Gettysburg Ghost Tour Dilemmas

Yesterday, I happened to mention that a small town not too far from us will be holding weekly ghost walks every Friday during the summer. My 14 year old daughter piped up with, “Can’t we go to Gettysburg instead?” (She remembers neighbors talking about ghost walks they took there a few years back) Well, I answered that I’d check it out; Gettysburg’s proximity to Washington, DC may pre-empt my original plans to do a Philadelphia/Washington trip on Amtrak. So, I spent some time researching, and I’ll share what I found with you. Please feel free to contribute your own experiences with Gettysburg and their ghost tours as well.

There are many organizations offering tours in the area, which, surprisingly, is a turn-off to me. With so many vying with each other, I tend to fear that there may be a tendency to do whatever it takes to attract business away from competition. When I see cartoon ads with Casper-like, smiling ghosts, my first reaction is to cross the company off my list. The idea of creating a tourist attraction off lives-and deaths-of soldiers is bad enough, but to cutesy it up even further does not seem right at all. Yes, I am intrigued about the battlefields and the possibility of residue energy-to which others have alluded after capturing orbs on their photos- but I don’t know if I want a costumed comedian leading me down a path in the dark, creating dramatization geared to tourist naiveté. The fact that at least one store in town sells equipment to pick up electronic voice phenomena (and electrical magnetic energy spikes) capitalizes on peoples’ hopes to experience the unexplained. This underlines another fact: serious ghost hunters descend upon Gettysburg regularly and often.

Although I did not spend time checking out each of the ghost tour companies individually, I did go onto Trip Advisor to read about the Farnsworth House. This bed and breakfast inn was named #7 on a list of the Most Haunted Hotels in the country, compiled by a cable TV travel series. Not only is it supposed to be home to 14 spirits, there is also a tour or the facility open to the public. If you have free time and you’d like a few shivers, read some of the travel experiences of those who stayed at the Farnsworth House; they will either make you rush for reservations or adamantly insist on staying elsewhere.

Now, I must admit that I find the paranormal more intriguing than most people, but even I am a bit cynical regarding some of the stories relayed. I believe the gal who said that the unclasped necklace she left on her dresser at night was found clasped and hanging over her coat rack the following morning. I also believe the fellow who claimed his recorder wouldn’t tape or playback while he was in his room. I even believe that the room door suddenly opened by a woman juggling the doorknob who had forgotten her key, while her husband was in the bathroom, after having had locked the room door. But I don’t think I can really accept that a child ghost kept caressing one traveler’s hair throughout her visit, or that someone just happened to smell putrid odors during the tour of the basement after the guide mentioned “rotting flesh”. On the other hand, looking one visitor’s photography taken on the battlefield after midnight did send chills down my spine.

The question remains: does the inundation of tourists with ghost-hunting gear make an area that suffered tragic death any less significant, or does it make it more so?

Over the next few weeks, I’ll continue to investigate the possibilities and will keep you up to date. It’s good to know that there are also 32 Gettysburg tours that focus on battlefield history; such an amount has to offer historical perspectives in ways that can accomodate everyone’s personal interests. There is also a huge selection of times, lengths and costs in other local tours as well. In the meantime, in case you are interested in finding out more about the Farnsworth House, or Gettysburg itself for that matter, here are a few resources that I found to be helpful:

Convention and Visitor’s Bureau: http://www.gettysburg.travel/visitor/tours.asp?category_sub_id=195

Trip Advisor, Best Gettysburg Ghost Tours:
http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g60798-i335-k766599-Best_Ghost_Tour-Gettysburg_Pennsylvania.html

The Farnsworth House:
http://www.farnsworthhouseinn.com/rooms.html

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