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Episode 135: A Good Death
"It's an unremarkable. Stretch of land by Standards Wide Open field surround the place with marshland and the occasional regional rise in the landscape. It's the Scottish highlands in just about every way you can imagine wendy wet and steel gray and immensely beautiful but it's also haunted. Many who visit this patch of land due east of Auburn s have reported the most unusual experiences. Some visitors have seen injured men line in the tall grass only to watch them vanish as they move in for a closer look others have witnessed men in military leterrier uniforms. Walking out of the marsh toward them and oddest of all local birds either. Avoid the area altogether or somehow feel compelled to remain silent adding to the Erie atmosphere. The good news is that these sightings only happened once a year on April sixteenth. That's that's because the land is the site of bloody battle known as the battle of Colloton it was a confrontation that took place in seventeen. Forty six between British forces and rebels from the JACOBITE uprising and conflict. That saw the loss of nearly twenty five hundred lives and every year on the anniversary of that tragic event event the past it seems returns to make itself known because some tragedies are too difficult to move on from and as a result they gnaw at the present either through unusual experiences or the details of the stories. We still tell about them today. But it's not the only battlefield field known to be haunted by the events they once played host to all over the world. There are locations where soldiers fought and died that still seem to have an atmosphere of their own where the darkness as yet to let go and it's easy to understand why all of that pain and suffering and death concentrated into one location. Can't help but leave a mark even in a relatively new country like the United States. There are countless battlefields with reputation. Tation for something darker as if the past still waits for US behind a thin veil and thanks to its pivotal role in American history. Sorry and the magnitude of suffering that took place there is one battlefield that most people today have heard of even if they don't know about the shadows. It contains Gettysburg. I'm Aaron McKie. And this is Laura It wasn't just a battle. That's probably not a shock to many people but if we're honest most of the time someone says the name Gettysburg Gettysburg it's in reference to the battle but long before shots were fired. Gettysburg was a community. It was first settled in seventeen sixty one when when a tavern was built at a well travelled crossroads for people journeying between Baltimore and Philadelphia in what could be seen as a bit of foreshadowing. Most of those travelers were soldiers and their frequent stops. Help turn the tavern into something more by the seventeen ninety s locals were referring to the community there as Gettysburg by the time the dark clouds of the American civil war were gathering on the horizon. Gettysburg was home to nearly five hundred buildings most of which were homes but also businesses ZAN centers for manufacturing and of course there was the railroad line that passed through which also contributed to the communities. Gruff Gettysburg was also no more than a battle. In another way while the infamous battle most people remember only took place over the course of three days. It was part of a larger campaign called creatively early. The Gettysburg Campaign for most of June and July eighteen sixty three military activities swirled around the little community. They're like a large beehive of hanging from the branch of a small tree. That would change soon enough. Southern General Robert Lee had been trying to invade the North for a while his his hope was that if he succeeded he might force President Lincoln to consider some kind of peaceful agreement. But Lincoln wasn't going to let that happen in the weeks leading up to the main battle Adult Union forces under the command of General Joseph Hooker position themselves in the area around Gettysburg hoping to act like a barrier between Lee and the north so what took place between July first and July third was the bloodiest battle of the entire civil war despite replacing General Joseph Hooker just just three days earlier union general George Meade Managed to repel the confederate forces and send generally back south. It's saved the north from invasion and help help turn the tide in the larger conflict but that victory came at an enormous cost with over fifty one thousand casualties between the two sides. Roughly thirty percent of everyone involved historian drew Gilpin Faust puts that figure into morbid perspective by equating it to six million pounds of dead bodies and those bodies were left to rot in the hot July son too because the long held tradition of the victors burying the dead had been tossed out the window earlier in the war. It was was just too hard to keep up. But it's not just that the union forces didn't have time to dig graves turns out there weren't enough supplies to get the job done either. A key tool in that process was shovels. Obviously and there weren't enough to go around and so the dead for a long while