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The Ghostly Past of Gettysburg

Published September 26, 2017

Jerry LaRussa, pictured with a tour group, guides visitors around Gettysburg wearing his signature hat.

Since the beginning of recorded history, mystery, the spirit world, and the unknown have captured the attention of mankind. The intrigue of unsolved murders, mysteries, tragedy, and all things strange and unexplainable are interwoven into the history of our small Pennsylvania town.

Gettysburg was home to the largest Civil War Battle in North America in 1863. In the time since then, it is believed that the town is haunted by the people who lost their lives during those fateful days. In addition, the town has experienced many more mysterious happenings over the years.

We recently sat down with our friend and Gettysburg Licensed Town Historian and resident spooky story expert, Jerry LaRussa, to learn more about his Gettysburg tour and get to the bottom of these wild & historic Gettysburg tales.

There’s so much to see in Gettysburg. Can you describe the path you take through town and the stories that accompany the stops?

The journey around Gettysburg typically starts by heading down North Washington Street to the place where a young woman, Dina, who was an employee of the hotel in 1824, was found murdered. Did I mention the story includes a prominent businessman who also worked in the building? The tour then progresses to the Gettysburg Lincoln Railroad Station where the bell in the tower mysteriously disappeared. From there, we take a walk over to Stratton Street and I share the story of Rosa Carmichael and the murder of a young boy named Willie, which most guests are horrified at. Then we head over to the Lutheran Church on the corner of Stratton, and I let everyone in on the little-known version of the tale of Jennie Wade – most people have never heard these details.

From there, we go over to the G. A. R. Building (Grand Army of the Republic Hall) which is owned and operated by the (Historic Gettysburg Adams County. Here you’ll get to decide for yourself if a rumored top secret fraternity really existed or if it’s just the stuff of tall tales. Then we circle back around to Christine’s Café for the story of the Hunter Hagee murder, which is the first known case of a “temporary insanity” plea in the country. To finish the tour, we come back to the Gettysburg Hotel for a photo opportunity with Abraham Lincoln and discover if the Gettysburg Address you know so well is actually the one he gave!

Of all the stories you just told us, are there any that are a personal favorite?

The stories about Dina’s murder, the secret fraternity, and the Hunter Hagee temporary insanity case are my three favorites. I especially like the temporary insanity trial because it’s the first, but not the last time, that plea was used in Gettysburg. You’ll have to take the tour to find out when it was next used.

Are there any fan favorites?

The Dina story is typically one of the favorites on the tour. The story has so many layers, includes prominent community members of the time and has intrigue, local drama, slander and is a pure “who done it” kind of mystery.

The one-hour tour “Tales of Unsolved Murders, Unexplained Events and Little Known Facts” departs every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from the Gettysburg Hotel at 6:00 pm. Admission is $15 cash only and the historian can be paid when you arrive. Maybe if you’re really good on the tour, they’ll even tell you where Gene Roddenberry got the phrase, “Live long and prosper.”


Gettysburg Ghostly Encounter Package

Enjoy a unique Gettysburg experience with our Ghostly Encounter Package which includes a Gettysburg Ghost Tour that winds it way through Gettysburg’s most haunted sites, dinner and breakfast for two at One Lincoln, and a signed copy of “Ghosts of Gettysburg”.

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Until next time,
Megan C. Wherley
Gettysburg Hotel Insider

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