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The Farnsworth House
The Farnsworth House
by Dave Sircom
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania has got to be the most haunted home town in America and located at 401 Baltimore Street in Gettysburg, you’ll find The Farnsworth House Inn, which by most accounts, is the most haunted Inn and B&B in that town and according to the Travel Channel, “One of the top 5 most haunted Inns in America”. Built in 1810, this beautiful Victorian structure had already stood for over fifty years prior to the start of the Civil War and to this day, retains many of its original floors and walls.
My wife, Ann, and I arrived at the Farnsworth House Inn at 4:00PM on May 7th, 2009, for a two night stay. We were primarily interested in the attic area, the basement, the Eisenhower and Longstreet Rooms. The other most active guest room is reported to be the Sara Black Room but it was unavailable for investigation. But first a little history on The Farnsworth House Inn.
Commandeered and occupied by the Confederacy, the Farnsworth House Inn played a strategic role in the battle of Gettysburg. A sniper’s bullet fired out a third story window on July 3, 1863 reportedly passed through two wooden doors, and was responsible for the only direct civilian death during the three day battle, Mary Virginia “Ginnie” or “Jenny” Wade. She was a twenty year old seamstress and engaged to a man named Jack Skelly who died of his wounds in the Battle of Winchester, nine days later. He never knew that his beloved “Ginnie” had predeceased him. Ginnie and her mother had a house near the center of town on Breckenridge Street where they operated a small seamstress business. Mr. Wade, Ginnie’s father, apparently found a large wad of cash in the jacket of a customer who inadvertently left it in the coat he had dropped off to be repaired by Mrs. Wade. Mr. Wade, it is reported, went on a drinking binge from tavern to tavern. Word spread around town of Mr. Wade’s spending and he was confronted by the coat’s owner who demanded his money be returned. Unable to explain how he had come upon such a large sum legitimately or make restitution, Mr. Wade was imprisoned leaving Ginnie and her mother to make ends meet.
Mary Virginia “Ginnie” or “Jennie” Wade (May 21, 1843 – July 3, 1863)
On the first day of the battle, July 1, 1863, Ginnie along with her two younger brothers and mother went to her older sister’s house located at 528 Baltimore Street, up and across the street from The Farnsworth House Inn, to help out as the older sister, Georgia, had just given birth. The house sustained over 150 bullet shots to the exterior. Early in the day, on July 3rd, a snipers errant bullet believed to have been fired from a third floor window at The Farnsworth House Inn, passed through one and possibly two wooden doors only to strike Ginnie Wade in the heart, killing her instantly. After the war, eventually, in November 1865, Ginnie’s remains were exhumed and placed in the Evergreen Cemetery very close to the grave of her fiance Jack Skelly.
The Inn is named after Elon John Farnsworth who attained the rank of Brigadier General in the Union Army. After Pickett’s Charge, Farnsworth was ordered to divert Confederate troops in a manner believed to be a suicide mission. Farnsworth questioned the strategic rationale of the mission but when his bravery was questioned, followed his orders. Most accounts, and many by Confederate soldiers, state that Farnsworth lost about twenty-five percent of his men and, while not injured in the battle, took five shots in the chest on his way back to the Union lines through the Confederate controlled area. Not wishing to be captured alive by the enemy, he ended his life with a single pistol shot.
Brigadier General Elon John Farnsworth (1837-1863)
Though named for a Union officer, the Farnsworth House Inn stands as a testament to the bravery and heroism displayed by both Union and Confederate soldiers and officers.
Ann and I spent our first night investigating the attic area which included the sniper’s lair beside the small 3rd floor window. A Confederate sniper team usually consisted of two men and the sharpshooter. Once a shot had been fired, the rifle was handed to one man who then handed back to the sharpshooter a fully loaded rifle. The other man would be re-loading the first. If the sniper was hit by a bullet, which was a very common occurrence, the body was dragged across the floor to the opposite side of the attic and put on top of the previously wounded or dead. That’s right, the wounded were put right on top the dead and other wounded and left like that until care could be provided. Apparently, the pile could become rather large.
Now, before entering the attic we struck up a conversation with a young couple. His name was Chris and his wife’s name I never got. They both appeared to be looking forward to, and even a little excited, about our “spooky” adventure. Neither had any training or real experience in paranormal investigation but a ghost hunt sounded like fun to them.
