Haunted Gettysburg - Sachs Covered Bridge

Haunted Gettysburg

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, is known throughout the world as the location of one of the largest, most expensive, and deadliest battles of the American Civil War. With over 50,000 estimated casualties, the famous Battle of Gettysburg in 1863 is widely believed to mark the turning point of the war. Over 130 years have passed since those three bloody days at Gettysburg, but some believe the nightmare of that battle never ended for some of the poor souls killed there. Across the hallowed grounds of the battlefield and throughout the town and environs, it is believed by some that the haunted souls of those who suffered there may still roam.

THE BLOODY GROUND OF GETTYSBURG

Amidst the wide grass dotted by stone monuments, the battlefield whispers more than mere stories etched into plaques and mile markers. It has been said that acre for acre, Gettysburg is probably the most haunted piece of ground in America. Numerous reports of ghostly regiments, phantom horsemen, 18thcentury faces and figures mysteriously appearing in photographs taken by unsuspecting tourists, and other Civil War apparitions have inspired speculation that the spirits of the battle’s many casualties were so disturbed by the violence of that fabled conflict that even after they fell and faded, their spirits remained in the mortal world, still seeking some measure of victory and redemption. There are even rumors of exorcisms that have taken place in the area.

Many modern-day residents of Gettysburg relate that they can still feel the presence of those who lost their lives during that three-day battle so long ago.

While much of the local ghostly folklore has been passed around and retold so many times that it may be largely apocryphal, there are also numerous direct firsthand accounts of ghost sightings that have occurred over the past century and a half.

Perhaps the earliest Civil War ghost story can actually be traced to a tale told during the famous 1863 battle itself, during which reports circulated among the Union troops in attendance that General Washington— deceased since 1799— had been seen leading the men to victory.

FAMOUS HAUNTS OF GETTYSBURG TOWN

Haunted Gettysburg - Gettysburg Orphanage

Gettysburg Orphanage

Among the most haunted structures in Gettysburg is the Gettysburg Orphanage, a building that locals say is active with paranormal activity. Originally a private home, during the famous battle it was converted into a makeshift hospital for the wounded soldiers, its cellar filled with the bodies of the dead and dying. Some paranormal investigators believe that their souls remain stuck there, doomed to roam the area because they never found closure and properly moved on to the afterlife.

After the Battle of Gettysburg, the facility was converted into an orphanage, initially intended to house children who had lost their parents in the battle. The fate of that orphanage took a frightening turn when Rosa J. Carmichael assumed the post of headmistress. It was later whispered by certain knowledgeable town residents that Carmichael tortured and chained orphan children in a dungeon she secretly created in the cellar there.

Supernatural believers also assert that her monstrous doings in life have since kept her evil spirit locked up in the building, where it remains, manifesting itself onto hapless visitors.

Tour the Haunted Orphanage

Haunted Gettysburg - Jennie Wade House

Jennie Wade House

Not far from the Gettysburg Orphanage, just as it stood during the Civil War, there still stands another reputedly haunted place: a smallish cottage, now referred to as the Jennie Wade house. It is preserved as a modern shrine to the memory of Mary Virginia “Jennie” Wade, who retains the dubious honor of being the only civilian killed during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Jennie was a mere 20 years of age when the war came to her hometown of Gettysburg. Standing in the house on the morning of July 3, 1863, her life came to a sudden and tragic end right before her mother’s eyes. A stray bullet from the battle outside punched straight through the doors, striking Jennie in the heart and killing her instantly.

Miss Wade was known to be engaged to a certain Cpl. Johnston “Jack” Skelly. Sadly, the news of his fiancé’s death never reached him, as he died in captivity many miles away not long after Jennie’s death. To this day, visitors to the house report hearing strange unexplained movements, unanswered voices, and the fearful moaning of disincorporated spirits at various places in the house.

Many believe that Jennie Wade haunts Gettysburg because after the formal battle cemetery was constructed, her body was exhumed from its original burial site and laid to rest beside Skelly. Some speculate that by moving her grave site, her spirit was disturbed and doomed to linger in Gettysburg forever.

Tour the Jennie Wade House

Haunted Gettysburg - Dobbin House Inn

Dobbin House Inn

This old stone house was famously once a stopping point on the Underground Railroad. Slaves who hid here enroute to freedom further North were forced to conceal themselves for lengthy periods in tiny, secret hiding places located beneath the floor and in the walls of the inn building. Those hiding places still exist and can be viewed by modern visitors.

It is believed that the ghost of the Inn’s owner and founder, Alexander Dobbin, still appears at various places throughout the inn, always smoking a cigar. Some believe that many of the slaves who came to this house in search of freedom and safety may have returned here from beyond the grave, or else the spirits of some who never survived their flight to reach this place may have eventually arrived anyway and stayed.

