By DJ McDowell

Statue in Gettysburg Commemorating Lincoln's Address
Statue Commemorating Lincoln’s Address, Gettysburg
Image by DJ McDowell

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is well known for two very important events in American history: the Battle of Gettysburg on July 1–3, 1863 and Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address four months later, on November 19.

The battle was a crushing defeat for the southern Confederacy. It changed the course of the American Civil War in favour of the northern Union. It’s also considered to be the bloodiest encounter of the American Civil War. The Confederates lost 28,000 men, while Union casualties numbered 23,000.

Today, Gettysburg is a small college town. Its residents are proud of its history, small shops, Victorian buildings, and its many ghosts.

I visited Gettysburg specifically to enjoy its haunted history and look for ghosts. A friend and I had many unnatural experiences while we were there, so I didn’t come away disappointed.

Haunted Places in Gettysburg

The 1863 Inn of Gettysburg

Location: 516 Baltimore St, Gettysburg, PA
Open: Daily
Admission: Reservations required for accommodations

My friend and I stayed at the 1863 Inn of Gettysburg for the weekend, which is known to be haunted by the spirit of a former employee and handyman. He’s mostly active on the fifth floor and likes to play pranks on hotel staff and guests. He moves things around in guest rooms and turn lights and TVs on and off in the middle of the night. We didn’t have any encounters with him, though.

The 1863 Inn is close to most of the major Gettysburg attractions and museums, including the David Wills House where Lincoln finished the Gettysburg Address, the Shriver House Museum, and the Gettysburg National Cemetery. It’s also very close to some nice restaurants and the haunted Jennie Wade House. (Jennie Wade was the only civilian casualty of the battle, and the house where she was killed by a stray bullet is a popular museum.)

Ghost of a Union Soldier

Antiques Store in Gettysburg
Image by DJ McDowell

On our first night in Gettysburg, my friend and I went for a walk around the town at 10:30. All the stores were closed but a few bars were still open. We headed toward the downtown area on Baltimore Street.

Just before we reached the Museum of Haunted Objects, I saw something totally unexpected. My friend had just stepped onto the porch of an antiques store when suddenly on the sidewalk in front of me stood a soldier in a blue uniform. He just stood there looking at me. He didn’t seem alarmed; his expression was one of caution. He looked as though he was judging whether I was friend or foe.

The soldier stood full length near a street light, so he was well illuminated and I could see him perfectly. Dressed in blue, he was obviously a Union soldier. He appeared to be completely solid like an actual person, not transparent like you might expect a ghost to be. And as I fixed my eyes on him he vanished just as quickly as he had appeared. The encounter only lasted a second or so, but the moment was so vivid that I’ll never forget it.

Gettysburg National Cemetery

Gettysburg National Cemetery
Gettysburg National Cemetery
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Location: 1195 Baltimore Pike, Gettysburg, PA
Open: Daily
Admission: Free

After telling my friend about the Union soldier and shaking off my stunned surprise from seeing him, we carried on. We walked a bit further and ended up at the main entrance to the Gettysburg National Cemetery.

Gathering up our courage, we entered the vast graveyard where over 3,500 soldiers are buried. As we walked among the many graves it started to get foggy. The fog rolled in so fast and thick that it wasn’t long before we got lost.

Stumbling in the foggy darkness of the graveyard, we came upon a special monument. I don’t know what the monument was (we were unable to find it again the next day) but it was circular and made of concrete.

When we entered the circular area the fog got so heavy we could only see a few feet in front of us. It felt like we were trapped. We also got the feeling that we weren’t alone in the darkness, and we started to see shadows of people walking all around us.

I felt a strange pressure build in the atmosphere around me and that I could almost touch the fog. Spooked by this, my friend and I turned around and walked quickly out of the circular monument by the way we’d entered it. Just as we left that area the fog lightened. We then looked for street lights in the distance to guide us to safety, and by the time we got out of the cemetery the fog had completely lifted.

