Ghost Stories Of Harpers Ferry

Excerpts
From the book
"
A Ghostly Tour of Harpers Ferry"
by  Shirley Dougherty


 The Harpers

Phantom Army

Jenny

Dangerfield Newby

One Hundred Day Men

St. Peters Catholic Church


The Harpers

    In 1747, Robert Harper, an architect and millwright from Philadelphia, crossed the Potomac River at the place where it is joined by the beautiful Shenandoah. Known then as "The Hole," this point of land was then under the control of a squatter, Peter Stephens, who was operating a ferry from land belonging to Lord Fairfax.
        So impressed with the wild beauty of the area and the potential water power the rivers promised, Harper purchased the Ferry and Stephen's squatter rights. Harper later received a 125 acre plat from Fairfax.
        Arriving at this untamed wilderness from Philadelphia sometime later, Rachael Harper was said to have cried for days and begged her husband to return to civilization and abandon "The Hole" he chose for their new home. Instead, Harper built a Mill, and improved the Ferry service across the rivers.
        After losing their cabin along the Shenandoah to flood, the Harpers later built a new and grander home high above the flood plain. The Harper House stands today as the oldest surviving structure in Harpers Ferry.
        During the revolution laborers were hard to find and the aging Harper was forced to do much of the work himself with the result that his health began to fail, and fearing the roaming bands of renegades and plunderers, Harper instructed Rachael to bury all of their gold and tell no living soul of its whereabouts.
        Wartime construction was slowed and Harper Died before the house was completed. Trying to finish the building herself, Mrs. Harper, Falling from a ladder, was killed instantly - carrying the secret of the buried gold to her grave.
        During the 1800's it was widely believed that this building was haunted and was greatly feared by many local residents.
        It is not uncommon today that visitors to Harpers Ferry claim that when passing under the walls of this old building, they have seen an old woman dressed in 18th century fashions, peering from an upper-most window. Her gaze seems fixed on the old Harper Garden.
        It is reasonable to believe that the Harper Treasure was discovered long ago by some enterprising town resident, but Rachael Harper, ever true to her trust, seems to be guarding the gold steadfastly.

 

St Peters Catholic Church

        High above the town at the top of the old stone steps stands St Peters Catholic Church. This Church is the most impressive structure in Harpers Ferry. Built in Neo-Gothic style with native stone, it features tiffany stained glass windows, and a beautifully carved Marble alter. The church was built in the early 1830's on land earlier donated by Robert Harper. It was restored and enlarged in 1889. Since the restoration, it has been in continuous service.
        St Peters was the only church in Harpers Ferry to survive the Civil War intact. Father Costello remained behind to attend his church and he would raise the British flag from the steeple whenever the armies would shell the town from Maryland Heights. Both sides fearing an international incident with England, would fire on another target.
        At one time the church was used as a hospital and Father Costello himself care for the wounded.
        This story is about one of the wounded soldiers carried to the church. He was a young Catholic boy that took great comfort in the fact that he was to receive aid in the church of his faith. Since his wounds were not as severe as the others, he remained in the yard until later in the evening. As he lie there, his life's blood seeping away, he still had faith that help would soon come. He became weaker and weaker. At last, his turn came and as they carried him over the threshold of the church, he was heard to whisper in a weak voice, "Thank God, I'm Saved", and passed away. People say that some nights they will see a golden glow on the threshold of the church and hear a weak voice whispering, "Thank God I'm Saved".
        We can understand why our soldier boy still seeks help, but something else happens that leaves us perplexed. Many visitors tell us that late in the evenings, on their way to Jefferson Rock, as they pass the church they meet and old Priest coming from the rectory wearing a black Friars hat.
        Since his appearance is so quaint they stop to speak but father never returns their greetings. The visitors will stop to watch this odd-looking priest only to stare in disbelief as he turns and walks right through the doorless wall into the church. Why he returns to us, no one knows, but he is seen to frequently for any to deny his visits.

 

Jenny

        The railroad reached Harpers Ferry in 1833, linking the town with the east, and part of the track passed through the Armory Yard. Years before, in the building of the Armory, storage sheds were built along the river bank. Upon completion of the armory, when the sheds were no longer needed, they were neglected and finally abandoned. Now some of the less fortunate people in town occupied these teetering shacks, making them their homes. Jenny was one of the sad but lucky people living there through steamy summers and cruel winters.
        One chilly night, Jenny got so close to her fireplace, her ragged dress caught fire. In panic, she fled from her shack, ran down the railroad tracks, and was struck and killed by the night train.
        Today, engineers from nearby towns tell us they do not like coming through Harpers Ferry on misty nights. They often see a ball of fire careening wildly down the tracks emitting unearthly screams. They try to stop their diesels, but never in time. There is a bump, and when they finally get their train stopped, they investigate, but find nothing. The railroaders know Jenny has made another trip down the tracks desperately seeking help.
        Watch and listen as the trains pass this point in the old armory yard. You will be able to tell which engineers have met screaming Jenny by the slack speed they guide their trains over this section of track.
        Sometimes in the night, you will hear some train conductors, wildly blowing their whistle. You'll know then that Jenny has once again returned.

