Few places in the country are more haunted than Gettysburg, Pa. During the three days of carnage in July 1863, 51,000 soldiers were killed, wounded, or went missing. That’s about one-third of the troops who fought there and about the same number of casualties of the entire Vietnam War.
Not surprisingly, stories of shadowy apparitions, disembodied voices, smells of cannon smoke, and other otherworldly happenings began circulating before the last echo of the battle faded away. Paranormal investigators say spirits often linger if their passing was sudden, traumatic, unexpected, or violent. The battle of Gettysburg qualifies on all counts.
You hear about the phantom Confederate troops on Emmitsburg Road at the site of Pickett’s Charge, the appearance of an operating room in a basement at Gettysburg College, and lights and sounds of battle at Sachs Bridge. Residents of private homes and farms report that noises and apparitions are almost routine.
If stories of Gettysburg ghosts intrigue you, there are plenty of ghost tours to satisfy your curiosity and the website destinationgettysburg.com lists them. Each offers its unique take on the town’s ghostly history. Several companies offer tours that include instruction on using paranormal research equipment and visits to spots where activity is common. Here are some interactive possibilities:
This is the only company that goes inside the Jennie Wade House and the Orphanage.
Jennie Wade was the only civilian killed during the battle. The house is open for historic tours during the day, but no other ghost tours visit. The Orphanage was operating during the battle, but it was notorious for the abusive treatment of the children following the war and it was closed in the 1880s. The Paranormal Investigations tour includes equipment for detecting activity and a two-hour visit to one of those sites. Advance reservations are needed and the company recommends booking at least a month in advance.
The company also has three other options, including the Ghost Bus, which visits sites outside of Gettysburg proper; Ghostly Encounters, in which a costumed guide takes the role of a spirit and “returns” to tell his or her story; and Midnight Adventures, which includes an investigation at a haunted site and visit by a ghost guide. This is not recommended for kids under 10.
After Dark Investigations
Catering to small groups, all tours are centered on investigations. Participants are outfitted with ghost-hunting gear, including voice recorders, infrared video cameras, temperature gauges, and EMF (electromagnetic field) detectors.
Tours visit lesser-known locations. The Devil’s Hour after-midnight trip reports many encounters. The company also has bachelor/bachelorette parties. (afterdarkinvestigations.com)
Mason-Dixon Paranormal Society
The tours are a blend of history and ghosts, with lots of “firsthand” stories by the guides. They may be spooky, but are not designed to terrify. There’s a Lincoln-themed tour, and both family-friendly and full-scale paranormal experience trips. There’s also the haunted Pub Crawl, where you are guaranteed to encounter spirits, if only at the bar.
The society provides consultation to businesses and homeowners along the East Coast experiencing paranormal activity. The tours help offset expenses for these consultations and provide a way of educating people about the paranormal.
Haunted Gettysburg Candlelight Walking Tours and Paranormal Investigations
In addition to a walking tour of downtown Gettysburg and another of its cemeteries, they offer the Xtreme Paranormal Investigation. Supplied with a complete array of equipment, the group visits the haunted Sachs Covered Bridge, where activity is almost guaranteed.
Farnsworth House Ghost Walks and Mourning Theater
This popular, elegant inn has more residents than those signing the guest register. Dressed in period costumes, guides conduct several tours, including one to buildings used as field hospitals.
The Mature Tour has dramatic accounts of the unexplained and visits the very-haunted Grove (for ages 15 and older). The Ghost Hunt provides equipment and a visit to the Grove (for ages 10 and older). There’s a campfire ghost story program that’s more family-friendly.
Perhaps the most unusual tour is the Mourning Theater. The basement of the inn is decorated like a Victorian funeral parlor, complete with caskets. Guides explain the funeral rituals of the period with some spooky stories thrown in. Paranormal Weekends, held monthly, include lodging, paranormal equipment, and time to investigate the inn.
Ghosts of Gettysburg
The company offers three walking tours through the streets and haunted sites in town, along the Confederate line, and at Gettysburg College.
They also offer periodic paranormal investigation weekends.
Gettysburg Ghost Tours and the Gettysburg Paranormal Association
Themed one-hour walking tours led by costumed storyteller guides visit the battlefield, town, and cemetery.
There also are two paranormal investigation trips, including one during which participants receive a DVD of the investigation.
More to do
Adams County, surrounding Gettysburg, is home to thousands of acres of fruit orchards and the site of the National Apple Harvest Festival at South Mountain Fairgrounds, Oct. 3–4 and Oct. 10–11.
With all those orchards, it’s no wonder that the Gettysburg Wine and Fruit Trail features wineries specializing in fruit wines. But, the trail includes plenty of other experiences, including bakeries and food artisans, breweries, distilleries, and cideries, farm stands, craft and artisan venues, and lodgings. Many of the trail members offer special events during the apple festival.
Savor Gettysburg Food Tours provide Gettysburg cuisine with a side of walking exercise and history. The company now offers a Wine, Cider, and Dine Tour in addition to its food and savory sweets tours.