Episode 119: I Met A Ghost At Gettysburg
Most of us go to work and don’t think too much about how our everyday life impacts on our work credibility. But for some of us this can be a very huge issue, especially if we are in the public eye and pretty well known in our field of work. Now imagine, if you went about your normal business and private life. You had never given the paranormal or other states of being much thought, or if you did, you dismissed it. You didn’t really believe in the paranormal, in the unseen realms. In the shadowlands, where things are mysterious and unexplained. It simply isn’t part of your day to day paradigm or way of thinking.
Can you imagine how you would feel, if suddenly your whole way of viewing the world was turned upside down when you purchased and started restoring a home that was actively haunted? How would you react? What would you do? Would you struggle to believe this? Especially when it doesn’t fit into your world viewpoint?
Then when you eventually come to a peace and the beginning of an understanding about this. You decide to delve more into this part of the shadowlands, out of curiosity more than anything perhaps? Or perhaps, you are simply seeking validation of your experiences in your home? For whatever reason, one day you are visiting a civil war battle site and have the opportunity to go on a ghost hunt at Gettysburg and actually have a verbal encounter with a civil war soldier who was killed in that battle. Moreover, after the experience you are able to validate the details given to you by the spirit, how would that make you feel?
You seriously consider writing a book about your experiences and already are a well known author and journalist by profession. One a well-earned reputation gained over forty years working in the field. You have a regular column that is so popular, it’s been made into several books. You are also an avid civil war re-enactor and author of books on the civil war. A gentleman known for your detail, research skills and historical accuracy. But you struggle with the potential loss of credibility you have justly earned over all the years. What would you do? Are you ready to walk with me into this part of the shadowlands with my guest and see what awaits us there? Then let’s begin!
My guest originally began his career as a journalist. A career that now spans more than four decades, much of that time with the daily Bryan Times newspaper in northwest Ohio. To be successful as a writer and editor with a community paper requires accuracy, truthfulness and trust. Simply put, if Don had not been painstakingly accurate and built a culture of trust with his readers, he could not have survived and thrived as a journalist for so many years.
His work as an editor, page and section composition and columnist has been recognized with numerous Associated Press awards. In addition, Don has authored and contributed to books on the American Civil War and Northwest Ohio history, in addition to his books on the paranormal. Don and his wife are the founders and publishers of Faded Banner Publications,
For nearly four decades Don has served on the Williams County, Ohio, Historical Society Board of Trustees, and through the years he has held various offices with the organization. He spearheaded the successful effort in which the society acquired and preserved the 1845 Society of Friends Meeting House in western Williams County. Don also is a founding member and past trustee and officer of the Stryker Area Heritage Council. Currently Don serves as an interpreter with the Sauder Village, Archibald, Ohio.
Don is in demand as a speaker and presenter at conferences and other events. During 2019 alone he was a presenter at the Gettysburg Battlefield Bash and numerous paranormal conferences. He’s also has given presentations and provided book signings at Civil War Roundtables, museums, historical societies, and National Park service sites including the National POW Museum in Andersonville, Georgia.
We begin our conversation when Don is looking at purchasing a home he’s admired since he was a child. My guest Don Allison:
I Met A Ghost At Gettysburg
Don: Yeah, the house that I’m now talking to you from – my office in that house – I’ve watched the house since I was a kid and was always fascinated by the house because it’s much older than most of the houses where the great black swamp was one of the last parts of Ohio settled. But I just watched this whole house deteriorate. And I didn’t even know it was for sale but my son was looking for a house, and he saw there was a listing, and he asked me to come along. From the picture I couldn’t tell if it was this house or not, but when we arrived it was in such a bad shape that my son’s girlfriend’s little girl was with them and the realtor advised that she not even come in the house. It was in very rough shape.
Well, it was too rough for my son, he didn’t want to tackle that – he needed something he could live in right away. I was fascinated by the house. Much of the house is original to 1835. A lot of the woodwork, doors, hardware, has never been changed and unfortunately it was in such rough shape that some of the floors would not bear your weight from the water damage. You could stand in the basement, look through the ground, and second floor levels and through the roof and see the sky in one spot. But we thought, well – and I told my wife about it and she was intrigued – we looked at it and we had three different contractors come through and give us estimates, and we thought yeah! There’s enough here that’s solid that we could restore. So we bought it, bit the bullet, and I’m glad we did.
But, early on when we were working on the house outside, a gentleman who had lived here for almost 25 years saw us outside. He pulled in, came almost running over to us, and said “you guys know this house is haunted?”. Well we hadn’t really worked inside with it much, so my wife and I looked at each other – I had to bite my tongue because what I wanted to say, is that that explains the half-empty booze bottles we’re finding hidden in different parts of the house – but he seemed like a nice guy and I didn’t want to be rude. He was an art teacher, a music teacher – a substitute teacher at that time, in schools. I think he was of retirement age. So we listened to him and kind of let him go and didn’t argue with him. Things seemed okay until he told us about being visited by aliens who disappeared into the cornfield, so we really didn’t put much stock at all in what he told us.
It wasn’t until too much later that we started experiencing some of the very things that he experienced. The one that really sticks out, he said he’d often hear footsteps running across upstairs from a bedroom at one end of the house, through the middle, across the hallway into the North bedroom, and the door would slam. Oh, the odd thing was the door at the top of the stairs that we would hear close was actually stuck part way open. Could not be budged – it had swelled from some of the water damage. But yet you would clearly hear the door close, and even the metallic click of the lock set. And when I heard that I thought what in the world? I thought there must be an animal, like a racoon or something in the house. I ran upstairs – nothing. The door was not moved, and it couldn’t be moved, and there weren’t even any footsteps in the dust. We had not done anything upstairs yet. And I was just kind of like, wow, what in the world is going on here?
Well that repeated itself different times and we would often hear. This sounded like very light, barefoot footsteps – perhaps a child or maybe a small woman, is what it sounded like. We would hear heavy steps, I would hear them – like the front door open, and I would hear footsteps go down the main hall, or go up the steps and hear walking around upstairs – but the door did not open, and there was nobody visible. Just these sorts of things. And I was thinking I was losing my mind. Luckily my wife was helping me work here – she experienced them.