We were taken to the attic by a staffer named Joanne who was extremely knowledgeable about the Inn and reiterated the Jenny Wade- shot- by –a- sniper- story. We weren’t there long when I caught Chris make a quick and jerky movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned to look at him and his entire demeanor had changed from carefree, happy-go-lucky to somber and visibly upset. I noticed his wife was looking oddly at her husband and with a little concern. I happen to be just in front and to the right of Chris and I heard his wife ask quietly “What’s the matter”? “Somebody tugged on my shirt.” was his reply. Chris asked Joanne if there was anybody else up here with us as a joke and she stated absolutely not. Chris went on to describe what he experienced by saying that it wasn’t just a slight pull but a hard tug. He appeared more upset now than before. Chris had been standing exactly where the wounded and/or dead bodies of the sharpshooters were stacked. Personally, I felt nothing paranormal. I never do, anyway, except out on the battlefields.
There was nothing on my digital voice recorder and the only high EMF reading I recorded that night was directly over the bed in the Eisenhower room. It was a solid and continuous 3 lights on the K2 meter. We went into the basement and with the exception of a cold light breeze blowing across my wife’s ankles, nothing. There was sump-pump which turned off and on with regularity and we attributed the breeze to this.
We retired to our room for the evening and both of us slept very soundly. About 7:30AM, Ann emerged from the bathroom and asked “Did you hear that”? And I replied that I had. We had both heard the tinkling of a small bell. It was like; tinkle-tinkle-tinkle. Very faint but totally distinguishable and it definitely wasn’t from outside. Earlier, we had noticed a small silver bell, like a sleigh bell only much smaller, hung by a string over a picture on the wall in our room. I removed the bell and gave it a shake but it made no noise at all. At breakfast in the main dining room I asked if they rang a bell to notify the guests that breakfast was being served and the hostess said “We used to, but not anymore. We stopped a couple of years ago.”
We spent the rest of the day touring, shopping ands driving through the battlefields. We have been here numerous times over the years when no one around. But the battlefields were very busy with tour buses and large groups of school kids. EVP work was out of the question. As a note, the park is open until 10:00PM after which, if caught on park property, you will be arrested, your equipment confiscated and you will be fined $2,000 each!
I have found February to be the very best time. There is nobody, I mean nobody, around! It can be a little chilly but warms up when the sun comes up. The last February we were there, 2 trips ago, around 7:00AM, I set up seven different types of recorders on rocks in the stream that meanders through Devil’s Den. I have always had great luck getting EVPs from gurgling water. This is because of the fact that all phonemes found in human speech can also be found in gurgling water. Anyway, I was hopping from rock to rock trying to stay dry until I had everything up and recording. Ann and I went to the top of Devil’s Den to enjoy the quiet and serenity of the morning. A half hour later I returned to the rock hopping as I gathered up my equipment. Out of nowhere a car arrives a young man gets out. He says that he’s working on the road a little ways away but wondered if I knew how Devil’s Den got its name. I confess to him my total ignorance and he says “Because of the snakes that come out to warm-up on the rocks in the stream.” He goes on to tell us that they are mostly cottonmouths or water moccasins, I don’t remember which one he specifically mentioned as I was busy entering the early stages of shock, which are very aggressive and inflict a particularly nasty bite. I never saw a ghost at Devil’s Den and probably never will. I’ll be too busy looking at the ground.
However, during this earlier February trip, I had occasion to set up all seven recorders by a field in front a memorial honoring South Carolina and asked “Is there anyone from the Carolina's still here?” I did get a response on my radio shack recorder (it has a limited frequency response range of only 150 to 4000 Hz) of “I ‘m still here!” even had a distinctly southern accent.
Some time was spent in the sitting room adjacent to the Eisenhower Room with my Olympus WS-210S. Two Class “B” EVPs were captured. Both were within 2 minutes of each other and not in response to any question. The first said “I can hear you.” And the second was “I think he’s blind.”
The Longstreet Room was our favorite being just beside the garden and next to the bookstore. It just had that “haunted” feeling. The only noises caught on tape here were from the people above us as they took their midnight shower.
If you ever get the chance to stay at the Farnsworth House Inn, and we both recommend it highly, make certain to have dinner there. The food was great and the service outstanding. Make sure you ask for either Topaz or Erin as your waitress. You won't be disappointed