Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Gray Lady of Camp Chase

Camp Chase Cemetery
This small two-acre cemetery, located in Columbus, Ohio, contains the graves of 2,269 Confederate soldiers. 

The men buried here did not die in battle but instead were imprisoned at Camp Chase during the Civil War.

Camp Chase was used initially to train Union volunteers with a few political and military prisoners kept on the site. 

With the onset of the war, and Union battle victories, Confederate officers began to be taken as prisoners of war.

Camp Chase, run by volunteers in 1862, at first was a lenient prison. Confederate officers could mail letters and receive gifts of food and money. The officers were even allowed to walk the streets of Columbus.

However, this changed when the federal government took over the management of the camp. All officer privileges were now eliminated—visitors and mail were banned.

The prison.
The living standards at the camp declined as more and more Confederate soldiers were imprisoned on the site. The prisoners who were now both officers and enlisted men, slept two to a bed and were provided little protection from the elements.

By 1863, there were 8,000 prisoners held at the camp, twice the number it was designed for. Many lived in tents.

The men weakened by the cold, and the meager rations began to succumb to diseases. In February of 1864 alone, over 400 men contracted smallpox and died.

At this point, Camp Chase's cemetery was established.

This photo was taken at the cemetery before 1902.
At the end of the war, the buildings at the camp were torn down. Some of the wood from these structures was used to make markers for the dead. Soon all that remained at the site was a stone wall, the rotting wood markers, and the bodies.

By 1896, the first memorial service honoring the dead was held at the site. This came about mostly through the efforts of a former Union officer, William H. Knauss--who wanted to foster the spirit of reconciliation-- he had been left for dead at Fredericksburg.

2007 Memorial Service
Hilltop Historical Society
Over the years, these memorial services have attracted thousands of visitors. They are held annually in June.

In June of 1902, the state of Ohio placed a granite memorial arch—built with funds given by the public. In 1906, Congress replaced the cemetery’s wooden markers with marble tombstones.

During the annual memorial services The United Daughters of the Confederacy pays tribute by placing flowers on the graves.

Arch placed in 1902.
Two graves at Camp Chase are given special attention, at other times of the year. Flowers are found placed on these two tombstones, this would not be considered unusual, except for the fact it is a ghost that does this.

No one knows for sure the identity of this spirit—called the Gray Lady. Some sources state her last name was Briggs.

She is seen putting fresh flowers on the graves of Benjamin Allen, as well as the tomb of an unknown soldier.

Several local and regional paranormal groups have investigated Camp Chase Cemetery—but the Gray Lady has eluded them.

Frederick “Freddy” Jones is one of the many who attends the memorial service regularly. He travels to Ohio in June, for his pizza business in Houston, Texas.

He believes in the Gray Lady for as a boy growing up in Columbus, he saw her.

At the age of fourteen he and several other boys were invited to a sleepover, just a few blocks from Camp Chase.

He and the rest of the group had heard stories about the Gray Lady. Late that night they snuck out and rode their bikes to the cemetery. The gate was locked so they climbed over the fence.

Freddy remembers that the tombstones glowed in the dark and that he was overwhelmed with an eerie feeling, as the group searched for Benjamin Allen’s grave. When they found it, there were no flowers on it.

Disappointed and sleepy, the group moved to leave, but they stopped when they heard what sounded like someone crying inside the cemetery—it was loud choking sobs.

They spotted a figure shrouded in the darkness, moving through the tombstones. It was a female, and she carried a bouquet of flowers.

Freddy remembers that every inch of her body was covered in clothes—with a high collar and long pleated skirts. She drew close enough that he saw glistening tears on her cheeks.

He watched as she floated, instead of walked, and was surprised he felt no fear. She then floated right through two trees.

She bent down at one grave and was mouthing words the boys could not hear—it appeared she was praying.

She placed the bouquet on top of the tombstone, and then turned and floated back the way she had come. She passed right through the iron fence that surrounded the cemetery and faded away.

None of the boys have ever forgotten this amazing sight. Their friendship was cemented that night because they shared this experience.

Freddy specifically states, he will never forget the wrenching sounds of the Gray Lady’s sobs.

The group always attends the annual Camp Chase memorial services.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Very moving and interesting