I like to keep an open mind about weird s**t. Like Bigfoot, aliens and the Bermuda Triangle for example.
One thing I absolutely 100% believe in is ghosts. The rest, well, I only believe strongly in weird s**t that I’ve experienced first hand, so…fresh.air.adventuring will hear about that once it happens!
I’ve lived in Newport, RI for over 20 years. As a very historical New England town, Newport definitely has its fair share of ghost stories. Personally, I’ve worked at plenty of haunted inns and lived in some creepy places.
However, nothing could have prepared me for what we would experience in Gettysburg.
Our First Trip
Our two night trip was planned for New Years Eve, 2013-14. It was our first real getaway together!
We dropped Mr 5YO off with my mom and peeled outta there without a backward glance.
We planned to get to Gettysburg in time for the ball to drop, but we ended up pulling over at a gas station about 45 minutes out of town and celebrated from there.
When we reached town center, it was almost 1:00am and like a ghost town – no pun intended. Balloons and empty beer cups were literally blowing through like tumbleweeds. Eric called the Gettysburg Hotel and by some stroke of miraculous luck, they had a room and we grabbed it. Yea, we didn’t make reservations for this trip AT ALL.
We went inside and futzed around for a few before Eric noticed the coffee table book. It was a magazine for a hotel group, presumably the one that owned the Gettysburg Hotel. It showcased all of the properties in the group, one of which was in Newport, RI. Naturally, we recognized the photo and called bullsht immediately.
“This photo is fake as hell!” I exclaimed, pointing out that the hotel looked like it was on a beach, surrounded by open space, when in fact, there were at least two other hotels, two bars and a gas station within spitting distance. “This is crap!”
We were laughing because it was funny but we were also kind of perplexed.
“This is false advertising.” Eric said, picking up the phone.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Calling someone who cares.” He replied, and I could hear the chirp of a friendly customer service representative through the earpiece.
“Yes, hi. I’m a guest at one of your hotels. I was looking through your hotel catalog and I noticed some inaccuracies with one of your listings.” Eric said, in his best professional voice.
“Thank you for being a guest of our hotels!” The girl replied. “I’m sorry if you found our service unsatisfactory. How can I help you?”
“Well,” he answered. “There is a photo here that doesn’t show the hotel accurately.”
“We try to make our photos as realistic as possible, sir.”
“This isn’t realistic at all.”
“Sometimes, sir, photos must be enhanced.”
“Enhanced? This is wholly inaccurate.”
“What seems to be the problem, sir?” She asked. I wondered what she was thinking. It was damn near 2:00am on New Year’s Eve, and here was this guy calling to complain about THIS.
“It shows the hotel on a beach and everything around it has been erased. It’s surrounded by other buildings.”
“Often, our photographers take photos from angles that you may not be accustomed to, sir.” She answered with that undying customer service chirp.
“Angles.” Eric sniffed. The photo was taken from the air from the water, probably 1/4 mile away. “You can see the buildings from every angle.”
“Well, I’m sure the editors just did a little bit of touching up to make the photo more-“
Eric hung up. Clearly, we wouldn’t be changing lives today, but we had a hearty laugh about it.
The Hand print
I hopped in the shower when Eric got out, after sitting around for 20 minutes waiting for something creepy and paranormal to happen. There was nothing but the quiet hum of the hotel. The whole town was asleep.
I stepped out onto the cushy bathmat and stopped short. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. A hand print on the fogged up mirror. I stared for a minute before I realized that Eric MUST HAVE done it because there was no way we had come to Gettysburg – the most haunted place in America – and had already had an experience.
“Did you come in the bathroom while I was in there?” I asked, throwing my hair up into a towel. He looked at me, puzzled.
“Yes you did. You must have.”
“I really didn’t.” He insisted. I went back into the bathroom and stared at the print for another second, then took the above photo.
“Why?” He wondered from the bedroom.
“Come look.” He came in and stared for a second, too.
“Welcome to Gettysburg.” He said with a shrug.
The Lincoln Diner
We slept decently through the night, with no issues with neighboring guests or restless spirits. We packed up and headed out.
“Want to get breakfast?” I asked, a little unsure of our routines because this was, like I said, our first long trip together. Eric’s eye lit up like Christmas trees and we drove around town until we found a diner that would surely have breakfast: The Lincoln Diner.
It was packed to almost overflowing, but we got two seats at the counter. We ordered coffee and french toast, which I couldn’t wait to eat! It was stereotypical diner coffee with half and half cups and we guzzled it without question.
We scoured our phones, looking for local attractions and tours. This was my first time here and I had no idea what to expect from it. I was quickly overwhelmed by the vast amount of choices.
“What if we just…explored on our own?” I said. Eric chewed thoughtfully. “Can you drive the battlefield on your own?”
“You can.” He said.
“Wanna just do that? And find what we find?” He nodded.
“That sounds good.”
“Plus, we’ll save money that way. This shit is kinda pricey.”
