10 Haunted Battlefields of the United States and Europe

10 Haunted Battlefields of the United States and Europe

Larry Holzwarth - April 30, 2018

There are those who claim they do not believe in ghosts. There are others who claim to have encountered them. Some claims are of actual sightings, some are based on sensations emotional and physical. Others are ambivalent, neither believing nor disbelieving. Paranormal researchers claim to have proof of the existence of spirits of the dead moving among the living, while skeptics claim to have equally convincing proof debunking their theories. Some try to convince people of their ability to communicate with the spirits, while others work to convince people that the efforts and more importantly the results of the communication are nothing more than a scam.

Among the places widely believed to be haunted by those prone to believe in spectral visitations are battlefields, where throughout history so many men and women met fearful, violent ends. In some of these places ghosts are reported to appear, some regularly and some on the anniversary of the conflict which ended their earthly lives. Gettysburg, for example, is said to be one of the most haunted sites in the United States, but it isn’t the only battlefield of the Civil War to have had ghosts reported appearing regularly. There are regular reports of hauntings on the battlefields of Europe as well, from Stalingrad to Culloden Moor.

10 Haunted Battlefields of the United States and Europe
The Headless Horsemen pursues Ichabod Crane. Headless ghosts are a frequent sighting by some on battlefields. Smithsonian

Here are ten of the most haunted battlefields in Europe and North America.

10 Haunted Battlefields of the United States and Europe
The Confederate victory at Chickamauga was one of the few they achieved after spring, 1863. Library of Congress

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park

In September 1863 the South won one of its greatest military victories of the Civil War at the Battle of Chickamauga, named for the West Chickamauga Creek. Many writers with a sense of the dramatic have claimed that the name means “river of death” although scholars of the Cherokee and Chickasaw language dispute the assertion, claiming that the most acceptable translation is that it describes a place where fish are speared. Whichever is correct, the area around the creek saw a good bit of violent deaths during the battle which was fought between September 18 -20, 1863. The battle produced almost 35,000 casualties between the two sides, more than 25% of the men engaged. About 4,000 were killed outright, with many more dying later from their wounds.

The heaviest fighting was on September 20, when a Southern attack led by James Longstreet swept well over half of the Union Army from the field of battle. The assault was brought to a halt by a determined Union stand led by George Thomas, who refused to yield his position atop Horseshoe Ridge. The Confederates made several assaults on the Union position, which held stubbornly until darkness fell. The following day the Union Army withdrew to Chattanooga, giving the South new hope following the crushing defeats that summer at Vicksburg and Gettysburg. It was not to last long, by November the Union troops were again advancing.

The Battle of Chickamauga was not the only time where many deaths occurred on the grounds of what is now a National Military Park. During the Spanish-American War Camp Thomas was established on the battlefield as a training site for troops destined for Cuba. The Camp was poorly sited and sanitary conditions were below standards, leading to the spread of dysentery, malaria, and typhoid fever. Inadequate medical facilities and the inadequacies of medical practice of the day led to over 700 deaths at the camp during the summer of 1898.

The ghosts of some of these dead as well as those who died in 1863 are said to haunt the battlefield and its environs. There are reports of hearing men moaning in pain, horses galloping where there are no horses, undergrowth moving inexplicably, as if being swept aside by invisible hands. A shimmering lady in white has been seen many times, or reported as having been seen, wandering the battlefield at night as if looking for someone. A regionally famous legend of a humanoid figure with shining green eyes has also been confirmed by many, though there is disagreement as to its origin. Some believe that “Old Green Eyes” was there long before the battle.

In 1981 a Park Ranger named Edward Tinney from the Chattanooga portion of the Military Park claimed in an interview that he had seen Old Green Eyes and that the apparition had disappeared before his eyes. “It’s enough to make the hair stand up on the back of your neck,” said Tinney, who claimed that he was not superstitious. In Tinney’s story, the night had been a foggy one and the approach of a car (there are numerous public roads which run through the park) evidently was what caused Old Green Eyes to make a hasty exit. There are dozens of other tales of confrontations with eerie sounds and ghosts throughout the park.

