Forever haunted: Gettysburg ghosts have over 160 years of spooky history

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Gettysburg ghosts dare you to take their spooky tour through Civil War history

In the heart of Pennsylvania lies a quaint town where history and mystery dance a slow, spooky waltz. Gettysburg, a name synonymous with a pivotal Civil War battle, carries whispers of a past that refuses to lay still. But Gettysburg has more than just historical tales; it’s a town where odd happenings have even the skeptics scratching their heads.

From the ghostly tales of the Herr Tavern and Jennie Wade House to the unsettling lore of the Gettysburg Orphanage, the town seems to hold its history in a close, ghostly embrace. Below, we’re going to dig into the ghostly stories, historic events and mind tricks that together spin the eerie yet fascinating narrative of Gettysburg, inviting us into a curious mix of history, eerie tales and mysteries waiting to be unraveled.

Gettysburg ghosts on the battlefield

The Battle of Gettysburg

Gettysburg, known for its rich history, is famously marked by the three-day clash during the American Civil War from July 1 to July 3, 1863. This was no ordinary battle; it was the Battle of Gettysburg, a critical juncture that saw Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s bold attempt to invade the North fall flat.

The toll was staggering, with casualty figures soaring past 50,000, making it the most devastating battle of the war. The Union’s victory here was more than a setback for the Southern forces — it was a hammer blow that dashed Lee’s hopes of speeding up the war’s end with a successful northern invasion.

As time moved on, the echoes of the Battle of Gettysburg began to resonate in a different, more eerie tune. Come the 1990s, and the town’s identity took a ghostly turn, as tales of the paranormal entwined with the historic backdrop, fueled by a rise in ghost books and tours.

The harsh realities of the battle — the abrupt deaths, and the absence of proper burials for many Confederate soldiers — sowed the seeds for numerous ghost stories, morphing Gettysburg into a magnet for those enthralled by the paranormal.

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Battle of Gettysburg map (1863)

The modern day ghosts of Gettysburg

Nowadays, Gettysburg has a peculiar kind of magnetism. It’s not just the history enthusiasts flocking to soak up the Civil War stories, but also the supernatural sleuths hungry for a ghostly rendezvous. Many are keen to experience firsthand the eerie encounters said to be a common affair around the town.

The chatter about ghost sightings is endless, especially around hotspots like the Soldiers’ Orphanage and the Herr Tavern. It’s believed that these aren’t just any random phantoms, but the restless spirits of fallen soldiers, still clinging to the place of their last stand.

This blend of historical substance and paranormal allure has made Gettysburg a playground for a variety of explorers — from ghost hunters to history geeks. The ghost tours around town are giving the historic tours a run for their money, and places like the haunted Gettysburg Hotel and the Cashtown Inn are the perfect spots for a walk through history with a side of spectral surprise.

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Haunted Gettysburg: Ghostly soldiers on eternal patrol

The charm of haunted Gettysburg holds strong, captivating both locals and those who drop by, with endless stories of ghosts in Civil War uniforms adding a ghostly layer to the town’s historical story. These ghostly encounters, often tied to the rough experiences of soldiers who met their end here, offer a chilling yet fascinating extension to the town’s past.

A fresh story that caught attention came from Greg Yuelling in September 2020. While driving through the town late at night with his family, Yuelling claims to have caught on video what seemed like ghosts crossing the road, a sighting that quickly spread like wildfire online.

Although the authenticity of this footage has been questioned by several skeptics, it still stands as a spooky example of the Gettysburg lore people just can’t get enough of.

Herr Tavern: A tavern turned triage

Originally a tavern, this place morphed into a makeshift Confederate hospital during the Battle of Gettysburg, becoming a small but crucial part of the battleground’s narrative. The harshness of war was vividly on display within its walls as it became a haven for the wounded, many of whom faced the saw in desperate attempts at saving lives.

The grim fallout of battle was all too real here; it’s mentioned that amputated limbs were often tossed out of the tavern windows, a grim image of the ferocity of the war that unraveled in Gettysburg.

