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