Ghostly Tales From The National Parks: Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Editor's note: With Halloween just days away, we searched around the National Park System and rummaged in the Traveler's archives for some ghostly stories.

One place where you might not need any formal celebration to mark Halloween is Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. More than a few ghost stories swirl around this West Virginia town.

According to a booklet I picked up decades ago while working as a young Associated Press reporter in West Virginia, "the personality of Harpers Ferry is one of smoldering violence." That violence, goes the theory, is behind the ghostly phenomenon one just might encounter in Harpers Ferry and the historical park.

Some of the stories are rolled out in a Ghostly Tour of Harpers Ferry, a book by Shirley Dougherty that you might have a hard time finding, as it was published back in September 1982.

Some of these stories are about strange people that lived and died here and about some of the odd things they did. Others are stories for which we may find a natural explanation, but generations past were left puzzled and could only explain them as supernatural, she writes in the introduction. Other stories defy explanation even today. You will have to judge for yourself which of these stories have a reasonable explanation.

One of the stories dates to the Civil War. In it, the author tells of a group of "One-Hundred-Day" men from Ohio who, during a day of rain, scavenged to find kindling for a fire to cook their dinner on. As the story goes, the men used "several large ammunition shells" on which to build their fire. Well, as one might expect, the shells were not empty and, once a roaring fire was built, exploded, "sending nearly every One-Hundred-Day man from Ohio to his heavenly reward in a brief but brilliant flash of glory."

Might you encounter some of their souls haunting Harpers Ferry this Halloween? You'll have to go and see for yourself.