I've written here about a few things related to family members who've died, but it was an incident about three years ago that was a watershed moment for me when it comes to believing in the paranormal. Before this incident, I rationalized that I probably just WANTED things to happen that I could say were related to my deceased family members. Even though I was open-minded about things, when they would happen my attitude was one of "OK, THAT's interesting, but we'll never really know if it's really supernatural."
And then I went for a walk at a nearby Civil War battlefield and found it IS real.
I prefer not to name the specific place, and there's a reason for that. There is very little on the internet about this area being haunted and I think that's good. I consider this to be hallowed ground and a safe place, very near my neighborhood, and I wouldn't want to attract people who don't care about the area or are just coming to stir things up or perhaps do weird ceremonies... Or who might not respect the soldiers who gave their last full measure. I'd like to recount my experiences at this place in the order that I remember; some of it might not be pertinent, but one of you might catch something I've missed.
So this battlefield is a National Park, and it's also got miles of trails to walk upon. When I was younger, I'd run the trails every so often, but for some reason, even though it has the perfect, shaded dirt paths, I never really felt good about running there. Once, at least ten years ago, while walking with some neighbor ladies, I got such an uncomfortable feeling that I told them to run... They just thought it was about exercise, I never told them it was pure anxiety and a real flight reflex (in the light of day). At that time, I'd never felt that way in my life. I'm rarely afraid.
At this park, there is a visitor center that's usually quite busy, with parking lots and sometimes re-enactments. But in a more remote part of the park there is a monument that was paid for by the people of Illinois in memory of their boys who died in one terrible battle in 1864. About 15 years ago, I wanted to take my then-boyfriend to see this monument. He was from out west and military, and I thought he would appreciate some Civil War history. After you park in the lot, you have to go down a path that's flanked by the dirt battlements, which were the positions of the southern cannon at the top of a steep hill about the length of a football field and a half. The tall monument stands at the top of this hill, and as we walked towards it the air seemed to get more humid (if that's possible here) and the surrounding woods went dead quiet. We noticed a half dozen deer gazing at us from the tree line in a strange way. I can't think of a good way to explain it. Neither of us said anything at that time, but both were surprised to discover much later that we both felt something strange.
Fast forward. My pre-teen son and I went for a walk there 3 years ago in September. It was a Tuesday, a day off school, and it was about 2pm as we approached from the downhill direction (the way the Union Army would have been approaching before the battle). The path we were on goes a little ways down to a creek, which is also the tree line where the Union troops would've been waiting and gathering. I had a new I-phone and took it out to take some photos of my son on the little bridge there. On a whim, I decided to walk up the hill with the recorder on. I had been hearing some disembodied yells as we approached the area, but I assumed it must be some kids on the path in the trees. Could this have been the subconscious reason I turned the recorder on? I don't know, I've never tried to do EVPs, though had seen it on tv. I felt a little embarrassed and I also did not want my son to see what I was doing. But I did it anyway.
We walked up the hill of the battlefield. About halfway up I asked my son if he heard the yells coming at regular intervals, maybe every two minutes. He said he did. He stood on a tree stump and waited while I huffed my way up the hill. We got to the top, took a few more photos at the monument and then went back home, only passing one older couple the entire hike.
When we got home, I listened to the tape (I still call it a tape, sorry) and definitely heard the yells. So did my husband. We also heard a sound that my military husband said "has the sound and cadence of artillery fire" which we had NOT heard in person. And finally, when we turned up the volume, we realized we really had an EVP.
When standing at the bottom of the hill, I captured a male voice saying, "There's something here I don't trust..." with a female laugh. At the point I asked my son if he heard the yells, on the tape you can hear a VERY deep voice say "hear" and then, before my son answers, a young boy's voice, very close to me, can be heard saying, "them soldiers is dead." A minute later the same voice says, "what's that?" and I remember standing there and holding my phone out in front of me.
As I told my husband, I could not have come up with that line "them soldiers is dead" if my life depended on it. I'm particular about grammar.
The boy in the recording sounds younger than my son. And closer to me than he was.
I was amazed. Then I didn't listen to it for a long time. What can you do with it? Then the kids went to camp -- months later -- and my husband and I went out to dinner near the battlefield and had a glass of wine and discussed it again. We decided to stop by, nearing dusk on that summer evening. There were quite a few people at the monument. As we sat on a bench at the top of the battlefield, I thought I felt something touch the back of my hair and reached up to swat something away. Only later, thinking about it, I realized it was not a bug, or anything else I could think of. It was like my hair flipping. Then we walked to the bottom of the hill to the tree line. Husband mentioned that it smelled just like the wet canvas of old fashioned military tents. "You never forget that smell," my skeptic said, and I just answered, "Well, I don't see any wet canvas in these woods, do you?" He walked up the hill ahead of me, back to the parking lot, while I took my time trying to feel anything. I finally started up, somewhat disappointed that everything seemed normal. But as I walked up I got so winded... By the time I crested the hill, where the most men had died and been burned, I felt like I'd run a marathon, could barely catch my breath and had to stop and lean on a fence a minute before making it to the car. At that moment I thought, WOW am I getting old and out of shape. But just a few weeks later, my son and I went to take photos for a school project and I walked up without even being winded, like it was NOTHING. That's when I realized my previous experience, getting winded on that hill, was more about anxiety and perhaps what those soldiers were feeling as they ran up that forlorn hope to their deaths.
I drive by this place all the time, but have not been back since my son needed the photos, over a year ago. I'm a little afraid to go back, even though I'm truly enamored by the place and tons of people walk there every day, and pay tribute to the fallen troops. I found this website when I was looking for anyone else who had an experience there.
One more quick thing: I sent my EVP to a local Civil War historian with my thoughts. He e-mailed back that he couldn't hear a thing. I really don't believe him. I believe he heard it, but won't admit it. He did tell me, however, that the battle that took place killing more than 3,000 men in an hour on that hill happened after the Union troops had been mired in our area with daily rainstorms that kept them and their equipment soaked for more than a month. Wet canvas. That bit of information was something. Would love to hear your thoughts.