Civil War era battlefields and buildings seem to be a good place for ghost hunting. I can recall reading a lot of spooky encounters over the years, in fact, Amazon.com turns up three pages of paperbacks with the search "civil war ghosts".
A reporter with the Hagerstown Herald Mail went to go investigate one of these stories recently. Erin Julius spent a night in the Pry House at Antietam National Battlefield. The Pry House had served as a hospital during the Civil War battle. During a fire at the house in the 70s, firefighters reported seeing a woman in a second floor window, after the second floor had collapsed. The article appeared in their paper last weekend, just in time for Halloween.
According to the "Do's and Don'ts of Ghost Investigating" provided to me by the Maryland Ghost and Spirit Association, a wimp like me is an ideal ghost hunter.
Rule No. 5: "Do not go with a skeptic's negative energy, this will affect your investigation. If you believe that there are no ghosts you will not be able to pick up their energy."
Plus, the editors decided a story written by someone who was completely freaked out would be better than a story by someone who didn't believe in things that go bump in the night
After a nice tour of the house, they tracked down the second floor room where the ghost had been seen by firefighters.
The room now houses a long table and looks more like a simply furnished boardroom than a place where a ghost would materialize.
What I didn't know at the time, but learned later during a debriefing with George, was that General Israel Bush Richardson died in that room on Nov. 3, 1862. Popular belief, among those who believe, is that his wife, who visited him as he lay dying, was the woman seen in the window during the fire.
No ghosts yet, so they talk with museum director George Wunderlich, who's got some spooky ghost stories of his own to share.
His first day at the house, he was hauling out junk and had opened all of the doors in the house. Each door slammed shut, from the front to the back of the house. A breeze could have blown one of the doors shut, but couldn't have reached all of them, he said.
George opened all the doors again. Again, each door slammed shut, this time from the back of the house to the front, he said.
In another instance, George's son, 12 at the time, was alone on the second floor of the Pry House. He walked downstairs and told his father he saw a woman in 19th-century clothes walk out of an upstairs office by going through the wall.
George also told me about a National Park Service interpreter who once spent the night in the barn on the property and said he watched a lantern walk down the old road, which now is in the middle of a field.
As the night grew late, and the hours drug on, there was still no ghosts to see.
At 3 a.m., a loud noise startled me out of my half-asleep daze. We finally had turned off the lights, which definitely boosted the creepy factor.
But the noise sounded mechanical, not ghostly, and seemed to come from the basement, where the water pipes, a washer and dryer, and miscellaneous other modern conveniences were kept.
An hour later, we finished off the doughnuts and I had played on a laptop for awhile (Full confession: The Pry House is wireless, and I left Facebook messages with several friends and checked in with www.herald-mail.com).
By 5 a.m., I was totally over the whole ghost thing. I curled up on a chair and conked out.
So, no ghosts discovered on this night, but she does provide some good ghostly indicators at the end of the article if you'd like to head out into the field for your own Halloween ghostbusting adventures.