Pennsylvania monument under fog, from my Gettysburg 150 series (December 2013).
Call me a sentimental old fool but I believe that if you think or talk a lot about a person that’s passed away they may actually pay you a visit. That’s what happened to me before our visit to Gettysburg in May, 2005.
I was working on genealogy, specifically ancestors who fought in the battle. I uncovered a treasure trove of information and pension records about the brothers John and Josiah Boyer, both Privates in the 147th Pennsylvania Infantry. Both survived the battle; but were separated after when John was sent on ahead with his company and Josiah was left behind with the gruesome job of burying the dead. Josiah went on after the war to get married and have a happy peaceful life. John was maimed by bullets, developed rheumatism from sleeping out in the cold and died a young and broken man. He left behind his wife Lucy and their children.
John was my great-great-great-grandfather.
One night, reading the transcript of Lucy’s pension hearing [based on John’s service in the Union Army] I stumbled upon an extremely sad account of his death. Wracked by disease and complications from his wounds, be began to have continuous seizures that caused him to expire. I could almost hear her tearful voice as she recounted this event to the pension board. She was denied any remuneration and I went to bed feeling sad for both of them.
During the night I dreamt that John visited me in a dream. He was wearing a sharp new uniform and (what I later learned) a stylish 1858 model Hardee hat, complete with gilded badge on the front and a jaunty black plume. He had black hair and a thick, glossy black beard. But was struck me was his sparking blue eyes and happy, bright smile. Mentally he conveyed to me how pleased he was that I was working on the history of our family-his history-and that I shouldn’t be sad. On the other side he had returned to being the young, vibrant young man he once was. I woke feeling content and peaceful.
Cut to May when my husband and I were driving over from Western Pennsylvania to Gettysburg. We got about 25 miles outside of town when my husband and I both sensed a strong presence in the back seat of our car. We weren’t frightened because the presence seemed calming to us. Suddenly John’s image, resplendent in uniform popped into my head and I knew it was him.
We got to the outskirts, near Herbst’s Woods (where General John Reynolds was shot in one of the more well-known stories from the battle) when I felt his presence just leave the car. My husband said he thought John had gone in country to find friends and comrades in arms. He never visited me again but I will always remember his smile.
That summer we had several experiences related to our vehicle, especially during that ‘golden hour’ of darkness from 9pm until the park closed at 10. One night, driving by the peach orchard, there was a bright flash—just like a strobe—that popped right between us in the front seat. It was so bright it affected our night vision for a few minutes.
Another night we were out walking by the 147th’s large star-shaped monument when I started to say the Lord’s prayer and instantly felt we were literally surrounded by a huge group of people we could not see. Now that was scary and I ran for our car with my heart in my throat. But it got worse— I was panicking waiting for my husband to unlock my car door when I happened to glance left at a large boulder behind our vehicle that was visible in the moonlight. There, sitting on top, was a formless black shadow outlined against the light colored granite. It wasn’t my imagination because this thing was blacker than the night, like a hole in the darkness. My husband was still fumbling around (in fear) and I was nearly hysterical trying to get in. Finally the door unlocked, I dove in and we got the hell out of there. It still scares me just sitting here writing this. Real, unmitigated terror. Jesus.
A warning: there are so many lost souls out at Gettysburg, possibly thousands, and if you even have a smidgen of psychic ability, they will see you as a candle flame in the dark and rush to you. I know. I learned that the hard way before I learned how to close myself off.
Please follow me if you would like to read on about our experiences at Gettysburg. Many (like this one) I have never written down before. Thank you💀
(source: my photo)