Tour guides, many of whom are local teachers, dress up in Civil War-era clothing and lead visitors on a candlelight walk through downtown Gettysburg, pointing out local landmarks and relaying the history and ghost stories behind the buildings.
As the guide recounts the history, listeners soon realize that if ghosts do exist, there’s probably no better place to hunt them than in Gettysburg. The Civil War Preservation Trust states that the casualties for the three-day Battle of Gettysburg numbered 46,000 to 51,000, and the guides spare no gory detail as they usher tourists through the town’s history.
Participants are told stories of makeshift field hospitals set up in Gettysburg residents’ homes, where hundreds of amputation procedures left limbs piled high in the streets and floors slippery with blood. The dead were hastily buried wherever room could be found, but inclement weather and heavy rain a few weeks after the battle left the bodies uncovered and washed up, resulting in the creation of the Gettysburg National Cemetery to properly house the deceased.
Kime points to Gettysburg’s bloody history to explain why she thinks the town is the “most haunted place in America.”
“The battle was so horrendous, and the men who died were so young,” she said. “I just don’t think they know they’re dead.”
Nesbitt doesn’t guarantee that visitors will see apparitions on any of his tours, but if willing and open-minded participants look past the name of the tour company, they’ll realize the experience is less about trying to spot a ghost and more about humanizing one of the most turbulent and pivotal moments in our country’s history.
Visitors get their first look at the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which opened to the public on Monday, Oct. 6, 2014. The new memorial is located off Independence Ave. SW between the Rayburn House Office Building and HHS. Buy photo here.