The Battlements (Gettysburg National Military Park)

Technicolor Sky Over Gettysburg
Technicolour Sky Over Gettysburg
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Location: 1195 Baltimore Pike, Gettysburg, PA
Open: Dec 1 – Feb 28, daily from 9:00am to 4:00pm; Mar 1 – Oct 31, daily from 8:00am to 5:00pm
Admission: Some charge

The next night, we walked the sidewalks near the battlements because nobody is permitted to visit the battlements at night. This time, there were four of us. Two people from a paranormal convention we attended that weekend had joined us.

As we strolled along, we suddenly heard murmurs and other noises coming from where cannons stand on the tops of the nearby hills. We stopped, looked towards the sounds, and saw shadows appear in the distance. They were the black silhouettes of horses, wagons, and people.

The people moved about as though they were on patrol, and we could see and hear horses pulling a wagon that moved toward us. We heard the horses neighing and their hooves thudding against the grassy ground as they moved forward. These shadows and noises lasted for just a couple of minutes before they suddenly stopped.

After that strange experience, the four of us started to walk back to town. We then heard footsteps following us from what seemed to be just a few feet behind. But as we paused, turned around, and shone our flashlights none of us could see anyone there. When we started walking again the strange footsteps resumed. This happened several times, and yet we were in an open space with no other people around.

The phantom footsteps followed us all the way to our hotel. Two of us had bad dreams that night. And one of the friends we’d met at the convention told us that objects were moved around by unseen hands in her hotel room that same night.

Jennie Wade House & Mark Nesbitt’s House

Jennie Wade House Location: 548 Baltimore St, Gettysburg, PA
Open: Daily
Admission: Some charge

On our last night in Gettysburg we visited the Jennie Wade House. The house is a popular museum, and over the years many people claim to have seen the ghost of Jennie Wade walking through the old home. While there, several members of our group heard disembodied voices and witnessed floorboards physically moving as though someone was walking on them.

That same night, at the house of Mark Nesbitt, a tour guide and author of “Ghosts of Gettysburg,” we experienced phantom smells and unexplained bouts of vertigo. Also, my friend got scratched down her back by an aggressive entity. Needless to say, this left a lasting impression on us!

Gettysburg Orphanage

Punishment Pit, Gettysburg Orphanage
Image by DJ McDowell

Location: 778 Baltimore St, Gettysburg, PA
Open: Daily
Admission: Some charge

Lastly, we visited the haunted Gettysburg Orphanage. It’s here that a former head mistress, Rosa Carmichael, mistreated children who’d been orphaned during the Civil War. She used the house’s basement as a kind of dungeon, or punishment pit, to discipline “unruly” children.

To this day, strange noises are heard in the basement, including the clanking of chains on the stone walls. Bright orbs and the apparitions of small children are sometimes seen, too.

During our visit to the orphanage, three of us sat in the dark of the basement and did an electronic voice phenomenon (EVP) session, in which we tried to record spirit voices on our digital recorders. As we sat there, a bright light lit up the entire basement. It started as a floating orb a few inches in diameter and quickly expanded to fill the entire room. After the ghost light faded away we shone our flashlights into the room and discovered that the orb had come from where a wooden chair and toys were situated.

Much later, we all gathered back at the hotel to discuss our experiences. Some said they had been physically touched in the orphanage basement. One man felt a phantom cat rub against him. Others felt warm breaths or a threatening feeling in the basement of the Jennie Wade House.

Steeped in history, ghosts, and wonderful, welcoming people, Gettysburg is a must-visit for any history buff or paranormal enthusiast. The chances of you having a paranormal encounter there are very good. It’s one of my favourite towns to visit and I can’t wait to go back some day!

Suggested Reading

Ghosts of Gettysburg by Mark Nesbitt
Ghosts of Gettysburg by Drs Dave and Sharon Oester