ghosts of gettysburg

The Ghosts of Gettysburg

October is here, bringing with it earlier sunsets and fresh spookiness, lingering whispers in shadowy nooks, and the unseen rustling of fallen leaves. Whether or not you believe in such things, Gettysburg is world-renowned among aficionados of the supernatural as a potent center for paranormal activity. No matter if you are deeply passionate about Civil War history, are interested in supernatural investigation, are a fan of ghost hunting— or even if you’re just looking for a good old-fashioned scare to celebrate the Halloween season, the ghosts of Gettysburg certainly offer a chilling invitation!

Read on to uncover more about the restless spirits that reputedly haunt this historic town and battlefield, and some of the legends that surround them.

The Haunted Battlefield

There are literally scores of ghostly stories and supernatural incidents reported by past visitors to the historic Gettysburg Battlefield. Throughout the last century, countless ghost seekers who made the pilgrimage to the legendary site have shared tales of strange and often inexplicable experiences and encounters in the area. Numerous reports exist from various parts of the park of apparitions of phantom soldiers, marching in formation or mounted on horseback as if still fighting the battle. These ghosts are said to haunt the fields where Pickett’s Charge took place, the slopes of Little Round Top, the Peach Orchard, the Wheatfield, and numerous other famous battlefield sites. In the aptly named Valley of Death, apparitions of soldiers have been frequently reported. In the nearby adjacent area known as the Triangular Field, there have been dozens of anecdotal reports, from reliable witnesses, who claimed unexplained malfunction of cameras, recorders, and electronic equipment specific to that area.

One especially high concentration of ghostly sightings and strange experiences seems to center on the battlefield site known as the Devil’s Den, and the area surrounding it. The ghosts of Gettysburg seem drawn to this place.

The Devil’s Den

This famous rock formation, an elevated outcropping of large, haphazard boulders, served as a Confederate sniper’s nest for much of the battle and was the site of particularly vicious fighting. Initial ghost sightings began in the area shortly after the battle and have been a regular occurrence ever since. Dim spectral soldiers have been spotted among the rocks by many visitors at varying times of the day, and witnesses have reported hearing unexplained battle sounds echoing among the forbidding jumble of rocks in otherwise quiet moments.

Several photographers have reportedly captured fleeting images of one ghost soldier, an unkempt, long-haired figure, shoeless, in ragged clothing, wearing a floppy-brimmed hat. In some cases, it has been reported that the spirit actually spoke aloud to a witness before suddenly vanishing without a trace.

There are also reports of a ghostly cavalryman on horseback who appears in the area only to vanish soon after; as well as numerous reports of phantom sounds: gunfire, shouting voices, and cries of anguish — all completely unexplained. Dozens of photographs exist today in private collections that are alleged to be evidence of supernatural activity in the area.

The Phantom Regiment

One of the most famous and enigmatic ghostly manifestations in Gettysburg has become known as the “Phantom Regiment,” supposedly the ghostly remnants of a Confederate unit that still haunts the battlefield today, their ghostly drums and footsteps echoing through the night. Visitors and ghost hunters have reported seeing this ghostly procession of soldiers in tattered but strangely unidentifiable uniforms, still marching in formation on the battlefield at odd hours of the night.

Some witnesses have heard phantom drums and the distant sound of musket fire on the battlefield. Others claim to have seen these ghostly apparitions standing among the gravestones in the Gettysburg National Cemetery. These spectral sightings have become an integral part of Gettysburg’s haunted landscape.

The Lady in White

The “Lady in White” is another famous Gettysburg specter, known for her ethereal presence and sorrowful demeanor. Legend has it that the Lady in White roams the battlefield and the historic town, her figure draped in a flowing white dress that seems to glow in the moonlight. Witnesses describe her as appearing lost and forlorn, her face etched with sadness. Some believe she is the ghost of a woman who lost her beloved during the Civil War, forever searching for him among the countless graves and battle sites.

The Tillie Pierce House Girl

The Tillie Pierce House is known for its supernatural occurrences, particularly the presence of a young girl’s ghost. Often referred to as the “Tillie Pierce House Girl,” this specter is said to haunt the historic building with her laughter and footsteps. Tillie Pierce was a real historical figure, a young girl who lived in Gettysburg during the time of the Civil War. Some believe that the ghostly laughter and footsteps heard in the Tillie Pierce House are connected to her, as if her spirit lingers in the place where she once lived.