were simply left in the sun because of this. The people of Gettysburg reportedly began using scented oils. Like Penny Royal peppermint as a way of masking the stench. It went beyond smells though. Go after the battle. Farmers headed back out into their fields. Only to find dead soldiers littered throughout their crops. One farmer George rose found at least fifty bodies in in his field. While another farmer discovered entire frontline of eighty soldiers that had died in a tidy row everywhere people looked. There were dead horses and dead men then. It wouldn't be until October that the national cemetery was set up at Gettysburg. The battle might have been four and a half months in their past. But I can't imagine region anyone there felt as if it was over or had begun to forget. That's because there was something else going on in the hearts and minds of those connected to the battle of Gettysburg is he. The people of the late nineteenth century lived in a world where death was more of a community event. The overwhelming majority of people from that era died in the presence of loved ones. Almost always at home. It was viewed as a good death or the final moments in words of the dying might be recorded but war robbed families families of that experience all throughout the civil war parents and spouses had to wrestle with the knowledge that their loved ones had traveled far from home only to die suddenly in battle with no one to witness or comfort them. That wasn't a good death. As far as they were concerned. One common fear that came out of this bitter side effect perfect war was that the dead might linger that the lack of a good death had the potential to create a cloud of souls who are separated from their bodies in a less than ideal way. People feared those souls would never rest or find peace and in turn might stay to haunt the land of the living now. Obviously life moved on and Gettysburg. People put their lives back together. Businesses reopened and farmers went on to plant and harvest new crops but the specter of all those bad deaths lingered on. We know this because of the stories they told stories that have held on to this day. I've tragic loss and and painful death and if they're true Gettysburg is filled with more than just stories of the past. It's also haunted by the dead So if the shifting battle lines were waves. The Community of Gettysburg was the shoreline depending on time and day of the conflict. You never knew which side it would have control over the homes and businesses there. Barnes were used as military hospitals kitchens and dining rooms played host to officers. Planning their next moves naturally. The people of Gettysburg did their best to disappear. And stay out of harm's way and for the most part it worked the home of local farmers. Our Daniel and Rebecca lady was taken over by confederate forces around July second. It was stressful for the family on number of levels not least of which was the fact that Rebecca had just given birth to their fourth child week before but the beautiful fieldstone farmhouse quickly became a hospital for injured troops and that meant that there was a lot of blood again. The House is made of stone so it fared better than its wooden neighbors against stray many balls but inside the confederates got creative with everything they could find in order to help their injured. Soldiers doors were taken off hinges and used as stretchers. The dining room table served as a location for emergency operations amputated limbs were piled outside the kitchen window a pile that reached so high that it was visible from inside today there are still bill visible blood stains in various parts of the house remnants of that painful and tragic week but some believe the stains aren't the homes only reminders of the past visitors visitors have seen ghostly figures in military uniforms throughout the property while others have heard screams of pain as if someone were injured and afraid like a dying in soldier another place with its own connection to the battle is the Fairfield in which was already nearly a century old by the time the battle washed over the community. There some people tell stories about its use as a confederate hospital. But there's no solid proof to back up that claim. What we do know is that the property was used? As the site of the mass grave for dead confederates as the story goes the southern forces retreated westward at the end of the battle. A path that took them directly passed the house. Whispers rippled through the broken confederate soldiers that a physician lived in the house and as a result hundreds of injured stop there for help in addition waggons filled with corpses were guided into the yard and emptied. They're leaving the owners with over eight hundred bodies to bury that's nearly a thousand lives that were lost. A violence only only to be buried with no identification or honor bar from their home and loved ones might have dreamed of a good death but what they received was far worse. Today the House seems filled with echoes of that tragic past objects have been known to move on their own such as dishes in the kitchen. Mysterious mysterious sounds are often heard throughout the house like footsteps in an empty room and doors have been