U.S. Civil War History & Genealogy
Gettysburg Ghost Stories II
Two tourists walking down Sickles Avenue were approaching the point where it intersects with the Wheatfield road when they noticed what seemed to be a cloud covering a small field at the intersection. They thought it very strange that the battlefield was not foggy that day, except covering that one section. As they got closer, They thought they heard sounds of men talking along with sounds of distress. They stopped to look for anyone in the area, but without luck. The two were not the only ones to hear voices and sounds coming from that field, as they found out when they asked about the area. This small field unmarked by monuments lacks the Majesty of Little Roundtop, the drama of Culp's Hill, and the power of Devil's Den- just a quite corner of the battlefield. One would hardly notice it, yet this spot witnessed one of the most terrifying scenes of the battle. This little field was host to wounded Union soldiers on the nights of July 2nd and 3rd, 1863, who had fought desperately to hold a salient that reached out from Devil's Den through the Wheatfield to the Peach Orchard and back to Cemetery Hill. As darkness fell, they found themselves cut off from their fellow troops behind enemy lines. Lying on this field racked with pain and thirst, their life's blood seeping out, they knew the possibility of help from their own troops was slim and, as night descended, they could hear the sounds of troops in the distance and the far off moans and cries of other wounded soldiers. Still a new and unimaginable horror would soon unfold that night. Presently, they heard the sounds of soldiers coming through the woods. Could it be help? Was it their own men and safety, or Confederate troops and the possibility of prison camp? At least they might now live. However, what they saw now was a new terror--huge hogs let loose by the destruction of fences of the surrounding farms-- and they all knew what that meant. They knew that hogs were known to eat the dead and, worse, the wounded after a battle. That night of July 2nd and 3rd, 1863, as the hungry hogs circled looking for their own spoils of war, these desperately weakened men were forced to hold them off the best they could with bayonets and sabers. Some people believe the distressful sounds of pain and agony can still be heard on that small field as witnessed by the two tourists.
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR
One July a couple of years ago, Robert and Diane arrived in Gettysburg for a one - week vacation, far away from their Midwest home. Although Robert had been there several times before, it was Diane's first visit to the well-known battlefield. The couple met some friends who were residents and, together, they traveled the grounds pointing out many sites. After a couple days of sightseeing, Robert suggested to Diane to see the battlefield at night. He jokingly warned her of the spirits that haunt the battlefield, particularly at night. They made the decision and they were on their way to a nighttime tour of the place.
The serenity of the area intrigued Diane in the dark, but hardly the least worried about ghosts. One favorite place on the battlefield, according to Robert, was undoubtedly mystical Devil's Den. Here was an area filled with tales of haunting, just the right place for Diane to experience the unknown. It was quite dark as they drove into the parking lot next to the big boulders of Devil's Den, perfect for uninvited guests.
Robert and Diane made their way to the top of the boulders, with the aid of a small flashlight. They turned off the light and, in the calm of the evening, talked about the horrors of the battle, including the deaths occurring at Devil's Den. After about fifteen minutes, Robert started talking about the supposed ghosts in the area. Diane listened intently, but mockingly challenged any ghost to dare show up. As expected, not a single ghost was seen. Not even so much as an unusual sound was heard that evening.
As they left, Diane told Robert, " I told you so," as she laughed. Robert, however, did not rule out any abnormal sightings and although he joked earlier, he did believe strange things happened at Gettysburg.
For the rest of their vacation, the couple enjoyed a variety of activities. Soon, however, they found they had just one day left before they had to leave. Cramming as much as possible into their last day, the two returned again to Devil's Den late in the evening - for one last look. Already dark, they made their way atop the boulders to say farewell and goodbye. Diane spoke out, telling the ghost she was leaving, and sarcastically invited them to get into the car and come along. Both found the statement amusing and the next day were on their way home, back to the Midwest prairies.
One evening about a month later, Diane was alone in her family room reading a magazine, when movement caught the corner of her eye. Startled, she quickly looked up. For an instant, she thought she saw the shape of a man but nothing was there. She was not really concerned until a week later, again in the evening and again alone. This time as she watched TV, Diane swore she saw a man in the adjacent room. She sprang up from the chair, only to find the room empty.
