On a ghostly legend trip in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, author and ghost researcher Mark Nesbitt of Ghosts of Gettysburg, recounts the strangest paranormal experience he’s ever encountered at a home that was a field hospital during the battle. The blood stains are still on the floor almost a century and a half later.
Civil War Victim Jennie Wade’s Marriage Proposal Promise
So there I was in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for a family vacation. Gettysburg, of course, is synonymous with two things: the Civil War battle that took place there July 1-3, 1863, and ghosts. The whole town is a paranormal hotspot, but within the hotspot there are other legends. Here’s one for all of you single ladies itching to get hitched.
While we were getting ice cream across the street from the Jennie Wade House at 548 Baltimore Street, I told my 18-year-old niece, Lauren about a legend I heard attached to the Jennie Wade House. What a great niece! She was willing to be my guinea pig.
First some background. Jennie Wade has the unfortunate distinction of being the only civilian killed during the battle of Gettysburg. 20-year-old Jennie Wade was the fiancée of Corp. “Jack” Skelly. Skelly was wounded and taken prisoner at Winchester, Virginia, on May 13, 1863, and was transferred to a hospital in Virginia.
Back to the house on Baltimore Street. It was inside this house on the morning of July 3rd, 1863, when a Confederate sniper’s musket ball smashed through the door on the north side of the house, pierced through another door in the kitchen, and struck Jennie in the back beneath her left shoulder blade, killing her instantly.
Union soldiers heard the cries of Jennie’s sister and mother inside the house and rushed to assist. They carried Jennie’s body to the basement. A few days after the battle, she was buried in Evergreen Cemetery in a coffin that Confederate soldiers had built for an officer.
Jennie’s fiancé, Corp. Skelly died from his wounds nine days later in Confederate hands. It seems the lovers were destined to be together after all.
The hole left by the lethal musket ball can still be seen today. And here’s where the legend begins. The story goes that single women who place their ring finger through the hole will receive a marriage proposal within a year. According to Joe Svehla who manages the Jennie Wade House, they receive several emails each year from women claiming they were proposed to after sticking their ring finger in the musket ball hole in Jennie’s door.
I love this legend trip because it offers a physical connection to a real person. You remember Jennie when you place your finger in the hole that caused her death a split-second later, but you also have hope for your own romantic future. Legends are always about the living. The dead have only a supporting role.
Lauren placed her finger in the bullet hole on the evening of July 20, 2010. So the countdown is on. I’ll report back if a proposal comes her way. Thankfully, there’s nothing in the legend that says she has to accept the proposal if the guy is a loser.
Picture Yourself Legend Tripping: Your Complete Guide to Finding UFOs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Urban Legends in Your Own Back Yard
Picture Yourself Legend Tripping: Your Complete Guide to Finding UFOs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Urban Legends in Your Own Back Yard
Includes a DVD hosted by Jeff Belanger and featuring interviews with prominent paranormal researchers!
What Others Are Saying About this Book:
“Nobody digs into the paranormal like Jeff Belanger. Picture Yourself Legend Tripping is a killer way to learn how to explore the unexplained and find the legends creeping in your area.” -Zak Bagans, Host and Lead Investigator for the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures
Click here to purchase the book through Amazon.com!
What is Legend Tripping? There’s a good chance you’ve already done it. Remember sneaking off into that cemetery at night as a kid to see if there were any ghosts? Remember hearing there was a monster lurking in that old abandoned building and wanting to check it out? Or hearing about a UFO landing site and wanting to plan your next vacation in the area so you could stand where the craft was said to have left its mark? That’s legend tripping. But it’s so much more.
Any television program you’ve ever seen that explores haunted places, ancient mysteries, UFO sightings, or strange creatures is legend tripping. First there was a story: a legend that was born and grew because people had unexplained experiences and shared what they saw, heard, and felt. In Picture Yourself Legend Tripping, you’ll learn how to find, explore, and document these amazing, and often paranormal, occurrences.
Don’t worry, you don’t need thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment, you have everything you need on you right now. And you don’t need hundreds of hours of training, because this book will show you how to have an incredible adventure in your own backyard this weekend. Bring your open mind and your sense of wonder. Get ready for legend tripping!
