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Ghosts of Gettysburg

Devil's Den Plaque

On this Memorial Day weekend, Americans take time to remember the fallen men and women who died fighting for our country. With great sacrifice, pain, and toil, one can understand why some historical locations are teaming with residual or active hauntings. One of the most infamous of these commemorated places is Gettysburg, PA.

Having lived in Pennsylvania for roughly 4 years out of my life, its no surprise to me that every corner of this state seems to be teaming with stories of the paranormal. New Hope, the Pennhurst Asylum, to Gettysburg, every location has such a rich history. And with such a rich history, also comes tales of sorrow and loss.

Historic Gettysburg

Gettysburg was the site of the bloodiest battle during the American Civil War. The Battle of Gettysburg was fought over the course of 3 days in 1863. It’s considered a turning point in the war after General George Meade was able to halt General Robert E Lee’s army, preventing the Confederate army from pushing further North. The battle was hard fought and resulted in over 51,000 casualties from both armies. Some of the bloodiest battles occurred during the second day of battle at Little Round Top, Devil’s Den, Wheatfield, and Peach Orchard. The Wheatfield, which earned the nicknamed “Bloody Wheatfield”, is a tempting location to focus on. It’s said that when it rains, blood still surfaces on it’s ground. It’s soil being so saturated with the blood of the fallen. But the real area of interest for me is Devil’s Den, the reportedly most haunted location on the battlefield.

Devil’s Den

Devil’s Den has quite the sinister name and with good reason. It was here that both armies clashed in a spectacular wave amongst the maze of boulders on the ridge. Photographers at the scene purportedly had to move numerous bodies in order to get a clear short of the battlefield. The Devil’s Den was a slaughterhouse, bodies filling crooks and cavities within the rock formation. Every corner and opportunity for surprise attack. After the second day of battle, the Confederates held Devil’s Dean and forced the Union army into retreat. They wouldn’t return until after the war was won. Upon their return, they found a gruesome sight.

Days later, the Federals would return to the Devil’s Den, this time triumphant as the battle had come to an end with a Confederate defeat. As men approached, they were stunned by the scene which greeted them. The hills and boulders were covered in blood and carnage and the dead lay scattered about in every direction. One of the first soldiers to enter the area recalled that some of the dead men “had torn and twisted leaves and grass in their agonies and their mouths filled with soil… they had literally bitten the dust.” – Spirits of the Civil War

Many of the soldiers found at the ridge were not even given a burial. Instead, they were left in the crevices of the rock formations in piles. Thus began the history of Devil’s Den’s paranormal haunted history…or so many think.

A history of hauntings

Prior to the Battle of Gettysburg the area was already home to many supernatural and ghostly tales. The area of land, once inhabited by Native Americans, was the location of “The Battle of Crows”, where many lost their lives.

A Gettysburg writer named Emmanuel Bushman wrote in an 1880 article of the “many unnatural and supernatural sights and sounds” that were reported in the area of the Round Tops and what he called the Indian Fields. He wrote that the early settlers had told stories of ghosts that had been seen there and that Indian “war-whoops” could still be heard on certain nights. In addition, he reported that strange Indian ceremonies also took place here. – Spirits of the Civil War

Apparitions of Devil’s Den

Multiple apparitions have been seen in this areas including a man who helped two lost hunters find their way home after losing their way in the woods, only to vanish. Another visitor to the park reported stopping to take a photo and was surprised to see a man standing next to her when lowering her camera. He said to her, pointed to an area behind them, “What you’re looking for is there.” He disappeared moments later. This apparition has been seen many times after this incident, including by park rangers. The man, with an unkempt appearance and no shoes, is thought to be a Texan Confederate solider. Texans held the majority of Devil’s Den and being so far from home often didn’t receive the same care packages of their comrades. For this reason, the Texas troops were know to look dirty and wild…often having missing shoes.

