America's haunted Army
October 6, 2008
Ghost stories have long fascinated the living. Some seek the thrills, others are searching for answers about the afterlife. People can find both the exhilarating and the enlightening on several Army posts.
Many installations have reported strange occurrences and ghostly activity, ranging from prank-playing poltergeists to terrifying visions. Some bases are haunted by long-forgotten Soldiers, some by civilians, and some are troubled by the unidentifiable paranormal.
<b>New Jersey Devils</b>
Fort Dix, N.J., has its fair share of paranormal activity. In addition to sightings of the infamous Jersey Devil by Soldiers during World War II and again in the 1990s, Walson Hospital is said to be haunted.
Walson is one of the most active spots on the installation. Accounts of strange light orbs, unexplained drops in temperature and sightings of ghostly visitors abound. The former basement morgue and psychiatric ward are usually where the eerie stories originate.
Dameyon Beamon, a member of the 305th Medical Group at Walson from 1995 to 1997, said he encountered strange happenings there.
"I worked nights at the primary care clinic," Beamon said. "On many occasions when we would do security checks, the front door that used to be the pharmacy entrance would be unlocked, even if only an hour ago it was locked tight."
One night, Beamon and a co-worker went to the ninth floor, the former psychiatric ward, and noticed an open window in one of the rooms.
"At the precise moment Clark closed the window, the light in the room flickered, turned off and then came back on," he said.
Beamon added that he also came across a supernatural phenomenon while exploring the old morgue. While looking at pictures from events that had taken place in the morgue, he heard "the sound of a grown man crying."
Several of the more gruesome tales of ghosts come from Fort Huachuca, Ariz., where many apparitions are linked to tragic, untimely deaths. Hangman's Warehouse is reportedly haunted by two Soldiers who were hung in 1942: Pvt. James Rowe and Staff Sgt. Jerry Sykes, who both committed murder within two weeks of each other, according to Cornelius C. Smith's book, "Fort Huachuca: The Story of a Frontier Post."
Quarters Number 9, Carleton House, has the most documented hauntings on post. Constructed in 1880, it was built as an eight-bed hospital and has since been used as officers' quarters, mess, schoolhouse and chapel. When Carleton House was a hospital, a woman dubbed "Charlotte" died in childbirth there. It is reported that her ghost still wanders the halls, searching for her child. One family who lived in the house had a young daughter who had seen Charlotte, but referred to her as "Barbie." The girl often spoke about Barbie coming to visit, reading her stories or carrying on conversations. A rocking chair in the girl's room was said to move by itself, presumably because Charlotte was sitting in it.
Recently, during a renovation of the building, contractors repeatedly reported finding doors that had been locked at night and open in the morning. Tools that had been put away were found scattered.
Virginia's Fort Monroe is frequented by many long-dead historical figures, in addition to several Soldier and civilian ghosts. Most of the sightings occur within the Casemate-a moat encircled structure built in the 1800s. The homes within the fortress have been visited by several apparitions, including that of a small child dressed in turn-of-the-century clothing, who can be heard laughing and playing with toys.
Quarters 1, the oldest and most ornate residential structure on post, is said to be haunted by the Marquis de Lafayette, Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant. These figures are usually seen reviewing papers that are likely connected to troop movements and battles of the Civil War. Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who had been incarcerated at Monroe, returns to the base and wanders freely atop the ramparts of his former prison.
Tales of strange noises and inanimate objects that move by themselves still exist today. One construction worker swears he heard footsteps and a slamming door while working alone on the 8th floor of the Chamberlin building earlier this year. Project consultant Larry Knott confirmed that no other workers were on the top floor at that time.
"We're pretty much convinced it was Esmerelda," Knott said, referring to the ghost that is said to reside in the building. Legend has it that Esmerelda's fisherman-father was lost at sea in the 1920s, and she is still trying to find a vantage point that would give her a glimpse of his return.
Several of the most notorious tales of spirits come from Kansas, at Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth. Leavenworth is home to one of the most famous haunts in Kansas: the Rookery.
Built in 1832, the Rookery is the oldest building on post and currently serving as family quarters. Reports of apparitions of a young girl, an elderly man with bushy hair, and of several older women have been made.
Fort Riley also boasts several buildings troubled by phantoms. McGill Hall, built in 1889 to house Cavalry troops and the oldest building on base, is frequented by a tall figure in a dark overcoat.
During the Cavalry's stay in McGill, residents had a unit photograph taken after formation one day. The Soldiers replaced their rifles in a circular rack after the session, barrels upright and leaning in together. One Soldier did not properly unload his rifle, and as he inserted it into the rack it discharged-killing another Soldier.
In 1997, Spc. Bradley Ehrhardt returned to Fort Riley from deployment and was transferred to the 977th Military Police Company. His barracks were in McGill Hall.
One evening, Ehrhardt returned to McGill before his roommate and was alone in his room. At around 1 a.m., he awoke to discover a figure looming over the foot of his bed.
The apparition was more than six feet tall, and wore a dark overcoat. Ehrhardt described the figure as being like a shadow, though he couldn't see through him. Eventually, Ehrhardt gathered his courage and confronted the phantom, saying he would appreciate it if it just left him alone and "went somewhere." The specter vanished and he never saw it again, but other members of Ehrhardt's unit claim to have seen and heard the Soldier walking around the barracks.
From kindly nannies to brutal criminals, each installation has its own unique, ghostly past. Though some people seek the stories purely for the joy of frightening themselves, others - the ones who have experienced the paranormal-find these tales to be quite real.
<i> Patrick Buffet of Fort Monroe Public Affairs, Angela Moncur of Fort Huachuca Public Affairs, Alison Kohler of Fort Riley Public Affairs and Jennifer McCarthy of Fort Dix Public Affairs contributed to this story.