Paranormal File: Haunted Gettysburg, Ghost Tour Rip-Offs, and Sachs Bridge

The small unknown town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania was transformed into one of the most well-known towns in the country, after three days of ferocious and bloody fighting in July of 1863. During that time, an approximate 51,000 soldiers would be either wounded or killed, before the Confederate army retreated south through Maryland while the Union army chased after them. But many have seen evidence that some of these soldiers did not leave after all. It is expected that an old town would be haunted, furthermore, with so many dead and dying people laying in the surrounding fields and streets. The passion exerted by both sides during the heat of battle is the perfect set-up for a haunted city. But unfortunately, the town of Gettysburg has blown it out of proportion, sparking different available ghost tours at almost every gift shop in town–there must be at least twenty to choose from.

Each tour comes built up with drama and commercialization, and with an experienced, period-dressed guide that will walk you through a section of the town of your choice. Many take place right on the main street in town, Steinwehr Avenue, but many venture closer into the battlefield on Seminary Ridge. Also take note that you will never seen one price listed anywhere, for the cost of this little walk. After doing some research, many cost around $10 after tax, which is not all too bad, but if you have a family with children (because all kids love ghosts), then the money can soar.

In the nine years I have been coming to Gettysburg, I have been tempted time and time again to go on one of these, but I still have not. I see it as a sort of disrespect to the soldiers who gave their lives here almost 150 years ago. In just a few years, Gettysburg has gone from a historic Civil War town to a tourist trap, and the ghost tours located all over town prove that.

In talking to people who have went on these tours, not one has ever seen anything pointed out by the guide. Jeff Huber, who went with his niece Karli, saw something only once, and that was when the guide had her back to where he was looking. These tours have too many people with them, and when you have a group of loud-talking, camera-shooting, bumbling tourists, no ghosts will come out. It’s fascinating how they advertise these tours, but still I will not participate.

In the early 1990’s, Mark Nesbitt published Ghosts of Gettysburg, which started out as only a minor publication. But that has since sparked the ghost-mania in this sleepy town, and of course, five sequels to his original book. Many of the tours use his investigations as the basis for what they present to customers. These can be trusted more than the others because he at least has some shred of credibility.

But the one thing that Jeff noted which was worst of all, is the fact that if only one person sees something, whether in a tour or on their own, these ghost tours will make it a part of their talk for tours to come. This information, which has been uncorroborated and could have been made up out of thin air, then becomes the driving force for the next tour. This is exactly not how to conduct paranormal research work, but I would expect nothing less of the tourist trap Gettysburg has become.

Now we move onto Sachs bridge, the place that Jeff and I said we were going to investigate. We made it out there at about two o’clock in the morning, only to find more than we bargained for. “More” as in people, lots of people. It seems that Sachs bridge is the new hangout spot in town, and everyone from teenagers to adults were walking around, taking pictures, smoking cigarettes, and eating McDonald’s, because of all the fast food wrappers tossed on the ground. If this is how it is every night, than you can be sure no ghost will ever again be spotted there. By my count, there must have been thirty people wandering all over the place, ruining any chance at all of seeing a ghost.

The bridge arose to prominence after numerous ghost sightings in photographs, which can be found online. It was used the day after the battle when Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army retreated, and crossed over, and there was even a small skirmish at the base of the bridge as the Union army tried to slow them down.

Sachs bridge itself is very creepy–there are no lights except for the moon, and there are woods surrounding it which make it only darker. If I were to guess, I would say the best time for an investigation there would be in the winter, when kids are in school and the adults may be turned away from the cold weather. It was an interesting experience to go and see it, but I was disappointed because, quite frankly, I figured we would have the place to ourselves at such a late time.

Also, if you plan on investigating this bridge at odd hours, please beware that the police come there for a look every few hours, as told to us by a local who was there when we went.

I have no doubt that Gettysburg is haunted, and may even be the most haunted place in America, but make no mistake, if you want to find ghosts you will have to do it on your own. Don’t fall into the trap and shell over money to a tour guide. Ghosts are not parlor tricks, and they do not show just because you’re on a tour. Find a quiet spot on the battlefield before closing and do some searching. They are there, and if you look hard enough, you’ll find them…or they’ll find you.

Update (Summer 2013)

Below are additional articles written about ghost tourism in Gettysburg from a more recent trip in 2013.

