Something Strange At Harpers Ferry

Something Strange At Harpers Ferry
Civil War Tent / Stock Photo

My brother and I are avid reenactors and we live in a town called Frederick, Maryland. Our hobby takes us to many places like Gettysburg, Yorktown, Fredericksburg, but in particular, Harpers Ferry.

I remember an event we were doing about 3 years ago when we portrayed Union soldiers from the civil war, as they were when the town was occupied in the early stages of the war. It was December, so we the event was staged to portray a Christmas atmosphere in 1861. The event was to last through Saturday and Sunday, so my brother and I drove up Friday night, met with the Park Ranger who was heading the event, turned in our muskets (as firearms aren’t allowed on National parks without a Rangers’ supervision), and we went to set up our camp for the night. Our campsite was directly behind the old firehouse, on the side that is closest to the railroad tracks and the Shenandoah River.

To those who are not familiar with Harpers Ferry history, the old firehouse is where John Brown and his accomplices were held up during their uprising a few years prior to the Civil War. Anyway, we got a fire going, our blankets rolled out, and we bedded down for the night, huddled up close to the heat (it was December in the Appalachian Mountains). I woke up at what I was guessing to be maybe 2 AM because the fire had died down and extreme cold had overtaken me. I set about to rebuilding it, gathering firewood, stirring the coals, etc. After about ten minutes of working the fire, I heard clinking sounds coming down the street that runs parallel to the firehouse. (Ok, let me say that the shoes worn by men in the mid-1800’s were leather soled and had a metal “horseshoe” looking plate on the heal, to increase the lifespan of the shoe. When the heal of one of these shoes is exposed to the concrete, or stone, it makes a loud clinking sound).

I looked up and saw a man walking down the stone sidewalks that have been in Harpers Ferry since it’s founding. It looked as if he was dressed in civilian clothing from the mid-1800’s…but I could not quite tell as it was 2 AM and the town does not have the best of street lighting. I thought nothing of this, as Harpers Ferry plays hosts to all types of historical events, and someone in costume is a common scene. I did not even think much about him being there so early in the morning. I figured he was sleepless, just as I was, and was taking an early morning stroll. Nothing really roused my attention, until I heard the clinking stop. I looked up and saw the man standing about 70 feet away, looking directly at me. I motioned for him to come over, as by now, the fire was going good and strong again, and it was a frightfully cold morning. The man simply stood there and stared.

I thought that maybe he did not understand what I meant, so I rose to a full stance and began walking toward him, with the intent to share a friendly conversation between two reenactors who could not sleep. As soon as I rose, he slowly turned around and began walking right back up the street where he originally had come. He was walking very slowly, so I shook my brother awake, and we both set off after the man (I do have enough sense to have someone with me while talking to a stranger in the middle of the night). However, by the time we got to where the man should have bee (judging by his pace), we could not find him (and the clicking of the shoes was no longer audible). I do not know what this was, but I have been back many a time to learn more about it, but to no avail. I was able to gain some interesting piece of news while talking to a park ranger about a year later. He told me a story almost identical to my own, except that he had been in his store shop closing up late. He described the man exactly as I had. Was this a spirit? Just a coincidence? You decide, because I do not honestly know.

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