 

Dangerfield Newby

        One of the John Brown Raiders killed was a black man named Dangerfield Newby. He was freed by his white father, but his wife and seven children were still enslaved near Warrenton, VA. His Wife's master told Dangerfield that for the sum of $1500.00 he would sell him his wife and youngest child who was just learning to walk. When Newby raised the sum to purchase them, the master raised the price. Disillusioned and desperate he then joined John Brown, hoping to free his wife and children.
        The citizens armed themselves against the raiders in the early hours of the 17th. There were a lot of guns in town since they were manufactured here, but there was very little ammunition, and the townspeople were firing anything that would fit into a gun barrel. One man was shooting six inch spikes. It was one of these that hit Dangerfield Newby in the throat, killing him instantly. He became the first Raider to die. The then narrow minds of the townspeople remembered the Nat Turner Slave Rebellion of thirty years before in South Hampton and they became so enraged that they took their fear ignorance and frustration out on Newby's body. It was mutilated and dragged to a nearby alley where it was left to the hogs.
        To this day that alley bears the name of "Hog Alley". Some night as you walk the streets of Harpers Ferry, should you happen to meet a black man about 45 years old, wearing baggy pants, and old slouch hat, and bearing a terrible scar across his throat, you will know that you have met Dangerfield Newby, still trying to free his wife and children.

 

The One Hundred Day Men

        Mysterious fires are frequently seen on Maryland Heights, but when investigated, there are no signs of fire. Those that know the story shake their heads - knowing that the One Hundred Day Men are again fixing their dinner.
        At the outset of the Civil War, it was commonly believed that the conflict would be brief and fairly bloodless, and it was not unusual for recruits to enlist for short periods of time.
        Unfortunately, these brief enlistments did not allow sufficient time to train these green recruits in the basic skills of combat and many a poor soldier soon found himself on the battlefield poorly trained, ill equipped, and facing the enemy down the long barrel of a gun he did not fully know how to use.
        During July of 1861, a force of One Hundred Day Men from Ohio were stationed on Maryland Heights. It had been raining hard all day and when dinner time came, they looked around for some dry place to build their fire. Not finding any, they procured several large ammunition shells and heaping their meager supply of sticks and whatever dry tinder they could find upon these heavy artillery shells, they were soon cozily hunched around their blazing fire cooking their rations.
        Suddenly a terrible explosion shook the whole mountain, sending nearly every One Hundred Day Man to his heavenly reward in a brief but brilliant flash of glory.
        The light from that faraway campfire still continues to glow from time to time, even though one hundred and twenty years have passed since those poor young recruits tried to fix what turned out to be their last meal on earth.

 

Phantom Army

     In 1798, our new nation was in danger of war with France and troops were sent to Harpers Ferry under General Pinkney. They camped on the ridge around the bend on High St., a place now called Camp Hill. Since the war did not develop and there was little for the soldiers to do, each evening they treated the townspeople to a parade. They would march down the hill playing their fifes keeping time with the steady beat of drums. Victims of a cholera outbreak, many of those men never left Harpers Ferry and now lie buried on the west bank of Camp Hill, but their spirits remain fretful. It is hard to find a resident of the town that at one time or another has not rushed to their window expecting to watch a parade go by. Instead they hear only the eerie notes of the fifes and the steady beat of the drums. The Marchers come closer and pass on, the sounds receding into the evening shadows. We hear, but cannot see the Phantom Army parading down the street.

 


The Following Stories are also told in
A Ghostly Tour of Harpers Ferry
This Book can be Purchased at several locations in Harpers Ferry.

The Wagers Come To Town
The Door
Armory
Dr Brown
John Brown and the Raid
Civil War
Whimpering Baby
Jacob
Drummer Boy
Iron Horse Inn
Fatty Hubbard
The Lady In The Eyelet Dress
Leo Byrnes
Secret Grave
The Baby in the Cradle
The Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers
Epilogue

Tours are given on Saturdays in April and May.
Fridays and Saturdays from Memorial Day to Nov. 8th.
Reservations required Oct and Nov. $4.00 per person.
Tours start at 8 pm at
Lori's Cafe on Potomac St.
Special tours given to groups of 20 or more, Reservations Required.
304-725-8019