A good example is one time when we were working upstairs and the South bedroom – which is actually the newer part of the house from the eighteen-sixties – we heard the front door open, we heard somebody walk across the living room, and into the dining room. Just real as could be, and we thought someone from the family had stopped out to visit. Looked out the window and there were no cars in the drive, so then I hollered down the back stairs – no answer. I went downstairs to look – there was nobody there. But it could not have been a more realistic sound. So these were the sorts of things that really got our heads, you know, just spinning.
But some of the things that really were odd is electronics. We had to get the electricity to the house turned off, it was very old wiring. It had been water damaged and we didn’t want to risk a fire, so we got no power in the house. We used everything either by batteries or had a generator that we would run outside. And, we had radios, battery powered radios, a CD player – because we were doing a lot of work with saws and sawdust, kicking up dust – I had found a CD player radio at a garage sale. Well this thing would shut off or turn on on it’s own, it would change radio stations. And, I thought it was defective. I threw it away and bought a brand new one. And this one would come on, turn on and off by itself, change radio stations by itself. I thought what in the world is going on here?
The most amazing one is my wife Diane and I were working outside – working on bricks, tuck-pointing bricks – and the radio kept going from music we were listening to, to a Bowling League State University men’s basketball game, and it didn’t matter what station we put it on, within 30 seconds it was back on the basketball game. It was kind of insulting because Bowling Green is the arch rival to the University of Toledo, where I attended. Which kind of adds some humour to it. But we gave up trying to change it, I bet we changed it a dozen times and it went back. Finally, when the game was over we put it back on our original station and then had no more problems. It’s like, we were just scratching our heads at this!
Another time I was working, and it was after dark, and I had a saw set up in the living room. I was cutting floorboards to replace the upstairs bedroom floor, and I had the radio going. Everything was plugged into a generator, the radio was actually plugged in, in this case. And every time a loud rock song – this was a classic rock station – every time a loud rock song would come on the radio would turn off. After it happened three times – this is the first time I ever did this – I spoke out loud out of frustration. I said “look, leave the radio alone, I like this music. Don’t turn it off, don’t make me stop what I’m doing to turn it back on. Leave the radio alone”. So I go back to work and, I don’t know, two or three songs later Elton John’s song Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting) came on – the radio didn’t turn off, the generator outside turned off. Left me in the dark, and I just stood there and I laughed. I went outside, the generator was flipped off. It didn’t run out of gas, and no issue it fired right back up and nothing bothered me for the rest of that night. But that’s just very indicative of the things that still to this day will happen here.
Marianne: So obviously whomever is in your house has a sense of humour!
Yes, most definitely! We think we know who some of the spirits are. When this was first happening I wanted nothing to do with it – I was a total sceptic, if you read my book, you I’m sure you saw that. I didn’t even believe my own grandmother, a Southern Baptist Minister’s wife, when she told me they lived in a haunted parsonage in Louisiana. I just thought – she wouldn’t have lied to me, my grandmother was a very straightforward person, she did have a sense of humour, but she was very serious – and I just thought oh she maybe had a little too much spicy Cajun food before she went to bed. I didn’t argue with her. Well, now I totally believe her! She told about waking up in the middle of the night, just to see a man in outdated clothing standing at the foot of their bed, plain as can be. Their eyes locked, and then he just vanished. Other times, she said, somebody sat on their bed. She and Grandpa were in bed – it left an imprint of a persons behind on the mattress but no one was there, the mattress even sunk down. They would have the blankets pulled off them in the middle of the night. Apparently things were all centred around the bedroom.
That must’ve been pretty scary for her. Especially with their background, you know, they would’ve found that quite terrifying I would imagine.
She seemed not to be too much fazed by it, she just told me about it so matter-of-factly and I said, “okay Grandma” and just let it go. We didn’t buy the house here until years after she had passed. I think she would’ve enjoyed my experiences; could I have shared them with her.
Right. So how many spirits do you actually feel that you have in your house?
Well, we have had people who have seen apparitions. My wife and I, we both saw a shadow figure once in our garage. Which is odd because the garage is actually built from reclaimed lumber from a barn down the way – the wood itself is about the same age as what our house is, but the building is not. But, we looked at each other, “did you see that? Just a shadow figure, a 3D black figure just walked across the back of the garage”. And my wife had seen a partial, again shadow figure, almost forming – it scared our parrot.
It frightened him, that’s why she looked up and saw it. It just shocked the bird, screeching and screaming in his cage, and she looked over and saw like a swirling cloud with the torso shape of a person, and that rather flipped her out. But what’s odd is, I had just gone upstairs and I was reading, and I heard footsteps in our dining room heading toward the living room. That’s not all that odd so I didn’t say anything to her, until she told me the next day what she’d experienced. I said “what time was that?”, she said “about five minutes after you went upstairs”, so I said “well that’s when I heard the footsteps”.
Wow, that’s interesting. Of course there’s all sorts of theories about shadow people, and I did an episode on them. One of the theories is that shadow people are actually spirit who don’t quite have the energy to manifest in, in full human form.
And that would follow from our experience, because the footsteps that I heard, before she saw the shadow figure, match the footsteps that we’ve often heard. It sounds like a heavy male with leather soled shoes. I’m familiar with that because of my living history work, what that sounds like, and that would make sense.
Now, we have had, of all things, two men were delivering a clothes washer to us, and while one gentleman is unhooking the original, our old washer, the other gentleman’s in our main hallway at the foot of the stairs with the new washer on a cart, and all of a sudden I hear him kind of clearing his throat and say, “excuse me?”. I looked at him and he looked white, his eyes were wide, and he says “can I ask you something?”. I said “well yeah, did you hear something? People here doing work here often stirs up… We have some things here”, and he says, “Oh I saw something – I’m majorly creeping out right now!”. And, I said in the book, I didn’t know if he was going to run away or defecate – or both! I just said “it’s okay, nothing’s going to hurt you!”, but the poor guy was just scared to death. I said “what did you see?”, and he said he saw a little girl!
And he said he knew something wasn’t right because of her clothing. He described what sounded like an 1870’s, 1880’s nightdress or play-dress. He said she peered out from the middle bedroom, and then walked out and stood at the top of the stairs, and he said she was real as could be but he knew her clothing – she had brown curly hair – he knew it was not of this time. He said, to the detail, that the dress was white but it was dirty. It was just…. He couldn’t get out of there soon enough, he was obviously very distraught. I have had another woman – who knew the gentleman who lived here – she grew up near here, had visited this house through the years, and she saw a very similar apparition. She did not know about the other case, so that just amazed me.
