Paranormal activity? Hauntings? Ghosts? Possible?
Not just possible, but true. At least that’s my view. In the words that follow I offer a few personal examples why I cannot dismiss encounters with the supernatural.
A few years back I drove to Fort Laramie, Wyoming to participate in a “living history” week at the actual frontier Fort Laramie. The week required period dress only. As frontier soldiers we dressed in woolen trousers and slept in original Army bunks in the old barracks using potbellied stoves for heat and candles or kerosine lanterns for light.
Food was crude. We were issued a small loaf of bread each day to go with a meal. By meal, I mean black coffee, a plate of beans, maybe bacon and a pancake. One special day we had some beef, freshly churned butter, and even some Dutch oven pie made from whatever berries the period laundresses could find growing nearby. There was no sugar used in the baking, but the pie was a special treat.
One day following our usual 5 a.m. drills and noon meal, I accompanied our captain, who was a Wyoming history professor that conducted the event, and one of our sergeants on a tour of the grounds of Fort Laramie. The fort consisted of some original buildings, some reconstruction, and some buildings where only crude foundations remained. The captain stopped outside one of the old foundations that still had some remnants of the original building inside it. The three of us walked into the old rubble, kicking around a bit, searching for anything dating back to the late 1860’s or early 1870’s. The sergeant was noticeably nervous. When the captain asked why, the response was, “I don’t know. I just can’t be here.” With that the sergeant hastened out of the foundation and watched from several yards away.
We joined him after our brief search, which turned up only an old Army button that was later taken to the post museum. When the three of us presented the button to the curator a conversation ensued about the ghosts of Fort Laramie, a topic about which the professor captain had thoroughly studied.
I listened to stories about candles mysteriously lighting behind locked doors and regular encounters with ghosts of the past by night security guards. Later that evening the captain visited me in the barracks. He said he was so moved by the sergeant’s actions in quickly vacating the old foundation, which had been a duplex officer’s quarters, that he spent several hours researching the structure.
What he learned was that an officer living there had abused a child and was dismissed from the Army. When he told the sergeant, a fellow Wyoming professor, about his research the sergeant was in disbelief. He told the captain that he had been abused as a child and that must have been the reason for him getting the chills and feeling so uncomfortable while inside the foundation.
The captain, who closely followed witness stories of ghost soldiers making appearances at great battlefields, Gettysburg and such, told the sergeant he was certain of the supernatural connection felt earlier in the day. I had my own paranormal experience a day later.
On the final day of living history week, the fort was opened to the public so they could see an occupied frontier fort and listen to reenactors tell of military life in 1870. I was assigned to the barracks, which was upstairs of the mess hall, a storage area, and offices used by certain officers. There was a door at the bottom of the stairs that led up to the barracks only.
I was lying on my bunk when I heard the door open and someone jogging up the stairs. Instantly I sat up, expecting to greet a visitor. The staircase was out of view, but I turned toward the top step when the very loud footsteps came to a halt. No one was there.
Investigating further, I looked down the staircase to see if anyone was leaving. It was then that I heard the footsteps again, this time walking down a short hallway away from the bunk area where, I assume, was the old sergeant’s quarters. The door didn’t open but the footsteps stopped.
Imagination? Trickery of some sort? No. It happened just that way, believe it or not.
A year or so later I experienced another such mystery, this time while in period dress at Fort Abraham Lincoln south of Mandan. I was portraying General George Armstrong Custer along with another reenactor portraying his wife, Libby. We were in a hallway at the reconstructed Custer house, discussing what we would say to visitors about to arrive, when I felt a firm grab of my shoulder from someone behind me.
I turned my head and said, “Just a moment please,” and finished my answer to Libby’s inquiry, using only a few words to do so. Then I turned to respond to the person behind me. Libby turned too, but there was no one there. We looked at each other in disbelief.
We searched the house and found no one else. Both doors to the home were visible to us and neither had been opened. A visit from the hereafter? I’m convinced it was.
No. I’m not a person who is obsessed with such things, but I have read accounts of similar incidents elsewhere. They are generally associated with people in period dress in known historic places. The captain told me an acquaintance of his, a former director of the National Park Service, authored a book on the subject in which he claimed such accounts cannot be discounted or explained away or are some elaborate hoaxes.
There you have it. Definitive proof? Hardly, but good enough for me.