10 Haunted Battlefields of the United States and Europe
Some of the graves and cairns of the dead from the battle of Culloden Moor, in Inverness. Newberry Library

Culloden Moor, Inverness, Scotland

The last battle fought on the soil of Britain took place at Culloden Moor when the redcoats of the British Army destroyed the troops of the Jacobite Rebellion under Charles Stuart – known to history as Bonnie Prince Charlie – in a battle which lasted less than an hour. The Jacobite Army was cut to pieces by an artillery bombardment. The survivors charged the British line, hoping to cut through the Redcoats using their claymores, but the bayonets of the British troops proved too much for the Highlanders to overcome. As the survivors withdrew from the field the British followed, killing anyone of them they could find.

Charles Stuart escaped the slaughter, and for the next five months he moved about the Hebrides eluding the pursuit of the government while the remaining leaders of the Jacobite rebellion were rounded up and jailed to await trial for treason. Charles eventually escaped to France, where he remained in exile, never to return to Scotland. Nearly all who were tried were sentenced to death, with the sentence commuted if the convicted agreed to deportation to the English colonies. For many, their descendants fought the British again during the American Revolutionary War.

The Battle of Culloden Moor was fought on April 16, 1746. On its anniversary each year it is said that the moor is haunted by the spirits of the men who died there. The sounds of battle, of steel clashing against steel, cries of pain, and cries of fear are said to be heard. The sounds of men running for their lives are also reported to have been heard on the moor. Most of the Jacobite men who died in the battle were buried as they lay, and the mounds along the moor are said to be their resting places. An apparition of a tall man in Highlander garb has been reported roaming about the burial mounds.

Locals claim that whenever birds are in the area of the battlefield they do not sing. They have also reported other spectral images moving about the grave mounds, as well as those of some men on the ground, as if just falling in battle. The sounds of soldiers on the march on the road leading to the battlefield have also been reported by locals living nearby. Stories about the ghosts of Culloden Moor are frequently found in British newspapers and magazines, and paranormal investigators have claimed to sense the presence of the dead soldiers when visiting the moor.

It is also a cottage tourist industry, with several businesses scheduling tours of the haunted areas of Inverness. These include not just the moor itself but neighboring wells resorted to by the fleeing Jacobite troops, nearby houses and other structures where some attempted vainly to hide from the pursuing British, and other such locations. Interestingly, Loch Ness, famous for its alleged sheltering of another seemingly supernatural creature, is only about fifteen minutes by car from Inverness, and those wishing to see the Loch for themselves should have no trouble also visiting the haunted Culloden Moor.

10 Haunted Battlefields of the United States and Europe
George Armstrong Custer (center) and companions with a slain grizzly in 1874. Custer’s ghost has not been reported at the Little Big Horn, perhaps because he is buried at West Point. Wikimedia

Little Big Horn Battlefield, Montana

The story of Custer’s Last Stand has been told and retold in films and other media, some depictions highly fictionalized, others more or less accurate. How the actual battle transpired has been redefined since the late twentieth century, when a grass fire swept the area and the recovery of discarded weapons and other detritus of the battle, including cartridge casings, allowed the most accurate analysis of the battle completed up to this time. The legend of Last Stand Hill, where Custer and his few remaining troopers were overwhelmed by their enemies, emerged from the analysis largely intact.

None of the troopers under Custer’s direct command survived the fight. Five companies rode with him in his attack and ensuing attempt to make a fighting withdrawal, which led to the last stand as Northern Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Lakota warriors overwhelmed his troops. A Crow oral history claims that Custer may have been seriously wounded earlier in the battle, and his body was discovered after the battle with wounds in the arm, chest and temple, with either of the latter two likely serious enough to have been fatal. Several Indian accounts reported men of the Seventh cavalry committing suicide prior to the final assault by the warriors.

That Custer himself committed suicide has been proposed by some scholars given the nature of the head wound, which was to the left temple. It can never be known for certain whether he did or not. He was dead, his body not mutilated as were the majority of those of his command, chopped to pieces in most cases after the fight was over. The detachment of the Seventh Cavalry under Major Reno and Captain Benteen continued to hold out until relieved by troops under General Terry. Upon learning that Custer and his command had been wiped out a stunned Reno surveyed the battlefield, and wrote his opinion later that the fight had been a disorganized and terrifying rout.