Now Diane was worried because twice she thought she saw a man in the house. She contemplated telling Robert of the visions, but stopped short for fear of ridicule. Another month went by and Diane completely forgot the two incidents until late one evening. Engrossed in a book, she had a strange feeling she was not alone and lifted her head, looking into the other room. There it was again! She swore that same man's images momentarily appeared, just long enough to get a quick glimpse, and then was gone. " What on earth is going on?" Diane thought to herself. "Am I losing my mind?" In her quick sighting, she saw the man wearing a loose-fitting shirt, trousers with suspenders, and a floppy hat upon his head. Still unsure weather or not to tell Robert, she thought it over and decided to withhold her visions.
From time to time, Diane would see, or thought she saw, the lonely image of the man. Ironically, while Diane was having her phantom visitations, Robert was going through much the same thing. He too, was reading a book in the quite hours of the evening, when much to his surprise he believed he saw a person in the next room. This happened to him not once but several times. Just as had happened to Diane, the image would only stay an instant, then quickly vanish. Robert at first was going to tell Diane, but changed his mind. He remembered telling her of the ghost stories in Gettysburg and watching her laugh them away. He did not want to be humiliated by telling more stories of the supernatural. After all, she did not believe before, why would she now?
As with Diane, Robert witnessed the vision many times over the next months. They were always the same, just appearing for an instant. Each time they wondered if they really saw a man, or were their minds playing tricks on them. Both kept their secret form the other. Close to a year after touring the battlefield, the couple's friend from Gettysburg drove to the Midwest to visit with them. They engaged in casual conversation and later found themselves talking about their last time in Gettysburg. Diane finally felt at ease enough to speak of the sightings in her house and went on to tell her friend John what she thought she saw. Hearing this, Robert was speechless. He could not believe it. The same thing happened to him and both described the man exactly! Robert then told his experiences and the two could finally relieve their minds of the secret burden. They were absolutely in awe. They thought about what happened over the past year and both were convinced that, when Diane invited the ghost to come back with them, that is exactly what happened! Although not physically bothered by the visions of the man, Robert and Diane thought the ghost belonged in Gettysburg. Diane said it worked before, and with that, sternly told the ghost to get into the car and go back with John.
With that, neither Robert nor Diane was ever visited again by the image of the man. However, the story does not end here. John returned home to Gettysburg and after a few days, noticed strange things begin to happen. He thought it peculiar that he was frequently misplacing items in his home. He would remember exactly where he left something, but when he went to get the object, it was moved or gone. One night he wanted to light a cigarette, and finding his lighter empty, used matches instead. John placed the empty lighter on his bed and the matches on the dresser, then walked out of the room. Minutes later, he reentered the room and to his surprise, neither the matches nor the lighter were there! He thoroughly searched the whole room, and when done the other room - without success. Frustrated, he walked to a nearby store to purchase a new lighter. Upon his return, he was shocked as he opened the door- there were the lighter and matches!
Occasionally, John came back to the room in disarray, with clothes strewn about, drawers emptied, and papers scattered around. It is John's belief that the same ghost that frequented Robert and Diane's home did indeed return with him to Gettysburg- now resides in his home. Only this time, the apparition is showing disapproval over the new residence. The dissatisfaction may be because the apartment, they say, is built upon the graves of Civil War casualties.
Gettysburg has, over the years, had many occasions with superstition playing a major roll in the irrational, or perhaps unexplainable, beliefs associated with the battlefield. One such conviction had its origins beginning decades ago.
Tony, when a young boy, would gather up his neighborhood friends and all would hike across the battlefield, ultimately ending at Devil's Den. Tony and his companions all lived in the area, having the opportunity to regularly play on the battlefield. One day Tony came across something, nothing spectacular or out of the ordinary mind you, just an every day coin - but this small object would forever change his beliefs in mysticism.
It so happened that on that particular day, Tony was atop Devil's Den on a large boulder. It was about the highest point in the Den, situated above Smith's Battery in front of the 99th Pennsylvania monument. While playing '' Yanks and Rebs", Tony selected that boulder for its advantageous height, allowing him an excellent view of the area. It was then, as he stood on the boulder, that he glanced down at his feet and something caught his eye. Laying in a depression of the boulder, partially covered by a small stone, he found a coin- A Lincoln head penny. No sooner did he spot the penny, when his friend Peter joined him atop the boulder. Tony showed him his new discovery and Peter began discussing the possible different types of candy they could purchase with the fiend. As Peter moved the tiny stone and picked up the penny, he jokingly told Tony, " Look, Lincoln is facing in the direction he gave his Gettysburg Address."
