Ghosts of Gettysburg
Published October 4, 2010
October is the perfect month to visit Gettysburg, not only because of the beauty autumn brings, but to also experience the ghostly encounters the town has become known for.
Don’t forget, the Gettysburg Hotel offers a comprehensive “Ghostly Encounter Package.” Enjoy an enchanting 2 days and 1 night getaway that includes, Unauthorized Ghosts, a self-guided map of notorious locations for paranormal activity. Enjoy dinner for two at the award winning Centuries on the Square restaurant or McClellan’s Tavern. Experience “The Ghosts of Gettysburg Candlelight Walking Tour” and receive a signed copy of Mark Nesbitt’s Ghosts of Gettysburg VI. Reminisce about your haunted adventure over a full breakfast buffet before you depart. (read more about the package here.)
In this autumn season of fiery days and smoky nights, the mind can easily drift to thoughts of ghosts and the afterlife. An old cemetery at dusk, its dying leaves swirling around crumbling gravestones, can be more tempting a place to visit than to avoid.
But what if that cemetery was an entire town engulfed by a battlefield that witnessed three days of unspeakable human suffering, tension and death during the Civil War? Still tempted to walk around at night?
The otherwise quiet, rural town of Gettysburg, Pa., a mere 78 miles north of the District, holds the secrets of countless souls wandering about in time. People visit, look for and, indeed, see dozens upon dozens of apparitions.
Yet few are afraid, according to former national park ranger and historian Mark Nesbitt, who in 1994 started the first ghost walk in Gettysburg, the Ghosts of Gettysburg Candlelight Walking Tours. A prolific writer, his books include the best-selling “Ghosts of Gettysburg” series, which he has been working on since 1991. He has collected more stories of ghost sightings in the town than he can count at this point.
“There is still the stigma that if you have a paranormal experience, you are crazy,” he said. “But too many people have had these experiences for everyone to be crazy.”
After 10 to 12 years of exhaustive research, Nesbitt began putting his tours together. The base of operation for the tours is located at 271 Baltimore St. in the heart of town, where groups will gather at least 30 minutes before tour time. One of 20 guides, all dressed in period costumes, whether the garb of soldiers or that of the townspeople, will cover a route of about three-quarters of a mile. There are several routes based on Nesbitt’s research, and each constitutes an individual outing of at least an hour’s duration.
Nesbitt has written that visitors take tours “through sections of town that were bloody battlefields 13 decades ago; through night-darkened streets to houses and buildings where it’s not as quiet as it should be, to sites on the old Pennsylvania College campus where the slain once lay in rows, and the wounded suffered horribly, waiting to become corpses themselves. …”
Nesbitt has no doubt that Gettysburg may very well be — acre for acre — the most haunted place in America.
Sandy Kime is a seasoned tour guide who also works the administrative end of the business.
“A lot of people will come and take a different tour every night of their vacation,” she said, noting there is an abundance of hotels, inns and B&Bs in town for a weekend (or longer) stay. Many are reputedly haunted, like the Gettysburg Hotel and the Cash Town Inn.
Kime believes in ghosts and readily says she has seen several while giving tours. She also says that when she has seen them, the 20 or 25 people with her experience them as well.
“It’s not scary, it’s more like being in awe,” she said. “It’s more like, ‘Oh my gosh! I can’t believe this is happening.’ ”
If you go:
Ghosts of Gettysburg Candlelight Tour
» Where: 217 Baltimore St.; Gettysburg, Pa.
» Distance: 78 miles from D.C.
» More Information: 717-337-0445, ghostsofgettysburg.com
Check out this video from the Travel Channel’s recent episode of “Ghost Adventures” in Gettysburg!