Beginning in the late 1940s, reports of the Custer Battlefield being haunted began to surface. In August 1976, one hundred years after the battle, visitors reported strange and sudden drops of temperature while standing on what is now called Custer Hill, where his body was found following the battle. Visitors reported murmuring sounds, but actual words were impossible to make out. Employees and visitors have claimed to have seen mounted Indian warriors near the site, which vanished when approached. Buildings on the site erected by the Park Service for the use of Park Rangers have reported a strange locking and unlocking of doors, lights being turned on when the building is unoccupied, and other inexplicable phenomena.

An employee of the Visitor Center, which sits near Last Stand Hill, reported seeing an apparition walk through a locked storage room door. This happened following the employee giving a presentation on the battle in the Center’s basement. The number of alleged encounters with the supernatural has been increasing in recent years, with reports by visitors claiming to feel strange tugs of their limbs when nobody was around them, as if they were being pulled to the ground. Employees have also reported numerous instances of strange sounds, abrupt temperature drops, and spectral images.

10 Haunted Battlefields of the United States and Europe
A somewhat whimsical view of the siege of Yorktown, which left behind many ghosts, according to some. Library of Congress

Yorktown, Virginia

Yorktown was a small tobacco port on the York River in Virginia when it was selected as the site of a British resupply base by Earl Cornwallis during the American Revolutionary War. After the French Fleet drove off a British fleet near the Virginia Capes, Yorktown became a trap for the British Army, besieged by the combined Continental and French Armies. In October 1781 the Americans continuously bombarded the British in and just outside the town, targeting the most prominent house, owned by Thomas Nelson, in the belief that the British headquarters was located there. Legend has it that Nelson himself suggested that Washington bombard the house.

In fact, though the house had been used as a headquarters for a time, the bombardment had driven the British senior staff to seek less conspicuous shelter. The Nelson House was used as a hospital, with the third floor of the imposing house serving as a rest area, elevated enough to catch the breezes during the day, offering some respite to the suffering soldiers. The sounds of the suffering, the moans and groans of the wounded, were heard over the thunder of the French and American guns. Citizens of Yorktown sought shelter from the bombardment in caves along the banks of the York River.

After the British surrendered the post, the American army returned to its watchful positions on the Hudson River and in New Jersey, leaving behind in place many of the fortifications and entrenchments they built during the siege. These were used again in a later war, by the Confederate army during the Peninsula Campaign, where the Confederates used fake guns made of logs to fool the Union commander, George McClellan, into believing they were stronger than they were. After delaying the Union with their ruse, the Confederates withdrew to the Richmond area.

Both the caves, now known as Cornwallis Cave, and the Nelson House have been reported to be haunted, with the sounds of moans and groans of pain emanating from both. The sounds from the Nelson House have been limited to the third floor, and spectral images have been claimed to have been seen it its windows at night. The caves were later enlarged into a single cavern by smugglers and are now secured with gates, but the ghostly sounds emerging from the site have been reported both by people walking in the area and resorting on the river.

George Washington’s stepson John Parke Custis died during the siege, of typhus and the medical attention he received, and his spirit has been reported to have been seen, complete with bandages stained from the bleeding with which he was treated, along the battle lines as if searching for his stepfather, for whom he was an aide. Several have reported spectral redcoats fleeing from the area of the British front lines towards the town. Ghosts from the Civil War era, when the Nelson house was again used as a hospital with equal inefficiency, are said to be seen and heard in and around the house at night.

10 Haunted Battlefields of the United States and Europe
A statue of Casimir Pulaski being revealed in 1939. Some believe his ghost walks the streets of Savannah, Georgia. Library of Congress

Savannah, Georgia

Savannah, like its Northern counterpart Gettysburg, is often called the most haunted city in America by those who claim expertise in such things. Savannah was the site of the second bloodiest siege of the American Revolution, and one of the least studied. The Polish nobleman Casimir Pulaski was among its casualties, and his spirit is one of many which are believed by those so inclined to haunt some of the city’s famous squares. Revolutionary War hero and Rhode Island Quaker Nathaniel Greene died and was buried in Savannah following the war, and his spirit as well as that of his son has been encountered by people when approaching a monument erected to his memory, after his first grave was vandalized during the Civil War.