Another time I was a speaker at a paranormal conference, and a woman accosted me. She was a medium and she actually was giving readings, and she didn’t know me from Adam. She stopped me – I was walking by – and she says, “Sir, Sir, you have a little girl with you”, and I said, “excuse me?”, she says “you have a little girl attached to you, I’m sorry”. Then she explains a little bit, but she proceeded to describe this little girl in more detail than the man with the washer had described her – a little more detail with the hair and whatnot – and what she described is exactly like an 1880’s hairstyle. So we did some research after all this and we found that there was a little girl who died in eighteen-eighty-two, or eighty-three, she was maybe seven, and she died of bone cancer. She did not live here, but this was her grandparents house, so we think maybe that is who it is?
And what’s really kind of amazing to me, I have a good friend who initially poo-pooed the idea of any paranormal anything happening here until he has visited and had his own experiences, so I told him about some of the stuff with the little girl. I did not share who I thought she was. He went and looked on his own, he came up with the exact same – he’s a very good historical researcher – he came up with the same name. And ironically, this is his great great aunt, this young girl who died. And actually he has family connections to the house.
Wow – that’s pretty tragic, isn’t it? And I guess that she shows at your place because it was a place that she had loving memories of.
That’s our theory, and that’s what people seem to think, and ironically – I told you earlier about the footsteps. One of my first experiences of footsteps running across upstairs, that sounded like a young, barefoot child. And the medium said – I said, “why didn’t the little girl cross over?” – the medium told us, “she likes you. You will hear her but never – she doesn’t like to get close to you, she stays in the background”. At night when we’re sleeping sometimes we’ll hear footsteps around the perimeter of the room, or even out in the hallway. And my wife has a necklace stand and we will hear these necklaces being played with, and you’ll even see them move. Also, we have an antique wardrobe, and she seems fascinated by playing with the door – you’ll hear it creak. She’s never fully opened it, but it’s just odd that you don’t normally hear it creak. It’s not something…. It’s almost… something is manipulating it and it seems to be when we’re hearing the footsteps, is when it happens.
That’s really actually kind of sweet…. Kind of sweet actually…. Can I go back to your barn for a second?
Do you know anything about the history of the barn?
Ah, I’m sorry I didn’t understand what you said.
Ah sorry, your garage, that was made from the wood of the barn
Oh yes, I’ve got you!
Do you know anything about the history of that? Because, It’s not uncommon for old buildings that have had spirits in them, if the parts are used for other buildings, quite often the spirit will come along with the parts.
Actually the building is a barn that was on the ancestral farm, the family that established this farm… When they divided the farm among the sons, and the barn was with the son of the original people who – well, it wasn’t the builder, but the second family who had the house. When the barn came down my son and I salvaged the wood and used that to build the timber frame smaller barn that serves as our garage.
Right! Do you…. Do you know if anybody committed suicide in that barn?
We’re not aware of that, not to say that it couldn’t have happened. Oddly, but we have seen – my grandson has seen and some other people have seen – an older farmer in denim overalls, white shirt, very old fashioned dress, and he was seen in the garage. We had a garage sale, actually, and there were people around, we were sitting and my grandson about fell off of his chair. And he asked me, “did you see that?”, and he was maybe 10 at the time. And I said “What?”, and he described this.
Unbeknownst to him we had the same lady who saw the little girl, we were talking to her outside and she said the farmer was standing – she described the exact same thing – was leaning against a tree near where we were talking. So my grandson did not know anything about this and he gave the exact same description. He saw the farmer also on the front porch. No one’s ever seen him inside the house, only outdoors, so perhaps that is the connection.
Yeah, that’s the connection, he came with the wood. So, I don’t…. I kind of…. The gut feeling, I got when you told me about the barn was that there was either a suicide – there was either a suicide that happened in the barn, which is why he’s attached to it, or he died in the barn – through like a heart attack, or something like that – but suicide was the first thing that came to my mind. So yeah, that would be interesting to find that out. Do you ever see him, still?
No one has seen him recently. I’ve never seen beyond the shadow figure my wife and I saw – and I will backtrack. When we first moved into the house I was actually sitting right where I’m sitting now, we had lived in the house maybe more than a week, and my wife ran into town to get groceries. It was after dark, and I heard footsteps in the hallway, approaching my office, and I stopped and I thought, is Diane home already? So I hollered out “hello?”, and the footsteps stopped, I went back to work, but the footsteps resumed. The steps came in through my office, cast a human sized shadow on the wall to my left, when it walked between the lamp on my desk in here. It got very cold, the steps when right beside me and into the formal parlour to my right. When I looked I didn’t see anything, but what I could not see with my eyes cast a very clear shadow, which I thought was rather odd.
That’s re…. And did that one startle you, or scare you?
No, I was rather dumbfounded. I’d heard those same steps enough that I wasn’t really frightened. I’ve never really been frightened of the paranormal. What’s happened here, the vibes have always been generally good. But, I was speechless and I just sat for a long time just looking. I got up, went into the parlour and of course nothing was there – actually, the door was closed, but the steps went through like the door was either open or not even there.
So one of the theories – I guess you’ve probably come across this when you’ve researched – is that if it’s a residual haunting, as opposed to an intelligent one…. Like, like in England, for example, they’ll see spirit come through a window and go through a wall, but actually they’re following paths that were there. Like, there might have been a doorway where they go through the wall when they were alive.
And I think we have both residuals and intelligent. The initial steps running across upstairs, when we’ve heard them it’s always the same, it’s repeated exactly what John, the gentleman had experienced. The steps that often will – we haven’t heard this one for a while – they’d come in the front door. You’d hear the door open, but not close, and the steps would go up the stairs, and then they’d stop once they’d reach the top of the stairs. You’d go out and look but the door was still closed, it had never opened. That one would tend to repeat. But then other things are clearly intelligent.
Yeah, the little girl certainly sounds intelligent, sounds like she interacts, absolutely. How did this, for a man who was sceptical…. how has this altered your paradigm, your perceptions?
