Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fort McHenry

Fort McHenry from City Data

Hey, we might as well keep the fort tour going and move on to one of America's most revered forts, Baltimore's Fort McHenry.

At Fort McHenry the fledgling American forces held out against the British forces in 1814 and helped saved the new young nation after the fall of Washington during the War of 1812.

During the battle, Francis Scott Key famously wrote our National Anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner." The banner would be hard to miss. Sewn by Mary Young Pickersgill and her daughter, it measured a whopping 40'x 32'!

And there's an eerie aside to the anthem - its melody was lifted from a British drinking song entitled "To Anacreon in Heaven." But yah, there are some real spooks roaming Fort McHenry, too.

During its existence, the fort dungeons held POWs and other assorted military neer-do-wells. National Park rangers working at the Fort report hearing bodiless footsteps, windows being opened and closed, floating furniture, unnatural auras, and doors slamming. They've allegedly seen lights turned back on after they've turned them off.

An oft-reported spook is that of a black soldier, dressed in 19th century military gear and marching back-and-forth, rifle on shoulder, on a fort footpath. His sighting lasts a few seconds before he disappears into the Maryland mists.

There have also been tales of an evil entity that haunts the inner halls of Fort McHenry.

But a couple of the Fort McHenry shadows have names and stories.

One of the apparitions that's known is that of Lieutenant Levi Claggett, who was killed, along with several of his men, by a direct hit on his post, Gun Bastion #3, during the fight. Since then, there have been numerous sightings of Claggett's ghost.

National Park rangers at the fort have reported the indistinct figure of a man walking where Claggett was killed. A photo was allegedly taken near his battery placement that shows the faint outline of a man invisible to the eye when the photo was snapped. One fort docent claimed to see a man floating above ground level.

Some spookologists surmise that Claggett's appearance is a residual haunting, kind of a never-ending movie of his fort life. He was killed so suddenly that his spirit is stuck in the eternal rut of his barrack's routine.

One other ghostie is identified by name.

Private John Drew, a 28 year-old trooper, was on guard duty, but the next morning, when his relief arrived, he was sound asleep. Drew was taken straight to the guard-house, but along the way he managed to slip a rifle he found leaning against the wall into his cell. Later, he stuck the muzzle into his mouth and pulled the trigger.

He may have thought that he was going to be shot for dereliction of duty anyway and decided to save the Army the trouble. Some speculate that because Drew shirked his responsibility in life, he has been condemned to stand eternal guard duty at Fort McHenry.

It's been said that people have seen the shadowy figure of Drew along the fort parapets, keeping an eagle eye on the fort as he should have done 125 years before.

Fort McHenry has been featured on the TV show "Haunted History," has its own Ghost Tour, and is in just about every book written about paranormal Baltimore. So if you like your history haunted...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fort Necessity

Fort Necessity from Grave Addiction

Hey, one thing that this region has is haunted forts; the French, English, and Americans all have left their share from centuries old campaigns.

We'll pop back into Pennsylvania for today's spooky outpost, a fairly famous one, Farmington's Fort Necessity. It's located in Fayette County, about fifty miles southeast of Pittsburgh. (If you know the area, it's where the Nemacolin resort is located.)

During the French and Indian War, George Washington led a band of intrepid Virginians and South Carolinians to Great Meadows in 1754 to boot the French out of their digs at Fort Duquesne.

First, things started off swell when the militia surprised a band of French. Seneca chief Half-King allegedly killed the French commander, an ensign named Jumonville, after the battle when he was a POW. Jumonville's brother, Colonel De Villiers, swore to take a little revenge on George and his Colonials, and got it after he attacked the fort five weeks later.

Washington built a round wooden fortification to hold off the French and their Indian allies. It didn't help. The Father of the Country got his powdered wig handed to him and had to slink back to Virginia, tail between his legs, after one-third of his men were killed or wounded in the battle. It would be the only time Washington surrendered a command.

He would come back later with General Braddock, and quickly learned getting whipped is preferable to getting massacred.

Considering all the mayhem, Fort Necessity is really quite gently spooked. Visitors have heard phantom gunfire and musketry pop around the fort, and the staff and rangers have reported disembodied footsteps in the visitors center.

The only truly ghostly experience was a story told by a French and Indian War era reenactor. He was wandering around in the woods when a squad of period-dressed soldiers hailed him and told him to join up; they had a war to fight. The reenactor was happy to hook up...until a few paces into the woods, his unit disappeared in front of his eyes.

But Pittsburgh is still haunted to this day by that campaign; its principals still roam the City in the form of Washington Boulevard, Devilliers Street, and Jumonville Street, all named after ghosts of Fort Necessity. Eerie, hey?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Fort Ticonderoga

fort ticonderoga
Fort Ticonderoga from the National Park Service

Hey, since we've been visiting old forts of late, we thought we'd continue the tour and take a jaunt to New York's Lake Champlain North Country and Fort Ticonderoga.