Jennie Wade

The Jennie Wade House has been featured on the television programs “Ghost Lab” and “Ghost Adventures,” and is widely reputed to be an extremely haunted place. It is the location where Mary Virginia “Jennie” Wade, the only civilian casualty of the Battle of Gettysburg, was shot and killed. Jennie was a mere 20 years of age when her life came to a sudden and tragic end when a stray bullet from the battle outside pierced a wooden door, continuing into the kitchen where she stood, striking Jennie in the heart and taking her young life.

In the years since, visitors to the house have reported hearing strange unexplained movements, unanswered voices, and the fearful moaning of disincorporated spirits at various places in the house.

Iverson’s Pits

The area around the modern Doubleday Inn is widely linked to local paranormal activity, since it is located directly adjacent to the former site of the Forney farmhouse, notoriously the location of a mass grave site known as Iverson’s Pits. An entire brigade of North Carolinian soldiers was needlessly slaughtered near there and buried en masse where they fell. Even after the remains were exhumed and relocated, the former location of the mass grave has given rise to numerous reports of floating orbs and hovering lights, strange mists, and shadowy figures said to wander the adjoining fields at dusk.

Sachs Bridge

The Sachs Covered Bridge on Water Works Road is reputed to be one of the most haunted spots in all of Gettysburg. The wandering spirits of three hanged Confederate deserters are believed to haunt the vicinity of the picturesque bridge at various times of the day and night and reported paranormal experiences on the bridge include the spectral smell of phantom cigar smoke, the sound of ghostly cannons fired in the distance, or the sensation of suddenly feeling a tap on the shoulder… only to turn around to find no one is there.

more ghosts of gettysburg
Downtown Gettysburg under a haunted moon

Gettysburg College

Known as “Pennsylvania College” at the time of the 1863 battle, the campus was located in the midst of the fighting, its structures providing shelter for the wounded and dying. Its main building Pennsylvania Hall, constructed in 1837 and nicknamed “Old Dorm,” served as a Confederate field hospital during the battle.

Since then, there has been much paranormal activity at what some call the haunted college. Students and staff members of the college report seeing ghostly figures of soldiers pacing back and forth in the cupola of the building, and the shadowy figure of a Confederate sentry has been spotted in the tower, sometimes gesturing wildly to watchers below.

Two college administrators leaving the building one night reported that the elevator doors opened onto the grisly scene of a Civil War-era operating room, packed with the wounded and dying, yet completely, eerily silent. When the elevator door closed and reopened, the scene vanished.

Children’s Orphanage

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. After the Battle of Gettysburg, the facility was converted into the National Soldier’s Orphanage Homestead, an orphanage to house children who had lost their parents in the battle. After Rosa J. Carmichael assumed the post of headmistress. It was rumored that Carmichael tortured and chained orphan children in a dungeon she secretly created in the cellar there.

Various supernatural manifestations that have occurred at the site since are often attributed to Carmicheal and the lost souls of her tormented victims.

The Grove

 The Grove is an area that lies a few hundred yards from the base of East Cemetery Hill. The area was the sight of a grisly exchange between two regiments of Ohio regulars versus the Louisiana Tigers, a Confederate unit primarily made up of New Orleans prison inmates. The casualties on both sides were terrible, resulting in the creation of unmarked mass graves throughout the area. A road was laid through the Grove in 1963, accidentally unearthing the remains of several soldiers. There have been sightings here of the ghost of a young girl, believed to be a disturbed victim of post-battle mental stress who committed suicide not long after the battle ended. With a large record of photo evidence depicting orbs, mists, and other odd phenomena, the Grove is considered by some paranormal investigators to be one of the most active areas for ghosts of Gettysburg.

The Dobbin House

The Historic Dobbin House is an old inn that existed during the Civil War. The ghost of a Confederate soldier is said to stare forlornly out of one of the second-floor windows. This old stone house was also once an important stopping point on the Underground Railroad. Slaves who hid here en route 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 the ghosts of Gettysburg, including slaves and the spirits of lost 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.

