By Jessica Ferri.
Every year, the living pay their respects to fallen soldiers and the victims of conflict by visiting war memorials. Given the sheer number of lives lost at these haunting sites, it’s no wonder that visitors experience profound melancholy. Others encounter eerie activity that cannot be explained.
1. Gettysburg Battlefield and Memorial
Location: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
It’s difficult to imagine the carnage that was Gettysburg, especially considering the crude methods of Civil War-era warfare. The battle claimed 51,000 casualties and left 7,863 dead. The open fields have since become a National Park, with an enormous list of monuments commemorating the Union and Confederate units that marched during that three-day battle in July 1863. In addition to the battlefields themselves, there’s also the adjoining Gettysburg National Cemetery, the resting place for more than 3,500 Union soldiers.
Given the intensity of the battle and the enormous loss of life, it’s unsurprising that visitors to Gettysburg report strange experiences, including the sound of whirring bullets, the screams of fallen soldiers and horses, and direct encounters with the dead. At Farnsworth House, which was riddled with bullets during the campaign, visitors report the specter of a distraught man carrying a child in a quilt, and the ghost of a fallen Confederate sharp shooter. Others report ghostly apparitions at Devil’s Den, the site of one of the longest and most intense skirmishes during the battle that raged on through the night. Some visitors have captured spirits on camera, including a longhaired young man who told one tourist “what you are looking for is over there,” then abruptly vanished.
2. Antietam Battlefield and Memorial
Location: Near Sharpsburg, Maryland.
The Battle of Antietam, the first major engagement to take place on Union soil in 1862, is second only to Gettysburg in its massive carnage with over 22,717 dead, wounded, or missing. Though technically a Union victory once Confederates retreated from the field, many historians view Antietam as tactically inconclusive—a major loss of life with little strategic gain.
If you visit Antietam today, you will come across a sunken road, now called the Bloody Lane, where more than 5,000 Union and Confederate soldiers lost their lives. Visitors have reported the smell of gunpowder and the sound of gunfire when the lane appears completely deserted. Others have seen men in Confederate dress walking down the lane towards them, only to disappear into thin air. Even the sound of singing has been heard on this eerily quiet battlefield. Those who detected the ghostly tune said it sounded like “Deck the Halls”. Apparently, some Irish-American Confederates used a Gaelic hymn as a battle cry during Antietam—a hymn that sounded very close to the holiday song.
3. Point Lookout Lighthouse
Location: Near Scotland, Maryland.
Now a national park and historic site, Maryland’s Point Lookout played a major role in the American Civil War as a prison for Confederate soldiers. At one time over 50,000 men were held here, and 4,000 never left—they were buried in the swampy marsh of the Chesapeake Bay. The overcrowding of Confederate prisoners resulted in poor conditions, and Point Lookout quickly became one of the most notorious Union prison camps of the war.
The lives of the men who suffered here are remembered in a war memorial cemetery—which is, in actuality, a mass grave. Visitors today report a multitude of paranormal phenomena, including shouts for help heard from the water and the ghostly figures of soldiers, running from what used to be the smallpox hospital. Most of the activity seems to be centered in the lighthouse, where a young man in sailor’s dress has been seen entering the lighthouse, only to disappear into thin air.
4. Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme
Location: Somme, France.
Of the many memorials to the fallen soldiers of World War I, Sir Edwin Lutyens’ Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, is one of the most chilling—dedicated to the 72,195 missing British and South African servicemen who never returned from the Battles of the Somme between 1915 and 1918.
Nestled in the forests of Thiepval, in northern France, this statuesque memorial bears the names of nearly 72,000 missing soldiers with no known grave. Surrounding the memorial are other mass graves, dug during the war around medical stations. After the major battles of the Somme, Irish artist William Orpen traveled to France in 1917 to capture the battlefields for those at home. What he found was grisly: the artist was surrounded by mangled forests and skeletons still dressed in ragged uniforms. Both Orpen and war painter Henri Joffroy reported strange activity in the woods at Thiepval. Orpen claimed a phantom force attacked him while painting in a seemingly abandoned field, and Joffroy was hit with the overwhelming stench of rotting flesh, even though the bodies in the field had lain there for over a year.
5. Brest Fortress
Location: Brest, Belarus.
The defense of Brest Fortress on June 22–June 29, 1941 was one of the first battles during the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union during WWII. Soviet soldiers were caught unawares by the strike, and withdrew into the fortress in Brest. They held out for a week until bombing forced the remaining 360 Soviet soldiers to surrender. In the years following the war, the defense of Brest fortress came to symbolize Soviet determination and resistance.
In 1971, a memorial was founded at the site of Brest Fortress, and gigantic sculptures were erected. One sculpture, entitled “Thirst”, depicts an injured soldier struggling to get water from a river. Another gargantuan soldier greets visitors with a look of defiance on his face. Inside one of the walls of the fortress is a scrawled inscription that reflects the determination of the troops. “I’m dying,” says the inscription, “but I won’t surrender. Farewell Motherland!”
6. USS Arizona Memorial
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii.
The ghostly wreckage of the USS Arizona is now a memorial to the 1,102 American sailors and Marines that lost their lives during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. A total of 2,403 people were killed during the bombing, prompting the United States to enter World War II.
Built in 1962, the memorial straddles the wreckage of the USS Arizona, and is only accessible by boat. Of the visitors that come to pay their respects to the men and women who were killed on that infamous day, many have reported capturing strange orbs on film and even faces and figures in the water and in the memorial. Others claim to hear the sound of an air raid alarm, even though this is not part of the museum. Janitors have reported the sounds of screams and scraping metal. Others still report an eerie mist that skims the water’s surface and takes the shape of a Japanese fighter plane.
7. Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
Location: Near Colleville-sur-Mer, France.
The memorial to the American troops who lost their lives during the Allied invasion of Normandy is breathtaking in its scope: 9,387 American soldiers are buried here, alongside 307 unknown soldiers. The cemetery overlooks Omaha Beach, one of the landing beaches of the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. Thousands of tourists travel to Normandy every year to honor all those who lost their lives, especially those American soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice on European soil.
Visitors report feeling overwhelmed by the sight of thousands of white grave markers on the rolling hills above the beach. Others feel a distinct sense of unease. One family, however, had a particularly eerie experience when their 7-year-old daughter reported seeing a group of men looking at her while they visited the remains on the bunkers on the beach. Upon later questioning, she identified German soldiers in a photograph from WWII as the men she had seen on the beach, even describing their guns and the buttons on their clothing with astounding historical accuracy.
8. Hiroshima Peace Memorial
Location: Hiroshima, Japan.
The ghostly ruin of the only remaining structure to survive the drop of the nuclear warhead on Hiroshima is enough to make any person uncomfortable. Over 70,000 people were killed instantly on August 6, 1945, and at least another 70,000 suffered radiation related injuries and sickness. Now, the building’s dome and surrounding grounds serve as Hiroshima’s plea for peace and the end of nuclear war in the form of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial.
Though some have claimed to capture the face of a ghost embedded in the side of the dome in photographs, the hard facts of the Hiroshima memorial are far more terrifying. The museum includes a historical outline of events leading up to August 6, and artifacts recovered just after the attack—such as radiation shadows and human remains—that are nothing short of absolutely bone-chilling.
It is estimated that 60 million people were killed as a result of WWII, about 3 percent of the planet’s population in 1940.
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