Have I ever mentioned I’m a cheap bastard?
We watched as the diner owner or manager cashed out customers with her toddler sitting quietly at her feet and thought, God bless you, Super Woman!
We got our bearings and headed out to the battlefield. Its incredible how suddenly the town changes from town to rolling fields and civil war fences. While taking photos of the monuments, Eric asked if I wanted to stop for every one.
“I thought so, no?” I asked, glancing at the row of gleaming stone ahead of me down Reynold’s Road.
“You can, but there are like, thousands of monuments.” Eric answered, with his even toned smile. My eyes widened.
“Well, in that case, no!” I hopped back in the car. We crawled down the road, admiring the countryside and trying to wrap our heads around the depth of what happened on the very ground we drove on.
After making our way to the Peace Light Memorial, and researching motels to stay at, we found ourselves in front of the Doubleday Inn, named after a fallen soldier. We were mulling over that and their rates when a van pulled up.
“Hey, you guys are from Rhode Island!” a wiry, gray haired man with glasses called out.
“I’m from Massachusetts.” He replied. “Well, originally. I came here so often I decided to move here!”
“It’s a beautiful place.” One of us said and the guy nodded.
“It is a great place to live.”
He went on to tell us about what he did for work, and I believe he said he was a guide for the National Parks. Whatever it was, he was involved with the Civil War history aspect of Gettysburg.
“If you’re looking for a place to stay, check out the General Lee’s Headquarters right up here on 30.”
“Yea, it’s affordable and close to the battlefield. Not the Quality Inn downtown, but the one right here on Lincoln Highway.”
“Thanks a lot.” Eric said. “We will definitely look into it!”
We said our goodbyes and he wished us luck and drove off. I noticed his red Massachusetts plates as he drove away. I looked at Eric with my eyes narrowed.
“Funny that he suggested a place to stay.”
“Hm. Because we are looking for a place to stay tonight.”
We finished our ride through the battlefield and stopped at Little Round Top to take in the scenery from the top of the New York monument.
Eric and I have a thing we do where we take photos of each other taking photos of each other. It happens spontaneously, but we have a drill.
I love this set of pictures because it marks not only our first New Year’s Day together, but also the biggest mind f**k either one of us has ever experienced.
Continuing on, we passed the Wheat Field, and the Peach Orchard and hundreds of those monuments.
Our last stop was the Sachs Covered Bridge, which is apparently dreadfully haunted.
I found this graffiti on one of its posts.
Quality Inn, General Lee’s Headquarters
“Was this really Lee’s headquarters?” I mused, as we pulled into the parking lot to check their availability.
“I’m not sure.” Eric answered, as we drove by the historic stone house that guarded the parking lot.
“It’s not marked like a historical marker, I don’t think.” I saw no markers or anything that suggested this was the original house that Robert E. Lee took over as his headquarters during his days in Gettysburg. Only the house itself and the name of the Quality Inn. “Is this a marketing ploy?” There were signs, obviously, but I couldn’t determine their legitimacy.
I searched for info on my phone but it was hard to find a concrete answer, I shrugged and thought it was cool to be ON THE BATTLEFIELD, and Eric came back with a room key.
Once in the room, we turned the heat on and decided where to go for dinner. We rolled some cigarettes and headed out to the Gary Owen, Irish pub downtown. We enjoyed it immensely, and had good ole’ Irish food. I had a Reuben, which I had never had before and Eric has sausage and potatoes. I highly recommend this place and suggest you try it if in town!
After that, we drove around town like idiot teenagers, checking out the accessible battlefield roads in the dark, taking pictures of orbs floating around. We saw a helicopter and wondered if they were after us. Eric reminded me that the metal detector was still in the trunk, as it usually is. However, it’s interesting to note that you are not allowed to be in possession of a metal detector on the Gettysburg Battlefield.
After exhausting ourselves by acting like assholes while the whole town was sleeping, we returned to the motel around midnight.
“Why is it so cold in here?” Eric asked as soon as we stepped inside. “Didn’t we leave the heat on?” He went over to investigate and the heat wouldn’t turn on. The fan chugged steadily on high.
It was manageable, but not as warm as we had anticipated. We figured we would be fine with blankets and body heat.
We were futilely trying to get the photos to upload on the laptop, but they simply wouldn’t. It made no sense because we had used the memory card before on the same laptop.
“Did you hear that?” Eric asked, looking up from the screen.
“What?” I asked, distracted by my phone. He set laptop aside and went to the window.
“A knock at the door.” He peered out. “There is no one there.” I looked at him like he was crazy as I had heard nothing.
“Uh, I dunno.”
“The front desk lady was outside when we came in. Maybe we pissed her off coming in so late?” Eric wondered, popping open the door to nothing.
“It’s a hotel. They don’t have hours.”
“Maybe I’m hearing things.” He closed the laptop and we went to bed.
