Devil’s Den saw extreme fighting between approximately 7,900 men, comprised of 2,400 Union Army soldiers and 5,500 Confederates. The naturally occurring nooks and crannies of this boulder field was used by Confederate sharpshooters who fired at the Union Army on top of Little Round Top.

By the time the battle ended, over 2,600 men had been killed in the area in and around Devil’s Den. So many Confederates were killed in between Devil’s Den and Little Round Top that it was often referred to as the Slaughter Pen. A creek running in between Little Round Top and Devil’s Den became known as Bloody Run because it literally ran red with blood. To add to the suffering, heavy rains on the 4th of July, 1863, caused this creek to flood, drowning a few wounded and incapacitated soldiers who were not fortunate enough to have been taken to the safety of the makeshift field hospitals.

People visiting the area of Devil’s Den have reported that their cameras, phones, and other electronics suddenly won’t turn on, take pictures, or that the batteries are simply drained. A frequent ghostly sighting in the Devil’s Den area is that of a disheveled man who is seen barefoot, wearing shabby clothes, and a floppy hat. He often walks up to people and tells them “What you’re looking for is over there” while pointing towards Plum Run. He then simply disappears, leaving those that have encountered him naturally bewildered. This odd ghost has come to be known as the Helpful Hippy. 

Farnsworth House Inn

Farnsworth House Inn is the only Civil War period dining experience in the town of Gettysburg. Visitors will find period fare served by period-dressed servers in the historic inn, which has more than 100 bullet holes in its exterior south wall, mementos from the Civil War. One of the most common paranormal events that has been reported at The Farnsworth House Inn is that when the property is quiet and the attic is empty, usually in the dead of night (pun intended), the sound of a concert played on rustic instruments filters down from the attic believed to be played by the spirit of a young soldier who refuses to abandon his post so many years after his untimely death.

Hospital Woods

Hospital Woods served as one of the battle’s primitive temporary field hospitals, protected by the deep woods from which this site takes its name. A ghostly nurse has been seen in the dark of night, glowing in an eerie light. This is appropriate as these field nurses were the only ray of light in the nightmare darkness that was the Battle of Gettysburg. 

Other souls that are said to frequent Hospital Woods and the house that is built there are said to kick doors, turning lights on and off, activating electronics, and moving heavy furniture. These are the activities of a poltergeist, a spirit that manifests by moving objects but rarely—if ever—seen as an apparition. 

But the Civil War did not create all the ghosts of Gettysburg. Also frequently seen in the Hospital Woods area is the specter of a woman from the neighborhood who committed suicide years ago.

Gettysburg National Cemetery

The Soldier’s National Monument. Source Flickr

Gettysburg National Cemetery was constructed as a burial place for Union deaths sustained at the Battle of Gettysburg. It is now a United States Federal Cemetery, controlled and managed by the National Park Service, a part of the United States Department of the Interior. This cemetery is also a part of the Gettysburg Battlefield, which sits within the confines of the Gettysburg National Military Park. The cemetery includes the graves of 979 unknown soldiers as well as holding 3,512 burials from the Civil War. This sprawling cemetery has assigned, solemn sections for veterans of the Spanish–American War, World War I, World War II, and other conflicts in which the men and women of the United States fought and died for. Along with the graves of the veterans are those of military wives and their children. The total buried in this cemetery is well over 6,000.

It is little wonder that some of these souls do not rest easily. Some are buried with the children they never met in this life. Others lie in the ground without a name, while still others are seen as misty phantoms wandering about the stones of this somber and hallowed cemetery. On these grounds have been witnessed full-bodied apparitions and the spectral voices of disembodied souls crying out for a family member in a mournful quest to find those they lost in this life. Many guests that walk through the cemetery have reported seeing floating balls of unexplainable light, roaming freely across the manicured lawns, at night and also during the day. Visitors have also witnessed strange ethereal apparitions marching up and down the hills and the pristine landscape. At night, in the distance, the wind frequently carries the sound of gunfire, the boom of cannons, and the shrieks of soldiers reliving continually their deaths on this Battlefield.

