Friday, December 6, 2013

Baltimore’s Haunted Fort McHenry

This Maryland fort designed by French architect Jean Foncin in a 5-stared shape was completed in 1798. It was named after George Washington’s Secretary of War, James McHenry.

It is located on Locus Point Peninsula, which juts out into the opening of Baltimore Harbor. This fort is best known for the role it played in the War of 1812.

Bombardment of Fort McHenry
during War of 1812

The British bombarded the fort for 25 hours in 1814 for the control of Baltimore Port. It was during this struggle that the sight of the American flag * “still standing” moved a young lawyer --who had come to the fort to negotiate the release of a political prisoner of war-- to write a poem entitled, The Defense of Fort McHenry.

This young lawyer was Francis Scott Key and the poem he wrote was re-named and became America’s National Anthem--The Star Spangled Banner.

The 15-Star Flag that
inspired Key to write
his poe
During this British attack 4 people died at the fort--including the only black soldier to fight at McHenry. His ghost is still seen at the fort today. He is spotted carrying a rifle on his shoulder and pacing back and forth--as if he is still on duty.

During the Civil War, Fort McHenry was used as a prison for Confederate soldiers and for Confederate sympathizers. During World War l it was used as a hospital for returning wounded soldiers.

Workers and visitors state that because of the fort's dark history it has an oppressive atmosphere. People often report “a sense of dread,” “the feeling of being watched” and “the sensation of movement” when no one else is nearby.

Shadow figures are seen and people often smell gunpowder. Others report hearing crying, or the sound of drums playing in the distance. One dark entity seen by workers in the interior halls of the fort has frightened and even attacked people over the years.

A docent who works in one of the fort’s prison cells tells my favorite McHenry ghost story. For a long time he felt that he was not alone in this cell. For comfort he named this ghost--George. He feels his unusual friend might be one former Major of Baltimore--George William Brown.

Brown, a “political prisoner” was imprisoned at Fort McHenry during the Civil War. This docent sometimes would talk to George and he always said, “Goodnight George” before he left at the end of the day.

One day he forgot to bid his ghostly friend goodbye. As he went to exit the cell the door slammed shut. When he tried to open it, it was ripped from his hands forcefully and slammed shut again.

Unseen hands pushed this docent away from the cell door. Afraid but keeping his wits he realized his mistake. He loudly announced, “Goodnight George.” The cell door opened slowly and he was allowed to exit.

* Mary Pickersgill with the help of her daughter, two nieces and two African-American servants sewed this flag. 

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