What Others Are Saying About this Book:
“As you adventure out on those weird journeys of life, one could not ask for a better tour guide along the way than Jeff Belanger. Jeff’s grasp of intriguing bits of bizarre information are delivered with a wonderful combination of knee-slapping humor and incredible factual knowledge. You can’t go wrong when you take Jeff with you on your next trek, whether it is a casual vacation or an intensive investigation.” -Loren Coleman, author, cryptozoologist, director of the International Cryptozoology Museum
“Any serious paranormal investigator, really anyone who spends time looking into the unusual and unexplained, must eventually start to realize the close connection it has with legend. Too often the technology trending of modern investigation looks to strip away these connections to gain some truth, often at the risk of trampling real universal truth, In reality truth and legend are only different colors being used to paint the same picture, and the smart investigator must learn to view them together while celebrating each for what they are. Jeff Belanger is just the kind of guide to help people gain that focus.” -Christopher Balzano, author of Picture Yourself Ghost Hunting
Picture Yourself Legend Tripping Interviews/Articles with Jeff Available Online: July 8, 2010 – Jeff Belanger on Darkness on the Edge of Town Radio
Picture Yourself Legend Tripping Press Release: July 13, 2010
White Sanitarium better known as Old Insane Asylum, Texas
Here in Wichita Falls Texas you will find a place on California street that almost everyone in the area has heard of. It’s official name is the White Sanitarium, but most call it the Old Insane Asylum. The White Sanitarium opened in 1926 under the direction of Frank S. White, a man who had been superintendent at the state asylum in Austin before the turn of the century. He first advocated providing a non-institutionalized lifestyle for his patients to diminish the effects of the asylum itself on their sanity. It was abandoned sometime in the 50’s after being severely damaged by a flood and sat empty for over 50 years. Many a young folk, as well as old folk have either been there to visit it or have heard of it, as it is supposedly haunted by spirits that possibly died there. There were radical medical procedures that took place there long ago, and some people were said to have died from those procedures, and now roam the place. People have reported seeing lights on at night time when there was no electricity to the place. There have been stories about seeing a woman in white walking the grounds, and also looking out the windows. One of the most noted are people claiming they see a group of men sitting around table at night time playing cards. There was a recreation room at one time and they did play cards there long ago. It has been said that voices of children have been heard there.
After seeking permission, myself along with my legend tripping team mates as well as a TV reporter went in search of finding out about the claims ourselves. It was quite an experience. The place had been purchased and had been remodeled, but still had the main structurere as it was. It was empty. We were excited and had some equipment to record what we found. First thing that happened was the TV reporters camera lost all power and two other cameras and voice recorders lost power just minutes after we got started, so we did not have the tv camera to record anything because he had not brought a backup battery. It is theorized that when spirits are present, that sometimes they look for any energy they can find and many times it will be from cameras, flashlights and other devices. We spent several hours there trying to capture pictures and do evp and just absorb the experience. There were several members who felt cold air rush by them, and while we were doing some evp, we all actually heard a small child talking upstairs. The TV reporter who was a total skeptic heard it as well and several went to check it out. No children. After several hours of taking pictures and doing evp and having several unexplained feelings like being watched, chills to the bone, distinct heaviness at times, we decided to call it a night. We thoroughly enjoyed it. Next day after listening to the recordings we did, we did pick up several children’s voices as well as several adults voices talking and something that sounded like a bicycle horn like those red bulb ones you use to see on bicycles many many years ago. What an adventure it was.
Wichita Falls, Texas
America’s Stonehenge – A Question Forged in Rock
The 4,000-year-old stone ruins of America’s Stonehenge command respect. The passing millennia, the elements, and the cultures that evolved and perished around this sacred megalithic complex have all made the series of stone walls, structures, and giant carved rocks on this granite hilltop in Salem, New Hampshire a wizened enigma. Finding a stone wall in the forest of a small New England town is by no means an anomaly, but finding these stone walls joined with intricate man-made stone chambers and lining up with enormous arrowhead-like monoliths that mark lunar and solar positions during events such as solstices and equinoxes, makes this place an archeological and spiritual question to ponder.
There is evidence pointing to the Celts as being the architects and builders of this site in New Hampshire — something that would cause a problem for a lot of U.S. history books. Some of Christopher Columbus’s European ancestors may have beaten him in the race to the new world by as much as 3500 years! I recently “discovered” America’s Stonehenge with some friends on a hot July day.
My first stop en route from the parking lot to the sacred site was the America’s Stonehenge museum, gift shop, and snack bar. I spoke with Dennis Stone — he and his wife Pat run the site. I learned from Dennis that this is a family business started by his father, Robert Stone, in 1957. Originally called “Mystery Hill,” Robert Stone set up the site as an open air museum to offset the costs of research.
I began my hike behind the museum building, ascending a gentle woodchip-covered trail past fenced-in alpacas, a few modern stone art pieces, and some carved wooden animals — also modern (and by modern, I mean no more than 10 years old).
