Photo by J.R. Stafford. Phineas, our intrepid (and excellent) ghost tour guide.
You don't have to be a history buff to enjoy a ghost tour. But if you go on a ghost tour, you will get history! It's a fun thing to do, and not only will give you local lore (spooky and otherwise), but also a good dose of history.
I happen to belong to a family that has had some weird experiences (myself included). We therefore like to hear ghost stories about the places we visit. It might be that we're just trying to assure ourselves that we aren't a little... shall we say... oh... crazy. (We are but... shhh... don't tell anyone.) Nevertheless, we enjoy touring the spooky places in a town. And so, while in Gettysburg, all of us (except Dan) trekked out to go on a ghost tour one evening.
As you probably have surmised, Gettysburg has a lot of ghost lore – but not all of it is related to the battle of July 1863.
We took our tour with Gettysburg Ghost Tours – but there are other ghost tours available in the town, just to be fair. Our guide was a man called Phineas. I don’t know if that was his real name or his ghost tour name, but he was amazing. He related stories about hauntings related to the battle, and told us stories that had their roots in other eras, too.
Our first stop was on a road directly behind Steinwehr Avenue that reputedly has paranormal activity. It had been the location of Weinbrenner (or Winebrenner) Run, a stream that is still there but now is below the road, probably running through a large conduit. According to the story, after the battle had ended, wounded soldiers were brought out of the field hospitals in people’s homes and laid beside the run so they would have access to water and enjoy the fresh air.
Photo by J.R. Stafford. Phineas talking about the Weinbrenner Run. Grandsons standing taking it all in.
Suddenly, a thunderstorm arose. It produced a downpour so great that the run could not contain the rain and overran its banks. The men, many of whom could not move on their own, were swept away in the flood. Nw, downstream was a waterwheel and in front of it was a grate that allowed water through but blocked flotsam from reaching and possibly damaging the wheel. The soldiers’ bodies were pushed by the water right into the grate, and there they stayed until after the waters receded.
Another couple of stories involve the Dobbin House. It was built in 1776 and was home to the Rev. Alexander Dobbin, proud father 19 (count ‘em, 19) children. He and his wife must have experienced a lot of cold winters! Anyway, Rev. Dobbin used the second floor of his stone house as a dormitory for his brood. The fireplace was downstairs, but the chimney ran up through the second floor. Reportedly, Rev, Dobbin would get up several times in the night all winter just to stir up the embers and throw extra wood on the fire so his children would stay warm throughout the night.
Photo by J. R. Stafford. The Dobbin House's front door.
Flash forward to the 1980s. The old house was being restored and converted into a restaurant. The construction crew uncovered the old fireplace and dutifully blocked the chimney to prevent visits from birds and various critters. That night, once the workers went home, the fire alarm went off in the building. The fire department arrived, ready to battle flames or at the very least smoke. But there was nothing. Everything was fine. Confused, they left and reported the incident to the owner. The next night (or a few nights later, I can’t remember the sequence), the alarm went off again. And once again, the fire department arrived only to find that nothing was wrong. The third time the alarm triggered and nothing was wrong, the fire department had a chat with the owner. Eventually it came out that the chimney had been blocked. Knowing the story about Rev. Dobbin, the fire chief told them to unblock the chimney. The owners thought it was a weird request but did as they were told. And the fire alarm never went off again without reason.
Is Rev. Dobbin still seeking to keep his children warm and did not the chimney blocked up? Maybe.
Another story about the Dobbin House is rather grisly. Do you see the door in the photograph? It's painted red. During the battle in 1863, the Dobbin House like many other homes served as a hospital for the wounded. It is said that the door was removed by the army and used as an operating table. Predictably, it was stained by all the blood. Once the soldiers were gone, the owner found the door and saw that it was still in good shape. So, he painted it red and remounted it. And, yes, that's the original door in the photo.
Now for a non-ghostly thing about Dobbin House. Something odd happens once the sun goes down and the lights come on. Check out the photo below. Does the shadow on the wall above the window look at all familiar?
It looks rather like Abraham Lincoln, don't you think? He, of course, delivered the Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the National Cemetery (not far from the Dobbin House). A fun trick of lights and the human tendency to make sense out of images.
I have one more ghost story from the tour to tell you. Phineas related that during a recent tour, a teenage girl took a photo of the hotel pictured below after he had told the crowd that an apparition had been seen there. A few seconds later, Phineas heard all this commotion and discovered that the girl's friends had gathered around her and were exclaiming excitedly about something. When he went over to them, he saw that she had captured the image of a full-body apparition: a young woman reading a book was walking the second floor walkway of the motel. Phineas claimed the image was clear as day and, if he didn't know better, he would have thought she was a re-enactor.
As you can see from my photo below, I did not catch her in action.
Nope. I just got a motel and some cars.
However, I did catch something strange when Kristina, the boys, and I decided to wander around on Cemetery Ridge not far from the Bryan (Brian) House. We walked along a path from the parking lot as the sun went down and then over to the Bryan House, where we peered in the windows and took photographs.
We could heard an odd popping noise off and on that sounded suspiciously like rifle fire - until I realized the sound was coming from across the street and behind a store. The shouting we heard were very young voices (I'd guess middle schoolers). So, no, it was not ghostly rifle fire and the sound of battle. It was kids throwing poppers around.
By now, the sun had set by. As we walked back toward the the parking lot, I took a photo of a big tree. Beside it were two posts with a chain attached to them. Attached to the chain was a white sign. For some reason, I decided to take another photo of the location. I don’t know why I took the other one. I just felt that I should. I've posted them below. The first is time stamped 8:30 p.m. and the other 8:31 p.m. They’re very dark, but if you look closely, you’ll see that something is different in the second image.
I know they're hard to see, but look closely. In the first you'll see a monument to the far left (it looks like it has a head and shoulders on it, but it's really brass plaques), the path leading up to the plaque, the tree in the center, and the rectangular sign. Now look at the second image. What do you see? Well, for one, there's that mysterious light in the background, which might be explained away as a light from a house or a car in the distance. But... there are now two rectangular white things. Huh?
When we got home I adjusted the color in the images, so things looked clearer.
The one on the right shows the path, the monument, the tree, and the sign. The one on the left shows all that plus two figures: one on the path and one by the tree. After talking to Kristina and my oldest grandson, we realize the figure on the left is my youngest grandson. He was wearing a red jacket that night and the figure has a red jacket.
But no one will admit to standing in the spot on the right. So… is that a ghost? The figure is standing with legs together and arms at the sides, as if at attention. The legs however appear to be covered in light material. When I brought this up to Dan, he said that while Union soldiers of that era did have standard uniforms (more or less), their uniforms would wear out. It would not be unusual to replace it with something that was less than standard. Also, during the early years of the war, Union soldiers' uniforms, blankets, etc. were provided by family and their hometowns. The battle of Gettysburg happened mid-war, so it is possible soldiers were still doing this.
However, I believe the evidence is inconclusive. For one, I’m still not sure the image is not my older grandson, even though he claims to have been elsewhere. At the same time, he was the one who played with my photos after I sent copies to him and was most interested in the figure. The night we returned to NJ, he sent me his color adjusted version after I had sent him a copy of my original image. That evening, we texted back and forth trying to figure out who was where when. Later, I took the photos from my camera, used the color adjust feature on them, and got the same results.
It's interesting, though. Kind of spooky too.
Sleep well tonight, my friends! If you can... mwahahaha!!
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder