Located within the
boundaries of the town is Gettysburg College, or as it was known
in 1863, Pennsylvania College. This small, attractive campus
seems a quiet place today and anyone who visits here would
probably be surprised to learn that during the battle, the
college was in the midst of the fighting. At the time, the
college consisted of only three brick buildings, which provided
lodging and classrooms for little more than 100 students. When
the battle erupted, the campus was thrown into the midst of the
fight, providing shelter for the wounded and dying as a field
Not surprisingly, the college is said to
still bear the marks of not only the physical effects of the
battle , but the spiritual effects as well...
One of the most haunted buildings on campus
is said to be Pennsylvania Hall, a large building with stately
white columns. It once served as a dormitory for students and
now houses the campus administrative offices. The hall was
constructed in 1837 and is often referred to as Old Dorm. The
large structure was taken over by the Confederates during the
battle, not only for use as a field hospital, but as a look-out
post as well. A number of officers, including General Lee, used
the cupola of the Old Dorm to keep an eye on the progress of the
It has been said that on certain nights,
students and staff members of the college have reported seeing
the figures of soldiers pacing back and forth in the cupola of
the building. The descriptions of the men vary but it is
believed they may be sentries who were placed on duty there to
guard the safety of Lee, or to deliver messages to the
One student reported that he and his
roommate, who lived in a dorm about 50 yards away from
Pennsylvania Hall, saw a shadowy figure in the tower over a
period of several nights. On another occasion, a figure was seen
to be gesturing wildly, apparently to a student below. When the
student called out to him, believing that perhaps someone was
trapped in the tower, the figure vanished. An investigation by
campus security found the building to be empty.
It is believed to be the terrible conditions
of the field hospital however, which have left the strongest
impressions on the building. According to the records of the
time, blood sprayed the walls and floors of the rooms as doctors
operated without anesthetic, dealing with bullet wounds by the
preferred treatment of the time... amputation. Outside of the
operating rooms was an area where those who could not be saved
were left to die. There is no way that we can even imagine the
horrible wails, groans and cries that echoed in this area.
Perhaps the most famous story connected to
the time of the battle was related by author Mark Nesbitt. He
told of two college administrators who were working on the
fourth floor of the building one night. As they were leaving,
they stepped into the elevator and punched the button for the
first floor. Instead of taking them to their destination, the
elevator mysteriously passed it and came to a stop on the
basement level. The elevator doors then opened to a terrifying
The basement storage room had vanished and in
its place was the blood-splattered operating room of 1863.
Wounded men were lying prone on the floor and administering to
them were doctors and orderlies in bloody clothing. The entire
scene was completely silent, although it was obvious that it was
one of chaos.
Stunned and horrified, the administrators
repeatedly pushed at the elevator button, desperately trying to
close the doors and escape the scene which lay before them. Just
before the doors closed though, one of the spectral orderlies
was said to have looked up, directly at the two administrators,
as though asking them for help.
Whatever happened that evening, the two
administrators were shaken and frightened by it and needless to
say, never forgot their strange experience. However, you
couldn’t fault them for their bravery. In the same
circumstances, I am not sure what I would have done... but both
of these men continued to work in the building. In small
concession to the weird experience though, whenever they had to
work at night, they always departed the building by way of the
There are scores of ghostly stories and
supernatural incidents which have been recorded and experienced
by everyday people across the official confines of the
Gettysburg Battlefield. Factor into this number the encounters
of those ghost seekers who have purposely traveled to the
battlefield in search of spirits, and the number of strange
tales becomes an amazing one.
It is not, however, my
intention to try and present all of those experiences here. As I
wrote when I opened this section, such stories have been
prolifically chronicled by others. My goal is to present you
with an overview of the haunts connected to the official
battleground... and a closer look at the most haunted places.
Do the spirits of the past still walk at Gettysburg? This
is one place where I feel safe in telling you that they most
There are a number of once private residences
scattered across the battlefield which have reportedly played
host to the spirits in the years that have passed since the
battle. Most of these homes are now the property of the National
Park Service and often they serve as residences to park rangers
and personnel who stay in the houses to keep them occupied and
in good repair.