The British occupied Savannah early in the war, and in 1779 a joint French and American force attacked the city from the west, hoping to capture it quickly through an assault rather than a protracted siege. When the first assault failed the American and French forces laid the city under siege, beginning in mid-September. By October the supporting French fleet was running low on supplies and the beginning signs of scurvy among some of the crews were being noted by officers. On October 16, wanting to end the siege as quickly as possible, the French and American ground forces assaulted the British works, and were repulsed.

There were heavy losses among the French and Americans, among them Pulaski and an American sergeant named William Jasper. Years later a statue memorializing William Jasper – who was a hero of the defense of Charleston early in the war – was erected in Savannah’s Madison Square. Local lore says the ghost of William Jasper has been seen many times, in Revolutionary uniform, moving about Madison Square in preparation to face the British troops. Other reports of apparitions, apparently British, in the area of the square have been talked about in Savannah for decades.

When Casimir Pulaski died he was hastily buried as the American and French armies abandoned the siege and withdrew. His gravesite was unknown for many years, though a statue was erected to his memory in Monterrey Square. In 1996 the statue was renovated, and in the process was discovered to contain a box which held skeletal remains. Although DNA testing was inconclusive, the bones bore marks consistent with Pulaski’s wounds. To many locals, their presence explains much of the paranormal activity reported over the years in Monterrey Square (all of Savannah’s squares seem to be haunted).

Nathaniel Greene and his son were interred side by side in Colonial Park Cemetery. Their grave locations were later lost. A monument to Green’s memory was erected in Johnson Square in 1825. In the early 1900s the graves of Greene and his son were discovered, and their remains were removed to Johnson Square. According to many of the citizens of Savannah, Greene’s ghost has frequently appeared when the spot at which he is interred is approached too closely, presumably perturbed at having his rest disturbed several times since he was originally interred.

10 Haunted Battlefields of the United States and Europe
Ulysses S Grant at Cold Harbor. He later expressed regrets for ordering the attack there. Library of Congress

Cold Harbor, Mechanicsville Virginia

In the summer of 1864, following the Battle of the Wilderness, the Union Army under George Meade, accompanied by the Commander of all the United States Armies U.S. Grant, encountered the Army of Northern Virginia in bloody clash after bloody clash. Following each battle, The Union troops would slip around the Confederate right, and continue their drive towards Richmond, while Lee would hurry his increasingly weakened force to the next defensive position. By July the two armies faced each other at Cold Harbor, near Richmond. Over 100,000 Union troops opposed about 60,000 Confederates.

Although the battle lasted nearly two weeks, the worst of the fighting was on June 3, 1864, when the Union Army assaulted the entrenched Confederates. Approximately 7,000 Union casualties were sustained in the attacks that morning, which Grant ordered broken off shortly after noon. Men trapped under fire between the lines used their bayonets and drinking cups to create temporary breastworks. Wounded and dying men lay in heaps, and some were used to shelter survivors in the field. In his memoirs Grant later wrote that the assault was his greatest error of the war and that he would never order a similar again.

After several days of facing each other in trenches, Grant dispatched some of his troops to the Shenandoah Valley and then yet again slipped around Lee’s flank to threaten Petersburg. The Army of Northern Virginia withdrew to entrenchments around Petersburg and Richmond. Most of the dead on the fields at Cold Harbor were hastily buried in shallow graves. Ever since the battle there have been reports of strange sightings and activities on and near the battlefield. Ghosts of men from both sides have been reported, as have the sounds of gunfire and thundering hoofbeats from horses.

Several groups of visitors and paranormal investigators have reported a sudden thick fog emerging over the battlefield in conditions in which fog wouldn’t normally be possible. One group visited with the intent of photographing reported apparitions only to be forced to withdraw by the sudden dense fog which to them appeared more as thick smoke than mist. There have been reports from visitors and locals of hearing cannon fire and feeling the concussions of the guns. One visitor to the spot where Union Colonel Tomkins was shot in the head felt a sudden stabbing pain in his own temple.