Oh, I had a complete paradigm shift! It took me a while to come to grips with it. I pushed and pushed and pushed, am I losing my mind? But workers, we had some contractors do some of the work, they experienced things. When it kept happening and others saw it, heard it, I finally realised – something’s going on here, then I became curious. The one that really won me over is I was in the basement – and I have some, I think, mediumistic abilities. Limited. But one of the things I learned early on is when we were having these paranormal things I could sense the energy shift in the room, very much. And, I was in the basement – which is pure eighteen-thirty-five, by the way, so it has the original kitchen and the hearth all that in it – but I was down there and we were just using it for storage, just one of the things we had yet to complete, but I felt the energy shift.
I had just maybe a night or two before watched one of the paranormal shows, the Ghost Hunters on television, and they had done the whole thing and had the spirit answer, and they did get an answer. So I thought, I’m going to try this! I was just getting ready to leave for the evening – it’s before we had moved in – so I said, “can you finish this for me?”, and I did the [Don knocks a melodic sequence], and nothing. I remember hearing that you need to give them time to build the energy to respond, so I waited maybe a minute and I tried it again. I said, “this is my last time, I’m ready to leave. If you’re here can you finish it?”, and I did it [the knocking] and sure enough across the way amid some of the stuff we had stored came a clear [Don knocks again]. Things were rustling, and then I heard steps, footsteps going up the stairs to the living room. That one really won me over. I thought okay, there’s something interacting with us, something intelligent, something I cannot understand or explain.
Wow, how cool is that? That’s really cool. So, did this make you feel unsafe or uncomfortable?
Never really unsafe or uncomfortable, with one exception. It wasn’t because of the paranormal, but my father had helped me take down some of the old furnace duct work, it had a quite old furnace that no longer functioned. So, we were getting a new one put in. He helped me tear down the old duct work, it was still in the basement, and I came back – it was a Sunday morning about 11am, a beautiful sunny gorgeous day – and as I’m standing in the living room below me, it sounded like someone with a big hammer was beating on that old duct work. It was so powerful that I could feel the vibrations through the floor.
I thought someone had broken into the house and was trashing it. I grabbed a crowbar and ran down the stairs, it [the hammering] continued, and I hit the bottom of the stairs. Our basement is in two rooms, and the stairs come out of the door between the two, and as soon as I hit the bottom of the stairs, all of a sudden – no pun intended – there was dead silence. Nothing. If that would’ve been an animal or something I would have to have heard it scurry away, or if a person was really there I would’ve seen it. I investigated, there was no dust. The pounding of that metal would’ve created dust in the air, I’m sure. And I was…. Then I was frightened, but only because I thought somebody had broken in and I was probably rather foolish doing what I did, running down there with a crowbar, but it rather angered me, too.
I was thinking you were a bit brave!
But what’s really weird is, maybe a year or so later my brother in law was helping out – he’s a maintenance electrician and he helped with some of the wiring – he was working third shift and working nights so he was working [at our house] during the day. I was at work, at the newspaper, and he came to the front counter and asked for me. I go out to talk to him and he says, “You owe me a new pair of underwear”, and I said, “what?”. He proceeded to describe the exact same experience.
I asked, “was there anything down there?”, he said, “I wasn’t about to find out!”. Now, he’s an Army Veteran, was a US Army Ranger and whatnot – he was having none of it, he packed up his tools and left! I had not told him of my experience, so I don’t know any way he would’ve heard about that. So it’s just rather odd, he had the exact same experience just maybe a year later.
That’s very interesting… and of course you never found out what caused it?
No, but I did have a bit of illumination. A good friend of mine – her name is Kat Gass, she’s a very talented medium, she’s a paranormal author, she lives actually near the Gettysburg battlefield near the Antietam battlefield which is close by – But, I was interviewing her for one of my books and in the middle of a sentence she says, “you have Margaret with you”. I said, “pardon me?”. “Well, Margaret”, she said, “you will hear Margaret before you’ll see her, you will smell Margaret before you’ll see her, but she is with you there”. And I thought, this is odd, but unbeknownst to Kat, Margaret and Henry Miller were two early owners of the house. They both died of a fever within maybe a couple of weeks of each other in eighteen-sixty-three.
We often have heard what sounded like, I guess, women’s footsteps in the hall, which was where Kat said she was. We have sometimes smelled very old fashioned perfume, or sometimes sort of like an old liniment, which I would associate with old people from my youth. But a lavender type, which was very popular perfume back in her [Margaret’s] day. And I thought that was odd because Kat could not have known that Margaret was her name.
But then Kat said, “you have someone else with you. It’s a gentleman, he’s of about that same time period…. I’m getting eighteen-fifties”, and she described someone dressed that way. She started talking about my office – she’s never been to our house. I’ve never posted or shared pictures of this office that she would ever have a chance to see – she described the office. She says, “you have a window off to your left, there’s a large bush outside the window”. It’s our ground floor, from the one end of the house there’s this kind of sand ridge, so it’s almost between our first and second story level. “Here” she said, “there’s a window directly below that”. “Correct”, I said, “yes”. She said, “well, Henry -” and she didn’t know that name but I figured out this was Margaret’s husband Henry because of what she described, she said “He’s hammering, you’ve heard hammering. He’s hammering, but not a carpenter’s hammer, it’s like a machiner’s hammer. He’s at that window. Either you have found something near that lower window, or he wants you to find something. But if you have found something, it’s connected with him”.
Well, two things she did not know – my grandson found a flint-lock pistol barrel below that window in the basement, just the barrel of a pre-eighteen-forty’s or pre-eighteen-forty-five military pistol right under that window in the basement. The other thing, about the hammering, he was a machinist. He owned the Brian Woollen Mills, and the wool carding machinery was here at the farm. He would’ve used the machinist hammer.
Go back to the hammering in the basement, how I talked about metallic hammering – we took an old set of stairs down, in the basement in the back, it was made out of brick and an old concrete. The very day after that was taken down I was working outside and I heard metallic hammering coming from where those steps had been. Not just a little bit, but it would stop if I walked over there, and as soon as I walked back over to where I was working, it resumed, the metallic hammering. So, how Kat – there’s no way she could’ve known this stuff. She never did get the name, but, who she described would be a perfect match for Henry Miller, Margaret’s husband.
Wow, how cool is that! So that ties that up quite nicely for you.