Gettysburg Journal 2013: A Ghost Story from the Soldier’s National Museum

Gettysburg Journal 2013: A Little Investigating into the Death of Jennie Wade

Gettysburg Journal 2013: The Ghost Conflict and False Advertising

Gettysburg Journal 2013: Ghost Hunting at “The Grove”

Gettysburg Journal 2013: Ghosts, Gifts, and Great Food

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37 thoughts on “Paranormal File: Haunted Gettysburg, Ghost Tour Rip-Offs, and Sachs Bridge

  1. Jumbo

    Greg,

    Interesting post. Another place that has tons of ghost stories is Savannah, GA. In 2003 I went on a walking tour at night. I think it cost $35 and we got free beers at a couple of differnt bars, but looking back on it I’m sure the tour guide split the cost with the establishments. We walked into an old house downtown and the guide said one room in particular in that house was haunted. We walked through the house and when I got to a specific room I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up. The guide then revealed that was the haunted room. I guess it was kind of mindless fun and if I did not go on the tour I probably would have spent more drinking at a bar. As far as Gettysburg goes, there isn’t a whole heck of a lot to do there so I guess it provides entertainment value for visitors.

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  3. Mike Cartzendafner

    Hello, let me first say that I am not a paranormal activity enthusiast and I came across your sight because of the photo of Sach’s bridge. I grew up in Gettysburg and spent many summers fishing at the bridge and have even venture several miles down stream from the overflow to the Emittsburg Road Bridge on foot. I didn’t really know the history of the place, as the only historic indication at the time was on a cast iron sign right outside the entry way, but growing up in a civil war town, everything had a cast iron sign. This bridge was one of my father’s favorite spots, which we call the “Gettysburg Reservoir” for some reason and we would hang out there from sunrise to sunset, every non winter weekend for about six years in which I would later become a teen that was too cool to hangout with Dad. I would dare to say that in those days I knew the bridge and the surrounding area better than a majority of the locals and maybe even better than those that actually lived on Waterworks Rd.

    Once again I never knew the true history or that it was as (in)famous as it was until now. I really didn’t know how rare covered bridges were until I saw an msn news report about them and a picture of Sach’s made me leap from my chair, so I did a quick search of the bridge that eventually led me to your page.

    I would like to saying that it is one of the most beautiful places that I have ever seen in my life and overall it’s not a scary, ‘doorway to hell’ type of bridge at all and will always be one of the most special spots to me. I am genuinely happy to know that it getting the attention and renovations that it lacked when I was there. I distinctly remember as a child of an awkward feeling will being on that bridge though. A feeling that stands in contrast to the affectionate summer time memory I have of fireflies, raspberries and honeysuckles. I can recall on numerous occasions of the hairs on my neck rising when I was fishing off of one of the cross section openings. I remember reeling up my catch on and turning to show my father (since I would usually claim to catch more than I actually did so when I did catch one, I wanted him to see it), whom I expected to be in close proximity only to find that I was alone and the presence I felt wasn’t him. I wasn’t skittish at all, I was an adventurous youth that would walk across the overflow and dive into the water to catch a painted turtle. I even caught a two foot snapping turtle in the shallow banks but I did not like being on that bridge alone after sunset. Now that I am older, I now understand that my fear wasn’t because of seeing anything or having a negative experience, but the knowledge (or lack there of) of something wasn’t right with that place and I still am baffled to this very day.

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  5. missy

    I did sign up for a ghost hunt in Gettysberg this pst weekend. We went to Sachs Bridge and I too was disappointed with all the people there. Its not that I believe or dont believe in ghost, but I wanted to experience something, if it was a ghost, great, if it was just an informational tour of the people who fought and died there then that was ok too.
    I did take some photos of the night and saw things that people would refer to as orbs. I dont know if thats what they are or not, but I do know that a few times when I ventured away from the crowds I did feel a lttle uneasy. Was it the dark and because of my never being there in the day time, I didnt know what to expect or was it a poor restless soldier? I dont know for sure but I would love to go again.

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  7. Grace

    I was lucky. This past weekend, my sister, her husband and myself, got to to go to Sachs Bridge after midnight. There were a few people there, and we waited about 15 minutes and then we were all alone. It was my 1st “ghost hunting” trip. I took a lot of pictures, and they had plenty of orbs. However, there were 2 pictures that I got that really excited me. One was down the path beside the bridge, where you first walk up. In the pic you can see a full bodied mist apparition. You can see the arms, legs, body and head. I was amazed at that. As the evening drew to a close, I had put my camera away. I was standing beside a car talking with one of the ladies that give the tours. Something told me to take my camera out and shoot a pic down the farm road beside the corn field. As the pic showed up on my camera, I almost dropped it. There was a mist right in my face, and it was not a small mist at all. It was huge. I jumped and did this little ahhhh scream. I still shake a little when I think it about it.