Little Round Top

Located at the foot of the famous Little Round Top, the Slaughter Pen is one of the bloodiest portions of the Gettysburg battlefield. Upon the conclusion of the Gettysburg battle, the ground at The Slaughter Pen was found wholly covered with bodies of the dead to the point that it was said one couldn’t see the grass underneath them. This area was filled with Civil War soldiers who were ambushed, unable to fight back; most of the Confederate troops stationed here perished where they hid. Little Round Top was the location of 134 casualties on the Union side as well as another 279 killed on the side of the Confederacy. On July 2nd, 1863, the battle here took place and resulted in a Union victory, even with the resulting Union death toll being half of those the Confederacy lost. Little Round Top’s slope is known as The Valley of Death due to the extreme amounts of lives lost in such a relatively small space. The battle was geographically crucial to the Civil War as a whole because whoever controlled Little Round Top could dominate the countryside to the west for miles upon miles. With the Union army arranged mainly to the north of the Top, the hill represented the extreme left flank of the Union lines and losing it would have been disastrous.

Today, Little Round Top and The Slaughter Pen are open to visitors, and people touring this site have indeed reported ghostly apparitions and disembodied voices. One account claims that a group of people were approached by a Union soldier, whom they assumed was a reenactor at the site. However, he was said to have reeked of sulfur and was very haggard and dirty. The visitors claim the soldier handed them ammunition, which they believed to be blank rounds. It was later determined that the man was not a reenactor and that he had handed the crew several pristine condition Civil War-era musket rounds – not blanks! It seems as if this ghost was unaware that the war was over and was assuring that the group he came upon was ready for the battle that is still apparently being waged a century and a half later in the limbo of Gettysburg.

The Children’s Orphanage

Located on the edge of the original battlefield, the orphanage stands as a reminder of the brutal past that, not only those fighting in the war but also, those who lost parents, family, and loved ones also felt the horrors of the war. The war did not simply end for the residents of Gettysburg, rather it lived on with the death of crops and income, through the fatalities of families, and the destruction of homes. The Children’s Orphanage should be seen as a tribute to those who suffered after the war and well after, even if they were too young to take part in the tragedy that struck our nation. The wages of war are often paid out to the most innocent, collateral damage in a war between the States. 

 After the Civil War, there were children left without families, homes, and necessities. Children were taken in by relatives, neighbors, or left on the street. After a local petition, the Children’s Orphanage was opened in 1868 and housed 22 kids. A year later, the count grew to 60 children, overcrowding the two-story building. Accommodations were made and a new wing was added, but by 1870 nearly all funding was depleted. With the number of children in the building, a disciplinarian was hired. Her name was Rosa Carmichael.

Just six years into her appointment, Carmichael was charged with numerous accounts of cruelty and aggravated assault inflicted on her innocent orphans. The abuse was the main action that led to her indictment. The original file was based on a 16-year-old boy’s escape from the orphanage, in tattered clothing, no shoes, and missing part of his arm. This boy also told the story of two girls who were forced to wear boys’ clothing while being locked in shackles in a veritable dungeon. You see, the dream of the orphanage had become a nightmare for those who had lost parents in the war, confined in a building that no longer sheltered and protected them but was a place of torture. 

As Carmichael’s trial continued, the revelation of her punishments were dragged out into the light, and her abuse allegations and grew crueler and more regular against the children she was commissioned to serve. She even hired an older teenager to beat the children who misbehaved. Carmichael reportedly even locked a 4-year-old boy out in the cold of winter in an outhouse. He was released when neighbors heard his tormented screams. Carmichael was also said to have had girls stand on desks in one position until they passed out from exhaustion. Indeed, it was proven that Carmichael had a 5’ x 8’ dungeon built in the basement of the orphanage, equipped with shackles and torture devices which lead to an unknown number of children’s’ deaths.

Although adamantly claiming slander & falsehoods, Rosa Carmichael was charged and removed from her position, as well as being banished from the town. The orphanage eventually closed in 1878.

The orphanage was ultimately turned into a Civil War Museum.

It is claimed that many visitors to the old orphanage hear the crying and footsteps of children echoing in the halls. Laughter has also been heard within these walls, while some guests have felt tugs on their clothing. Spectral children in worn clothing have been spotted throughout the building when no children had been on the premises. It is rumored that the infamous Rosa Carmichael has been seen peering out of windows and walking the grounds behind the house. The shackles have been heard rattling when no breeze is active in the basement. The overall ambiance of the building is said to be an overwhelming sadness and a feeling of despair. It may be appropriate that Carmichael is an inmate in the prison which she made.

Gettysburg College

Gettysburg College. Source

Gettysburg College was founded 31 years before the Battle of Gettysburg was waged and sits just adjacent to the infamous battlefield. Since the college stood directly in the midst of the Battle of Gettysburg, it was only logical to use this massive structure as a make-shift hospital in order to care for wounded soldiers. This such hospital was unique in that it cared for troops of both the North and South. It is interesting to note that upon forces taking control of the college, students rushed to the aid of soldiers wounded in battle. Every hallway and room within the college was occupied by an estimated 700 Confederate Soldiers. Henry Watkins, class of 1864, recorded that from anywhere inside Gettysburg College, and at any time, the shrieks, prayers, and moans of the wounded or dying could be heard. 

