Going by the huge number of reports, the US appears to be one of the most haunted countries on the planet. While infamous locations such as the Winchester Mystery House and LaLaurie Mansion will likely be familiar to most paranormal enthusiasts, there is a wealth on lesser known places that have equally chilling tales of resident spirits. In the first of an upcoming series, paranormal tour guide Oakley of Obviously Haunted gives us a virtual tour of some of the huge number of reported hauntings across America, state-by-state.
We kick things off in Pennsylvania, and specifically what may well be the USA’s most haunted town in Gettysburg. Oakley runs us through her top picks for four notorious hauntings associated with this small town that became the location for a defining battle in American history.
The site of one of the bloodiest battles in American history, the town of Gettysburg was the eye of the storm as 175,000 men staged a three-day, running battle and the culmination of a wider campaign that straddled Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. As many as 10,000 lost their lives there. With the staggering number of deaths on its soil and numerous accounts of spectral sightings Gettysburg has gained a seemingly well-deserved reputation as one of the most haunted places in America. While stories of ghostly soldiers, both Union and Confederate, as well as other hauntings are common across much of the town and wider battlefield, four of the battle’s key locations have earned a foreboding reputation in the years since.
Sachs Covered Bridge
Constructed in 1854 to ford Marsh Creek southeast of Gettysburg, Sachs Covered Bridge provided a key route of advance that was used first by two brigades of the Union army heading towards the battle, before becoming General Lee’s main line of retreat following the Union’s eventual victory. Legend has it that three confederate soldiers attempting to desert during the battle were found when attempting to cross the bridge and hung on the spot. Another telling of the story suggests that rather than confederate deserters, the trio were in fact union spies. Neither account has been totally verified and the specifics appear lost to time, but many curious visitors to the bridge report hearing gunshots and screams of agony as well as even claiming to see uniformed apparitions of soldiers. Even those who do not catch a glimpse of full-bodied spectres or hear sounds reported feeling cold spots or witnessing a chill, eerie mist, quite unlike normal fog.
The Devil’s Den
One of the countless rumoured hauntings of Gettysburg, the Devil’s Den is the name given to a ridge of boulders formed as a result of geological activity south of Gettysburg. The Devil’s Den is rumoured to have earned its ominous name well before the bloodshed of 1863. Supposedly it gets its name from the account of a group of boys who claimed to have spotted a cryptid giant snake nestled in the crevices between the rocks. During the 1830s the group happened upon a large black snake while playing around the boulders. The boys nicknamed the snake ‘the devil’, henceforth referring to the rock formation as ‘the devil’s den’.
During the battle the Devil’s Den saw heavy fighting throughout the day, initially held by Union forces before being captured by the First Texas Regiment. Sharpshooters amongst the rocks took a heavy toll on nearby enemies on Little Round Top but were also pounded by artillery in response. The ghost of one member of the First Texas is most commonly seen by visitors, barefoot and wearing a distinctive floppy hat that has earned him the moniker ‘the hippie’. Witnesses invariably report the same interaction, with the spirit pointing towards nearby Plum Run Creek and stating; ‘what you are looking for is over there’. Attempts to photograph him invariably prove fruitless and he is even thought to cause cameras and other electronics to malfunction.
Little Round Top
The rocky hill known as Little Round Top was the location of what is perhaps the decisive action of Gettysburg. The site of heavy fighting throughout the battle, a major attack by Confederate troops during the second day of Gettysburg was eventually beaten back, preventing Lee’s troops from capturing the hill and directing devastating enfilade artillery fire along the Union lines. The attack was famously ended by a bayonet charge by the 20th Maine Volunteer Regiment, commanded by university professor Joshua Chamberlain.
Many men lost their lives at Little Round Top and it therefore unsurprising that many accounts of paranormal activity have been reported there since. One well-known account came from civil war re-enactors performing as extras in the 1993 film Gettysburg. During a break in filming they were approaching by a man in a scorched and battle-damaged Union uniform who distributed cartridges of ammunition. He even spoke to them, observing how fierce the fighting had been. Assuming he was a fellow crew member, the men loaded their muskets with what they believed to be blank rounds, before finding they were live ammunition. Later examination reportedly confirmed they were genuine musket balls from the Civil War period. One account claims that the man told the re-enactors that the rounds did not come from him if anyone asks, suggesting that the spirit possibly intended to cause harm or at least disruption to the shoot.
Jennie Wade House
The Jennie Wade House is now a museum dedicated to the only civilian casualty of the battle of Gettysburg, Mary Virginia “Jennie” Wade. Born in 1843, Jennie was a woman from the town of Gettysburg who was killed at the age of 20 by a stray bullet on the third day of Gettysburg. With only minor repairs, the Jennie Wade House has stood unchanged for over 150 years. As it once was, the home gave shelter to many soldiers as the battle bore on.
On the morning of July 3rd 1863, as Jennie began to knead the fresh dough for bread to be distributed to Union solders, she was killed by a musket ball that smashed through both the kitchen and parlor doors before striking her, one of over 150 to hit the house during the battle. The shot passed through her heart, killing her instantly. Who fired the fatal shot is unclear, although some authors have appointed guilt to a Confederate sharpshooter. Currently, Jennie is buried near her fiancé, Corporal Johnston “Jack” Skelly, in the Evergreen Cemetery. A monument marks her final resting place, along with an American flag that perpetually flies day and night.
Today historians and paranormal investigators alike can visit the home and are said to have a chance of seeing spirits of restless soldiers or feeling the presence of Jennie Wade herself. She is said to comfort visitors who are scared or upset, perhaps doing the same thing she once did in life to the many soldiers that passed through the doors of the home. The bullet hole in the door caused by the shot that killed her remains to this day and local legend claims that any unmarried woman who puts her finger through the hole will receive a marriage proposal shortly after, an apparent gift from Jennie who was killed before she had a chance to marry.
Look out for our follow up piece soon, looking at other hauntings across the Keystone State. Many thanks for the help of Oakley from Obviously Haunted who provided the bulk of the research and much of the writing for this piece. They are also a talented artist, make sure to check out their work for yourself on Twitter and Instagram.