seen to open and close on their own others have felt cold spots it's and photographed orbs those classic visual clues. That ghost hunters look for most frightening of although many visitors have claimed to see the Pale figure of the older man. Sometimes dressed in military uniform is most commonly seen in the main floor of the dining area. A portion of the House that was built on top of the the mass grave of confederate soldiers never speaks. But it's hard not to feel disturbed by his presence and I could go on because there never seems to be a shortage of structures in Gettysburg that claim a connection to the infamous battle of eighteen sixty three and with them comes just as many stories of the dead had who refuse to leave. In fact I've been told that the local police there received so many calls about unusual sightings that they have their own response code for such reports. Eighteen sixty three some locations in town seemed to have more activity that others. It's not a competition of course but they're certainly only a difference from one place to the next at the top of that list. Though is a building that seems to have experienced more echoes of the past than most. And if you're up up for it I'd like to take you there It was built before the war and its story continued long after it was over the House that stands today at at four. Oh One Baltimore street was constructed in the early eighteen hundreds by its original owner. A man named John McFarland who lived there until his death in eighteen fifty one is death however would be the first of many to take place in the life of the home he built today. It's known as the Farnsworth House in but in July eighteen eighteen sixty three when the armies of the north and the south converged upon the community there in Gettysburg the house was owned by Harvey Sweeney and his wife Catherine a live there with their daughter Elizabeth as well as some lodgers who rented a room but when the union forces arrived they also took on larger duties. Those Union troops needed space as for supplies and safe medical care and set up camp at the Baltimore Street Hus- but after just one day of fighting the union had lost ground and the sweeneys home became a meeting in place for the confederates instead. In fact it said that southern sharpshooters actually fired at the northern line from within the house literally placing part of the battle inside sweeny home for three days. The sweeneys were forced to stay away from the House and probably wondered. If they would ever get back we can look back today and know that the battle would end on July third but to those in the middle of it must've seemed like a new reality with little hope thankfully on July fourth. They were able to return but it wasn't a warm welcome. According to the stories told about the House Catherine and Elizabeth where the first step back inside and when they did they discovered a scene of horror and destruction. The interior of the home was in disarray. Windows were broken. Furniture had been destroyed and blood was everywhere including the walls. That wasn't the worst of it though. They apparently discovered a room on the second floor. That was absolutely covered in blood blood. And when they examined more closely they noticed drag marks that led out into the hall and then down the stairs following the red smears. They were led to the cellar earlier where they discovered a horrifying scene. The bodies of two confederate soldiers one of which had nearly been decapitated. Most people have assumed that these two soldiers orders had been stationed in the upstairs room. Sharpshooters but had retreated after being mortally wounded a retreat that led them to the dark silence of the houses seller and that same seller has been reported to be the location of a number of unusual things over the years. Some claim that an aggressive confederate spirit fills the place which which some are quick to blame on the two bodies that the sweeney women had discovered there. But there's also a mysterious mirror down there that seems to have a mind of its own leans lanes against one of the walls down in the cellar and while it doesn't have a menacing appearance many who have spent time with it. Come away feeling. Threatened and oppressed others have seen ghostly images behind themselves when looking into the mirror and some have even captured mysterious shapes on film. It's even been known to move overnight as has the plain in white sheet that sometimes covers it. It's not the only space in the house. That's reported to be haunted though upstairs on the second floor is a room known today as the Sara Black Room named after one of the previous owners of the building witnesses claimed visions have been so strong inside that room that they've even been photographed from the street below. Although I haven't been able to track down images back up that claim completely but if you ask most people in Gettysburg today what the most famous ghost is in the entire house nearly early everyone will agree that. It's Jeremy Legend says the Jeremy as the ghost of a young boy who died outside in the street due to a tragic carriage accident. The the injured boy was apparently brought inside for medical attention but passed away before he could