It was first know as Fort Carillon, when the French manned it between 1755 and 1759 during the Seven Years War. The fort was there to protect the lake's water route and a small trading post. It was surrounded by 20 foot high walls, and the fort, with its outliers and grounds, covered over 450 acres.

Carillon held off one Brit attack in 1758, but a year later, the redcoats overwhelmed it. And so began its first spook tale, that of Black Watch Major Duncan Campbell, who died during the first attempt to take the bastion, and the Inverawe Curse.

He was in his family's ancestral digs of Inverawe when he inadvertently hid the murderer of a clansman, his cousin Donald. Donald appeared to him from the astral plane shortly thereafter, chided him, and told Duncan "Farewell, farewell, until we meet at Ticonderoga." "Ticonderoga," the Major mused, "now where could that be?" He had never heard of the place.

Campbell found out soon enough, when a French cannonball sent him to join Donald in the afterlife. He's still buried in Union Cemetery; his family, recalling his perfidy, never reclaimed his body. Some locals and relatives with short memories gather on the anniversary of his death at his otherwise forgotten tombstone.

The fort would switch hands several times during the Revolution, but it wasn't until the British surrendered at Yorktown that the Americans could claim it once and for all. But with the war over, its military value plummeted.

The land became the property of the state of New York in 1785. William Pell bought the rundown fort and its grounds in 1820. He built "The Pavilion" by the lake to serve as a summer home, and then switched it over to become the Fort Ticonderoga Hotel in 1840 when the area became a nexus for canals, railroad lines - and tourists.

A couple of generations later, Stephen and Sarah Pell began restoration of the fort in 1909, opening it to the public with much hoopla; President Taft even showed for the festivities. Today, much of the fort has been restored, and is open as a museum and rental facility.

The Pavilion is said to be haunted by the ghost of Sarah Pell, who lived there in the 1920s and 1930s. She's been spotted gazing out of the window overlooking the King’s Garden.

The fort museum cleaning staff find that their collection pieces have been moved to different places, despite being in locked glass display cases. Red glowing orbs have been seen floating throughout several of the fort's rooms. Some claim that they've heard disembodied hoof beats, footfalls, and French voices, and seen misty silhouettes in the windows.

Several sightings of a red coated figure in one of the upper windows of the south barracks have been reported. The gate house staff have heard women crying outside the window when nobody is there.

Others have seen the ghost of a woman roaming the fort and the lake area. That would be the shadow of Nancy Coates, a local gal who was one of General Mad Anthony Wayne's main squeezes.

Convinced by catty Ticonderoga wagging tongues that Wayne had left her for another woman, Coates threw herself into Lake Champlain and drowned; her lifeless body to this day has been allegedly spotted floating in the water. She's been reported running along the footpaths near the fort by the entrance gate, too, waiting for Wayne to return to her arms, often sobbing.

Wayne’s ghost has supposedly been eyed in the fort's dining room, sitting by a fireplace, smoking a pipe and drinking from a pewter mug.

And hey, we haven't even mentioned Champ, America's version of Nessie, said to live in Lake Champlain's water since Native American days.

Anyway, you can read up on the fort's phantoms in the pages of Nancy Roberts "America's Most Haunted Places" and Michael Norman and Beth Scott's "Haunted Heritage." Ghost Hunters ran an episode about it. Paranormal investigators visiting the site outnumber its spirits.

The locals push its haunted history, too - it's a spooked out Halloween House, and they also offer summer Ghost tours.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Antsy In Antes

Image from Mr. Boonie

Antes Fort was once a colonial outpost in Lycoming County, near Williamsport. William Penn's agents had bought the land from Andaste Tribal Chief King Wi-daagh.

Wi-daagh eventually came to realize that for the few trinkets he received in exchange, he had been swindled by the Englishmen. His spirit has since been seen roaming the Nippenose Valley, a sacred site to the Andastes, as an eerie form of eternal protest.

A stone column from the Pennsylvania State Capitol was placed to honor King Wi-daagh along the banks of Antes Creek in 1900, commemorating the treaty. Visitors report a ghostly mist coming off the waters of Wi-daugh's Spring, especially during the fall; some say its natural, some say it's Wi-daagh forming the mist.

In another dirty deed done to the Native Americans, Colonel John Henry Antes, who commanded the fort in the late 1700s and became the town's namesake, gave the local Indians some blankets that had covered smallpox victims.

The early biological warfare trick worked and decimated the Indians. They swore never-ending revenge, and it's said that the homes in Ante's Fort have been haunted by the dead Indian's spooks ever since.

(These tales were used with permission by, and are from "Spooky Lycoming County" by Lou Hunsinger Jr.)