Along the trail to the main site, I passed a few points of interest — a structure called “The Watch House,” a small stone hut built into the side of the hill. The structure is aptly named, as it looks like a pre-historic military bunker. I also passed an ancient well and a fire pit — very little remained of both.
The next leg of the trail offered the final climb and first view of the main site. At first glance, I was disappointed. I didn’t expect the towering grandeur of the Stonehenge in England, but I did expect to be immediately awed by a sense of “How could these ancient people have possibly constructed this?”
The stone walls and structures are built low to the ground, and some are built into bumps and dips in the terrain. The tallest structure is maybe eight feet — though one side abuts the giant granite slab that is the predominant foundation feature on the hilltop. So America’s Stonehenge didn’t immediately marvel me, but as I examined each formation more closely, my opinions began to change, and my sense of wonder increased. I wasn’t asking how they did it, but I was certainly asking why.
“We think it’s a religious site because of the size, shape, and orientation of the structures,” Dennis Stone said. “They’re kind of small, so they would be kind of hard to live in. We think it might have been used for temples, especially the really small ones [structures].”
When I walked onto and up the huge granite slab that is exposed on the hilltop, I could imagine how this would be a stage of sorts. There are many positions and platforms surrounding the central area where on-lookers could easily view the center below. Obviously a great deal of precision and effort went into construction here, so why would these ancient peoples build something that was too small to offer any significant amount of storage, and certainly too small to live in? It must be a place of ceremony.
From the top of the hill, I saw wide tracts through the forest that ran in straight lines crossing over the main site. Near the center of these tracts within the stone walls are large pointer stones. These monoliths were carved with stone tools, a sign of ancient construction and they mark significant solar and lunar events when lined up with a second point of reference on the main site. The markers offer further evidence of the area’s antiquity — mainly because they don’t quite line up perfectly anymore. Stone said, “The solstices don’t quite work today, because the Earth’s tilt has wobbled. We had our site professionally surveyed from 1973 to 77; we put in all of the site’s coordinates and sent it off. The Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics took our computer tape and told us that around 1800 B.C. your alignments would work, plus or minus a century or two. And the oldest carbon dating we have of the main site is from 2000 B.C. That’s why we say 4000 years old.”
Today, religious groups and native peoples come in to experience the land and sometimes to hold sacred ceremonies. For example, I saw a mound of dirt covered with flowers from the recent summer solstice celebration. Stone explained how many spiritual groups have come to experience the area’s magic. He said, “We’ve had the Wiccans from New York City, more recently we had the Mayan here — a healing ceremony, and that’s been going on for a couple of years. We’ve also had a Peruvian healing doctor up here performing ceremonies. They usually do that on one of the big days like the solstice.”
The most curious structure in America’s Stonehenge is its “Oracle Chamber” and the attached “Sacrificial Table.” Coming down the granite slope of the bald hilltop, I looped around and walked down some stone steps into the dark and dank “Oracle Chamber.” The temperature was notably cooler compared with the open air, and the rock walls dripped with water. Inside was just enough clearance to walk through. The chamber is T-shaped; about halfway into the chamber, another tunnel shoots off 90 degrees to the right. Where the two tunnels intersect is a small tunnel formation built through the wall called the “speaking tube.” The other end of the tube comes out under the sacrificial table — a large bell-shaped stone slab with a groove carved around its edges — similar to a carving board I have in my kitchen used for catching the juice from cooked meat. I would learn the analogy was very close to the mark. Dennis Stone said, “The table is about 9 feet by approximately 6 feet in width, it’s a bell shape, and it’s about a foot thick. It weighs about 4 1/2 tons. It’s attached to the Oracle chamber. If a person was on their back, by the left foot the rectangular drain goes off and it drains right by the left foot. And there’s a cutout in the bedrock where a vase could sit. You could use your imagination.”
Stone is cautious to make any definite claims, but given the size and shape of the rock, it’s not difficult to imagine human sacrifice happening on its surface, especially considering the great care in positioning the table above the speaking tube and Oracle Chamber. A ceremony of some importance obviously occurred at this spot.
We do know there were Native Americans living in New Hampshire since at least 10,000 B.C.E., so maybe they built this structure? Maybe, but working in stone was not their style. The Native Americans built structures of wood and animal hides. There’s genetic, linguistic, and archeological evidence that Europeans, Mediterraneans, and even Africans were crossing the ocean thousands of years ago. Barry Fell, who was a professor at Harvard and founder of the Epigraphic Society, felt that markings found carved into rocks in North, Central, and South America point to transatlantic voyages of Phenetians, Libyans, and Celts. Additionally, Fell found that many Native American words for different rivers, valleys, and gorges had a Celtic counterpart in Europe where the meaning of the word was virtually identical. “These people coming over somehow had to either fight or they worked together,” Stone said. “And that’s why the site is kind of confusing, because I think there was some assimilation of cultures going on.”