Yes. I have never seen anything in person, but perhaps the shadow figure that we see could be Henry. I know he would not match the description of the old farmer we see outside. That gentleman would be a little newer, probably early nineteen-hundred’s maybe, from his dress.
Would he be from the Depression era?
Possibly, yes, possibly!
That’s the impression that I get, and that’s possibly why he committed suicide.
I do know that for part of the time that this house was rented, to like maybe a tenant farmer, or was not the family, at one point they built a newer house down the road. But then later the family returned, and we actually purchased it from the Ames family that bought it after the Miller’s died. The Miller’s children had it for a while, they sold it. It’s quite a history here. Four of the Miller’s sons served in the Civil War, the Union Army. Two of them did not make it home. One, tragically, survived the war and was killed in Cleveland in a bar fight on his way home.
Oh wow, yeah those were rough times, weren’t they? Sad for families. So that’s a good segue into your military, your Civil War stuff.
Yeah, I’ve been fascinated with the Civil War. I’ve had family on both sides. My grandmother, a champion – I’ve talked about her paranormal experiences earlier – she remembers sitting on her grandfather’s lap and her grandfather was a confederate cavalry But, yes as far as the civil war, I’ve always been interested in it.
When I visit my mom, who’s from Alabama in the South, her family has lots of confederate ancestry that I found out later fought in the war. I had uncles who would take me to remains of battlegrounds that had taken part, like trenches that had been dug for the battle, so I’ve always been fascinated. But for some reason I’ve always been drawn to Gettysburg, which was odd because I knew of none of my family members who would’ve been involved in the battle. I was always fascinated with Little Round Top, it’s on the very Southern end. It’s a very iconic part of the battle because a regiment from Maine, the 20th Maine, fought the 15th Alabama regiment, and it was like the closest you could be. Had the Alabamians taking the hill, it could’ve changed the outcome, or seriously undermined the union line. The Maine troops held on by the skin of their teeth! I was always fascinated by that. For whatever reason.
I got the opportunity to be a 20th Maine soldier in the motion picture Gettysburg, which I found fascinating. But for one day they needed more re-enactors to be Alabama troops for filming some of the attack scenes, so for one day I got to be a 15th Alabama soldier at Gettysburg. I did not know at the time that my great-great-grandfather and a great-great-great-uncle both fought with the 15th Alabama at Little Round Top.
It was because of paranormal things that happened to me and my grandson at Little Round Top that lead to me researching, wondering what’s going on. But what really got me is, I’ve been to Gettysburg – my wife and I honeymooned in Gettysburg, and it was nice for the history, she’s into history as well – but I took my grandson to Gettysburg and he was 14 at the time. We would go somewhere historic on spring break, and we’ve been to other Civil War battlefields. He wanted to go to Gettysburg. This was for the history. I did own the house at the time and he had experienced paranormal things at the house and whatnot, but we weren’t looking for that.
So while we were at Gettysburg I registered as a journalist so I could get like, behind-the-scenes tours of the visitors centre and different things. Well, I was offered – as a journalist – a free paranormal investigation, a place that did it for the tourists. And I thought, well this is just a touristy thing and I want my grandson to have a good time so I was just like, “Connor, would you like to take a ghost tour, go on a ghost hunt?”. “Yeah, grandpa, that sounds cool!”. So I call up, and this young lady meets us, and they took us to Sachs Bridge. And I was disappointed – it’s a covered bridge, it was there during the battle – but I’d seen the bridge, I wasn’t that excited about it. I wanted to go to like, a field hospital site.
Well lo and behold, we get to Sachs Bridge – there are quite a few people there, there are other people investigating the paranormal – our tour guide explained that this was one vast field hospital at the time of the battle. So we investigate things. She let us pick out our equipment – we used a K-2 electromagnetic field indicator, we used a laser grid – you know, we had some different tools. We were there, it was to be two hours, and we had almost nothing. The young lady who took us around claimed to see a shadow figure, and by the way she reacted, I don’t doubt it, I don’t think she made it up. My grandson saw one, and based on his reaction I’m sure he did.
But we’re just about done and finally, it’s like 11 o’clock at night, and we finally had the bridge to ourselves, and we started getting answers on the spirit box. Real time EVPs on the spirit box. “Is anyone with us?” – yes. “How many of you are with us?” – seven, eight, nine. “What year is it?” – eighteen-sixty-three.
I was like, wow this is fascinating, and then it kind of died off. It’s 11 o’clock, it’s time to go, it’s getting cold, it’s early spring. So the young lady guiding us went to start the car to warm it up, and I’m standing there with my grandson and I’m thinking, okay if this is really not a hoax and these are Civil War soldiers, what would get them going? So I said, “do you like jokes?”, and we got a very clear “yes Sir!”. I thought, oh that’s interesting. “Do you like music?”, and it’s like I’d insulted whatever this was – “of course!”. My grandson, bless his heart and quick thinking, he says “well can you play for us?” – yes Sir! And we started getting acoustic guitar!
Now, of course the spirit box works by scanning radio stations, but it’s very rapid, so if you’d get maybe a note from a song. These were measures long, acoustic guitar. Just absolutely mind blowing stuff. When the young lady came back, she heard this music, her eyes got this big around, and her mouth was open, and this went on for several minutes. When it finally died down I said, “wow, you’re good!”, and the voice says thank you, so I said, “can you play some more?” – yes Sir!
And this time harmonica, and what sounded like mandolin joined in. We got like 10 minutes of this period music. Finally, that faded out and we started getting other voices, other answers – one said the word… he said the word Captain. We said, “where are you from?”, and we couldn’t understand it so I start naming off states, and I got to Ohio and he says “yes”. I said, “Connor and I are from Ohio!”.
We each had a K-2 meter, as did our guide. Connor and my K-2 meters, that we could barely get to bleep if we put something electronic beside it, it went to the top level and stayed there several seconds. Our guides did not budge. We kept saying, “how old are you?” – twenty. And then, unsolicited, it said “Captain”. Then our guide asks its name and we got…. It was tough to make out. It was three syllables, an ‘on’ in the middle, it sounded kind of rough with maybe an ‘s’ at the end. But he kept repeating it and our guide kept saying, “can you enunciate a bit more clearly?”.
