Halloween ghost hunters seek old soldiers in Gettysburg

GETTYSBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters Life!) - Days before Halloween on a darkened street Dwight Stoutzenberger aimed his digital camera at a wall not far from where a guide was telling ghost stories to a group of tourists.

Gettysburg, a historic Civil War town, is famous for ghosts and reportedly haunted sites where uniformed soldiers mysteriously walk through closed doors, or ornaments shift positions on a mantelpiece.

As Stoutzenberger scrolled through his photos he found several exposures showing a bright light amid a fuzzy white oval shape apparently hovering near the wall down the street.

Tour guide Ann Griffith, who has been doing ghost tours in Gettysburg for 16 years, speculated that it could be an orb -- a point of light that she says is commonly seen around haunted sites.

Stoutzenberger, 34, from Elizabethtown in central Pennsylvania, was happy to have found evidence of the spirit world.

“I’m a believer,” he said. “I go on these tours so that maybe I can catch an orb.”

The tour was run by Ghosts of Gettysburg, one of about a dozen companies offering such tours of the southern Pennsylvania town. Tourists, some who believe in ghosts, come from as far away as northern Idaho and Minnesota.

Gettysburg is reputed to be haunted by the ghosts of thousands of soldiers who died in the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, which turned the American Civil War in favor of Unionist forces.

Griffith said the battle, in which some 7,000 soldiers were killed, explains why modern Gettysburg is populated with the ghosts of those who died horribly, or whose bodies were hurriedly buried in shallow graves during the summer heat.

“A lot of them don’t know they are dead,” she explained. “A lot of them still think they are fighting the biggest battle of their life.”

But for history buff Mark Appellman, 46, a computer analyst from Chicago, ghost tours weren’t a priority during his visit.

“I’m a Civil War nut,” he said.

Outside a local elementary school that had been used as a hospital during the Battle of Gettysburg Griffith provided gruesome details.

“The surgeons would perform amputations without anesthetic, and dispose of the limbs in a wheelbarrow,” she said, adding that the arms and legs were probably buried under what is now a parking lot outside the school, possibly explaining why orbs are frequently seen there.

The only real evidence of Gettysburg’s storied past shown to the tour group was historical, rather than spiritual. About 100 bullet holes marked the spot in the side of the Farnsworth House, where Confederate marksmen shot at Union soldiers who returned fire.

Griffith said the house has at times been visited by the wandering spirit of a soldier whose presence prompted a psychic to try to banish him.

“Your job as a soldier is done,” the psychic told the soldier, according to Griffith. “It’s time to go - you are dead.”

Reporting by Jon Hurdle; editing by Patricia Reaney; jon hurdle 1 267 210 5072