be saved and perhaps because of his painful death. Some think the boy has simply refused. I used to move on and find peace. Interestingly the stories claim that the room he died in eventually became a bathroom. The bathroom in fact that's connected connected to the Sarah Black Room that I mentioned a moment ago. Jeremy has also been seen or felt in other parts of the house including the seller and the kitchen. But it's one particular the story that has left many people scratching their heads. And if it's true. It's more than a little frightening in another room in the house where Jeremy has been known to frequent. A red. Wooden toy box has been kept. Perhaps to let him know that he's still remembered. Once visitor used a recording device to listen in the room apparently captured a small. Quiet voice whispered Jeremy Red box later in that same room. Another visitor became frustrated by a table lamp that kept switching on and off. Despite everything they tried and making sure to press the button firmly until the light came on it would switchback off a few minutes later. It was only after hearing what they believe to be the gentle laughter of a small child that this guest decided to see if the lamp. Perhaps I had a faulty cord. They approached the table one more time and then knelt to trace the core down to the outlet where they hope to find an answer instead. They discovered something that caused them to catch their breath. The lamp you see hadn't even been plugged in Hello everyone wants a good death. We envision a peaceful ending to a lifetime of Challenges Joyce preferably surrounded by those who love us it's an ideal and thankfully many people still get to experience that in our modern world but nothing is guaranteed that idea. Yeah of a good death wasn't new in the eighteen sixties but it had certainly reached its peak in the Zeitgeist of the day. It was helped along by Protestant Christianity and and found a foothold almost everywhere including popular literature and books on health and wellness but the civil war offered a new stage in the way it was handled can still we seen in the folklore surrounding battles like those at Gettysburg. The war pulled people out of their comfortable plans and force them into a situation. Were death was always around the corner. There was fear and anxiety but also a good amount of plain old coming to terms with at all. I mean you and I go through life thinking about death as a someday sort of thing but the soldiers that converged on Gettysburg knew it was a lot closer than that and if it arrived the next day it would more than unlikely not be a good one. War is complex. It's not a black white issue that we can easily parse and declare fixed. It's messy and difficult to pin down and it's out of those complex situations that the shadows of life tend to grow tragedy heartbreak suffering freen and pain. We are powerless to stop it. And that can be absolutely frightening too many people so it's no wonder that whole forests of stories have sprouted brought it up on the battlefields let Gettysburg and honestly it's stories like those that show us the full power folklore in the face of lost records and undestroyed lives those stories. Help us keep the past alive. Are they always the most accurate absolutely not but they perfectly captured the overwhelming feelings of loss and suffering that the people of Gettysburg felt stories. Like those about another room in the Sweeney's house today. It's known as the Garret Room but in eighteen sixty three it was most likely the location those confederate sharpshooters were stationed in and where they received their bloody injuries and for a long while L.. Guests in that room have reported unusual things none though speak to the tragedy of war more than one experience from nineteen ninety three and according to the tale a mother and her young son arrived to spend the weekend there in town a toured Oliver Gettysburg that first day and returned to the Farnsworth House in in the evening to get ready for bed because their room didn't have its own bathroom. Each of them took turns using the one on the floor below them. I the mother and then her son son Daniel but while he was gone the boy's mother heard him screen rush down to see if he was all right. She found him curled up on the floor outside the bathroom door crying and covering his face other guests arrived as well and together. They all try to figure out what had happened to the boy when his mother asked him what had happened. Daniel simply replied blood. Mommy blood everywhere while pointing at the door one of the guests checked the the bathroom only to find that it was clean and safe with no signs of blood anywhere after apologizing to the other guests disturbing them. The mother then led her son back upstairs where he hopefully slept well and forgot all about it and it's easy to listen to a story like that and let logic takeover isn't it The boy had spent all day touring civil war sites and his overactive imagination simply got the better of him billing his head with horrible visions. But it's difficult to miss the coincidence of a mother and child returning home to a bloody scene because that's exactly what happened to Catherine and Elizabeth Sweeney in the very same