Noises in The Night
I was trying like mad to fall asleep, and after a while of being afraid to peer out of the blanket, I started to fall into a weird sleep.
The first thing I heard was in the wall. It sounded like a knock, and it was coming from the area within arm’s reach of my right side.
I shrugged it off, and told myself it was the heat, or the water pipes and that eased my mind a bit. Finally, after tossing and turning for an hour or so, I finally screamed Enough! at my brain, and forced it to stop. I was no stranger to ghosts and what was the worst that could happen?
I drifted off, fitful.
In that place between dreams and wakefulness I floated. First I heard what sounded like a door opening. An excessive, creaky door which would then slam shut. In my sleep, I imagined it was the front desk person, coming out for a cigarette perhaps, as it occurred periodically throughout the night.
Then, there were footsteps. Heavy footsteps with no other explanation to what they were. It sounded like they were thundering up a set of stairs directly against the wall behind the headboard. The footsteps continued across the ceiling, probably through the rooms on the second floor or the roof.
I’m not sure what time the fife and drum started, but maybe a few hours in. I heard it in my sleep- Civil War Music. Civil- f-ing-War -Music! It was so clear that I dreamt that the hotel staff had planted speakers in the room and used it to taunt the guests. There were very few other explanations for what I heard. One explanation is that I KNOW WHAT I HEARD. I didn’t dream or imagine this. I have never dreamt or imagined anything like this before.
The room was FREEZING. Eric was ice cold to the touch and I wrapped myself around him to try to warm us up. We were clothed and under blankets and I have NEVER been this cold inside an insulated room. I don’t know the temp overnight, but we weren’t coated in icicles while driving around earlier.
Finally, as the fife and drums commenced, enter the canon fire. Legit, thundering, balls to the wall canon fire. It pounded through my sleep induced melt down and was as legit as the music. I could FEEL it. This was the point that I considered that MAYBE the hotel WAS NOT taunting the guests. How could they possibly manufacture ambient canon fire without sub woofers and receivers which would run up a huge bill. For what? To drum up business??
Eventually, it must have stopped because I woke up at about 8:00am or so. I turned to Eric, who was awake.
“Did you hear that?” I asked.
“Yes. Did you?”
We hopped up and damn near left our stuff in the room, but once we opened the front door and realized it was day time and people were out and about, we calmed enough to gather our bags.
I shoved myself in the car while he went to the office to check out. I wondered if he was telling the front desk. I wasn’t entirely sure what he had experienced, but clearly, it was affecting him.
He got back in the car. and we left as soon as we could.
“They asked how our stay was.” Eric told me as we searched for coffee. “I said, well, it wasn’t that great. I told him I heard some stuff and didn’t sleep well. He asked what room we were in and when I told him, he looked confused. He said that most of the rooms that people complain about are on the other side, closer to the battlefield.”
“What?? Well, they’ll have to get over that assumption.” I said.
We found a quick breakfast, swung by the big souvenir shop and headed for home as it was starting to snow. My mom had already called to make sure we were avoiding the storm.
On the way home, Eric told me how his night went. He said he heard the same noise in the wall, and when he finally fell asleep, he started to hear voices in the room. They talked about his tattoos and said they weren’t going to save him. Then, he felt what felt like something grabbing his foot. After questioning his own sanity briefly, he shuffled his feet and felt the same thing in his other foot. Shortly thereafter he had heard the same creaking door and thumping footsteps. While he didn’t hear canon, he also heard fife and drum like I had.
We drove home in a daze. I’m not sure how much of that was the snow, and how much was the experience. I say the experience because I know I wasn’t right for weeks, months. I was edgy and slightly paranoid, almost as if something had come back with us. I saw shadows out of the corner of my eyes and couldn’t stop thinking about it.
Bruising and Floors
There were a few things that unnerved us even more about this:
- There was no second floor: no one was walking around above us.
- The roof was pitched: no one was walking around up there
- Eric had a thumb shaped bruise on the top of his foot and it lasted for months
In our quest to rationalize, we searched images online and realized that there was not second floor above our room. Nor was there a roof fit for casual walking.
Then, there was the bruise. Eric had a black and blue bruise on his foot. It was in the exact shape of a thumb.
And that’s all I have to say about that.
We returned to Gettysburg several times after that and did not have any further experiences. Not even once.
We returned to the same motel exactly one year later, on it’s last night ever as the Quality Inn. It was being torn down and the grounds restored because it was confirmed to have been General Lee’s headquarters. Wow.
So, we set up video cameras, and voice recorders and the whole nine. Nothing, Absolutely nothing. The room was peaceful, warm and quiet.
We visited Gettysburg on our way to Florida on our 3 Months In a Tent Adventure (http://freshairadventuring.org/category/3-months-in-a-tent/).
That is when we discovered that the grounds were the site of a huge battle and mass graves.
You can read my blog post about that through this link (http://freshairadventuring.org/2018/03/24/3-months-in-a-tent-4/ )