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Spirits of Gettysburg

Listed under Paranormal in US East Coast, United States.

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The battle of Gettysburg saw a lot of violent action take place over a very small space of ground: one of the elements I believe to be key to a location reverberating with the residual energy which causes a place to effect people in the kind of way we attribute to hauntings. Not only is the soil rich with the bones of the dead but the warfare technology of the age wasn't the kind which leaves no trace, and buildings, trees, roads and other marks remain which have retained the residue of the strong emotions of fear and violence with would have saturated Gettysburg in 1863 as the battle drew closer then exploded into the deaths of many many men.

The actual events of the battle are well recorded, but it can be summed up by saying that it was short, over a period of only three days, and bluntly to the point. Two large armies had amassed on either side of the town then fought their way through it, loosing one third of those involved in the process. Afterwards the crippled Confederate Army hobbled home and the wining Union Army waved their wounded fists at them but failed to give chase leaving more people than the original number of inhabitants of the town behind in the hastily set up field hospitals, drenching the walls and floors in blood, so much so that the stories say that most of the town's carpeting had to be thrown out as well as many many books which were used as pillows for soldiers. Corpses lay in the summer sun and decayed. It would have been a hideous lesson in anatomy for both the wounded and the people trying to tend to them.

There is an official area of battlefield, managed by the Government just outside of town, but fighting took place in many of the buildings as well and Gettysburg proper is littered with buildings where paranormal experiences have been recorded.

On the first day of battle, lines of Federal soldiers were slaughtered as they retreated through the town up to what is now called Cemetery Hill and their bodies were left to rot in the sun blanketing Baltimore Street in a putrid smell, which was supposed to have lingered so long that the only way women could be coaxed along it was with handkerchiefs sprinkled with vanilla, lavender or peppermint scent. Many people report wafts of unexplained scents in this area of Gettysburg and there is no doubt that these sweet scents when mingled with rotting flesh would produce an unusual odour.

Gettysburg College is another focal spot for reported paranormal experiences, the battle raged around it so it bears the physical scars of fire but it was also used as a field hospital for the dead and dying so bears the scars of psychological memory as well. Part of the building was used as a look out by, among others, General Lee himself and students frighten each other and themselves with stories of endlessly pacing soldiers, guarding Lee's look outs over the battle. But it was the field hospital here that has had the greatest impact on the buildings, as with several others around the town. Surgeons operated without anaesthetic, severing limbs rather than fishing bullets out of them and as in all field hospitals in truly desperate times there was one room where people who couldn't be helped or saved were left to die. Blood soaked the walls and floor of this room, now part of the library complex, and the terrible last words and thoughts of these men dying in agony have tainted the space and all sorts of strange feelings, smells and sights have been reported here but the most common seems to be a sudden feeling of deathly chill and a dry taste in the mouth – could it be an empathy for those whose life blood drained away onto these floors as they cried out for water?

Written by  Jon Falkes.

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