Going along with the theory that tragedy results in paranormal activity, it should come as no surprise that spirits tend to linger after violent wars. Whether it be for the nature of their death or the amount of suffering attached to a location, it appears that some fallen soldiers just can’t let go.
One such war that appears to have left numerous wandering souls behind is the American Civil War. It’s estimated that between 650,000 and 1,000,000 people died during the four-year-long war. Nearly 51,000 of these soldiers lost their lives in one battle alone—the Battle of Gettysburg.
The Battle of Gettysburg is one of the most famous battle of the Civil War and the site of the battle continues to be a popular destination for both its history and its reported sightings of Civil War ghosts. While there are a number of haunted places in the area, two of the most famous are Devil’s Den and Pennsylvania Hall at Gettysburg College.
Soldiers fought at Devil’s Den on July 2nd, 1863, the second day of the battle. Approximately 7,900 men fought here and 2,600 never left. To add to the suffering, the nearby creek ran red with blood and flooded days later, drowning wounded soldiers who weren’t able to escape the battlefield.
Despite the horror that occurred here, the resident ghost is thought to be a friendly one—aptly named the “Helpful Hippy”. Thought to be a Texas man who helped fight in the battle, visitors have seen him, barefoot and in tattered clothing, wandering around the site. He approaches visitors, points, and says “what you’re looking for is over there”.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Hall at Gettysburg College appears to be home to some not-so-happy Gettysburg ghosts. During the Civil War, the building served as a field hospital for dying and wounded soldiers. As the legend goes, two administrators were leaving the office one day and took the elevator down to the first floor, but it didn’t stop. It continued to the basement and the doors opened to reveal the scene of a Civil War-era hospital. There were ghosts of soldiers, wounded and bleeding, everywhere, as well as ghost nurses performing amputations and attending to patients.
Other wars have also seen their fair share of phantom soldiers. In 1918, at the end of World War I, James Wentworth Day, who later became a famous broadcaster, was collecting rations for the camp with a fellow solider. They walked by a forest and noticed that the trees had been damaged by bullets.
They then saw a cavalry of German soldiers come out of the trees and charge toward ghostly French troops on the other side of the woods. When they returned to Bailleul, they recounted their haunting experience to a local. He reportedly told them that the ghosts of soldiers from France and Germany often met there.
Similarly, Vietnam War ghosts are thought to haunt the forests of Vietnam. According to Vietnamese culture, a spirit can connect with a tree once it passes on and, therefore, the forests are often considered to be haunting grounds for lost souls.
The Vietnamese also believe that a spirit will roam the countryside and steal from people if it’s not given a proper burial. Some say that with the amount of wandering ghosts that appeared after the Vietnam War, there has been an urge to identify the unmarked graves and lay the dead to rest for good.
Perhaps some of the most interesting ghost stories come from World War II. There have been several accounts of World War II ghosts, ghost pilots, and even soldiers disappearing under mysterious circumstances during the war.
Ghost planes have been spotted several times. Some witnesses have reported seeing World War II-era bomber planes flying through the sky and mysteriously disappearing without explanation, while others have reported ghost pilots.
One such instance occurred one year after Pearl Harbor. The United States Military noticed an incoming plane on its radar and immediately sent troops to determine if it was a threat. It was a U.S. aircraft, but it was in terrible shape. It had bullet holes throughout and the pilot appeared to be bleeding and in critical condition.
The plane suddenly crashed without warning. Troops went to survey the crash site and what they saw shocked them. They found the plane, but the pilot was nowhere to be found.
Years after the war ended, a man took his family on vacation to France, where they visited the site of the Battle of Normandy. His seven-year-old daughter was not alive during the war and had no knowledge of it at that age.
She told her father that she saw men dressed as soldiers all around her. She was able to describe the uniforms perfectly, despite never having seen pictures of them. Some were hiding in the grass or behind trees and many of them were pointing guns at her. Even though she knew they weren’t trying to hurt her, she still felt afraid.
War is a tragic event that takes the lives of many and brings disaster wherever it goes. While some soldiers may have passed peacefully, others fell prematurely into the hands of death. Whether their souls continue to haunt this world or not, their memory does.
For ghost tours of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, check out Gettysburg Ghost Tours here. (link: http://www.gettysburgghosttours.com/)