Nearly all of the nearby homes were used
during the battle as makeshift field hospitals and as shelters
for the wounded during the fighting. Many believe that such
incidents may be what has caused them to gain reputations for
being haunted over the years. Perhaps these traumatic events
served as catalysts for the ghostly events which have allegedly
Not surprisingly, as employees of the United
States Government, the rangers are usually very reluctant to
discuss their supernatural encounters on the battlefield. Those
who do speak, usually do so off the record, which nevertheless,
creates a fairly impressive documentation of events beyond our
The George Weikert House is one such
odd location on the battlefield. This small house has had a
surprising number of different occupants over the years, many of
whom have had stories to tell. One of the previous residents of
the house spoke of a door on the second floor which refused to
stay closed, no matter what they did to it. One ranger even
nailed the door shut with a small wire nail, and yet it refused
to stay closed.
Possibly connected to this, other tenants
reported the sounds of footsteps pacing back and forth in the
attic. They would hear the heavy tread cross the area above
their heads, and then cross back, as if someone up there were
worried or deep in thought. Needless to say, when they would go
up to the attic to check for an intruder, they would find the
area to be deserted.
Another residence is the Hummelbaugh House,
where the stories say the cries of Confederate Brigadier General
William Barksdale can still be heard on certain nights.
Barksdale was wounded while leading a charge on Seminary Ridge
and was brought to the Hummelbaugh House. According to an
officer from the 148th Pennsylvania Volunteers, Barksdale was
last seen lying in front of the house and a young boy was giving
him water with a spoon. The General continued to call for water,
as though the boy did not exist.... calling over and over again.
In the years since, the legends say the sound of Barksdale’s
voice can still be heard.
And that is not the only story connected to
the house, or to Brigadier General Barksdale either. The other
story is connected to the days after the battle, when
Barksdale’s wife journeyed to Gettysburg to have her husband’s
remains exhumed and returned to their home in Mississippi. She
was accompanied on her trip by the General’s favorite hunting
dog. As the old dog was led to his master’s grave, he fell down
onto the ground and began to howl. No matter what Mrs. Barksdale
did, she was unable to pull the animal away.
All through the night, the faithful dog
watched over the grave. The next day, Mrs. Barksdale again tried
to lure the dog away, but he refused to budge, even though the
General’s remains had already been loaded onto a wagon to begin
the journey back to Mississippi. Finally, saddened by the dog’s
pitiful loyalty, she left for home.
For those who lived nearby, the dog became a
familiar fixture during the days that followed. He would
occasionally let out a heart-breaking howl that could be heard
for some distance. Many locals came and tried to lead the dog
away, offering him food, water and a good home. The dog refused
all of their gestures and eventually, died from hunger and
thirst, still stretched out over his master’s burial place.
Within a few years, a tale began to circulate
that the animal’s spirit still lingered at the Hummelbaugh Farm.
It has been said that on the night of July 2, the anniversary of
Barksdale’s death, an unearthly howl echoes into the night....
as the faithful hunting dog still grieves from a place beyond
The Rose Farm is another such
location. During the battle, the house was used as a field
hospital and burial ground. Hundreds of Confederate and Federal
soldiers were buried in rows all around the house and property.
They would later be exhumed in November 1863, although the
claiming of the bodies and the re-burials would continue on for
According to a local doctor named Dr. J.W.C.
O’Neil, and reported by author Mark Nesbitt, one of the
daughters on the Rose Farm actually went insane during the
exhumations, having lived through both the battle and its
aftermath. Allegedly, she was to have seen blood actually
flowing from the walls of the house.... perhaps a grisly
reminder from the days when the house served as a bloody field
Was the house actually haunted though? Or
were the strange visions simply the workings of a fevered mind?
An account recorded by the Civilian
Conservation Corps in the 1930’s came from a man who reportedly
worked at the Rose Farm just a few weeks after the battle. He
was returning home one evening, shortly after darkness had
fallen, and claimed to see an strange glowing shape appear near
the graves of the slain soldiers. Could it have been a ghost?
In addition to these former private
residences, spirits on the battlefield itself abound. There are
numerous reports of apparitions of phantom soldiers.... seen
marching in formation, riding horses, and still seemingly
fighting the battle.... from various parts of the park. These
ghosts haunt the fields where Pickett’s Charge took place, the
slopes of Little Round Top, the Peach Orchard, the Wheatfield,
and many other places.
