Prepare for the spooky season and get into a Halloween mood with a ghost tour of one of America’s most haunted towns, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
Located at the northeastern tip of West Virginia on the border of Maryland and Virginia, you’ll love your stay at one of Harpers Ferry’s cabin rentals. Known for its quaint, small-town feel and numerous hiking opportunities, including the famous Appalachian Trail, Harpers Ferry is also a mecca for lovers of the paranormal.
With a long and sometimes gruesome history, particularly surrounding its role in the Civil War, Harpers Ferry has no shortage of sightings, spirits, and specters. Taking advantage of the ghost tours of Harpers Ferry is a thrilling way to learn about the history and paranormal activity of the town.
History of Harpers Ferry
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia has played an important and sometimes tragic role in American history, which, in part, is what makes it such an excellent location for a ghost tour. Established in 1763 by Robert Harper, whom the town is named for, this small town of 285 residents has had more than its fair share of historical significance.
Prior to the Civil War, abolitionist John Brown led a raid of the Harpers Ferry armory in hopes of arming enslaved people for a revolt. The revolt ultimately failed but when he was hanged in 1859 he made a famous speech stating that the uprising had captured the attention of the nation.
In the Civil War, Harpers Ferry was stuck between Confederate and Union forces, changing hands eight times during the course of the war. It was the northernmost area the Confederacy controlled and was considered the “best strategic point in the South.” Throughout the many skirmishes and battles, Harpers Ferry was all but destroyed by the war.
By 1859, a freedman’s college had been built in Harpers Ferry. It became a major tourism spot for African-Americans who wanted to visit the site where, as Frederick Douglass put it, the end of slavery began.
In more recent history, the town is known as being an incredible place for a plethora of hiking trails and other outdoor activities. Harpers Ferry is the halfway point on the Appalachian Trail and is home to the Appalachian Trail headquarters. The Appalachian Trail is a famous hike spanning almost 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine.
The destruction and death surrounding the historical events in Harpers Ferry may explain the town’s claim to unusually high paranormal activity. With battles, raids, and a Civil War hospital in town, it’s no surprise that residents claim to have experienced hauntings throughout the area.
There are a number of well-known ghosts in the area, and while most of them are seen as benevolent and harmless, it can still be quite a shock to see Civil War-era ghosts strolling down the town streets!
The Ghosts of Harpers Ferry
Dangerfield Newby is one of the most commonly spotted ghosts and, according to local legend, has a tragic story. Newby was one of the men who took part in John Brown’s failed raid and was killed during the skirmish. The angry townspeople allegedly left his body in the alley for the hogs to eat, and he can sometimes be seen walking the streets.
The Phantom Army
The Phantom Army is another common group of specters, occasionally seen marching through Harpers Ferry with their rifles and drums. These soldiers supposedly died during a cholera outbreak in 1798.
Screaming Jenny is one of the few ghosts in Harpers Ferry that doesn’t have anything to do with the war. The story goes that Jenny, a poor woman living alone in a shack by the train tracks, was warming herself by the fire one day when her clothes caught fire. She ran screaming for help and unfortunately didn’t notice that she was running across the train tracks right as a train was coming. It is said that on the anniversary of her death, you can see a ball of fire on the train tracks where she was struck.
The Most Haunted Place in Harpers Ferry
A guest house owned by the National Park Service is considered one of the most haunted buildings in Harpers Ferry, and supposedly the ghost inhabiting the house is less friendly than the others in town. An employee reported seeing the spirit of a smartly dressed man with a cane in the house. She felt negative energy coming from the spirit before feeling a hand on her back pushing her over. When she looked up, the man was gone.
Harpers Ferry Ghost Tour
The Harpers Ferry ghost tour is considered the oldest ghost tour in America, boasting an incredible 52 years of ghost-spotting. The approximately two-hour walking tour is put on by O’ Be JoyFull Historical Tours and takes visitors around the historic Lower Town of Harpers Ferry to stop at numerous haunted sites. This section of Harpers Ferry is said to be more haunted than others, so it only makes sense that the tour begins there.