house on July fourth. A coincidence because that's the same date that Daniel claim to see the very same thing one hundred thirty years was later today. Battlefields of our world have played host to immeasurable pain and suffering and few can hold a candle to the fields the streets of Gettysburg. And while given you a glimpse into its shadows there's one more story. I just have to share stick around after this brief sponsor break and I'll tell you all about it. This episode was made possible by simply safe every night. Local police departments across America received hundreds of calls calls from burglar alarms but the vast majority of the time they have no idea whether the alarm is real or not all the alarm company can tell them is the motion sensor went off simplisafe home security. It's different if there's a break in simplisafe uses real video evidence to give police in eyewitness accounts of the crime and that means police dispatch up to three hundred fifty percent faster than for a normal burglar their alarm with simplisafe. You get comprehensive protection for your home with outdoor cameras and doorbells that alerts you to anyone approaching your house as well as entry motion and glass break sensors inside plus simplisafe protects your home from fires water damage and carbon monoxide poisoning. And it's all monitored twenty four seven by live security professionals all for just fifty cents a day. No no contracts get started today visit simplisafe dot Com Slash Lor and you'll get free shipping and a sixty day risk-free trial you've got nothing to lose. Go now and be sure to use SIMPLISAFE DOT com slash lore. So they know that law sent you at simplisafe DOT COM Slash Lor. This episode was also made possible by Harry's what if there was a fifty percent off sale happening every time you went shopping for razors. That's what it's like when you shave with Harry's the offer premium blade refills as low as two dollars a piece. That's up to fifty five percent off. 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Join the millions of guys who are already saving money and go to Harrys DOT COM Slash Lor to claim your offer today and finally this episode was made possible by squarespace when I launched lower nearly five years ago. I had no idea how much work it would be day and day out. What I did know though was that I couldn't become an expert at everything and when it came to run into websites? I needed help. Which is why I pick squarespace with with squarespace? I was able to build a website that allowed me to use dead simple editing controls to manage my audio players images posts and products in fact the lore website has been powered by vice squarespace since the very beginning and honestly. I can't imagine doing it any other way. Between their beautifully designed templates powerful ECOMMERCE features free hosting and award winning twenty four seven customer support. squarespace has everything that I need to run a professional website without making that might profession get started today for free just visit squarespace dot com slash. Lor To start your free websites and when you're ready to launch it be sure to use the offer Code Laura at checkout to save ten percent. squarespace dulled something beautiful Death is frightening but death on a grand scale is something more complex. Yes it's disturbing but it's also easier to distance ourselves from it. All of that. Tragedy happened over there. We might say but it didn't follow us. Home and Gettysburg was no exception as I mentioned before the loss of life during those three days of battle is a number. That's difficult to fathom with the casualties totalling over fifty eight thousand soldiers more surprising though is the fact. That's as far as we can tell. Only one civilian lost their life during the conflict meaning for one family family. The war did follow them home. The Wade family had lived in Gettysburg for quite some time. Although life wasn't always the easiest while I haven't been able to track down the father's name we do know that he was arrested and sent to prison in eighteen fifty four the crime of Larceny when he returned two years later his wife took took steps to protect her family from him and had him declared insane before sending him away. That left Mrs Wade with four children to care for on her own and By all accounts she did a wonderful job or oldest. Georgia married a union soldier in eighteen sixty two and her younger daughter. Jenny became engaged just a year. Your later Herbert Tro was actually a childhood friend named Johnson skelly although most people just called him Jack but due to his active service in the military it seeing at their wedding would have to wait. Jack skelly wouldn't return now on June fifteenth of eighteen sixty three. He was mortally wounded at the battle of winchester before before being taken captive by the confederates before he passed away though fate brought him comfort in the form of another childhood friend. A young man named Wesley culp. On on his deathbed Jack Skelly sculpt to carry a message to his true love Jenny Wade. We don't know what that message was. But it's safe to assume it was not unlike the countless other letters from soldiers of loved ones that have been preserved over the