Happy with the find, the two boys decided to leave the battlefield and spend the penny, after whetting their appetite with visions of sweet candy. Peter tucked the penny in his pocket and they started to leave when, after just moments, he lost his footing on one of the rocks, falling onto the hard surface breaking his arm. Fortunately, help was not far away and the poor boy was soon at the doctor's office mending his wound.
After a few weeks, Tony and his friends returned to the battlefield, This time, their parents who learned of the mishap, sternly warned the boys to be careful on the rocks. Tony's favorite spot was atop the boulder at Devil's Den, so he made his way to it and continued to play. To his complete surprise, he found another penny in the same depression, covered by a small stone- Lincoln facing the same direction! Thinking his pals were playing a joke on him, he called them over and pointed out the penny asking who placed it there. The boys were bewildered and none claimed to have put it there. Besides, these particular children did not have money to be throwing around, especially considering a penny could buy something in those times. Still not believing his friends, Tony said " Oh well, guess I got me a penny then." With that he picked up the coin and the boys continued with their play. Then something unexpected happened that made young Tony think perhaps his friends did not put the penny there. As they were playing, Tony was pretending he was a General, charging at a full speed run. Usually surefooted, he tripped, falling face first onto one of the flat rocks. His nose began to bleed and his eye swelled shut. Tony in tears and pain made his way home, somehow thinking that penny had something to do with it, after all, Peter previously took the penny and got hurt.
The boys stayed away from Devil's Den for quite some time. After several months, for the most part forgetting the two injuries suffered by them, they ventured back onto the battlefield and ultimately to Devil's Den. Tony, with Peter and another friend Jim, stepped on top of their favorite boulder. To their astonishment there it was, just like the others, and covered by a small stone. A penny with Lincoln facing the same direction! This time though, Tony and Peter having previous ominous circumstances linked to the penny, refused to pick it up. However, Jim telling them how silly they were acting, did not hesitate to take the penny, even as Tony pleaded with him not to do it. As they continued with their play, Tony kept insisting Jim return the penny to the spot he found it. Then it happened- Jim, almost identical to Tony's mishap, lost his footing and tumbled down, breaking his index finger. In excruciating pain, Jim beseeched Tony's forgiveness for not believing him, as he now too became a victim of the mysterious appearing pennies.
Time went on and as the boys grew older, they did on occasion venture back to Devil's Den. At times, reporting that they indeed did see the mysterious penny in the same spot, however, refusing ever to take it, for they now knew the consequences. As they aged and reflected back on their most unfortunate experiences, they firmly believed that, while unsure of how the penny was placed there, it was meant to ward off the evil spirits from Devil's Den. Not only was it considered bad luck to remove the penny, but as they could attest to, chances of something bad happening to them were quite high.
We should note that over the years those boys and unrelated parties have come across a penny on that boulder and, after picking it up, received various degrees of misfortune. We have also heard that from time to time pennies have been left there for good luck. Although we have not come across the penny ourselves, others in the recent years have. We can only say that if we do have the opportunity to see the penny, it will definitely remain where it is. If you see it, Do what you may- but remember the dire consequences that could be awaiting you if you choose to take it
PICTURE OF DEATH
by Tom Gladwell
One summer day, Tom a resident of Gettysburg, had some time to himself and ultimately decided to do one of his favorite pastimes- visit the battlefield. One of his hobbies is photography, so he seldom left his home without his camera, never knowing when or where that perfect shot would present itself. Tom placed his camera and equipment in his car and soon was on his way.
Although the day was pleasant as far as the temperature, it was lightly raining, not enough though, to discourage Tom's venture to the battlefield. No sooner did he drive through the main entrance off the Emmitsburg Road, than the rain stopped, the sky cleared and a beautiful day presented itself. Tom took full advantage of the weather, using the sun filled sky shining upon the wet ground and glistening off objects, to create splendid views for photographs. Special to him were the picturesque rock formations created by the many boulders found throughout the battlefield in their stoic grander. As he made his way to Little Round Top, Tom slowly walked along, reading the plaques on the monuments just as he had done often before. While he was trying to imagine the grotesquely bloody slaughter that took place on the battlefield, he occasionally took a photograph of an interesting statue or scene.