Fast forward to today, and the tales of ghostly whispers at Herr Tavern add a spine-tingling layer to its history. Reports of paranormal activity have been more than just whispers among those who dare to step into the unknown.

Now known as The Inn at Herr Ridge, encompassing the old tavern, it has even piqued the interest of paranormal investigators, landing a spot on SyFy’s “Haunted Collector” series in 2013. The episode dives into the eerie encounters shared by both staff and patrons, contributing to the lore of haunted Gettysburg.

The haunted halls of Gettysburg College

Gettysburg College, with its deep historical roots stretching back to the tumultuous times of the Civil War, has garnered a reputation for being haunted. The halls and buildings, particularly Pennsylvania Hall, which served as a hospital during the war, seem to hold onto the memories of a brutal past.

Pennsylvania Hall, known as Old Dorm, is the oldest of the buildings located in the Gettysburg College, and has been at the heart of numerous ghostly tales. This building served as a hospital for the wounded soldiers during the Civil War, its halls once echoing with the cries of the wounded and dying.

The conditions in Civil War-era hospitals were horrifying — with surgeries often leading to amputations, carried out without the benefits of modern antiseptics​​. The hall continued to serve as a Confederate hospital and prison camp for captured Union soldiers and officials for a month following the Battle of Gettysburg​​.

A particularly chilling account comes from the 1980s when two college administrators, working late one night, ventured to the lower portion of Penn Hall. The elevator doors opened to reveal a gruesome scene from the past: specters dressed in hospital attire tending to fallen soldiers. This harrowing vision vanished as quickly as it appeared when they returned with a security guard, discovering only an empty room​.

Sightings of spectral soldiers are common in the College. The “Lone Sentinel” or the “Lookout” is a famous apparition many claim to see wandering the campus. This ghost is often seen carrying a lantern and rifle, as if still on duty from a bygone era, standing guard or patrolling the halls where wounded soldiers once lay.

Another famous ghost, known as the “Lady in White,” is said to linger in Glatfelter Hall, one of the most well-known buildings on the campus. Her story is heart-wrenching; it is said she lost her love due to the war and, in her despair, ended her life by leaping from Glatfelter’s bell tower. The legend further claims that whoever looks into her eyes will meet the same tragic fate as she did.

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The Gettysburg ghosts of Sachs Covered Bridge

Paranormal investigators have also trained their lenses and devices on Sachs Covered Bridge, a hotspot for ghostly activities, capturing phenomena that continue to tantalize the curious and fuel the town’s ghostly lore​​.

Built in 1852, Sachs Covered Bridge has stood as a silent witness to the tumultuous events of the Civil War. This bridge served as a crucial passage for both Union and Confederate troops, its wooden planks once reverberating with the march of boots and clatter of horse hooves​​.

The bridge is said to be haunted by the ghosts of three Confederate soldiers who were hung from its beams, their ethereal figures often sighted by visitors along with other ghostly phenomena such as disembodied voices and touching sensations​​.

As night descends, the bridge allegedly becomes a stage for the ghostly replay of tragic events. Many have reported hearing the distant sounds of horses’ hooves, whispers of ghostly conversations, and even the haunting echoes of war cries.

One of the most unsettling tales regarding the bridge surrounds the ghost of a young drummer boy, who perished near the bridge, now seen searching for his lost battalion​​.

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Gettysburg ghosts at the Jennie Wade House

Among the many ghost stories of Gettysburg, the sad tale of Mary Virginia Wade, often known as Jennie Wade, holds a unique place. She has the unfortunate distinction of being the only civilian casualty during the Battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863.

At the young age of 20, Jennie’s life was cut short by a stray bullet that found its way through the kitchen door of her sister’s home. At that moment, she was baking bread for Union soldiers, a small act of kindness in the midst of the raging battle around her.

As time went on, the house where this tragic event took place became a center of interest for those drawn to the paranormal. Now known as the Jennie Wade House, it has built a reputation for mysterious happenings that intrigue both locals and visitors.