You could sense the strain – this male voice wanted us to have his name! We asked it to say one of our names, and it said “Connor”, which I think kind of got him a little bit. He kind of jumped, but he was real good with it. Then at the very end I said, “were you hurt?”, and we got this male scream, almost blood curdling. It still sends chills down my spine to think of it. And then [we got] a woman crying. At that point some other people came onto the other end of the bridge, and that took the wind out of our sails.
But at the end of the spirit box session, I thought that I was being hoaxed because I was a journalist. They wanted a good write up. So I kept peppering this poor young lady about it, and she seemed very sincere, saying “no I’ve never heard music, I’ve never had this good a session!”. When I got home I was bound and determined that I was going to prove that this was a hoax, so I started talking to people in the field. I thought, well, were there any Ohio Captains killed or mortally wounded at Gettysburg? So I researched it, there were seven of them.
One of them, the name was Mahlon Briggs – three syllables, ‘on’, Captain, and the 75th Ohio regiment. He was wounded on the first day of the fight – captured. He was probably taken to Sachs Bridge as a prisoner – and he died on the third day of the battle as a prisoner. Probably died at Sachs Bridge, where this took place. I was blown away. That’s when I decided I’m going to write about this. I had friends, coworkers, kept urging me I needed to write about it, I kept saying no, people will think I’ve lost my blooming mind! That’s where the title came from – I Met A Ghost At Gettysburg – and that’s actually, on the cover of the book, his photo. I found the soldier’s photograph.
Wow! So there you are, you’ve had this amazing life altering experience, and so you tried to prove that it was not genuine or prove that it was genuine?
Correct. And I thought I could easily prove that it was a hoax, but you can’t broadcast these things because they scan stations. Everyone told me, who had experienced it – I talked to some of the top spirit box, you know, people in the field and people would refer me on – they all said that’s how it happens. You’ll get nothing, you’ll get nothing, you’ll get nothing, you’ll get a lot maybe if you’re lucky, and then you’ll get nothing again. And that’s exactly what happened to us.
The fact that the music came through, that’s pretty incredible, I’ve actually never heard of music coming through a spirit box before.
Our guide had not. I guess other people have had it, but I’ve never heard anyone have an experience. We got…. I wouldn’t be surprised if we got a total of 15 or 20 minutes of period acoustic guitar, harmonica, and mandolin.
~ Interview is shamelessly interrupted by an adorable cat. Conversation about pets and Don’s parrot ensues ~
Our parrot – and maybe it’s not a good time to mention it, but – our parrot has reacted to some of the paranormal experiences. One time, and this happened like three days in a row, I’d be working in my office at about three, three-thirty in the afternoon, and I’d hear what sounded like a young lady coughing in the living room. The first time I heard it I thought, who in the world got into the house? I walked down there, and there was nothing there. The third day it happened my parrot imitated it, and he’d imitate us coughing, but the original cough was not him. He imitated the cough I’d just heard in the living room, which I found rather surprising. And he’ll often play peek-a-boo with something in the dining room. I’ve actually used an Ovulus type app and gotten answers to questions – you could feel the cold – and he was obviously interacting, playing peek-a-boo and talking to whatever’s there. He apparently can see it, and we cannot. And he seems to like whatever it is! He reacts well and seems to have fun with it.
Oh wow, that’s so cool. After your experience then, and after your research to try and prove that it was a hoax and you were unable to – in fact, you had your experience validated, which is pretty awesome because that’s not that often that that actually happens – so, from there you decided to, after a lot of…. Of I guess, great thought, given your journalistic integrity, write your book.
Yes. I still remember, my wife and I went and picked up the first set of printings from the printer, and I remember driving home in the van thinking, what have I done? I could just picture people laughing at me, poking fun at me, but the reaction was just the opposite. I won’t say there have been no detractors, but they have been rare, and I have been extremely well received. Especially in Gettysburg, with my Civil War history. I’ve done history books on the war, so I tend to be well accepted in Gettysburg. I do talks, book signings, I speak at paranormal conferences. Gettysburg has what it calls the Battlefield Bash, a paranormal event every summer – I was one of the keynote speakers for that last year. I was very, very thrilled about that. It has opened doors to me, especially in the Gettysburg area. It has been amazing.
It’s probably opened up a whole different area for you that would never have occurred had you not written the book. So it’s given you vastly new experiences, which is pretty awesome, really.
It’s been life changing, it really has! I have some of the top investigators in the field, I’ve gotten to investigate with. Especially Gettysburg, some amazing places. I have been taught techniques. For the past two years I’ve been very much into using dowsing rods. I think the science is solid, behind them. I can go to Gettysburg; I can go to Sachs Bridge. My dad, actually, made contact with Mahlon Briggs at the same spot I talked to him with the ghost box. My dad made contact with him with the dowsing rods. And with the dowsing rods I was able to get further questions, answers to some of my questions from Mahlon Briggs – Including, he pointed to where he was at!
That’s pretty impressive! And dowsing rods, of course, work on energy, and spirit is energy. I read in your second book, where you started talking about using the dowsing rods and how they worked for you. And…. And of course, dowsing rods have been used for centuries.
And they do work. I think it’s rather amusing – I found the septic tank to our old house using them! My son did not believe me, but my grandson – I gave him the dowsing rods, so I saw him try it and he got nothing, and I didn’t tell him where the tank was or the line or anything – but my grandson found the tank, too, using them. When we needed to have it pumped the first time I showed the man doing the pumping where it was, I told him how I found it, and he said that he uses dowsing rods sometimes when he has difficulty finding the tank. And it was right where I had found it.
Wow, there you go. There you go. And of course dowsing rods have been used to find everything. Traditionally they’re used to find water.
I’ve talked to people who have found graves with them! I have good friends who have a farm outside of Gettysburg, it was a confederate field hospital, and the park services told them there was at least a dozen confederate graves unmarked on their property. One is marked, but there is a spot where they get a lot of metal detector hits, and he suspected it was a grave so he didn’t dig into it. I took my dowsing rods and he showed me the general area, and I was able to trace an area about two feet wide and just under six feet long. The exact size of what a grave would be. So they’ve not disturbed that with the metal detector
Wow, how cool is that? And when you use the dowsing rods, Don, do you feel an energy flowing through you?