years but we do know that Wesley culp was guided home by the march of war. Just a couple of weeks slater joining his regiment. To fight in the battle of Gettysburg War had come home for people though as I mentioned earlier the Union and confederate forces. This is play tug of war with the homes and businesses of the town and many of those who lived there were forced to find shelter elsewhere. Some though stayed neither because they wanted to help help. Or because running wasn't an option it was the latter case for the Wade's Georgia and her husband welcomed their first child into the world on the first first day of battle July first and because of that they were essentially trapped at home to help them her sister Jenny and their two younger brothers along with their mother. All converged urged on Georgia's house at five. Forty Eight Baltimore Street. It had to have been a bitter sweet time in the House on one hand. They had the joy of a new baby to put a smile on their faces But just outside their walls. The rumble of battle shook them to the core. Reminding them that while life was precious it was also precarious. Death could come for anyone. Anyone without warning in fact historians know of at least one hundred fifty bullets that struck their home during the battle. Most people believe that the family would have spent at their time hiding in the cellar but we also know that Jenny and her mother lended their support to the union troops by baking loaves of bread for them. But that of course meant leaving. The safety below in order to work in the kitchen above on July third jenny was standing in her sister's kitchen kneading the dough. That would be used to bake yet another batch of bread when a stray shot pierced the house historian say that it passed through the parlour door and the kitchen door without losing its lethal velocity. That's when it struck trucked Jenny from behind just below her shoulder blade allowing it to penetrate her heart. Jenny slumped into a heap where she had stood in moments later. Her mother mother discovered her lifeless body on the kitchen floor. There was wailing in tears but also a rush of panic from fear that more bullets would follow the I still. They managed to bring Johnny's body back down into the cellar where they would mourn in the darkness by candlelight that final message from her beloved Jack Skelly would never reach your ears although it wouldn't have even if she had survived it seems that less than a mile away. Jack's childhood friend Wesley culp had also been shot art and whatever the message he had been tasked with had truly been he took it with him to the grave. It said that Wesley culp died on coal pill a piece of land. Dan named after his own family. But that wasn't the only coincidence that would haunt the Wade family as they move forward into life with Jenny. Those steps would be slow because of the battle. Jenny's body had to remain in the cold. Damp cellar her sister's house when it was over quickly buried her in the backyard in a borrowed coffin probably out of fear that her body would decay before a proper funeral could be planned. It wasn't until January of eighteen. Sixty four roughly six months. After her death they disinterred her and removed her remains to a local graveyard along with the proper burial service. Jenny wasn't finished moving quite yet just just a year later in eighteen sixty five. She was moved one last time to be closer to the grave of her beloved Jack Skelly who had been buried nearby in Evergreen Cemetery. Both of them had died alone. Denied the good death that most people craft but by moving her body they would at the very least near each other for eternity. One last thing Evergreen cemetery might be home to the tragic couple Jenny and Jack. But it's also the site light of something else because less than two years earlier in November of eighteen sixty three. A ceremony was held. Dedicate the Gettysburg national cemetery which sits right right beside the evergreen and to do so locals built a platform inside Evergreen cemetery where important dignitary would later stand and deliver. Ah Powerful message a message that transformed the enormous tragic loss of life into something more meaningful into a good death and the man President Abraham Lincoln and his message the Gettysburg Address This episode of Law was written and produced by me. Aaron and Minke With Research by Taylor Haggar dohrn and music by Chad Lawson. Lor is much more than just a podcast. There's a book series available in bookstores and online and in two seasons of the television show on Amazon Prime Video. Check them both out if you want more lore in your life. I also make to other podcasts. Aaron McKie's cabinet of curiosities and on obscured and I think you'd enjoy both each one explorers other areas of our dark history ranging from bite sized episodes to season longtime into a single topic. You can learn more about both of those shows and everything else going on over in one central place the world of Lor dot com slash now. And you can also so follow the show on twitter facebook and instagram just search for lower podcast all one word and clicked out. Follow Button when you do say hi. I like like it when people say hi and as always. Thanks for listening