Ghostly tales featured on Gettysburg house tour

October 21, 1992|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

GETTYSBURG, Pa. -- Tonight in the stone cellar of a 182-year-old house on Baltimore Street, Patti O'Day will spook listeners with tales of Civil War soldiers whose spirits may still be roaming along this famous battleground.

Whether the ghosts of Confederate sharpshooters who once secured a vantage point in the home's garret will sing, as they are sometimes said to do, can't be predicted. But Gettysburg's first organized haunted house tour hopes to scare fright-seekers just the same.

"This not like some haunted barn," says Bob Wright, one of the tour's organizers. "It's actual legends, lore and history that have taken place here. Even the non-believer will gain some perspective on the history of Gettysburg."

During the gruesome, three-day battle July 1-3, 1863, more than 50,000 Confederate and Union soldiers lost their lives. "Legends, Lore, Ghost Galore" will include tales told in the Farnsworth House Inn and the McClellan home -- now the Jennie Wade Museum -- where 20-year-old Jennie Wade, the only civilian killed during the conflict, was felled by a sniper's bullet as she made bread.

At the Farnsworth House Inn, now a bed-and-breakfast and restaurant, Ms. O'Day, veiled and in period costume, will guide ,, visitors to the candle-lighted cellar, where she will speak of ghosts believed to haunt the home, other Civil War-era buildings and the battlefield. (Dinner at the inn is also available as part of the tour; see accompanying box.)

She may tell about the cold drafts guests have experienced in some of the rooms. Or the pacing that can be heard in a front guest room. Or of guests who have felt someone sitting at the foot of their beds. "The activity seems to be as strong as ever here," Ms. O'Day says. "People have experienced all kinds of things."

A year ago, for example, a psychic, disc jockeys and town residents visited both the Farnsworth House Inn and the McClellan home, where Jennie Wade died. Bullet holes can still be found in both homes.

At the Farnsworth House Inn, the DJs were unable to broadcast. The phone lines went dead. The psychic reported the presence of a spirit who didn't want to be bothered with newfangled equipment.

A few blocks away at the McClellan home, a chain strung across the cellar -- where Jennie Wade's family hid with her dead body as the battle waged on -- began shaking when the psychic and the crew descended there, Mr. Wright says.

"For a good three minutes, the chain swung back and forth," Mr. Wright recalls. "We were all white as ghosts. It scared me to death. I was physically sick afterward."

Author Mark Nesbitt was among the residents who visited the houses that evening. He has chronicled the incidents in his new book, "More Ghosts of Gettysburg," a sequel to his successful "Ghosts of Gettysburg" released last year.

"From all the stories I've heard, Gettysburg has to be the most haunted place in America," suggests Mr. Nesbitt, who lives near the battlefield. "Skeptics and non-believers are seeing things and telling about them."

Mr. Nesbitt says Gettysburg is as likely a place as any for spirits. They haunt the battlefield, spots like Devil's Den and Little Roundtop, and old as well as modern buildings. Many new buildings, he says, have been built on the site of the battle.

"There's the theory that if you die before you finish something or if you die of great agony or during emotional upheaval, your spirit will remain on Earth," he says. "The youth of thousands of young men was snatched away here."

A SPIRITED TOUR

WHAT: "Legends, Lore, Ghosts Galore," a tour.

WHERE: Jennie Wade Museum, Baltimore Street, Gettsyburg.

DATE: Oct. 21, 22, 28 and 29.

TIME: 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

COST: $25, includes dinner.

CALL: For reservations, (717) 334-6020. Most tickets are sold out.

WHAT: Ghost stories, storytelling.

WHERE: Farnsworth House Inn, 401 Baltimore St., Gettysburg.

WHEN: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 9:30 p.m. through Oct. 31.

COST: $5 for adults and $3 for children.

CALL: (717) 334-8838.

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