America’s Stonehenge has power and energy in its design and age. It may very well represent an unanswerable question, but it’s a question that’s still worth exploring. This mysterious hill in Salem, New Hampshire is not the only site of stone ruins and megaliths in the northeastern United States. Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and many other locations have revealed evidence of ancient builders leaving their fingerprints of stone. This is a spiritual place. Science is providing some evidence, but meaning will come from within each visitor. To me, America’s Stonehenge is a reminder that ancient people were sophisticated in their math and astronomy, and deliberate in their spirituality. The site is a perfect blend of science and spirit — something our modern world tries to keep separate at all costs.
St. Christopher – Patron Saint of Legend Trippers
The legend behind St. Christopher is worthy of its own Web site, but I’ll do my best to do it justice. The story goes that Christopher, a tall and powerful man living around the third century, wanted to serve the greatest king so he set out to find the most powerful king he could. When he found the king, he was surprised to see the man cross himself at the mention of the devil. Christopher figured the devil was more powerful than this king so he went off to serve the devil. Christopher then saw that the devil would avoid crosses and Christian relics, so he figured that king must be even more powerful. But Christopher couldn’t find this king as easily.
A hermit taught Christopher the ways of Christianity, and when asked how he could serve, the hermit suggested Christopher help people across a dangerous river. Christopher did so happily.
One day a small child walked up to Christopher asking his assistance in crossing the river. Christopher put the child on his shoulders and began the trek across the river. During the crossing, the river began to rise, and the weight of the child became almost unbearable–it was as if Christopher carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. When he reached the other side and set the boy down safely, the child replied that he was the king that Christopher served, and the weight of the world’s sins was the force weighing him down.
There’s no historic record of Christopher ever existing, however the legend is as real as the millions of medals that bear his story. To Catholics, he’s the patron saint of travelers. Though I don’t consider myself Catholic anymore, I usually have my St. Christopher medal with me in my journeys and legend trips. I can think of no better good luck charm, or reminder of the power of legends.
I didn’t consult the Catholic church on this one, but I hereby adopt St. Christopher as the patron saint of legend trippers everywhere.
Dos and Don’ts
Legend Tripping Dos and Don’ts:
- Don’t trespass–always get permission before going to a location. If for no other reason, you may be arrested of shot!
- Don’t break anything.
- Don’t take anything back with you besides photos, video, audio, and notes (because some of this stuff may just be cursed).
- Do bring your open mind.
- Do have a great adventure!
The Marsh People of Barnstable, Massachusetts
In the dark marshes of Barnstable on the coast of Cape Cod, there have been sightings of strange and dark human-like creatures. Not shadow people, as these figures appear quite solid, yet as dark as the mud from which they are said to come out of.
Derek Bartlett is the founder and president of the Cape and Islands Paranormal Research Society. He’s spent many a day and night exploring the unexplained aspects of the Cape. He says the legend of the Marsh People goes back to at least the 1800s when these creatures described as black as marsh mud emerge to drag a horse or even a human to their doom in the mucky marsh. Bartlett didn’t think he would actually bear witness to these creatures, but he had his own encounter while he was living in Barnstable. His property backed up against the marsh, and the former United States Marine spent one April evening in 2002 watching the marsh with the night vision scope. “I would watch the marsh with my scope,” Bartlett said. “I saw what appeared to be people walking, but it wasn’t on the railroad tracks that cut through the middle, it was beyond that. I stood and watched and watched. They were very light and then they vanished. It was high tide. They weren’t in a canoe. They were walking. I saw the movement of people walking and then they were gone. I lost focus, and by the time I went back on them they were gone.”
Has anyone else reported seeing these Marsh People? Bartlett says yes. “There was a group of five kids,” he said. “I know them. They’re decent kids from a big family from Cape Cod. They were hanging out down by the end of the marsh, and all five of them saw this thing come out of the marsh; they came out, walked across the railroad tracks, and went down the other side. This isn’t the kind of kid to make things up.”
Derek Bartlett is currently looking for other witnesses of the Marsh People of Barnstable. He says the sightings seem to be cyclical—approximately once every five years.
North America’s First UFO Sighting
John Winthrop, esquire (1588-1649) has the distinction of being the first elected governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. But he also holds a more paranormal distinction…he was the man who documented the first UFO sighting in North America – an encounter that lasted hours and was seen by multiple witnesses.
