Ghost Town

I grew up in a town with some spooky history.  Not quite We Have Always Lived in the Castle spooky, but spooky nonetheless.  Gettysburg, PA was the site of the battle* that changed the course of the Civil War, and with over 50,000 deaths– almost as many as in the entire Vietnam War– the town is known almost as much for its ghosts as it is for the battle itself.

Gettysburg at the time of the Civil War.  [Image is in the public domain; click picture for full source information.]

Gettysburg at the time of the Civil War. [Image is in the public domain; click picture for full source information.]

As anyone who has ever grown up in a small town knows, you spend a lot of time “hanging out.”  In Gettysburg, that meant spending a lot of time at various places around the battlefield and picking up various bits of lore without even trying.  Ask anyone who lived in the area, and they can probably tell you a ghost story that they remember off the top of their head, even if they can’t remember all the details.  For instance, I remember that there was a statue of a soldier that supposedly turned its head to look at you (it was one of the state monuments, although for the life of me I can’t remember which one).  I also know of a stream that had a little wooden bridge going over it, and the story goes that a woman hid her child there when the confederate soldiers rode into town.  She was killed by soldiers, and you can still hear her sometimes in that area calling out for her child.

Many people who grew up in the Gettysburg area develop a lifelong interest in Civil War minutiae; I’ve been left with a love of ghost stories.  Here are a few you might enjoy:

A haunting image of a young Civil War soldier.  [Image is in the public domain; click picture for full source information.]

A haunting image of a young Civil War soldier. [Image is in the public domain; click picture for full source information.]

The Ghosts of Gettysburg, by Mark Nesbitt: It would be remiss of me to not mention this title (and series) in this post.  The Ghosts of Gettysburg books compile stories that the author has painstakingly collected from sources around the region.

Ghost Stories of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, by Beth E. Trapani and Charles Adams III: Pittsburgh isn’t without its share of ghosts! I think that if you dig around the history of any older city, you’re bound to turn up some good ghost stories. This book has gotten some mixed reviews (this one is my favorite!), but is still a good introduction to Pittsburgh’s paranormal history.  The experts in our Pennsylvania Department could certainly point you towards other stories, if this book gets you interested.

Widdershins: The First Book of Ghost Stories, by Oliver Onions: These stories lean more towards psychological horror than outright fright, but I guarantee that at some point after reading the first story in this collection, “The Beckoning Fair One,” you’ll find yourself alone in the house wondering just how much you believe in this type of thing.

The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James: Can you tell I’m a fan of psychological ghost stories yet?  If you’ve ever taken a creative writing course, you’ll be familiar with the phrase “show, don’t tell,” and that’s exactly what James does in this novella.  This subtly creepy story is often hailed as a classic of the genre, and for good reason.

Does your hometown have any creepy ghost stories?  Any readers from the Gettysburg area who have a good story to share?

-Irene

*incidentally, 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

7 Comments

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7 responses to “Ghost Town

  1. What a great place to grow up! I grew up in a very old village, first erected in 16th C, Ripley, Yorkshire. Lots of fascinating history. I wrote a wee piece a while ago called From Olde Cottage to New Inn.
    Not aa in depth as your piece. Mine had fictional edge.
    Well done on your. Absorbing.

  2. What a great place to grow up! I grew up in a very old village, first erected in 16th C, Ripley, Yorkshire. Lots of fascinating history. I wrote a wee piece a while ago called From Olde Cottage to New Inn.
    Not aa in depth as your piece. Mine had fictional edge.
    Well done on yours. Absorbing.

  3. Turn of the Screw is brilliant. I read it in University after we watched The Innocents in my Hollywood Horror module. I love good ghost story, and I think Turn of the Screw is perhaps one of the best I’ve read. Much better than the film. And I’ve now added a few more books to my to read list. great post.

  4. Audrey

    If you have not yet read “Ghost Stories of an Antiquary” by M. R. James (1862-1936), treat yourself to the best ghostly tales ever – delicious – your spine will tingle! Continue the delight with “More Ghost Stories of an Antiquary.” A British scholar, James was an authority on and a bibliographer of medieval manuscripts. His ghosts stores are gems! Enjoy!

  5. Molly

    I grew up in the area and townies are more afraid of ghosts than tourists! I worked on Steinwehr Avenue and had co-workers who were afraid to go upstairs to use the bathroom at work! We’d run across the street to Sheetz. I remember water turning on randomly and furniture moving there. The best was probably when an off-duty colleague dressed in Confederate garb and hid in the supply room until an unexpected on-the-clock person went to grab cups. Hilarious!

    My favorite story is about the Triangular Field, which is apparently impossible to photograph.

    And there is a legend at the Jennie Wade House (named for the only civilian killed during the Battle of Gettysburg) that if you are female and you put the ring finger of your left hand through a bullet hole in the front door, you will either feel glowing warmth, or the cold fingers of a spirit. The former means you will be happily married and the latter means you will die alone. I was too afraid of the truth to try!

  6. Great post, Irene! As a history lover, I hope to visit Gettysburg soon!

  7. I live in Franklin, Tennessee, home of the Battle of Franklin and the Carnton Mansion where 5 (I think) Confederate officers’ dead bodies were laid out. Lots of ghost stories here!

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