It was already midday and many tourists were around and about the area. Tom, a pleasant fellow, loved to carry on conversations with the other visitors and gladly answered questions regarding the battle, often volunteering fascination accounts of the fighting. He even found some tourist so engrossing like Bill and Mary, that he exchanged address with them hoping for future letters.
Explaining to a small group of tourists what had taken place between Little Round Top and the surrounding area, Tom went with them down the hill, through the Valley of Death to Devil's Den. He explained the terrible battle and resulting bloodshed on both sides. Showing them the crevices and natural fortification of the huge boulders, he pointed out where several Confederate soldiers were killed. As Tom was telling them about the gruesome deaths, he noticed another person joined the group. He was a soldier, wearing a floppy hat dressed in gray, possessing an odor of sulfurous gunpowder. Believing the person was a Civil War reenactor, Tom was impressed by the authentic looking gray uniform, complete with dirt, worn out knees and shredded trouser bottoms. Not only did this uniform look genuine, but the Confederate Soldier did not appear to have a tooth in his head, nor was he wearing any shoes. Of course, Tom thought that was a little much, after all, with sharp rocks and snakes found around Devil's Den, the bare foot would be no match against them.
Tom, the tourists, and his new found friends Bill and Mary, were so impressed with the Confederate Soldier, they asked if they might take his picture. The shabby soldier silently gazed at them then nodded his approval, the group hurriedly grabbed their cameras and began taking pictures, even at times, posing with him.
Finished with the picture taking, Tom and the group resumed talking. Wondering where the man was from and what reenacting group he was with, they turned to looking for him, but he was nowhere in sight. Quite astonished by the Soldier's quick exit, Tom thought they were just so engrossed in conversation, they never noticed him leave.
Tom visited a few more sites on the battlefield before leaving, but he could not help visualizing the ragged Confederate soldier the whole time. He got a bizarre feeling associated with the man. Tom could not wait to get his film developed and he the photograph of the soldier, hoping that it might be one of his best yet to add to his fine collection.
After several days, he picked up his developed film and, too anxious to wait until he got home, immediately opened the envelope to examine the pictures. There he saw exquisite photographs of monuments, beautiful scenery, and then the ones he was waiting for, the soldier at Devil's Den. Nevertheless, Tom was in total shock when he looked at the pictures - the boulders and the tourists posing at Devil's Den were there-but none, one, showed the elusive Confederate soldier! " How could this be?" he thought, " I took at least 5 pictures of him, some of him alone, others of tourist posing with him." Tom could not believe what happened and quickly wrote letters to Bill and Mary, the tourists he met that day, asking how their photographs turned out. The answered letters came back, and Bill wrote him that they must have ruined the film because none came out. Mary's ironically were the same as Tom's.
Mary, who posed with the Confederate, was now standing alone. We should note that many others have had a variety of problems associated with picture taking at Devil's Den. For one possible explanation to that phenomenon, we must look back to July 1863.Most people are familiar with the famous Timothy O'Sullivan photograph of the dead sharpshooter. The soldier is lying behind the rock entrenchment of Devil's Den. What is not commonly known, however, is that O'Sullivan dragged the lifeless body of the young man from the field some yards away, to the rocks-for the sole purpose of staging a dramatic photograph. It has been said that the spirit of that Confederate Soldier, angry over being moved from his original resting place, still prowls the Den causing cameras and film to malfunction for retribution.
There is no doubt in Tom's mind that what he and the group of tourist witnessed that day at Devil's Den, was a spirit from the Battle of Gettysburg, for whatever reason, still walking the battlefield. If per chance you wish to visit Devil's Den and happened to encounter a lone Confederate Soldier, examine him closely - for he may be the phantom sentry.
Now, you will notice the "man" character in this story is named "Tom". This is no coincidence as the person in this story is our very own HOST GFS TEG/Tom and this actually happened to him.
If you are interesting in receiving the Weekly Fireside, a newsletter we publish each week, please send your email address to HOSTGFSJayne@aol.com. You DO NOT have to be a subscriber to AOL to receive our newsletter.
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