Stories of strange voices echoing through the rooms and sightings of apparitions resembling a young woman in period clothing have become part of the house’s legacy. These eerie tales suggest a lingering presence of the young woman whose life ended suddenly on that fateful summer day.

Visitors often recount seeing a young woman, forever in the act of helping soldiers, or finding comfort in the place last known as home. These encounters offer a tangible yet ghostly connection to the past, allowing visitors to touch the emotional echoes of Jennie Wade’s story.

Now a museum, the Jennie Wade House opens its doors to those keen on history and the paranormal. Jennie Wade’s story continues to fascinate, inviting a closer look into Gettysburg’s ghostly past, making the Jennie Wade House a notable stop in unraveling the town’s mix of history and haunting occurrences.

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Haunted Gettysburg: The sorrowful spirits of the orphanage

The Gettysburg Orphanage, officially known as the Soldiers’ Orphanage, has a significant historical background dating back to the aftermath of the Civil War.

Established in 1866, the orphanage was created to provide shelter, education, and care for the children who had lost their fathers during the war. Located in the heart of Gettysburg, this institution served as a sanctuary for the orphans, offering them a semblance of stability amidst the turbulent post-war period.

Unfortunately, the orphanage’s history took a dark turn under the management of Rosa Carmichael, who took over as the superintendent in the late 1860s.

Numerous accounts suggest that Carmichael was cruel and abusive towards the children. The most notorious of these tales revolved around a dungeon, an unthinkable confinement space where it’s alleged that Carmichael would discipline the orphans for perceived misbehavior. Her mistreatment of the orphans cast a dark shadow over the orphanage, contrasting sharply with its initial mission of providing a safe haven for the war’s youngest victims.

Despite the dark period under Carmichael’s supervision, the orphanage continued to operate until 1877, striving to uphold its original mission of caring for and educating the orphans of Civil War soldiers.

Over time, the building that housed the orphanage became a significant historical and, to some, a haunted site in Gettysburg, symbolizing both the town’s compassionate response to the war’s devastation and the potential for human cruelty in the face of vulnerability.

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Ghostly sightings of children and the headmistress

The Gettysburg Orphanage is often mentioned as a hub for ghostly sightings. Visitors share spine-chilling tales of interactions with the spirits of children, echoes of the orphanage’s past.

The sounds of laughter and hushed whispers of unseen children are said to pierce the silence of the now-still rooms, where memories of the young souls who once found shelter seem to linger on. What starts as playful soon veers into the eerie as people report the feeling of invisible hands pulling at their clothes, a sensation many suggest is from the orphaned spirits seeking attention.

Among the gentle spirits of children, a more threatening ghost is believed to wander the halls — the ghost of the notorious headmistress, Rosa Carmichael. Her harsh rule over the orphanage, filled with stories of cruelty and neglect, appears to have left a ghostly mark on the place.

Some visitors talk about encounters with a stern, intimidating figure, believed to be the spirit of Carmichael, inspiring a real sense of fear. The sinister vibe surrounding the sightings of the headmistress serves as a stark reminder of the orphanage’s dark history.

While the orphanage has been closed to the public since 2014, the haunting tales of the Gettysburg Orphanage continue to intrigue both those fascinated by the paranormal and historians alike.

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Skepticism and explanations for Gettysburg ghosts

Many — if not all — Gettysburg ghost stories are tied to the town’s bloody history, where the immense loss and the manner in which the dead were treated might have left an indelible imprint on the area.

Skeptics have often pointed out natural explanations for some of the phenomena witnessed. For instance, a popular video capturing “ghostly apparitions” running across a Gettysburg field was debunked by a TikToker named Jeremy Foster, who explained that the apparitions were merely distortions in the glass through which the video was recorded.

These distortions could have been caused by water or defects in the glass, creating the illusion of ghostly figures when light reflected off nearby cannons passed through these distortions.


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Gettysburg soldiers were a grim photo-op

The treatment of the deceased post-battle adds an eerie underpinning to the ghostly tales surrounding Gettysburg. Photographers, in an attempt to capture more impactful images, were known to move and position the bodies, creating staged scenes of the aftermath. This manipulation is thought to have possibly left unsettled energies, contributing to the hauntings reported over the years. The altered images painted a distorted narrative of the battle, and some argue this might have left spirits restless, yearning to correct the story and restore a dignified legacy.