For a month after the Battle of Gettysburg, the college continued to serve as a Confederate hospital and prison camp for captured Union soldiers and officials. Surgeries also continued well after the war, taking place in Penn Hall and the surrounding fields, while the dead remained scattered outside, hurriedly buried to avoid the spread of disease.

With so much torment and chaos taking place within the hallowed halls of Gettysburg College, it’s not difficult to see why this place could possibly be so haunted. To this day, visitors, students, and faculty alike report paranormal occurrences. One location at the college that seems to earn more attention from witnesses is that of Penn Hall. Numerous people have reported hearing the moans and cries of young men, presumably belonging to the lost spirits of soldiers who were injured in battle and ultimately died within Penn Hall.

One report came from a couple of college administrators back in the 1980s who were walking to the lower portion of Penn Hall during a light night working together. Upon arriving from the elevator ride down, when its doors opened, there stood dozens of apparitions dressed in hospital attire tending to fallen soldiers.

Like something directly out of a waking nightmare, the spirits simultaneously looked up at the administrators who quickly fled to the aid of a nearby security guard. However, when the three of them returned to the grisly site, all evidence of their encounter was absent; only a dark and empty room was to be found. It may be that this hall within this college may hold a portal, a direct link between two worlds, simultaneous active yet separated by time. 

Another widely-circulated tale is that of another apparition who frequents Penn Hall. Referred to as either the “Lone Sentinel” or the “Lookout,” this ghostly phantom is often seen carrying a lantern and rifle, as if still carrying out his duties of his patrol all these years later.

Ghostly soldiers are a common sighting at Gettysburg College, but one particular location is home to a spirit of a different type known as the “Lady in White.” Her dwelling place of choice is that of Glatfelter Hall. Her story alleges that she lost her love as a result of the casualties of war and committed suicide by jumping from Glatfelter’s bell tower, tormented over her loss. Lore tells that whoever looks into her eyes will end up meeting the same fate as she.

The Jennie Wade House

If you visit this historic house today you will discover that it looks very much like it did back in 1863. Authentically furnished from cellar to attic, The Jennie Wade House is now a museum. But one must remember that this museum was once a fully functional home and one of its members was named Jennie Wade.

Mary Virginia Wade was born in Gettysburg in 1843, and grew up in a house with her family that could be found also on Baltimore Street. She was called Jennie. In 1863, this local girl turned 20, and was living with her sister Georgia, her brother-in-law, Louis and her baby nephew/niece in one unit of this red brick house, while Susan McClean, the owner of this structure, lived in the other unit. 

When the Union and Confederate troops clashed in a bloody conflict on the fields and throughout the town of Gettysburg, Jennie, Georgia and Susan’s house was in the middle of the fighting, in a veritable no man’s land. It was incredibly dangerous for the occupants to continue staying in their home. Jennie, Georgia and Susan were warned to leave because of their precarious situation. Their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wade, also came to help, hoping to keep their daughters safe, as well as help Union soldiers.

During the first two days of the Battle of Gettysburg, a cannon ball landed in the dividing wall in the attic, but it didn’t explode. While many bullets hit the outside of the house, none came inside. However, sometime during the third day of the battle, a stray bullet that was shot by a confederate soldier, holding his position in the Farnsworth House attic, came through two wooden doors of their home, striking poor Jennie in the back as she was baking bread in the kitchen. Jennie was miraculously the only civilian killed in this bloody 3-day battle, remembered as a martyr to the cause, an example of courage and patriotism.

When soldiers came to take her body, her mother insisted in having Jennie put in the cellar, until it was safe to move her. Soldiers stayed with the body until she could be buried in a temporary burial spot. Finally, Jennie’s remains were buried in Gettysburg National Cemetery with honor. Her grave is marked by a lovely statue and an American flag.

People who die in the middle of an important task or work goal often try to continue what they were doing in the afterlife, before they died unexpectedly, striving for their goal or continuing their vocation as ghosts, refusing to leave the worries and chores of this life behind. This seems to be the conditions under which the spirit of Jennie Wade is observed. This ghost of Jennie, forever young, continues to be seen making bread in her efforts to provide not only for the family she loved but for the Union troops who fought to keep her country together. 