The nearby Garthright House was used as a field hospital, the family living there forced to shelter in its cellar while the surgeons worked above them. The house today has been reported to be haunted by the ghost of a young girl, who may have been part of the displaced family. The same spirit has been reported wandering around the graves of the Cold Harbor Cemetery, which was built in 1866 when many of the hastily buried bodies were dug up and reinterred there. Cold Harbor is but one of many purportedly haunted sites along Grant’s bloody trail through Virginia, but it is one of the most attractive to ghost hunters.

10 Haunted Battlefields of the United States and Europe
A view of the Northern Portion of Gettysburg, much as it would have appeared to approaching Southern troops in 1863. Today much of it is claimed to haunted by some. Wikimedia

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

The Battle of Gettysburg was the largest ever fought on the North American continent. Fought between July 1 – 3, 1863, it produced the greatest number of casualties of any battle of the war, and was the high water mark of the Confederacy. The South was decisively defeated and for the rest of the war the Army of Northern Virginia fought in a defensive posture. Combined casualties of the battle were around 50,000, with about 8,000 of these dead. Many more died later of their wounds. There were two civilian casualties, a young woman named Ginnie Wade, who was killed by a stray bullet, and 69 year old War of 1812 veteran who fought as a volunteer with the Union and was wounded. He survived.

Most of the dead were buried on Cemetery Hill, where some of the Union troops had made their stand during the battle. Others were buried in local church cemeteries, near the field hospitals where they died, and in other locales. Many went unburied for an extended period, their bodies undiscovered in wooded areas or remote spots on the battlefield. When the Gettysburg National Cemetery was created most of the Union dead were reinterred there, and it was to there that Lincoln journeyed in November 1863 to deliver his Gettysburg Address. By then there were already stories of paranormal activities in the town of Gettysburg and in locations across the battlefield.

Even during the battle itself there were reports of ghostly apparitions. One such tale was that of the Phantom on Horseback. The story was that as the 20th Maine Regiment, led by Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, who would be awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions that day, was guided up the slopes of Little Round Top by the apparition of a man, uniformed in the blue and buff of the Revolutionary War. The Phantom was mounted on a white horse, had a glowing aura surrounding him, and appeared to be George Washington. That George Washington was a Virginian and a slave-owner didn’t seem to be a consideration.

Following the battle there were reports of spectral figures roaming the battlefield. At Devil’s Den, barefoot figures have been reported as appearing before visitors to inform them that what they seek is “over there” while pointing in the direction of Plum Run Creek. Other visitors have reported encountering an older, disheveled figure asking them if they have any spare rounds. The nearby Daniel Lady farm was used by the Confederates as a field hospital and is reported to be haunted by the ghosts of the many who died in agony there.

The Sachs Covered Bridge is claimed to be haunted by the ghosts of several soldiers, and reports of paranormal activity at night include sightings of glowing orbs and wraithlike figures. The house where 20 year old Ginnie Wade, sometimes called Jennie, was killed by a stray bullet is said to be prowled by her restless spirit. Ghosts have been widely reported in and around the Doubleday Inn, where a group of Confederates from North Carolina were killed. There have been many reports of hearing ghostly conversations in the distinctive drawl of that state, as well as of apparitions.

Needless to say, Gettysburg’s reputation as a hotbed of spectral appearances, paranormal occurrences, and widespread unexplained appearances and disappearances has created an industry in tours of haunted places around the town and battlefield, some of which are focused on events which had nothing to do with the battle (such as the orphanage, the proprietress of which allegedly haunts the basement). Like other towns, Gettysburg is often claimed to be the most haunted place in American and its link with the battle gives its claims a level of credence other sites are unable to attain. Whether one believes in ghosts or not, what happened there over three days in 1863 leaves the battlefield a haunting place.

10 Haunted Battlefields of the United States and Europe
Wounded Australian troops the morning after the first attempt to take Passchendaele. Locals believe many haunt the town today. Wikimedia

Passchendaele, Belgium

The Third Battle of Ypres was an operation during the First World War in which the Allies attempted a major offensive in Flanders to disrupt German railroad supply of their troops at the front. The battle was fought from late July until mid-November 1917. Progress was slow, resistance was heavy, the weather was unusually wet, and Allied casualties were heavy. So were German casualties and as a result an accurate accounting of the dead and wounded of both sides has remained a matter of debate since the operation was ongoing. Estimates and assigning casualties to other operations created a window of casualties of between a quarter to a half million men for each side.