Haunted Gettysburg: The psychological lens of priming

Looking at it from a psychological angle, the haunting history and the tales spun around Gettysburg could set the stage for people to experience or interpret ordinary events as paranormal. Priming, a psychological effect where one stimulus influences the reaction to a following, related stimulus, comes into play here. The stories and historical backdrop of Gettysburg could prime folks to see ordinary events — like shadows, drafts, or odd noises — as signs of paranormal activity. The tales of ghostly soldiers and unsettled spirits wandering the fields can shape how individuals perceive these common occurrences, casting them in a supernatural light.

The ghostly echo chamber of communal reinforcement

Moreover, the phenomenon of communal reinforcement, where a claim gains traction and belief within a community through repeated assertion and shared belief, can further cement the ghostly lore of Gettysburg. As tales of eerie encounters are shared, retold, and maybe even spiced up over time, they dig deeper roots in the collective mind of both locals and visitors. This loop, where each new account amplifies the legend, embeds the ghostly narrative even more firmly in Gettysburg’s culture.

Pareidolia: Seeing Gettysburg ghosts in the shadows

Humans are pattern-seekers by nature, a tendency known as pareidolia, leading to seeing faces or hearing voices in random stimuli — like spotting shapes in clouds or hearing whispers in rustling leaves. In a place like Gettysburg, where the air is thick with tales of the paranormal, pareidolia might play a big part in reported ghostly sightings and strange experiences.

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Gettysburg ghost tours and investigations

With its battle-scarred history and alleged paranormal activity, the town hosts a variety of interesting ghost tours. Here are a few popular ghost tours in Gettysburg:

  1. Gettysburg Ghost Tours:
    Known as the original local Gettysburg ghost tour, it’s rated the #1 Ghost Tour in Gettysburg by Pick of the County. This tour prides itself on having professional storytellers as guides, offering a family-friendly experience with less walking and more talking along the tour route​.
  2. Gettysburg Ghost Hunt Tours With Equipment:
    This tour is described as a 50% ghost walk tour and 50% ghost hunt, ideal for individuals keen on learning about the battle history while trying to communicate with the spirits believed to roam Gettysburg. Offering an after-dark ghost tour, this experience is ideal for older children and adults. It’s preceded by a popular Gettysburg Ghost Walk, highlighting battle history and tales of specific hauntings along the way​.
  3. Jennie Wade Ghost Tour:
    This tour takes you through some of Gettysburg’s most notorious and haunted sites while narrating the tragic story of Jennie Wade, the only civilian killed during the battle. The tour is known for being immersive, engaging, and rich in both lore and history​.
  4. Sleepy Hollow Ghost Tour:
    Hosted at the historic Farnsworth House, recognized as one of the most haunted inns in America, this tour provides a unique destination for ghost lovers. The Farnsworth House, built in 1810, now serves as a beautiful bed and breakfast with an outdoor beer garden and dining area​.

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Our connection with the ghosts of Gettysburg

Gettysburg is known for its Civil War history, but the ghost stories add another layer of intrigue. It’s a place where history buffs and ghost hunters find common ground.

The stories of ghostly soldiers and whispers in the old battlefields make the past feel alive and close. Visitors to Gettysburg get to explore this blend of real history and eerie tales, making the town a spot where the past is a constant companion.

Tales of ghosts, like soldiers or Jennie Wade, create a connection to the old times. They make the historical events here feel more human and real. These stories invite people to think more about what happened here, connecting them to the individuals from this part of American history.

The ghostly tales have become a key part of Gettysburg’s legacy, allowing people to explore the past in a unique way. They help visitors feel a personal connection to the history, breaking down the barriers of time.

Through these paranormal tales, the spirit of Gettysburg’s history lives on. They ensure the stories of those who were here continue to be told and felt, adding to the experience of anyone who visits this iconic town. 👻

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