Friday, December 08, 2006

Battlefield ghosts

Jim Goldsworthy's Dec. 3 column in the Cumberland Times-News is about battlefield ghosts. He cites an unnamed friend, a Civil War re-enactor, who was on a tour at Manassas, Va. The guide asked a group of children whether they knew what a Zouave uniform looked like.
"One little girl said they wore baggy red pants and blue jackets and funny red hats. When the guide asked how she knew that, she pointed to a cannon at the top of a nearby hill and said, 'One of them was standing up there.' We looked, but nobody was there," said my friend. ... My friend described a photograph taken by one of his buddies at a Georgia battlefield. It shows three mounted cavalry troopers that no one saw, and there had been no re-enactors on horseback present that day. He says the photo looks exactly like an old painting he's seen.
As is usual in the field of the paranormal, we move easily from "This happened to a friend of mine" to "This happened to a friend of a friend of mine." Often, too, as here, the related experience is claimed to be just like a previously mediated experience -- a painting or movie or photo we saw, a story someone else told -- which always makes me wonder how much of the related experience is just an unintentional Xerox of the "original."

Goldsworthy contributes an experience of his own:
When I made my so-far only visit to the Antietam battlefield at Sharpsburg 35 years ago, I actually could smell the blood. I know what blood smells like, and it wasn't my imagination.
I've never been to Antietam, though I've never smelled blood at the bloody places I have visitied, such as Gettysburg, and Normandy, and the Tower of London. I can, however, recommend to Goldsworthy and his friend and his friend's friend the American Battlefield Ghost Hunters Society, based in Charlotte Hall, Md., the only such specialty organization I know of.

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