  8. B

    I took 3 photos off the west end of the bridge (downstream) (mid November 2010, about 9:30 PM). The first two photos showed nothing. The third showed a mist with, what I counted, were 7 (human) spectral faces staring back at me. The 8th was NOT human (and was the clearest). The best I could describe it: a “gargoyle” with the head of a goat and long pointed ears. I got a SEVERE chill that night ( and I live in Wisconsin so chills, severe or not, I KNOW!) and had neck pains for two months after. 3 men were hung from the bridge rafters during the Confederate retreat. Coincidence? The place IS haunted.

  9. Michael

    Yes Gettysburg has become a tourist trap with the tours. You go down Steinweir ave and that is all you see buy a haunted ice cream cone and get a discount on their tour.
    The problem is that most of the tours tell the same story but tell it in their own way. They are mainly ego they think they know everything and are a direct link to the spirits. No one is an expert it is best to do the investigations on your own for yes it is very haunted and they will communicate for that is all they want, to let you know that this is not all there is.
    I have seen and heard many all over and no ghosts or spirits don’t harm you, hollywood harms you.
    When you go to Sachs you do experience things but most people go wanting and expecting to see bodys, but spirits can come in any form, a butterfly, jack rabbit who don’t run away and yes orbs. I have got many pictures of orbs on sachs.
    When people go they do not know how to talk or communicate they talk to them in a motherly voice or like the tv shows talk to them tough but when they hear the slightest sound jump up screaming.
    There are a direct couple groups and a lady who does stories at sachs that are probably the best there is for they do it as a hobby or because they enjoy it.
    Remember if you are dead how do you get to heaven? The mistake many do when they go is to only talk to Tennessee because of his smoking or the confederates hung in the rafters.
    The truth is they were 3the union soldiers who were the captured by the confederates then turned back over and hung, the youngest being 13prospered and they were hung in the trees by the metal railing.
    The police come by every few hours to check on things but they do allow you to stay if everything is ok. It is not part of the park service but they do apply the same rules of closing between 10p-6amthe due to some idiots stealing or destroying a couple monuments.

  10. kevin

    The ghost tours are purely entertainment … don’t expect to get anything other than a good story and history lesson. The Sach’s bridge on the other hand is VERY haunted and you’re right winter time, at night is the way to go. I went in the late winter and caught two incredible things: one evp where the spirit says his full name as loud as you and I would talk to one another and the other a photo of a little girl who supposedly drown there … I was told by my friend (who is a sensitive) that some psychics do not want anything to do with the woods on the far side of the bridge. It seems evil has been brought in from some satanic rituals performed at the bridge in the past … you can believe what you want but there is a definite heaviness to the feel of those woods and that area.

  11. Kerry

    My son and I have been ghost hunting there several times. It is definitely haunted. The best evidence we have caught is pics of mists and plasma and orbs. Had something follow us home one night and give us overwhleming chills in the car before it left thank god. We have experienced good and bad entities there. Youre right,go after midnight,less people.

    1. Something followed us home too. And I live in Dallas. Long story, but I have always been open minded, believing it just as likely there are no ghosts or spirits as there are, if you know what I mean. But a day after we returned home my teenage son and I had an encounter with something that at first called me “Momma” which was very chilling because I had thought I saw a small little girl in a wet dress by the bridge on the far side, near the brick wall, and the guides used their machines (sorry do not know the terminology) to “translate” and it said “mama” on there several times. Anyway, I won’t drag it out, suffice it to say it was nothing seen, only heard, the first the word (“Momma or Mama”), then a horribly evil laugh (both of which only I heard) and then my son and I both heard a loud, clear, deliberate song being whistled in a deep male pitch. We prayed like you would not believe and have not seen or heard anything since. This was in August of 2012.

      1. bospangle, you are not nuts. I live in Washington State and something followed me back to General Lee Headquarters (Quality Inn) after a Nesbitt tour, and also after I returned home! I’ll think things are fine for a month or two, then suddenly all sorts of weird sitting on my bed at night, picture of a solid (waist to head) ghost on the deck of my house in daylight when having friends over for BBQ! It’s like he was joining in the fun! Sometimes they “attach” to you for some reason, but I think eventually will miss fellow spirit soldiers and return to Gettysburg. Time is different in their dimension, so it could take a year or two for things to settle out. I’ve had the problem since May 2013. Never show fear and pretend they aren’t around or it could get worse. They need attention, just like the living.