However, the highest concentration of ghostly
sightings and strange experiences seems to be in the area called
the Devil’s Den, and also in the areas around it. It is in the
nearby Triangular Field where electronic equipment and cameras
are said to seldom work. It is in the aptly named Valley of
Death where the apparitions of soldiers are frequently reported.
And it is in the Devil’s Den itself where not only are the
ghosts of the slain soldiers seen, but heard also.
is a place on the Gettysburg Battlefield which is more haunted
than any other... there is little doubt that such a place would
be the Devil’s Den.
Den... Gettysburg’s Most Haunted
The event which created
the lore and legend of the Devil’s Den is undoubtedly the
fighting which took place here on July 2, 1863, the second day
of the Battle of Gettysburg. However, stories surrounded the
place long before the battle was ever fought.
According to early accounts from the area,
the tangled, outcropping of rocks was a Native American hunting
ground for centuries and some say that a huge battle was once
fought here, called the "Battle of the Crows" during which many
perished. A Gettysburg writer named Emmanuel Bushman wrote in an
1880 article of the "many unnatural and supernatural sights and
sounds" that were reported in the area of the Round Tops and
what he called the Indian Fields. He wrote that the early
settlers had told stories of ghosts that had been seen there and
that Indian "war-whoops" could still be heard on certain nights.
In addition, he reported that strange Indian ceremonies also
took place here.
In 1884, Bushman also wrote, with the idea
that an ancient tribe had once lived near the site of Devil’s
Den, that he believed the scattering of boulders to have once
been part of a tall pyramid. He stated the crevices in the rocks
bore evidence of this and that the pyramid had undoubtedly been
destroyed by some forceful blast. While this is (extremely)
doubtful, it does give the reader an idea of the lore that
surrounded the area, even before the battle.
Also according to local legend, the name
"Devil’s Den" was actually in use before the battle took place.
Most everyone, in their letters home and in the explorations of
the battlefield after the fighting, referred to the rocks as a
"desolate and ghostly place" or mentioned the "ominous"
character of the rocks. Many others felt that the rocky
outcropping actually marked the entrance to a cavern and while
no cave exists here, those who visit the location can understand
the mistake. The rocks are piled so high that the crevices
between them seem to plunge down into total darkness.
But how the area got its name remains a
mystery. Many believe that the strange atmosphere of the area
itself may have contributed to the designation. Another legend
persists that the Devil’s Den was always known for being
infested with snakes. The legends say that one gigantic snake in
particular eluded the local hunters for many years and they were
never able to capture or kill him. He was allegedly nicknamed
"the Devil" and thus, the area of rocks was called his "den".
No matter how the area got its name, it was
apparently already considered a strange and "haunted" spot
before the battle, at least according to Emmanuel Bushman. In
the years which would follow, the Devil’s Den would gain an even
more fearsome reputation.
On the morning of the second day of battle,
General Lee was of the opinion that by simultaneously attacking
the Union flanks, he could drive the enemy from the field. His
plan was to send Longstreet’s corps against the Round Tops, with
his main thrust of attack being made by divisions under John
Bell Hood and Lafayette McLaws against the Federal left flank.
Lee ordered Longstreet to move his men southward, without being
detected, and form lines against the Union flank.
Unfortunately, the southern troops had no
guide to the battlefield and huge delays were caused by marching
and countermarching. These delays then led to exhaustion and
frustration on the part of the troops. By the time they were in
position, some of the officers raised doubts about being able to
mount much of an attack before dark.
To make matters worse, they also soon
discovered that their battle lines did not envelop the Union
flank, thanks to the fact that General Sickles had decided that
he didn’t like the area where he had originally been posted. The
Union lines now stretched into the Peach Orchard and appeared to
extend all of the way to Big Round Top. This relocation had
placed Sickles in front of the rest of the army, opening up his
flanks to attack. The Peach Orchard had become the center of
Sickles’ line with his second division, under Brigadier General
Andrew A. Humphreys, curving back to fill the space between the
Peach Orchard and the Devil’s Den. He had all but abandoned
Little Round Top.
The position of the Devil’s Den was commanded
by Brigadier General John Henry Hobart Ward and it was located
at the far end of the Union line.
