The evening is dark and relatively balmy. It’s difficult to explain the chills you’ve been getting for the last few minutes as the group you’re with walks through the streets of Gettysburg on a ghost tour.
Your eyes pass by a dark, second-story window and for a split second, you swear you see something there. You blink and glance away. Taking a chance, you look back up, but whatever you saw is gone.
What was it? This isn’t normal. You don’t believe in this stuff. Ghosts aren’t real. Everyone knows that.
But you can’t explain the shiver that crawls up your spine – and you can’t shake the odd knowledge that something was in that window. Could it have been a face? Could it have been a spirit?
Taking a ghost tour with the Ghosts of Gettysburg has made many a person wonder those very questions.
I have been a tour guide with the Ghosts of Gettysburg for more than 20 years and have had similar experiences. The Ghosts of Gettysburg is the original ghost tour in Gettysburg, a small, south-central Pennsylvania town that is known as the turning point in the American Civil War.
Thousands of visitors come from all over the world throughout the year to experience the history in the town and many of them opt for a more existential experience in the evenings with a ghost tour.
All the stories from the Ghosts of Gettysburg come from one of the books written by Mark Nesbitt, a historian and former park ranger for the National Park Service, who created the business. His first book was released in 1991 and a few years later, he was approached by a member of Gettysburg’s borough council about creating a ghost tour based on the books.
In 1994, the first ghost walk in Gettysburg, The Ghosts of Gettysburg Candlelight Walking Tours, began on the sidewalks in town.
Since then, some stories have emerged from the tours themselves – tour guides have returned to the headquarters the following day to explain what had happened the night before.
Having been a guide for more than two decades, I have amassed plenty of stories of strange experiences as I take groups through the town on dark evenings. I tell my groups that even though there are fields surrounding the town where the battles of Gettysburg took place in 1863, it’s important to remember the soldiers were in and around the homes in the town itself. In fact, some soldiers passed away in those streets or homes.
So sometimes what you think you see in a window could be something from a century and a half ago.
With the advent of digital photography and cell phones, there have been many nights when someone will walk up to me and ask what the odd image could be on a photo they had just taken. One phenomenon ghost hunters have discovered in digital photography are orbs. They look like bubbles in your photographs and it is believed they are the spirits trying to come through in the photo.
I have seen so many orbs in my time as a tour guide – some of which have been hovering near or around my head. Don’t think that doesn’t give me a little shiver on the drive home!
Tour guides with the Ghosts of Gettysburg dress in period clothing to give a more authentic sense of what it was like in the days of the Civil War and we carry a lighted candle with us as well, adding even more to the ambiance of the night.
There are currently two different tours available with the Ghosts of Gettysburg.
One is the Baltimore Street tour which is $13.50 per person and lasts one hour and 15 minutes. On this tour, you will hear stories about the Ghosts of Gettysburg headquarters where voices have been recorded and a child has been spotted, centuries after his death. The tour will walk by the County Courthouse where employees have experienced a number of odd encounters and you will see the church where so many amputations occurred, holes had to be drilled into the floor to drain the blood that had collected.
The second tour is the Carlisle Street tour which is $15 per person and lasts one hour and 45 minutes. You will walk through town to the campus of the Gettysburg College where the story of the Blue Boy will be told and you will stand outside the building where two college employees took an elevator ride to a Civil War hospital – 130 years after the war had ended.
Our tours run rain or shine.
Look, I was a pretty big skeptic when I began with the Ghosts of Gettysburg in 2000. My father taught chemistry at the Gettysburg Senior High School for more than 30 years, so I have more than a little science in my background.
But I will tell you, there have been moments on the ghost tours that have really made me wonder if there might be something else out there than just the physical. Since I began the tours, I’ve come to realize we don’t know more than we do in this world – and I’ve heard that from scientists that have taken my tour. I think it’s something like 96 percent of the universe is unknown to us.
So who on earth am I to say something couldn’t be or couldn’t happen?
I also talk to so many people from all over the world who have lived with ghosts all of their lives – a presence in the attic or a woman in the basement. It is incredibly hard to dispute the stories they share with me as we walk through Gettysburg on a summer evening.
Am I willing to guarantee to you that ghosts exist? Absolutely not. I don’t guarantee anything except death and taxes.
Do I think there’s a whole lot more to our world and our lives than what we can physically see and touch? Absolutely. Beyond a shadow of a doubt.
But, listen. Don’t take my word for it. As the days get longer and the nights get warmer, why not plan a trip to Gettysburg and sign up for a ghost tour at the Ghosts of Gettysburg? Listen to the stories. See the history. Realize what happened in that town in 1863.
If after that, you still aren’t convinced, that’s cool. You do you.
But if you have even one, quick moment where you may not be completely sure – even if you don’t share it with anyone else on the tour or after you get home – that’s okay, too. You’ll be right there with a whole lot of people who have visited the Ghosts of Gettysburg and come away wondering, what if?
For more information on the tours or to place a reservation online, click here: https://ghostsofgettysburg.com