I’ve saved the spookiest tale for last. This one is straight-up creepy. I’m not kidding. The experience gave me the serious heebie-jeebies.
So let’s make sure we have all of our supplies: Marshmallows, marshmallow toasting sticks, Hershey bars, graham crackers, campfire, and flashlights to shine under our chins to make scary faces at each other. Are we all set? Excellent.This one happened about 15 years ago. I was visiting the battlefields in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Gettysburg was the site of the bloodiest battle of the American Civil War: more than 50,000 casualties (Union and Confederate combined) in just three days.
If you’ve ever been to Gettysburg, you know what a weird place it is. For those of you who have never visited, it’s a bizarre experience. The town is charming and the battlefields are beautiful land now. But even on the sunniest spring day, a sad pall hangs over the area. It’s palpable. Even if you had no idea where you were, you’d still know something terrible happened there.
I was with some friends for a ghost-hunting weekend. (Don’t mock, we were doing this stuff way before Ghost Hunters et al ruined it.) We stopped at an area called Cemetery Ridge, which was reputed to have a lot of unexplained activity.
At this location, on the evening of July 2, 1863, the 1st Minnesota Regiment was ordered to defend a U.S. Army artillery battery and hold off the advancing Confederates until reinforcements could arrive. The trouble was, there were only 262 Minnesotans on Cemetery Ridge that night, and they faced three Alabama regiments numbering about 11,000 men. In what was essentially a suicide mission, the 1st Minnesota charged. The fight lasted less than 15 minutes but it stalled the Confederates long enough for additional Union forces to arrive and hold the line. The Minnesotans suffered 215 casualties, including 40 dead.
You can see why such a place might be haunted.
We were in a wooded area with a clearing. One of my friends wanted to see if he could get anything on tape. So he took out a brand-new tape cassette (remember those?), removed the cellophane, and put the cassette in the recorder. He turned the recorder on and left it running on a large rock. We wandered around in the trees for a while and met back at the area near the rock. We talked about how eerie the place was—it was almost dark and the winds were whipping everything around. It was unsettling. One of my friends even joked, “I wonder how many ghost soldiers are here with us right now.” After hanging around for about 10 more minutes, we decided to call it a night.
Back in the car, we played the tape. Nothing interesting. A lot of ambient noise—wind, people walking around, the snapping of twigs. Every so often it would pick up one of us talking, but that was about it.
When we got to the part where we were standing near the tape recorder, we heard our friend’s comment: “I wonder how many ghosts soldiers are here with us right now.”
About five seconds later on the tape, a hoarse, sad-sounding male voice said, “So many.” Just those two words. They were so distinct that it sounded as if the man had been talking directly into the microphone.
We all looked at each other. Everyone had that WTF expression. We must have played that section of the tape at least ten times. There was no mistaking the voice or what it said.
Nobody else had been with us in that clearing. No one had been close enough to speak into the recorder like that. Not to mention the fact that the voice on the tape didn’t match any of ours.
The rest of the tape didn’t have anything interesting on it. We never did figure out where the voice came from. I can only assume it was one of the men from Minnesota letting us know that he—and a lot of his comrades—were still there…