Last Saturday, I had the distinct pleasure to speak at the Illinois Paranormal Society Annual Conference. I met quite a few very interesting people, and I’ll share some of their stories in later Freaky Fridays, but today I wanted to share one of the stories told by their keynote speaker, Mark Nesbitt. The cool thing about Mark is that he worked as a park ranger at Gettysburg, so he’s had a lot of first-hand experiences with the ghosts that haunt there. He’s written some books, has a haunted tour in Gettysburg and his stories have been featured in a number of television programs.
Mark told us that in the early 1970s the National Park Service was not too crazy about publicizing the idea that there might be ghosts hanging around on their properties. So, the official response to the question, “Are there any ghosts here at Gettysburg?” was “No. No there’s not.” But the unofficial response, especially when there was no one else around and the ranger was curious, was, “Why do you ask?”
When a young woman asked that question and received the unofficial response, she explained that she had been in the Devil’s Den early that morning. She’d gotten a little turned around in the maze of rocks, but decided to get out of her car and take a photo in the early morning light. She was concentrating on the photo, her eye to the camera, when she felt a presence. She lowered her camera and turned, surprised to see a man standing right next to her. He looked at her and then said, “What you’re looking for is over there.” He lifted his arm and pointed behind her. She turned to look and then, when she turned back, he was gone.
The curious ranger listened to her story and then asked, “What did he look like?”
She said that he looked like a hippie with long hair, ragged clothing, bare feet and a big floppy hat.
A few weeks later, the ranger had someone else approach him and ask him the same question about the same area in Gettysburg. This time the questioner was a professional photographer who had been out taking pictures of the Devil’s Den a couple of weeks earlier. When he got home to develop the photos, he discovered the figure of a man near the rocks that make up the den. The man had not been visible to him when he was taking the photographs.
The ranger asked him if he could describe the man.
“Sure,” the photographer replied. “He was dressed like a hippie. You know, long hair, barefoot, sloppy hat and ragged clothes.”
What both of those visitors didn’t know was that during the Civil War, recruits from Texas were often dressed in loose, rough clothes, with long hair and floppy hats. And, because it took so long to get supplies from home, they were often barefooted and their clothing was ragged. The other thing they might not know was that Devil’s Den was where a lot of those young men from Texas breathed their last breath of life. But, in all fairness, it seems that at least one of those young men didn’t know it either.