Spectral manifestations of slaves, and the ghosts of soldiers, have both been seen haunting the building… and strange, unexplained blood stains are said to manifest on the floorboards, only to disappear in the light of day.

Visit the Dobbin House Inn

Haunted Gettysburg - Sachs Covered Bridge

Sachs Covered Bridge

A lovely example of the picturesque covered bridges still to be found in Pennsylvania, Sachs Covered Bridge has been a permanent fixture on Waterworks Road going all the way back to its construction in 1852. It would experience heavy use during the Civil War by both Union and Confederate troops, each side crossing the bridge in their turn depending upon the ebbs and tides of the fortunes of war. It was the Confederate Army who passed through the Sachs bridge during their retreat after the Battle of Gettysburg.

Legends tell of three Confederate deserters, captured by their officers, and hanged in retribution from the covered bridge. Some say the three soldiers were in fact Confederate spies, executed by Union troops for the crime of espionage. In either case, the spirits of the executed men are widely believed to haunt the vicinity of the bridge. Visitors have recounted bizarre occurrences on the bridge itself, the spectral smell of phantom cigar smoke, the sound of ghostly cannons fired in the distance, or the sensation of suddenly feeling someone tap them on the shoulder… only to turn around to find that no one is there.

Visit Sachs Covered Bridge

Haunted Gettysburg - Farnsworth House InnHouse Inn

Farnsworth House Inn

Another of the most haunted buildings in Gettysburg is the Farnsworth House Inn.

One of 400 buildings that existed in the town at the time of the battle, it survived the dread doings of that dark day. During the actual battle itself, local families sought shelter in the house cellar as bullets thumped into the walls above and the battle raged over their heads.

Today it’s claimed that the house is haunted today by no less than 16 distinct spirits, including that of an eight-year-old boy, several civil war soldiers, and a former midwife. Sounds of disembodied breathing, grunts, voices, and the musical strains of a jaw harp, along with the strong scent of cigars, have been experienced by guests who visit the home. Throughout the years, multiple photographs of a spiritual manifestation have been taken through the window of a certain haunted guest room, viewed from the street below.

Haunted Gettysburg - Gettysburg College

Gettysburg College

Another reputedly haunted area is the campus of Gettysburg College, where many unexplained events are said to have occurred. From the college have come reports of a spectral Confederate sentry, still standing watch in a cupola overlooking the campus. Another tale concerns an elevator located in an administrative office building now known as Pennsylvania Hall, and which existed in 1837— that is said to bypass the first floor, instead carrying unwilling passengers straight to the basement, where the doors open on grisly spectral images of crude Civil War era surgery being performed by ghostly surgeons.

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Haunted Battlefield Sites

Park rangers who have lived in various old buildings within the Gettysburg National Military Park have experienced strange manifestations, including the unexplained crying of a baby, the sound of mysterious footsteps, and the unexplained smell of tobacco smoke that had no apparent source. Though when asked, spokespeople for the Gettysburg National Park Service insist they have no official position on the potential existence of ghosts.

Tales of strange and frightening spectral visions and sounds— the groaning cries of wounded soldiers, the shouts of orders issued in the midst of battle— have long been attributed to various famous areas of the battlefield, including the Spangler Farm, the Valley of Death, Devil’s Den, and Iverson’s Pits.

GROWING BELIEF

In the last several decades an increasing percentage of people have subscribed to the belief that ghosts are real. It seems to be a common notion that people who die violent deaths are more likely to show up as ghosts, and there was certainly a lot of violent death at Gettysburg. There’s also a prevailing belief that anyone who dies after an unfulfilled life might linger in the mortal world as a spirit before moving on. And there would definitely be a lot of unhappy spirits in Gettysburg due to the events of the battle itself.

Some experts suggest that a great spiritual uproar resulted from a “mass vibration” left behind by the tremendous emotional energy expended during the battle. Others have suggested that when death is sudden and unexpected — as it was in the Battle of Gettysburg — the victims don’t realize they are dead and may linger in a half-dimension between the living and the dead.

HAUNTED LEGACY

Nor should we seize upon tales of the supernatural at the risk of dismissing the great and terrible price extolled by the horrific battle and its consequences. Ghost stories concerning the town may be scary, but the gruesome reality of the battle of Gettysburg itself is even more frightening to contemplate.

Meanwhile, historians will continue to relate tales about the bloodbath of Gettysburg, and the town’s past will live on through its haunted places.

Visiting Gettysburg? Tour the Historic Attractions of Gettysburg by Bus!

October is Halloween time! Our bus tours of the Gettysburg Battlefield and other notable historic local attractions are still running to help visitors celebrate the autumn in beautiful Gettysburg PA. Reservations can be made by calling our toll-free number at 877-680-8687. You can also purchase bus tour tickets online.  Tours depart from the Gettysburg Tour Center located at 778 Baltimore Street across from the National Cemetery.