The Farnsworth Inn

It is believed by some that the house is presently haunted 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 one of the exterior guest rooms, seen from the street below.

Hoffman Mansion

The Hoffman Mansion, once Hoffman Farm, was a 123-acre dairy farm owned by the Hoffman family. Like other homes in the Gettysburg area, the Hoffman Mansion was reportedly used as a field hospital for Union troops during and after Pickett’s Charge. During battle, many wounded soldiers brought to such makeshift field hospitals perished, and some believe their spirits still linger there. It’s also said that one of the Hoffman daughters supposedly hung herself inside the home in response to a beau’s infidelity. Some say that her spirit still haunts the upstairs attic. Photographers routinely capture images of orbs and other phenomena inside the house. It’s also believed that the doctor in charge of the Hoffman field hospital still haunts the site. A shadowy black shape is rumored to appear in corners of the home, often as an omen of bad luck. Doors open and close of their own volition throughout the building, and disembodied voices, strange sounds, and actual physical contact with entities have all been reported.

George George House (Reynolds Death House)

Servant’s Olde Tyme Photos is the current business occupying what many call the Reynolds Death House. The building was owned by Gettysburg local George George (not a typo) at the time of the battle, and it served as a temporary resting place for famous Union Major General John F. Reynolds. Mortally wounded on the morning of the first day of battle, Reynolds’s body was brought back to this building where legend has it, his blood seeped into the floorboards… stains that are said to spiritually reappear upon occasion. The house is believed to be actively haunted by at least four different ghosts, including the General, his fiancé Catherine Hewitt, the spirit of a teenage boy, and a petulant, mischievous fourth ghost known only as “The Liar.”

more ghosts of gettysburg
The Spectral Battlefield

Private Homes

There are a number of once-private residences scattered across the battlefield where supernatural activity is alleged to have occurred over the past 160 years. Many of these homes are now the property of the National Park Service, and most were used during the battle as makeshift field hospitals and shelters for the wounded. Some say they continue to host visitations by the ghosts of Gettysburg.

The George Weikert House

This small house has experienced a number of unexplained occurrences through the years, including a door on the second floor that refuses to stay closed, even when nailed shut. Past tenants have also reported the sound of unexplained footsteps pacing back and forth in the empty attic overhead, despite the fact that the attic was known to be deserted.

The Hummelbaugh House

Confederate Brigadier General William Barksdale was wounded while leading a charge on Seminary Ridge and was brought to the Hummelbaugh House. Barksdale was last seen lying in front of the house while a young boy was giving him water with a spoon. Barksdale called over and over for water as his life slipped away. In years since, legends say that on some nights, the General’s spectral voice is still heard, crying out and calling for water.

Another story related to Barksdale’s death involves the ghostly spirit of his favorite hunting hound, who lay down atop his grave and refused to leave, or to eat or drink, howling incessantly for his lost master. The dog finally died on the spot where his owner had lain, and it is said that each year on the anniversary of Barksdale’s death, the howls of the ghostly hound can still be heard.

The Rose Farm

During the battle, the house was used as a field hospital and burial ground. Hundreds of Confederate and Federal soldiers were buried in rows all around the house and property. They would later be exhumed in November 1863, although the reclamation process would take years.

A local doctor reported that one of the daughters on the Rose Farm actually went insane during the exhumations, having lived through both the battle and its aftermath. Allegedly, she claimed to have seen blood flowing from the walls of the house. During the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps recorded the story of a farm worker at the Rose Farm shortly after the battle, who reportedly saw a strange glowing shape that appeared near the graves of the slain soldiers.

So, do the Ghosts of Gettysburg still wander the fields and streets of this tiny Pennsylvania town? Be sure to put it on your “must-see” list of haunted travel spots, since by visiting Gettysburg and immersing yourself in the haunting tales and rich history of the area, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the past while creating your own unforgettable memories amidst the echoes of the Civil War.

Visit Gettysburg in Person

Plan your next excursion with us! Our bus tours of the historic Gettysburg Battlefield are active and ready to show you the sites of the historical battleground. 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 777 Baltimore St., Suite 100.