Winthrop was an English Puritan who sought religious refuge in the New World. He was passionate about his faith, and he believed God would punish England for not expunging any remaining traces of Roman Catholicism from the Church of England. It’s important to note Winthrop’s beliefs because it’s possible he may interpret any out-of-the-ordinary event as being religious in nature.
The pilgrims aboard the Mayflower had already blazed the trail in 1620, so when Winthrop arrived in 1629, an English colony was already well established. The smallpox virus that the English carried to America had wiped out many of the indigenous peoples — and Winthrop viewed the epidemic as God’s way of clearing the land for the good Christians from England.
Perhaps the greatest legacy John Winthrop left behind was his chronicles. He knew there were few learned men in America with the time and ability to document the history as it was being written. Winthrop wrote down the events he witnessed and the stories he heard in a giant tome called The History of New England From 1630 to 1649. It’s in this record that we find the first reference to an anomaly in the sky in North America. In his 1638 entries, Winthrop wrote:
“In this year one James Everell, a sober, discreet man, and two others, saw a great light in the night at Muddy River. When it stood still, it flamed up, and was about three yards square; when it ran, it was contracted into the figure of a swine: it ran as swift as an arrow towards Charlton, and so up and down about two or three hours. They were come down in their lighter about a mile, and, when it was over, they found themselves carried quite back against the tide to the place they came from. Divers[e] other credible persons saw the same light, after, about the same place.”
Today Muddy River is a collection of brooks and ponds that run about three and a half miles from Jamaica Pond near Boston to the Charles River. Charlton is a town about 50 miles southwest of Boston. It’s worth noting that the figure in the sky appeared to turn into “the figure of a swine.” Everell was a leather dresser, meaning he worked with the hides of animals, tanned them, and turned them into leather goods. The “swine” or pig was the only shape in the databanks of his mind that he could relate to.
Winthrop’s account claims the event lasted two or three hours, which rules out any chance of the object being a meteor. 1638 was almost 150 years before the first balloon flights, so the possibility of the object being man-made is also ruled out. The witness also claims that their small boat was pushed back against the tide about one mile (back to where they first set their boat in the water) while they watched the object in the sky. Could this be a “lost time” phenomena? Were they physically moved by the object in the sky? Could it be they were mistaken as to the tide because they were distracted by the unidentified object in the sky? Possibly.
The next question that arises is: Can we trust the witness, Mr. James Everell? A fair question. John Winthrop included a footnote about Everell: “He was a man of reputation, activity and good estate in Boston many years afterwards. With his wife, Elizabeth, he had been received into Boston church 20 of July, 1634, being Nos. 239, 240. His will, made 11 December, 1682, proved 2 February following, is found in our Probate Registry, vol. VI. 400.”
In a second footnote about this event, Winthrop gives some thought as to the cause. “This account of an ignis fatuus [a phosphorescent light that hovers over swampy grounds, also called “Swamp Gas,” “will-o’-the-wisp,” or “ghost lights”] may easily be believed on testimony less respectable than that which was adduced.” But then Winthrop gets skeptical about the sighting. He writes: “Some operation of the devil, or other power beyond the customary agents of nature, was probably imagined by relaters and hearers of that age, and the wonder of being carried a mile against the tide became important corroboration of the imagination. Perhaps they were wafted, during the two or three hours’ astonishment, for so moderate a distance, by the wind; but, if this suggestion be rejected, we might suppose, that the eddy, flowing always, in our rivers, contrary to the tide in the channel, rather than the meteor, carried their lighter back.” Winthrop seems most concerned with debunking the notion of a small boat sailing a mile against the tide than explaining a pig-shaped object in the sky that traversed roughly 50 miles for several hours.
Swamp gas has typically been described as a glowing mass that hovers in one location and then dissipates. It just doesn’t travel like the way Everell described. It’s also fascinating that Winthrop, an overtly religious man, would summarily dismiss any supernatural origins to the story he heard. Perhaps a glowing, flying pig didn’t fit into his understanding of Scripture, so his thoughts didn’t go in that direction.
Besides the one paragraph and two footnotes, Winthrop writes nothing more on the subject of North America’s first UFO.
Legend Tripping Equipment
No, you don’t need thousands of dollars in gear and fancy equipment. You don’t need night vision, nor do you need handheld meters that measure electromagnetic forces—that stuff looks cool on TV, but it weighs you down. Bring this:
-Pen -Notebook -Backpack (you don’t need a briefcase—you’re a legend tripper, not a lawyer) -Camera (film, digital, video, whatever you have will do) -Audio recorder -Bug spray -Snacks -Water -Boots -First aid kit -Extra batteries -Some great music for the car ride -Your favorite caffeinated drink for those late nights.