Traveling a few miles out of Gettysburg to the West on Fairfield Road you cross a small bridge over Marsh Creek. The slow moving water winds slowly off to the left along Gettysburg Campground creating a rather picturesque scene. This quiet area, however, holds a rather tragic tale that has been told and retold for many years, going back to the days before the Civil War.
According to the story, a young Gettysburg woman was traveling the road on a dark, snowy night. Peggy Noel was returning home from a trip to Fairfield and was running late. To make up for lost time, the coachman was going too fast for the poor conditions that evening. As they approached the bridge, the horses tripped and fell to the muddy roadway. The driver was thrown to the side of the road. He looked back in horror to see the coach topple and the doors spring open. Peggy Noel was thrown from her coach. She became entangled in the large spoked rear wheel and to the driver’s horror he saw her decapitated. The head of the young woman rolled across the bridge eventually falling into the water below.
For days they searched the banks of the creek to no avail. Eventually Peggy went to the grave headless. Rumor tells us that the family did not mark the grave. They couldn’t bear the thought of visiting a site of such horror, a grave with a headless corpse. There is a rock out on the battlefield just north of Devil’s Den with the letters P. Noel carved into it. To this day no one knows when it was put there or who did it. Could it be the final resting-place of Peggy Noel?
Along the banks of Marsh Creek, South of Fairfield Road, stories persist of a headless woman wading through the waters. She appears to be searching for something. Could Peggy still be searching for her head, hoping to again be complete!
I had read this story years ago in a local ghost story book and filed it away in my mind. Imagine my surprise in the summer of 2002, when a family of 4 (Mom, Dad, son of about 17 and daughter, maybe 13), approached me after a Baltimore Street ghost tour. The son acted as the spokesman for the group. He said that he had a silly question for me about a ghost story. I told him that the only silly questions are those that don’t get asked and I’d be happy to hear his. That is when he surprised me by saying that the family had arrived in Gettysburg a few days earlier and had taken some historical tours but my tour was their first adventure into the spirit world. As he spoke, I could see that the mother was very uncomfortable with the whole situation. I then found out why. He went on to ask if I knew stories concerning a headless woman in the vicinity of Gettysburg Campground out on Fairfield Road. As I started to search the recesses in my mind, I asked out of curiosity, Why?
It seems on that very morning, his mother had awakened just before dawn. They were staying at a campsite along Marsh Creek just off Fairfield Road. The mother decided to go out in the fresh morning air and walk to the restrooms. Rather than return directly to the camper, she took a longer way back, walking along the edge of the creek in the morning air.
It wasn’t long after that, the mother awakened the rest of the family as she came screaming and crying into the camper. It took them 15-20 minutes to calm her down to the point that she could tell her tale.
(To be Continued)