      2. I wouldn’t be surprised if the little girl that called you ‘mama’ is the same little girl who witnessed her mom being hanged at Marsh Creek just past Sachs Bridge for being with a non white man before the battle ever happened. She shoved my adult daughter who almost fell from it right there at the Hanging tree and then giggled. I’ve seen a few photos of her near the tree and at Sachs bridge. I always wondered why a little girl would be there until we learned about the story.

  12. Hi Greg: I’ll be in Gettysburg at the end of October until November 8th 2013. While there I’m hoping to do a little spirit photography; my problem is I’ll be there alone and since I’m not familiar with the area I was wondering if there is at least one tour group you can recommend.

      1. Tanya

        I find it interesting that you have never been on a tour but you write as if you know all about them. I have been on several and yes, they have become commercialized and hokey for the most part. If you like story telling, then going on a ghost walk is right for you. Or you can just read the books. But there are companies there that do actual investigations. I know After Dark Investigations takes small groups put and they allow the customers to use the equipment and they do a real investigation. When we were at Sachs Bridge, they took us away from the crowds near a hospital to do the investigation. Maybe you should try them before discounting all of them as touristy or hokey. Just a suggestion. 🙂

    1. Tanya Muskett

      Hi Dorothy,

      I would recommend After Dark Investigations. They take you ghost hunting and allow you to use the equipment. They don’t spend a lot of time “story telling”, they just take you out to do an investigation and see what ghosts they can communicate with. They do go to Sachs Bridge, but they go to areas around the bridge if the bridge is crowded. You can find them on the Web @AfterDarkInvestigations.com. I enjoyed the tour and we got some good evidence! Bonus is, they keep the groups small – no more than 10 usually. I saw a group of 40 from another company and they were loud and unruly and thought “how will they get any evidence?!” I was glad I wasn’t in that group! Good luck and have fun!!

      1. Thank you for your recommendation. Not knowing anyone in Gettysburg it’s hard to know what group is my best choice for an evening of investigating without the usual story telling…. Dorothy.

  13. Jacqueline

    I have to agree with that thought above….don’t forget you are standing on hallowed ground. If I catch sight of a spirit I catch sight of a spirit …if I don’t, i don’t! when i visit there I focus more on what the soldiers went through…the horrors they either died or lived through. Yes, the thought is there at the back of my mind…but I don’t dwell on it. I prefer to feel the dead….not as ghosts! but more as respecting the space they died on…that ‘I’ might just be standing on. I say excuse me and thank you….and sorry if i have disturbed you and I say…I’m just going over here to take my picture (inside my mind or out loud). We must not forget we are walking on the spot where they shed their blood…on their blood itself. I go to soak up what I can….the atmosphere, the peacefulness and the sorrows. Yes, I do cence things behind me, in front of me….all around me. Yes, I do believe the soldiers are trying to reach out or just might pass straight through us without us ever realising it…like a bit of time in history that got stuck on a record groove. Maybe spirits don’t understand our time like we try so hard to understand theirs…because, obviously their time stood still…never experiencing the future…theirs and ours. Maybe they have a need to be seen…to give them a feeling they were never forgotten…since so many were never found. Probably buried in places that will never be discovered. No, I see and feel Gettysburg differently…not like someone on a ghost hunting frenzy. I feel them around me….but we are in their space they are not in ours. We are more or less like obnoxious trespassers demanding that they come out to say hello….and smile for our cameras. How dare we!! who the hell do we think we are!? these people suffered HORRORS beyond imagination…and we make it worse for them by hounding them like they were something rite out of a sideshow. Yes, Gettysburg has become that….something to profit from to make biusness from (lowlifes profit from their bloodshed)…and that is not right. We need to keep the good and get rid of the bad…they need to be respected, always.

  14. Brenda

    A true story to add to the mix, not my own, but a friend of a friend: Someone regular-photocopied 4 pictures that were taken of the Bridge in daylight, and on 2 of the copies, a see-through uniformed Confederate soldier is standing just outside the brick wall of the bridge. His stomach is level with the top of that wall. Come to find out that the bridge was damaged in 1996, and rebuilt in 1997 at an elevation three feet higher. So the soldier WAS actually standing where the bridge was during the Civil War. He was NOT visible to the people when they took their pictures, and does NOT appear in the original pictures nor on the other 2 photocopies.

    Spirits anywhere will get their energy through one way or another if they are so inclined regardless of whether anyone is intentionally seeking it or not.

  15. Dan Vanim

    I have done many ghost tours in Gettysburg. I’ve found most to be fun, educational, and interesting. I got to see many historic site for a smaller fee the if i would have done them one by one. I have had many good time there.