The fight for the Devil’s Den soon began and
as the battle progressed, the terrifying terrain and the sharp
piles of boulders created a maze for the troops on both sides.
The lines were broken, first into regiments, and then it was man
against man. The boulders provided dozens of hiding places and
ambush spots and men ran from boulder to boulder, ducking and
shooting as they ran, never knowing if enemy or friend lay
around the next corner.
Before the Confederates could even reach the
Devil’s Den, they had to cross an area known today as the
Triangular Field. Waves of Confederate troops from Texas,
Arkansas, Alabama and Georgia crossed the field, clashing with
the Union soldiers who hailed from places like New York, Maine
and Pennsylvania. As the southerners came, they were cut down by
the cannons posted atop the ridge ahead, and yet still they
came, pushing hard against the Union lines.
As the Texas troops mounted the slopes toward
the Federal position, they were attacked by the 124th New York,
who soon withdrew from the ferocity of the Confederate charge.
As the Union men fell back, Alabama troops swept into the
Triangular Field and charged into the boulders beyond it. Deadly
fire was poured down upon them and yet they managed to get
through, but not without giving the area a gruesomely
appropriate nickname, the "Slaughter Pen".
The Confederate men overwhelmed the enemy
position and took control of the ridge.. but they would not hold
it for long. The Federal forces counter-charged and the Maine
and Pennsylvania troops pushed the Confederates back. The rocks
of the Devil’s Den had become a slaughterhouse. Bodies were
strewn across the boulders and they had tumbled down into the
wedges between them.
The Federals were attacked again, this time
by troops from Georgia, who had been given the grim task of
advancing across the Triangular Field against the Union
position. As they reached the Slaughter Pen, they were charged
by the 40th New York, who were soon driven back and forced to
retreat as the Federals pulled back their lines. One last surge
of men from Texas and Georgia finished the skirmish and the
Confederates claimed the Devil’s Den as their own.
The Texans swarmed over the ridge and once
again reached the Union’s abandoned guns. They turned them to
point the muzzles toward the fleeing enemy, but there was no
ammunition to be found. The Federal troops continued to fire
upon their deserted position and many of the Texans continued to
fall. George Branard, a color bearer, planted the flag of Texas
on the highest rock above the Devil’s Den, only to be hit by a
After the withdrawal of the Federals, the
Georgians reported the overwhelming sound of the Rebel Yell from
the Devil’s Den and they pushed hard against the Union troops
still to the front of them. The Federals were moved back and
began to suffer from heavy fire from the Devil’s Den. Finally,
it was more than they could take and they began to retreat.
After hours of bloody fighting the
Confederates finally controlled the area. The fight for the
Devil’s Den may have been the most confusing and intense
skirmish on the battlefield that day. The heat of the afternoon
and the collapse of the battle lines, thanks to the difficult
terrain, had caused the entire chain of events to happen so fast
that many of the men were almost stunned to find the battle was
Stranger yet were the reports from the men
who were ordered to stand guard in the tangle of boulders that
night. Many of them later spoke of the macabre and unnerving
surroundings... sharing the space in the looming boulders with
the bodies of the dead.
Days later, the
Federals would return to the Devil’s Den, this time
triumphant as the battle had come to an end with a
Confederate defeat. As men approached, they were
stunned by the scene which greeted them. The hills
and boulders were covered in blood and carnage and
the dead lay scattered about in every direction. One
of the first soldiers to enter the area recalled
that some of the dead men "had torn and twisted
leaves and grass in their agonies and their mouths
filled with soil... they had literally bitten the
the rain began to fall in a heavy downpour that
lasted for several hours. The dead men, who were
already bloated beyond recognition, were now
drenched and beginning to decay. No one knows just
how long the Confederate dead remained unburied
around the Devil’s Den but it could have been days
or even a few weeks. And many of the bodies were
said to not have been buried at all, but merely
tossed into the deep crevices between the rocks.
The sheer number of supernatural incidents
said to have taken place here do lend some credence to the
belief that the Devil’s Den may be haunted. If Emmanuel Bushman
was correct, then the forbidding jumble of rocks was already
long haunted before the battle was even fought. If this was the
case, then what sort of impact did the hundreds who suffered and
died here have on the place?