The Daniel Lady Farm

The Daniel Lady Farm. Source

The Daniel Lady Farm is imbued with history, inside and out. Within the barn and house, doorjambs are etched with the initials of soldiers from the Battle of Gettysburg. Dried blood stains the walls and floors. Cannonball fragments are lodged in joists to this day. It stands as a ghastly reminder of the horrors faced during 1863.

Soldiers used the vast farmland and everything within to aid in their battles. Furniture was sometimes broken down and used as firewood. Doors were pulled from their hinges to be used as operating tables and stretchers. The Daniel Lady Farm was turned upside down and inside out for the purposes of war.

Construction of the farm began around 1820. Starting out with only the large hearth room, it soon expanded in stages to grow into the large abode that it is today. Completion ended by 1830, from which point Daniel Lady and his wife raised their seven children.

By the time war broke out in 1863, Daniel and his family were forced to evacuate their homestead in order to make way for Confederate forces. This piece of land is just another on the long list of civilian properties taken over by military forces during wartime. Used as a hospital and headquarters, this location is somewhat unique in that it treated both Confederate and Union soldiers.

Leading up the Battle of Gettysburg, Daniel Lady and his family had heard rumors of the approaching war and were not too keen on the thought of having their beloved farm taken over. Unfortunately for them, that’s exactly what happened.

On Friday, June 26th of 1863, the Lady family was approached by Confederate forces and told they would have to abandon their home in order that Robert Lee’s army could occupy the residency. This date is also significant in that it was also the fifth birthday of John Calvin Lady, the fourth of seven Lady children. Imagining having a child while a war brewed out your front window.

A few days later, on July 2nd of 1863, Confederate General Edward Johnson ordered General Ewell to set up a headquarters at the Daniel Lady Farm. Using the massive stone house on the property, the officers planned a Union attack that they had hoped would turn the tide in their favor. Focusing on Culp’s Hill, Confederate soldiers would attempt to overtake the Union troops who were defending Devil’s Den and its surrounding area. General Longstreet had initiated his own attack on the Union and was doing a commendable job of pushing them back.

For the Confederates to gain control of Culp’s Hill would have meant certain victory in the war. There, the Union’s supply line channeled in, and if overtaken, their rations, ammunition, artillery, and medical supplies would have been lost.

It’s said that Union General George Meade viewed the Daniel Lady Farm Confederates as such a threat that he had planned an attack on the farm as early as the second day of engagement. However, when Confederate forces engaged Union troops near Culp’s Hill, his plan was put on hold.

By bringing in a whopping 5,000 men to Culp’s Hill, the Confederates greatly outnumbered the Union, which had only 1,424 troops for defense. It’s interesting to note that at no other time in the Battle of Gettysburg did the Confederates have such an overwhelming advantage over the Union. If ever the South had a chance to change the tide, it was now. Well over a million rounds of ammunition were fired that day, with fighting raging on into the early morning hours of July 3rd. A staggering 22,000 Americans engaged in battle as the fate of the country was left hanging in the balance.

There were so many guns being fired that the men could not see in front of themselves, as the whole hill was covered in smoke. Through this, the Union pressed on, and amazingly, forced the Confederates to retreat back to the Daniel Lady Farm. That single failed attempt had to be the most disheartening in all of the war.

The Confederates so greatly outnumbered the Union that winning Culp’s Hill was thought to be a foregone conclusion. Injured, defeated, and weary, the South returned to the Lady farm. In the barn, medical attention was provided to the troops, while higher-ranked officials were treated in the house.

The amount of soldiers each building saw on a daily base was overwhelming. Some of these combatants would return to battle after seeking care, but others were so injured that they would later die from their wounds, never to leave.

It’s incredible how much of the farm’s history has been preserved over the years. Bloodstains from all of the injuries sustained in the war cover various areas of the farm. Serving as a hospital, the Daniel Lady farm witnessed amputations to suturing and even death. These deaths were directly attributed to the many ghostly sightings recorded over the years.

Confederate soldiers and Generals are said to haunt the very land on which they died. Historical records tell that when the Lady family returned to their homestead following the end of the war, they found the body of a dead Confederate soldier still lying in their upstairs bedroom. Because of this, the upstairs area of the home is believed to see the most paranormal activity.

Unmarked graves are rumored to litter the property. This may be the reason that apparitions of long-dead troops can often be seen wandering the farmland, as if still on patrol.

Sachs Covered Bridge

Sachs Covered Bridge. Source Flickr

While many of the haunted locations throughout Gettysburg get plenty of attention, Sachs Covered Bridge has become an icon and hot spot for otherworldly sightings and paranormal encounters. Its bucolic beauty further draws visitors to experience its mysterious and paranormal charm.

