The Ghosts of Harper’s Ferry

The small town of Harper’s Ferry in West Virginia is best known as the place where abolitionist John Brown led an 1859 raid on an arsenal, intending to gather enough weapons to mount a slave revolt. After the failure of the raid and an ensuing siege, Brown was taken to nearby Charles Town where he was tried and executed for treason.

Harper’s Ferry has one other distinction, however, in that it is also home to several ghosts,the most famous of which is John Brown himself. His tall, gaunt, white haired figure is often seen walking the streets near the site where the siege took place, in his company a small black dog. Eventually, the shade and his furry companion vanish into thin air as they reach the door of the historic fire engine house, the very same engine house at which Brown and his men held their ill-fated siege.
Another significant ghost seen in the town is that of Dangerfield Newby. A freed slave whose wife and children were still enslaved, Newby was one of the men who fought alongside John Brown during the raid and the ensuing siege. Newby was killed when a six inch spike fired from a rifle struck his neck and his body was then dismembered and thrown to the hogs in the area now known as Hog Alley. It is here that his specter is seen, walking along in his baggy pants and slouch hat, his blue eyes glinting in the darkness and the scar from his mortal wound still clearly visible on his throat. Amongst the lesser ghosts of Harper’s Ferry are soldiers from the Civil War era who are some times seen cooking their rations around camp fires, as well as the spirits of soldiers whose presence is known only by the sounds made as they play their fifes and drums. Also common are sightings of the ghost of a priest called Father Costello, who during the Civil War saved the local church from destruction by flying the British flag, the idea being that both sides would refrain from shelling the church in order to avoid an international incident. The priest’s ghost haunts the church grounds and is some times seen walking right through its walls.

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