A ghostly impact? I’ll cite the
evidence... you be the judge.
The stories about the Devil’s Den being
haunted began not long after the battle itself. Local legend had
it that two hunters had wandered onto the battlefield one day
and had gotten lost in the woods near the rocky ridge. They had
completely lost their way when one of them looked up and saw the
dim figure of a man standing atop the boulders. He gestured with
one hand as if pointing the way and the hunter realized it was
in that direction they needed to travel. He looked back to thank
the man.... but the apparition had vanished.
Even those who are skeptical about the
hauntings at Gettysburg, and who claim that the stories of
ghosts here are a recent addition to the battlefield, admit that
there have always been tales recalled about supernatural doings
at the Devil’s Den. While admittedly, most of these stories are
of a rather recent vintage, Emmanuel Bushman wrote of "many
unnatural and supernatural sights and sounds" back in 1880 and
local lore has always included odd happenings in the area.
One afternoon in the early 1970’s, a woman
was said to have gone into the National Park Service information
center to inquire about the possibility of ghosts on the
battlefield. One can imagine just how many times this question
must come up and, although the official position of the park is
to neither confirm nor deny the ghostly tales, the ranger on
duty was reported to have asked why the woman wanted to know.
The visitor quickly explained that she had
been out on the battlefield that morning, photographing the
scenery. She had stopped her car at the Devil’s Den and had
gotten out to take some photos in the early morning light. The
woman stated that she had walked into the field of smaller
boulders, which are scattered in front of the Den itself and had
paused to take a photo. Just as she raised the camera to her
eye, she sensed the uncomfortable feeling of someone standing
beside her. When she turned to look, she saw that a man had
She described this man as looking like a
"hippie", with long, dirty hair, ragged clothing, a big floppy
hat and noticeably, no shoes. The man looked at her and then
simply said, "What you are looking for is over there," he said
and pointed over behind her.
The woman turned her head to see just what
the unkempt fellow was pointing at and when she turned around
again, he had vanished. There was no trace of him anywhere.
A month or so later, the same ranger was on
duty at the information desk when another photographer had come
in and asked almost the same question. He too had been taking
photos at the Devil’s Den, only this time, he had taken a photo
about a month before in which the image of a man had appeared on
the exposed frame... a man who had not been there when the photo
When asked what the man had looked like, he
also described the man as looking like a "hippie" (remember,
this was the early 1970’s) and also mentioned his long hair, old
clothing and the fact that he was barefoot.
Could this have been the same man? And if so,
who was he?
During the war, many of the Confederate
soldiers, and especially those connected with the fighting at
the Devil’s Den, were from Texas. At that time, this was
America’s most remote frontier and most of these men did not
receive packages from home containing shoes and clothing as many
of the men from states in the immediate vicinity did. Because of
this, the "wild" Texas boys were often unkempt and dirty,
lacking shoes and new clothing.
Could this reported specter be one of the
soldiers from Texas, still haunting the rocks of the Devil’s
Den? Since those reports from the 1970’s, this same soldier (or
at least one fitting his description) has been reported several
times in and around the rocks of the Devil’s Den. According to
some of the stories, a number of visitors have mistaken the man
for a Civil War re-enactor and have even had their photographs
taken with him. The accounts go on to say that when they return
home and have their film rolls developed, the man is always
missing from the photo.
In addition to this apparition at the Devil’s
Den, there are also reports of a ghostly rider who has been seen
and who in turn vanishes; the sounds of gunfire and men shouting
which cannot be unexplained (not unlike Bushman’s phantom
"Indian whoops" from long ago); and literally dozens of
photographs which allege to be evidence of supernatural
And speaking of photographs... another
paranormal happening in the immediate area is the reported
failure of cameras in the nearby Triangular Field. According to
the stories, it has been said that video and still cameras do
not work properly, if at all, while the photographer is standing
in the field. How much truth there is to this allegation is
unknown, as I have seen many photos (including my own) which
have been taken there without incident. However, there are also
dozens of anecdotal reports, from reliable people, who claimed
unnatural failures of their equipment in the area.
be the result of an energy still lingering behind?
So, do the Spirits of Gettysburg still wander
the fields and streets of this tiny Pennsylvania town?
the book and then you can be the judge!