Very very much so. I mean, I will feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up. It’s amazing because I can go to Sachs Bridge, the far end from where Mahlon Briggs’ presence is, and I can talk to a soldier from the 44th Alabama. Just by yes/no answers, knowing what regiments would’ve been there from Alabama, and I know what company he’s in. I mean, to the point where I’ve asked questions like, “did you leave someone behind?” – yes. “Do you miss your family?” – yes. I asked, “did you have a sweetheart?” – yes. “Were you married?” – yes. “Did you have children?” – yes. “How many children did you have?” – nothing to one, nothing to two, but yes to three. I can do this if I’m alone. My wife has been with me and I can make contact and my dad can be with me, but if there’s anyone else anywhere near I can’t get contact. I had a very good friend with me once and I couldn’t make contact. But one time I asked a question, I asked “are you glad to communicate with me? Do you appreciate being able to communicate with me?” – the rods didn’t just cross, Marianne, they bounced off my chest. That still makes me emotional, thinking about it.
Wow, that’s so cool. A question about the bridge – and it’s a covered bridge, isn’t it?
Yes, it is.
So did they actually…. The thought that came to me while you were talking is that they – did they actually use the bridge as the hospital because it was covered and it provided shelter?
Probably not, because there was a lot of troop movement. But because of the water – it was a hot time of the year – they lay the wounded along the creek. They would make use of the water. It’s very unfortunate because after the battle they had torrential rains and the creek flooded and drowned some of the poor men. And we know, the low area where we think that happened, that’s where the shadow figures are. There’s a very heavy energy there, too.
Right, yeah there would be, it’d be pretty terrifying for wounded men who could see the floodwaters rising.
The house that the Sachs family lived in nearby is quite active paranormally. I had a chance to meet the owners and they invited me to investigate the house. No one lives in it, but they purchased it and I don’t know if they planned to live in it or perhaps rent it. Maybe use it as a rental property for visitors. But I’m looking forward very much to spending the night there and investigating.
That would be awesome! Now, when we started… My brother-in-law Craig – hi Craig! – I know he’s likely going to be listening to this because he absolutely loves the Civil War and re-enactments. So he took his brother Jay, who was my husband and I, and I think his then-wife Rhonda. We all went to this battlefield. I honestly can’t remember where it was, but it was a huge…. like it had been turned into like a park. There were plaques everywhere and you’d walk along and there’d be plaques saying ‘this is where such and such happened’.
Anyway, we were just walking along and all of a sudden I just got this pain in my back, this tremendous sharp pain. It almost took me to my knees. It stopped me. It was so painful and I felt like I had been shot, or stabbed with a bayonet, and it was in my back. In the instant it happened, I got the impression of a young guy in his early 20’s, maybe, and it was so strong and so painful that it made me cry out. Everybody said, “what’s wrong, what’s wrong?”, and it took me a couple of minutes before I could catch my breath and say, “I’m in really bad pain at the moment and I think it’s this soldier. I think I’m feeling what he felt before he died”. Because I could see him in my minds eye. A tall, slender guy. But, I’ve never had physical pain like that. That, was really…. I absolutely was not expecting anything like that. I just went to this site thinking, oh it’s going to be beautiful and interesting to see, but I didn’t actually expect to experience anything.
That’s… that’s pretty intense. I’ve had two rather odd experiences at Civil War battlefields. The first, this was a couple of decades ago and still we don’t have the book completed, but a good friend of mine and I each had ancestors in the 38th Ohio regiment, and their big battle was at Jonesboro, Georgia. There’s no battlefield there, it’s all been taken over by a residential area, but we were retracing a charge – they lost almost half their men in a twenty-minute battle – and we were retracing their steps. There was one point where there’s a low area, they took shelter for a while. They were under heavy fire. We found that low area – and there was a local historian guiding us – well I climbed down into that low area and all of a sudden I was like, struck. My energy vanished. In my minds eye I could see and feel and sense the battle. I could see the remnants of the confederate entrenchments – there’s now a school behind it – I could see the confederate troops in my minds eye, fighting.
It was so intense I couldn’t even talk. My friend thought there was something wrong with me, he told me later that I was white as a ghost. But I was too embarrassed to say anything, especially with this historian there, so I just said I’m okay. It took me maybe eight or ten minutes to even get the energy to climb back up where they were, and I wasn’t right for a while after that day. After we dropped the historian off, my friend asked me, “What’s wrong? You turned white as a ghost, I thought you were going to pass out”, and I explained to him. At the time, this was before any of my paranormal experiences. I just thought – well, to save time as we were using vacation days, took turns driving through the night to get there and we were short on sleep – I just attributed it to that and an overactive imagination, that I knew what happened there. But, I never felt quite right, that that explained it, but that’s what I told myself.
About two years ago I was in Gettysburg with a friend, and I actually wanted to find out where Mahlon Briggs’ regiment went on the second day of the battle. After they had been pushed off and retreated, and Mahlon was wounded and they lost over half their men, that part of the battle. So we found, it’s not a very often visited spot, and I’m walking along and I saw the markers, the plaques – like you were talking about – and these stone markers showing where these troops were, and I saw to the left of where the 75th Ohio was, was the 107th Ohio. I didn’t know anything about this regiment, but this was interesting – I had never been to this part of the field. So my friend and I are walking along up the hill where they fought, and all of a sudden I had a repeat of my experience at Jonesboro, only this time it was dark. And I’m seeing muzzle flashes, just like mad, and I’m sensing yelling and confusion, and it was the same thing – I was stuck, I couldn’t move, I could barely stand, and my friend thought something was wrong with me. He thought that I was having a stroke. And, it was minutes before I could even tell him I’m okay. My friend is not into the paranormal, and he’s a really good historian, but I just told him what happened – and he said obviously something happened to me! He believes me, he’s on board with all that.
But, that led to my current project, the history of the 107th Ohio at Gettysburg and Chancellorsville battles. That led me to look into these poor guys. They were a German regiment, and they were treated horribly because of their German ethnicity. They fought, I thought, bravely and valiantly on both the first and second day at Gettysburg, and they were disparaged and insulted because they retreated. Their Colonel, who had been wounded at Chancellorsville, proved his bravery – he was arrested and charged with cowardice – he beat the charge, he ended up being exonerated, but it was a very anti-German Commander that they had, who did that. So I feel like I’m supposed to tell their story. I think that incident has led me to this point – it’s the book I’m working on now.
