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It's perhaps a sign of the times that a site hugely famous in American history has been turned into a ghost tour.

Fantasy? Legend? Hucksterism?

We speak here of Gettysburg (as in Pennsylvania and Civil War).

A sojourn to its battlefields and downtown reveals a town caught up into a heap of the occult.

On every corner, or seemingly every corner, at least alongside the fields, are storefronts advertising (sometimes with sidewalk hawkers) little walkathons or rides to the most allegedly "haunted" parts of this historic place.

It would not be surprising, in the least, if there's a supernatural element: With nearly eight thousand dead during the battle that occurred there in 1863 (with a total of 46,000 left dead, wounded, or missing), there is bound to be spiritual residue, perhaps unsettled souls as there are at many places of tragedy or at graveyards.

Saint Padre Pio once said he saw more spirits of the deceased than of the living (and during World War Two, they came to him for deliverance, in spirit form).

Saint John Bosco had similar interactions -- as did other saints. Just superstition? Call it what you will.

But here, in Gettysburg, it's a tourist-psychic attraction. It's almost always mentioned as one of the top haunted places in the United States and featured on those ghost-hunter television shows (which should be avoided).

With that comes danger.

As one occult blog says, "hundreds upon hundreds of ghosts have been sighted and haunting activity experienced at this National Military Park. Tourists and ghost hunters have snapped photos with enigmatic images; dozens of fascinating EVP [electronic voice phenomena] recordings have been made; and one of the most interesting and compelling ghost videos was shot there."

Let us honor the brave dead -- not conjure them.

When that occurs, often the Deceiver comes in masquerade.

One of the prime places for "ghosts": a spot on one battlefield called "Devil's Den" (some even claim to have encountered a flesh-and-blood personage, or photographed a mystery person).

There's a large hotel with a gift shop that promotes itself as the site of the ghost of the only civilian casualty of the war (a woman named Jennie Wade).

There's the Daniel Lady farm, where hundreds of earthbound spirits supposedly still wander.

There is Sach's Covered Bridge, where "orbs" and soldiers are spotted.

There are the numerous claims from visitors who say they saw "shadow people" or heard neighing horses and the sounds of battle (coming from a fog).

There is Gettysburg College.

Some of it is fantasy. Some of it is hucksterism. Some of it seems spiritual. We could feel the oppression (for your discernment).

We also saw a fairly strong lightning storm.

Spirits can attach to the curious. They can come home with us. They can "transfer." All these sorts of things are covered in the book, The Spirits Around Us.

If it is the supernatural one wants, one need only venture a dozen or so miles south to the remarkable grotto at Mount St. Mary's College across the border at Emmitsburg. Here the deceased who manifest are the holy kind.

Notes a site: "Civil War battles have been the subject of many motion pictures, but one of the best and most moving was 1993ís Gettysburg. During the filming of that movie, much of which was done right on location at the actual battlefields, some of the participants had an unexplained encounter. Because the film required so many extras to serve as soldiers, the production hired re-enactors who regularly portray the Union and Confederate armies.

"During a break in filming one day, several of the extras were resting at Little Round Top [scene of a particularly crucial military engagement] and admiring the setting sun. They were approached by a grizzled old man, who they described as wearing a ragged and scorched Union uniform and smelling of sulfur gunpowder. He talked to them about how furious the battle was as he passed around spare rounds of ammunition, then went on his way.

"At first, the extras assumed he was part of the production company, but their minds changed when they looked closely at the ammunition he gave them. They took the rounds to the man in charge of giving out such props for the movie, and he said they did not come from him. It turns out the ammunition from the strange old man were genuine musket rounds from that period."

You hear a lot of that. You see store after store selling ghost t-shirts. There are videos. There is a ghost-tour train.

It all but obscures the historical aspect.

A sign of the times.


If it's not to pray for such souls, leave it all alone.

[resources: The Spirit Around Us (back in stock)]

[see also: Haunting mystery leads to ghost tour]

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