At each site, your experienced guide educates you on the history and legends of the town through storytelling that’s sure to make your spine tingle.
Starting at 8 P.M. sharp, your tour begins when you meet your tour guide at the piazza of St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, which also happens to be the home of one of the ghosts you will learn about. You will walk about 14 blocks during this tour, some of which is uphill, so comfortable shoes are recommended.
Providing you a ghostly tour, the tours mix history and mystery, sharing great stories and giving guests some insight into the significance of Harpers Ferry and how it became considered one of the most haunted towns in the country.
Those who love history, the supernatural, and good old-fashioned spooky stories will love an evening learning about the ghosts of Harpers Ferry. It is a great way to prepare for Halloween while you are on vacation in beautiful West Virginia.
Even for those who don’t necessarily believe in ghosts or the supernatural, the tour is a wonderful way to experience the culture of Harpers Ferry and learn about the history of the area. The tour isn’t just about ghosts and the paranormal but instead combines historical facts with the mystery of the supernatural.
The tour is also an excellent way to see Harpers Ferry without the usual crowds, as almost all other visitors have left town by the time the tour begins. You might truly say it becomes a “ghost town”!
The tour states that it is appropriate for people of all ages, and there are no “jump scares” or scare actors along the tour. Kids that are scared by ghost stories might be nervous but most children do well along the tour. Well-behaved dogs are welcome, as well.
When to Tour
While the tour is generally open year-round except for Wednesdays, Sundays, and holidays, a tour in the fall season can really up the creepiness factor. It is the perfect way to get into the Halloween spirit!
Note that in late autumn it can get quite chilly after dark, so dress appropriately in warm layers and comfortable walking shoes. Reservations are recommended.
The tour is enjoyable at all times of the year as long as the proper attire is worn. West Virginia is hot and humid in the summer and cold in the winter, so be sure to check the forecast before heading out!
If you can’t get enough of Harpers Ferry and the natural beauty of West Virginia, there are tons of fun activities besides the ghost tour.
The town of Harpers Ferry is encompassed in the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, and the park contains numerous hiking opportunities and outdoor activities. Of course, the most famous of the hikes here is the Appalachian Trail, which cuts right through the park and the town.
Along the AT, you will find Jefferson Rock, a famous landmark that gets its name from Thomas Jefferson himself. Jefferson wrote in his notes that he stood upon this rock and admired the beauty of the Harpers Ferry area as he passed through in 1783.
If you visit in the summertime, you and your family can enjoy tubing down the Shenandoah or Potomac River. It’s actually ranked one of the best places in the U.S. to go tubing, so you’re sure to enjoy this outing.
Appalachian Trail Conservancy
After walking along the Appalachian Trail yourself, it makes sense to visit the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters in town. AT thru-hikers often stop here to take their halfway point picture in front of the sign. Take a photo yourself and look through the thru-hiker photo album to see all the hikers who have stopped by.
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
Harpers Ferry is steeped in American history and was an important site in the Civil War. Head over to the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park to learn about this area’s role before, during, and after the war.
The Battle of Bolivar Heights was one of the most important battles in West Virginia and is the site of the largest surrender of the Civil War. The battlefield is located in the park and is a great spot to visit for deeper insight into the history of Harpers Ferry.
The railroad through Harpers Ferry is a major reason for its importance during the Civil War. Visit the historic Harpers Ferry Station, which is still in use today, before heading over to the Harpers Ferry Toy Train Museum and Joy Line Railroad. This museum is fun for all ages and has an antique toy train collection, railroad memorabilia, and even an outdoor miniature train that you can take on a short ride.
John Brown’s Fort
The fort used by John Brown and his group of abolitionists during their raid in 1859 still stands and is a popular stop in Harpers Ferry. In the late 1800s, the fort was very popular with African-American travelers who wanted to visit the site where the end of slavery began.
Enjoy Your Ghostly Tour
Get into the Halloween spirit while vacationing in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Only a short drive from your cabin rental is downtown Harpers Ferry, one of America’s most haunted towns with a fun ghost tour for all ages. You and your family will love this unique addition to your holiday and will have so much fun talking about everything you saw and heard for days to come afterwards.