Well I was actually, before you started, going to ask you what is your next project! So there you go!
Now you can edit that in, I guess! That is my next project. I don’t have the exact title worked out. The working title is Charging the Ghosts with Dishonour, and the subtitle is The 107th Ohio at Chancellorsville in Gettysburg. I haven’t exactly decided on that, but I’m leaning toward it very much. Or something very similar.
So how many books do you actually have altogether, now?
I retired as a newspaper editor – I took early retirement, I’m not quite old enough to retire – to do my publishing full time. I did my first book, my Civil War book, back in 1996, and I’ve done several different ones. I publish works by other people, as well. Currently in print I have the two Gettysburg ghost books, a book called Hell on Belle Isle, a book called How Private Peck Put Down the Rebellion. Then I also have volumes of my – I do a weekly column for the newspaper that I still do, and it’s become kind of iconic here in Northwest Ohio – and I’ve done best of volumes of my columns. So I’m kind of living my dream.
That’s awesome! How many people can actually say that?
I’m quite lucky. And the paranormal, the two paranormal books, do better than any of my traditional history or column books do.
Because people, you know, have a fascination, and they want to know life continues on after this existence. So what is your website, so people can go and check it out themselves?
I actually have two, in connection with my books. My business is called Faded Banner Publications, and the website for that is www.fadedbanner.com – like an old flag. For the paranormal books I have www.imetaghost.com.
Brilliant! I didn’t know about the second one. I knew about your faded banner one, I found that when I googled your name, but I didn’t know about the second one. So I’ll have to go and have a look at that one too. Awesome! So do you have any final thoughts about your experiences, and how they’ve been life altering for you?
I now realise that I’m firmly convinced that our existence here, physical existence, is not all that we have. There’s more in store for us. I’ve had many experiences that I didn’t even get into, including having a dearly departed friend come to me at Gettysburg – he has a Gettysburg connection. A medium I had just met proceeded to tell me about this guy being here, making fun of me like only my friend would. She told me things that my friend was telling her, that there’s no possible way she could’ve made this stuff up. Nobody on this earth, not even my wife, could’ve answered that, so yes. There’s no doubt in my mind. I would also like people to be more open.
I’d like to encourage young people in the sciences to study parapsychology. Quantum physics has some incredible research going on that sheds light into this… There’s some recent research showing that the human mind actually communicates using light, which, I mean, ‘seeing the light’, ‘going to the light’ – the whole human experience down through the ages is connected with light. Now we have scientific experiments showing that physical-mental connection!
I love Quantum physics! I absolutely love it. I did an episode actually, called ‘A Glitch In The Matrix – A Holographic Reality?’ Did about thirty hours’ research for that episode. It was like writing a mini thesis actually, and I covered a whole pile of the top Quantum physicists and we went into the holographic universe theory. And just…. It was absolutely fascinating. And actually it’s probably my most listened to episode ever. So it really rings a bell with people.
It does. And have you looked into the double slit theory with the light particles? That blows my mind! The fact that people can retroactively change, by their thoughts what those…. That to me it’s just…. It’s just nothing short of mind blowing.
It’s fascinating isn’t it? And I do talk about about that in the episode. It’s absolutely fascinating. And, it behaves differently when people are observing it.
And that’s the part that…. And there’s some recent research showing that the human mind actually communicates using light? I mean scientific experiments showing that exact physical – mental connection.
It takes you down a whole different field, doesn’t it Don? I can actually see you going and doing a book in this direction at some stage.
I met a gentleman at a paranormal conference that I spoke at who had just done a book connecting quantum physics with – he’s a paranormal investigator – and he tied in a lot of these experiments with the paranormal. Fascinating book, I wish I could remember the title of it. I have it here somewhere in my books.
Oh yeah, that sounds like a really interesting book to read. Quantum physics is a fascinating subject, and it answers a lot of questions that regular science cannot answer. It explains a lot of things that regular science can’t explain.
It really does, and I think that’s where the answers lie. Another part of this, to me that I think’s significant, I believe that these are all natural laws. This is all something that science I think maybe will eventually explain. We just can’t explain it yet. The analogy I use is that it’s kind of like ancient people seeing a rainbow – to them it was magic, it was God interposing himself, or whatever. Now we know it’s just simple light refraction and moisture droplets. I think that’s a good, maybe a good analogy to help explain the unexplained.
Exactly, yeah it is a good analogy. I often think of that Shakespeare quote – “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”.
Yes! One of my favourite quotes is by Joshua Chamberlain, who commanded the 20th Maine at Gettysburg, and I wish I could quote it verbatim but in effect he said [actual quote looked up] “On great fields, something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear; but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls”. It’s actually on the back cover of my I Met A Ghost…. I Met More Ghosts book.
That’s a beautiful quote. It reminds me of the first law of, is it thermodynamics? That energy never dies; it simply changes form. Basically, what we are, is energy.
Yes, and I think a part of that energy survives us. It’s the basis of the human soul, in my mind.
Yeah, absolutely. Don it’s been absolutely – I’ve really enjoyed our conversation, and you’re such an interesting man, and I’ll be very keen to see your next book when it comes out! How far away do you think it is?
Well, originally, it would be out now, it would’ve been out in late April. But I still have to do research at the Gettysburg National Park archives, and they’re closed. They closed days before I was going to do that research, and had I been able to get there, the book would be out now. I’m wrapping up the other parts of it, and as soon as that reopens I plan to spend two or three days at Gettysburg. I’ve made a lot of friends there, so it will be a pleasure and a working trip.
Right, of course once everything from this virus opens up again and you can do that. That’s awesome. Don thank you so very much for your time today, I really really appreciate it. And you’re such an interesting chap, I’m sure my listeners are going to absolutely enjoy it as much as I have.
I hope so, I’ve enjoyed it very much… Thanks Marianne.
I really enjoyed my time with Don and our conversation. Such an interesting gentleman. Be sure and check his books out. They’re a very easy, interesting read. What do you think you would have done in the same situation? Do you feel that you would have dealt with having your belief shattered as well as Don did? I feel like he handled this really well and then utilized the skills he’s honed over all his years of journalism to help him come to terms with the situations. Well done, I reckon.
Today’s bumper music is called Two Lives, from Alice in Winter
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