The results of the campaign have remained controversial as well, with some contemporary analysts claiming that the attack all but crippled the German ability to continue the war, a statement given the lie when the Germans launched their Spring offensive in 1918. David Lloyd George described the battle in his 1938 memoirs as, “One of the greatest disasters of the war.” The countryside of Flanders and its towns and villages were devastated by the extended campaign, and little was gained other than further weakening both the British and German Armies, a bloodletting which the British were better able to recover from as the American troops were beginning to arrive in large numbers.

Two major actions were fought in October for possession of the Belgian town of Passchendaele, the first occurring on October 12. The heavy rains and clinging mud prevented artillery from being brought forward to support the advancing infantry, and the British and their allies lost 13,000 men in the failed assault. After waiting for the weather to clear the British tried again on October 29, and this time succeeded in gaining control of the town, despite again enduring heavy casualties. By early November the Allies, spearheaded by the Canadian Corps, held control of the town and its outlying areas.

In Paschendaele today, locals and visitors report encountering spirits and other paranormal activities to a large degree in the town and in the fields and woods which surround it, speaking several different languages. Figures dressed as World War I soldiers, German and Allies, have been seen wandering through the town, on streets and alleyways, and have been encountered concealed in woods and along nearby streams. The sounds of gunfire, including automatic weapons, have been reported. Also reported have been the sounds of screaming and the issuance of orders in multiple languages. The reports are so commonplace locally that they no longer generate much interest.

Passchendaele is just one of several World War I battlefields on which extensive paranormal activity has been claimed. The Somme, Cambrai, and around Verdun have had occasional reports of ghosts or ghostly figures appearing, dressed in the distinctive garb of the First World War soldier. But none of these areas report the intensity or sheer number of occurrences as the Belgian town of Passchendaele, where the reports have become so common that it is said that it is easier to find someone with personal experience of them than to find someone without.

10 Haunted Battlefields of the United States and Europe
USS Bunker Hill burning after being hit by two suicide planes off Okinawa. The Japanese demanded mass suicides of civilians on the island as well. US Navy

Chibichiri Cave, Okinawa, Japan

During the invasion of Okinawa the Japanese fought from an extensive series of prepared underground bunkers and interconnecting caves, which forced the Americans to flush them out one by one in heavy fighting. The United States Navy and Marines and US Army forces invaded the island on April 1, 1945, the battle would rage for 82 days before the island was declared secured. Total casualties, including civilians on Okinawa, would exceed 160,000 before the battle was ended. Many of these were suicides by civilians, warned not to allow themselves to fall into the hands of the Americans.

While the Marines and Army battled the Japanese across the island, Japanese Kamikaze planes attacked the supporting US Fleet in waves, causing heavy damage to some ships, and heavy casualties among some crews. Small boats were configured as suicide attack boats and sent out against the American fleet. The Japanese forced young Okinawan boys and old men into Japanese uniforms and front line service, leading to their deaths at the hands of the Americans. The Japanese also forced civilians into several caves and provided hand grenades and poisons for them to use in mass suicides.

As Japanese resistance began to crumble and the battle was winding down, one such cave was encountered by US troops. When the Americans arrived one of the civilians in the cave helped to maintain calm among the civilians who were preparing to carry out the orders given them by the Japanese. A former employee of an American sugarcane grower in Hawaii, he told the occupants that they would not be harmed by the Americans. The civilians in that cave, Shimuku Gama, survived the battle and were unharmed, and soon helped, by the American troops.

In another cave, Chibichiri Gama, the Japanese had included a veteran of the war in China, and he insisted that the civilians resist the Americans with whatever they had or follow the order to commit suicide, rather than submit to capture. The civilians followed his orders, some fighting with bamboo sticks and grenades while others administered poison to their children before taking it themselves. Eighty-four of the civilians in the cave died, most of them by suicide as the Americans subdued the remainder. Other Okinawans committed suicide across the island, convinced by the Japanese of the bestial behavior to expect from the Americans.