In the daylight, the bridge is truly a picturesque scene, with stunning streams of water and elegant wooden construction. Once under the cover of night, however, the atmosphere quickly changes to a rather frightening setting.

Many witnesses have come forward to report the sighting of three disembodied heads floating on the bridge. Under the dim moonlight, their pictures have captured what appears to be the ghostly apparitions of the three Confederate soldiers.

The strong scent of cigar smoke has also been detected by guests, as if a soldier or general from years ago still patrols the area. Visitors have also been rattled by an icy tap on their shoulder, only to find that no one is there with them.

The sound of distant gunfire is often heard when on the bridge at night, often accompanied by cannon fire.

Preserved for nearly 200 years, this haunted crossing stands as a historical reminder of life during the late 19th century and the many brave soldiers who crossed it during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Gettysburg Hotel

Gettysburg Hotel. Source Flickr

Rachel is one of the most popular ghosts of the Gettysburg hotel. Rachel is believed to be the ghost of a Civil War nurse. She can be seen not only wandering the hotel but also the streets of Gettysburg looking for soldiers to tend to. She would also detail her frustrations trying to care for wounded soldiers. Guests of the hotel have experienced visits from Rachel. They reported the drawers in the room being opened and clothes being removed. One of the wounded soldiers who was cared for in the house is said to still haunt the rooms. There is also the ghost of a woman seen dancing in the hotel’s ballroom.

The Gettysburg Hotel was established in 1797 and it can be found in the heart of downtown Gettysburg. The hotel started as a small tavern in what is now Lincoln Square. William McClellan, a former York County sheriff, bought the tavern and renamed it The Little Indian Queen. In 1846, the tavern’s name was again changed to the McClellan Brothers. During the 1890s, the property changed hands again and the new owner decided to replace the old tavern with an imposing structure and named it the Gettysburg Hotel. But the property was so haunted, ghosts simply took up residence in the new building. 

Hoffman Mansion

The Hoffman Mansion was once the Hoffman Farm, a 123-acre dairy farm owned by the Hoffman family. The Farm is at East Cavalry Field, so named because of the fierce cavalry action that happened there on July 3. Like many private homes and estates in Gettysburg, the Hoffman Mansion was converted into a makeshift field hospital as the battle reached its grounds. It’s thought that the spirits of Union soldiers still take up residence in the mansion, and visitors to the site have reported hearing disembodied voices and seeing apparitions of soldiers.

It’s also rumored that the daughter of the man who owned the mansion hanged herself in the attic after learning that her lover had been unfaithful to her. Her spirit is said to occupy the attic space in particular and makes appearances in photos as orbs or other light anomalies. Love, it seems, can be just as devastating and destructive as war. 

Eisenhower Historic Site

Before we leave the ghosts of Gettysburg behind, it is worth mentioning that not all ghosts who haunt this area were directly involved in the Civil War. Indeed, it seems that Gettysburg has a certain magnetism to it and souls simply remain within its fields and rolling hills. For it seems my friends that the ghost of Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower haunts a farm house where he lived, now commemorated and preserved as the Eisenhower Historic Site. It is poetic however that such a man as Eisenhower would linger in a place like Gettysburg. He was, after all an American military officer and statesman who served as the 34th president of the United States from 1953 to 1961.

During World War II, he served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe, and achieved the five-star rank of General of the Army. He planned and supervised the invasion of North Africa in Operation Torch in 1942–1943 and the invasion of Normandy from the Western Front in 1944–1945. He was following in the footsteps of the Generals who fought on the fields of Gettysburg in an attempt to keep this country together. This United States of America was sorely won and bought at the costs of tens of thousands of lives. Eisenhower knew this all too well and greatly respected the price of freedom. 

Sources

Featured Image Flickr

www.usghostadventures.com

Coleman, Christopher K. Ghosts And Haunts Of The Civil War: Authentic 

     Accounts Of The Strange And Unexplained. Barnes and Noble, 2003.

Murphy, Jr. Ronald L. On Ghosts. Camonica Books, 2016.

O’Neil, Bill. The Great Book of Pennsylvania. Independent, 2019.

Reardon, Carol and Vossler, Tom. A Field Guide to Gettysburg. University of  

     North Carolina Press, 2017.

Roberts, Nancy. Civil War Ghost Stories and Legends. Independent, 2016.

Rowland, Tim. Strange and Obscure Stories of the Civil War. Skyhorse, 2011.

Sears, Stephen W. Gettysburg. Mariner Books, 2004.Trudeau, Noah Andre. Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage. Harper Perennial, 2003.