Almost every summer as a young child I would visit Fort Delaware with my history obsessed father. When I was younger I was merely concerned with the neat rocks and canons to climb on and the historical facts my father made sure I knew. Built on Pea Patch Island, the fort served as a major prison for Confederate prisoners during the Civil War. As I grew up I became interested in a different history of the Fort, the paranormal. I know it sounds weird, but even if you do not believe in ghosts the stories are still very interesting and make for a great ghost tour through the dungeons, kitchen and captains dormitories. The TAPS team (The Atlantic Paranormal Society), otherwise known as the Ghost Hunters, loved their experience at Fort Delaware so much as to host their season finale at the fort live, and they also claim it’s one of their favorite places to investigate.
This massive structure covers six acres, has 32 foot high walls, 7 to 30 feet thick in some places, the complex is surrounded by a 30 foot wide moat and it is entered through a medieval looking drawbridge at the entrance. As you walk through the entrance of thick gray stone you are not immediately presented with a creepy feeling, but instead a welcoming, beautiful old structure. But, as the tour moves onto the dungeons where the captured confederate soldiers were kept, the paranormal stories begin. When the fort was in use during the Civil War it was well known due to its mistreatment of prisoners. According to a book published by W.E. Emerson, several British soldiers captured by the Union and imprisoned at Fort Delaware sent protests about their treatment to the British consul in Philadelphia. One letter written to Secretary of State William H. Seward on January 17, 1863 read, “The Granite walls are wet with moisture, the stone floors damp and cold, the air impure. The prisoners have no beds, but they must sleep on the floor, they have no water to wash with and are surrounded by filth and vermin.” The dungeons are said to be the most haunted places in the Fort, with stories of full body apparitions, shadows, and disembodied voices echoing through the dark halls. Wilson reports that after the battle of Gettysburg the number of prisoners residing in Fort Delaware hit an all time peak of 12,595 men and boys. So when the TAPS team investigated the area in July of 2008 they questioned whether these prisoners of war were still roaming the halls of their demise.
An amazing amount of evidence was captured by the TAPS team during their investigation. The TAPS team was founded by Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson who were originally plumbers for Roto-Rooter until they decided to chase their dream of investigating paranormal events. What originally started out as a small operation used to help haunted homeowners and businesses and for their own entertainment has now blossomed into a major hit on network television. Their show Ghost Hunters is now the highest earning and rated show to date on the Syfy network and the team has created a major fan base and following in paranormal investigation. http://www.the-atlantic-paranormal-society.com/ They caught a thermal image of a man peeking around the corner to look at them, and one investigator reported having his jacket pulled on hard enough to pull him backwards as you will see in the following video clips. Chains rattling and shadows darting through the dark corridors and damp rooms thoroughly exemplify the classic haunted building we all recognize from Hollywood representations of the paranormal.
Everyone would expect that the dead would hang around the dungeons, but experts say that the most active spirit on the premises is a cook in the kitchen. She has been known to show up in many Polaroid pictures and slams doors. She seems to hold some authority in the kitchen but does not appear to be a menacing spirit, instead she just wants to be noticed. She has been photographed as mist, orbs and even in the shape of a woman in period clothing. There have also been reports of a child and woman throughout the fort. People have reported a child’s laughter and tugging at clothing. As Dale Fetzer, one of the two ghost tour guides at Fort Delaware, explains, “You get a little history lesson and a little ghostie lesson. There’s been a lot of actual sightings. It’s fun. On every trip we’ve had somebody see something we hadn’t planned.” http://davidhealey.freeservers.com/articles.html Fetzer entrances and even grosses out his tour group by sharing stories like the terrible death of a young drummer boy. The legend goes that a 9-year old drummer boy was trying to escape by hiding in a coffin. The plan was that the Rebels were going to let him out when they had reached the New Jersey cemetery but the plan did go as planned and the 9-year was buried alive. Fetzer describes what his last minutes must have been like, totally upsetting his audience.
I have always found history very interesting because there is always more that can be added to the story, and with paranormal evidence like that found by the TAPS team, history really seems to be living on through the walls of the fort. Many people don’t realize that the stories and history at Fort Delaware goes far beyond the reenactments and tours of the site. The history still lives on through the spirits still roaming the fort, their stories are far from dead. This history is all so powerful because like all history, its one rooted in the past continues to live on in the present.
Ghost Hunters S04E13 Fort Delaware .” YouTube. YouTube, 26 Mar. 2013. Web. 11 Apr. 2013
Healey, David. “Rebel Spirits: Searching for Civil War Ghosts at Fort Delaware.” More Published Articles by Author David Healey. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2013.
TAPS Halloween Special Grants Coat Tug Analysis Ft Delaware.” YouTube. YouTube, 04 Nov. 2008. Web. 11 Apr. 2013
“TAPS Mentality.” TAPS Mentality. Syfy Channel, n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2013.
Wilson, W. E. Fort Delaware. Newark: University of Delaware, 1957. Print