Today the Chibichiri Gama is reported to be haunted, with the sounds of children screaming and sobbing and cries of fear and pain reported by many who have visited the cave. Others have reported being instantly overwhelmed with feelings of fear or complete despair upon entering the cave. A memorial was erected outside of the cave to honor those who died there but it was destroyed in 1987 by Japanese nationalists who found it to be insulting to the Emperor. The victims of Chibichiri Gama were not combatants, but civilians caught up on a battlefield, casualties of war which some believe still haunt the place of their death.

10 Haunted Battlefields of the United States and Europe
Although a reconstruction, paranormal experts claim numerous ghosts and other activities at Fort William Henry and its environments. Wikimedia

Fort William Henry, New York

Fort William Henry was built early in the French and Indian War, serving for a time as an advanced post on the New York frontier, guarding the approaches by water between the French fortress at Carillon, (later Ticonderoga) and Albany. William Henry served as the base of operations for the British ranging companies formed from colonial troops early in the war, and was a critical defense point against Indian raids striking south from Canada. In 1757 a French-Canadian Force, with supporting Indian raids, attacked the fort and placed it under siege. The French were led by General Louis Montcalm.

Fort William Henry withstood the siege for a time, believing a relief force was on its way from nearby Fort Edward. When it became evident that no relief was to be forthcoming its commander, British Major George Munro, accepted the generous surrender with honor terms offered by Montcalm, which allowed his troops to abandon the position but retain their arms and colors, with the promise that they would not further engage the French until they were properly exchanged. The British garrison abandoned the post and began a march to Fort Edward, under the protection of French guards.

Despite the presence of the guards the Indian allies of the French attacked the column in the open, determined to obtain scalps and military acclaim before the campaign came to an end. The event was described as the “Massacre of Fort William Henry” and was dramatized years later by James Fenimore Cooper in his novel The Last of the Mohicans. The Indians looted the fort, killing the prisoners left behind under the care of French surgeons, and dug up the graves in the fort’s cemetery in order to scalp the dead. About 200 British and Americans were killed outright by the Indians, who also exposed themselves to smallpox from the slaughtered prisoners and infected blankets.

Before the end of the year (the fort surrendered on August 8) American and British raids of retaliation were being launched against Indian villages and smallpox ravaged the tribes. The French destroyed the fort and withdrew to Carillon for the winter. The site remained abandoned for almost two centuries, though there was discussion of the place being haunted as early as the war of 1812, when American troops encamped on the site. The tourism industry and interest in the site led to a reconstructed fort being erected in the 1950s. Since its opening the site has conducted ghost tours.

There are reports to this day of ghostly sightings in the vicinity of the fort, on Rogers’ Island nearby (where Rogers’ Rangers camped while at the fort) and in several nearby dwellings and reconstructed farms. Many of these stories seem to have begun around the time that James Fenimore Cooper was writing his many stories and novels, and some descend from Mohawk and other Indian oral histories. Paranormal enthusiasts and those merely seeking entertainment are offered ghost tours covering the areas around the site, which has been reportedly haunted for more than two and a half centuries.


Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Chattanooga Chills”, by Mark Fults, 2013

“Highlands is Scotland’s Most Haunted Area”, BBC News, November 17, 2011

“Little Big Horn Site Haunted, Accounts Over the Years Say”, by James Hagengruber, Billings (MT) Gazette, July 4, 2001

“Haunted Road Leads to Ghosts and Murder”, by Rich Griset, Daily Press, October 2013

“Haunted Savannah: The Official Guidebook to Savannah Haunted History Tour”, by James Caskey, 2005

“Looking for Ghosts at Cold Harbor”, by Amy Condra, Richmond Times-Leader, May 13, 2008

“Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War: Authentic Accounts of the Strange and Unexplained”, by Christopher Coleman, 1999

“A century later, the horrors of Passchendaele still haunt”, by Rafe Casert, The New Daily, July 30, 2013

“Exploring the Darker Side of Okinawa”, by Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times, January 21, 1996

“Ghost hunters go bump in the night”, by Lydia Wheeler, the Post Star (Glens Falls), April 17, 2010