  16. Jeff Chavey

    I was there a week ago with several friends who routinely do investigations. One person took a picture — in broad daylight — and what showed up was a person gazing alongside the fence at a small creek. Only problem is that no one was in that location when the picture was taken. Interestingly, the fence was not the present day metal fence and the clothes worn are not of this time period. Later that night I collected several evps and in one of them we get a response when one of us mentions the picture. No one was frightened, of course, because all the voices were not heard as they occurred.

      1. jeff chavey

        Dorothy — I am speaking to the photo holder later this week. I am sure she will have no problem with this. I will post this weekend

  17. Jason

    It is truly sad at what the town has become. I grew up in Gettysburg, born and raised. I remember when the first ghost tour started there too. I interviewed and was offered a job at one. When I was offered the job they told me “about the stories, just lie” the creepier you make the story the better your tips will be, so really play the part. The stories don’t have to have any truth, so make stuff up, just make them sound real. These tours have now polluted the town. It has ruined once great spots such as Sachs Bridge and many other places. I have since moved away from the town, but on one of my last visits wanted to show my kids the bridge. It is polluted and crowded. I remember when it was one of the best places to go.

  18. Anita

    I just came back from a weekend spent in Gettysburg. Sachs Bridge is my favorite place to go. Yes there are many people at times, sometimes crazy and loud but other times I meet wonderful people that are like me, a novice investigator for the paranormal. Like anything, it is a hit or miss. The first time I went there, there was nothing…very quiet, peaceful…etc…. But I continued to go back and each time I experienced something new. I encountered Tennessee the cigarette smoking spirit and he actually allowed us to experiment with how advanced he was with smoking and also lighting his own cigarette. He’s a charmer to say the least, especially if you are a pretty woman in your twenties. Actually I have discovered that many of the soldier spirits take a shine to young woman and vice versa where I had a young female spirit hesitant to share her real age due to my nephew (who was 14) being present and she didn’t want him to think she was too young.
    The night before a full moon is a great time to visit Sach’s bridge. But beware after the full moon leaves… There can be much unrest and it seems like some of the regular ghosts don’t wish for their presences to be known because of some lower energy forms lurking around. I’ve seen this all through out the battlefields and I can tell you that it is quite eerie. I am not one who frightens easily but I was a bit unnerved.
    Dusk and dawn are another good times to go and take lots of photos. You may be surprised what you capture. My husband and myself were alone on the bridge and in several photos I captured 2 black silhouetted figures that looked like soldiers walking in formation.
    The other piece of advice is that spirits are everywhere. We camped at Gettysburg Battlefield resorts and while there we encountered 3 soldiers and a horse in the woods via an infrared camera. We didn’t take any pics or videos but it was like watching a movie reel that kept repeating. With our ghost box we had 2 entities that showed up for 3 nights and saying the exact same thing each night. One we nicknamed the Reverend since he was very stoic and preachy and the other was a firm abolitionist.

    ghost tours are great to give you that little nudge. I would recommend a tour that gives you the paranormal equipment. It’s a great way to get your feet wet plus the size of the tours are small.
    I hope this helps anyone thats interested in ghost watching. Just be patient, be alert, and open and close with a prayer, just to be on the safe side so nothing comes home with you.

  19. Chridtine

    Ever time I go to Sachs bridge I have experienced paranormal. I go off hours late, and had gone with people and I have got soldiers voices, very hostile. And apparitions it sure is haunted.

    1. Same with us. And the area is hostile, except for “Tennessee” who obliges us in moving cigarettes and puffing on them on request, like on demand. The Hanging Tree just a short walk past the bridge is even more hostile than the bridge though for us anyway.

  20. The best paranormal investigator? Believe it or not yourself. There’s not been one time we’ve gone there and not captured paranormal events. The ghost tours are a rip off unless you want some informative information, which are actually very good for that. Also, they tend not to post photos of their paranormal evidence on their websites. Bummer. One tour company cost 30 dollars. They give you all the clanky equipment and then you’re on your own. Another bummer. The best photos (we found) of paranormal events there include using older cameras, the disposal kind or i phones. And a small hand held Minolta recorder. Just about any place is fair game for catching things. Devil’s Den never disappoints us, nor does Pickett’s Charge area by the Copse of Trees at night. Same with The Hanging Tree at Marsh Creek just past Sachs Bridge. Talk about creepy. But it’s not soldiers you find there. It’s young children, a brother and sister who witnessed their mom being hanged for being with a non white man, way before the battle. The little girl shoved my 33 year old a few months ago when we had the place to ourselves at night. After my daughter almost fell, the little girl giggled. Can’t wait to go back soon!

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