Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Ghosts of Carlisle Barracks

Carlisle Barracks is located in the Cumberland Valley in Pennsylvania. Today Carlisle Barracks is considered one of the best military schools in the world. 

Three of its most famous graduates are John J. Pershing, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Omar N. Bradley. 
Gateway to Frontier

Initially, this military post was the spot were early traders and settlers stopped to rest before they made their way across the Allegheny Mountains. In 1757 Carlisle became a permanent military post.

When George Washington visited the area during the Revolutionary War, he recommended this site be used for the newly proposed military academy, but Carlisle lost out to West Point, NY. 

In the late 1830s, the post evolved into a school to instruct the U.S. Army’s mounted forces. 

During the Civil War, Union troops occupied both the post and the town of Carlisle. Major General J.E.B. Stuart, a Confederate soldier, demanded the post and town surrender but when they didn’t, he shelled both and set fire to the post-- several buildings burned down.

Cavalry School
In 1879, Carlisle Barracks became the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. Its most famous student and the best athlete was Jim Thorpe. * 

At the onset of World War l, the Barracks was returned to the War Department. It became a hospital that specialized in the treatment of mental rehabilitation for those suffering from the newly identified trauma--called “Shell Shock.”

By the 1920s the Medical Field Service took over the Barracks. They remained for 26 years then in 1946, Carlisle was used for a series of six different army schools. 

In 1951, the U.S. Army War College relocated to Carlisle and to this day prepares senior officers for high command.
Entrance to Carlisle Indian
Industrial School

Carlisle’s varied history has left the Barracks haunted by a variety of ghosts. Some of this activity reflects the time when Carlisle was the Indian School. Many confounded witnesses have reported hearing faint band music from the late 19th and the early 20th centuries. 

This music is heard near Carlisle’s bandstand. It is often played with gusto but off-key, so it felt that this was probably a young student band, from the school, performing a concert.

The ghost of Jim Thorpe is also seen at Carlisle. People passing the Old Gymnasium at night report hearing the dribbling of a basketball, and the shuffle of sneakers. 

What is unusual is when this is heard, there are no lights on in the gym. Most witnesses feel this must be the Indian School’s basketball team continuing to practice -- Thorpe was its star athlete.

Jim Thorpe’s apparition has also been seen at the Letort View Community Center. 

Other ghosts seen at this center include a well-dressed female student who is considered to be one of Thorpe’s classmates and a man dressed in farm attire. The cellar of this building is so active it has been dubbed, “purgatory.”

Some of the ghostly activity reflects a much earlier time. At Carlisle, there is a building that was initially used as a powder magazine. Today this building is used as a museum that houses a variety of military artifacts. 

Many believe the Hessian soldiers who were forced to construct it in 1777, still haunt it. 

During the Revolutionary War German soldiers called Hessians were captured at the Battle of Trenton. The American rebels hated these soldiers because they were not fighting on principle but as mercenaries that were paid by the English to fight on their side.

Today strange noises are heard coming from the Powder Magazine Museum, including sightings of very tall Hessian soldiers wearing oddly pointed hats. 

A new resident staying at a nearby barracks in the 1990s, tells about one encounter. He heard loud noises from the magazine late at night, so he went to investigate.

Photo: Jerry & Roy Klotz MD
Carlisle Powder Magazine Museum

The doors at this time of night are typically locked, but this man discovered the first door was unlocked--so he went in. The second door was shut tight. As he peered through a window, he literally fell down in shock at what he saw. 

He expected to see a museum full of military artifacts, but instead, he saw several Hessian soldiers standing in a room that was obviously the old 1700 powder magazine.

Yet another ghost spotted at Carlisle is a woman dressed in old-fashioned green-colored clothing. She is always seen entering or exiting various homes along the Barracks’ Flower Road. 

When people have attempted to speak to her, she just vanishes into one of the houses. But people inside these homes never see her enter. 

In Washington Hall Guest House people often report hearing the distressed calls of an infant but when they go in search of this baby, they discover no children are in the house.

One officer while training at Carlisle had a series of unusual events happen in his apartment, that is located in one of the barracks that was rebuilt after it was burned down by Major General J.E.B. Stuart’s men during the Civil War. 

This officer bought a famous print of the major general titled, The Last Crusade. He had it framed and hung it on his apartment wall.

Away from Carlisle for a vacation, he returned to find this picture had fallen off the wall. The nails were still in place, and the frame and wire on the back were intact, but the glass was smashed. How this glass was broken is what he found odd. 

It appeared as if a foot had precisely stomped down over Stuart’s face smashing the glass only in this area.

This officer had the glass replaced and rehung this print. But shortly after returning from another absence, he found the copy once more on the floor with the glass damaged only over the face. 

He had the glass replaced again. The same thing happened for a third time. Not giving up, the officer had the glass replaced yet again and hung the print back in its place.

A few weeks after he and his wife were awakened by the sound of the print being broken. They heard the picture fall from the wall, and then they heard a “popping, crushing sound, like a heavy foot, twisting on the glass.” 

He saw that the glass was smashed over the face of the famous Confederate once more. Stuart ordered the burning of the Barracks in 1863. This decision created a lot of enemies. After this incident, many felt this was a ghost of a Union soldier, who took his chance to take revenge.

*  Jim Thorpe, a Native American, is considered one of the most versatile athletes of modern sports. He won Olympic Gold medals in the pentathlon and decathlon events in 1912. 

But these metals were taken back when it was discovered he had played two semi-professional seasons of baseball before he won them. 

After the Olympics, he played professional baseball, football, and basketball. He left sports at the age of 41--this was at the start of the Great Depression. For the rest of his life, he struggled to make a living. He became an alcoholic, and in his later years, he was in poor health and lived in poverty. 

After Thorpe's death, his daughter persisted, and she succeeded in convincing the Olympic Committee to reverse their decision, and restore her father's Olympic Gold medals.

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