A Personal Paranormal Gettysburg Experience

The Farnsworth House Inn

Outside view of the Farnsworth House Inn in Gettysburg
Outside view of the Farnsworth House Inn in Gettysburg

One of my own paranormal experiences happened in Gettysburg at the Farnsworth House Inn. During the war it acted as a hospital and eventual resting place for wounded Confederate soldiers. The home even sustained some fire during the war, which is evidenced by the 135 bullet holes which still riddle the side of the brick structure. Now it functions as a bed and breakfast, so of course during my trip to Gettysburg I was determined to stay there.

The McFarlane Room

For our stay I chose the McFarlane room in the original portion of the house, built in 1810. In addition to the Sarah Black room, the McFarlane room is reported to be one of the most active rooms in the house. Upon arriving front reception remarked, “Jeez, why’d you choose that room? I wouldn’t stay there.” And so began our weird adventure. Once we got to the room, I was both excited and terrified since the room decor made it look like a literal coffin. It’s incredibly accurate to the time period and also incredibly dark, even during the day. We settled in and began unpacking.

So it began…

Things seemed normal at first, despite the eerie vibe the room gave off. I went to go use the bathroom. I finished up and washed my hands in the sink, looking in the mirror half expecting someone to be standing behind me, looking back. This did not happen at any point in the stay. However, after going back to the main room, sitting on the floor, and continuing to unpack. I faced the bathroom with it’s door partially closed and heard water running. At first I thought it might be the toilet continuing the run since it was an old fashioned high tank toilet with a pull chain to flush. It seemed a bit louder than that, though.

I looked at my boyfriend at the time and said, “Do you hear that?”

“Hear what?”, he replied.

“It sounds like water running.”

We both locked eyes and looked very nervous and confused. Even though I love a good ghost story probably way more than the next person, I was not going to walk into that dark bathroom to see what was up. I made my boyfriend investigate and as he opened the bathroom door he said, “The faucets were turned on.”

A Sleepless Night

Main stairwell in the Farnsworth House Inn in Gettysburg
Main stairwell in the Farnsworth House Inn

Needless to say we both were pretty creeped out, yet excited about our experience. Feeling very uncomfortable in the room, we made our way outside the inn and made our way over to Gettysburg National Cemetery under the cover of night to explore. After walking around a bit, we walked down to a pub in the main square and spent as much time there as possible until we had to make our way back to the room to “sleep”.

After making our way back, we headed to our room and began to settle in. First off, I refused to shut the bathroom door again while using it. I also made my boyfriend turn on the light for me. I knew I was in trouble when we got into bed and my boyfriend’s ability to basically fall into a coma in 5 minutes reminded me I would be alone in the room, and awake…for a long, long time. It was hard to close my eyes without feeling like someone would be staring at me from the end of the bed or directly in front of my face when I opened my eyes. I did fall asleep eventually, with all the lights in the room on.

In the morning we woke up and started getting ready for the day when we realized the door was ajar. We opened it an saw that the old deadlock was still turned to a locked position. Something had come into our room at night. We were happy to be leaving that morning.

Haunted History of the McFarlane Room

Most interesting are the stories found about the room after we left. Here’s some from Hunters of the Unknown.

The claims from the McFarlane room include water turning on in the bathroom by itself, footsteps overhead, the room being extraordinarily hot or cold, a baby crying (no children can stay at the inn), and a creepy feeling to the room.

…The man staying in the McFarlane room was trying to sleep when he heard what sounded like drunks in the hallway so he goes to check it out but finds nobody in the hallway.  He returns to bed and his bed started shaking.  He looked at bottom of bed and found two shadow figures of men standing at the end of bed.  One man said what should we do about the Yankee sleeping in my bed?  The other replied we should slit his throat.  The man jumped out of bed and fled out the door.

…A guest in the Eisenhower room, across the hall from the McFarlane room, heard what sounded like someone being murdered in the room across the hall.  He went to check it out and saw a man burst through the McFarlane room and passed out in hallway from fright.  When he woke he told the man he couldn’t stay there, left his luggage, and moved to the Holiday Inn.  His luggage had to be brought to him the next day.

Luckily we didn’t have any encounters with the confederate soldiers in the room, but we did have a few good stories to tell when we got back home. Have you had a paranormal experience? Visited Gettysburg? Both? Tell me your story below.

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