Cumberland Times-News

May 5, 2012

It's best to beware of unseen hitchhikers

Jim Goldsworthy, Columnist
Cumberland Times-News

— One of the questions Capt. Gary and 1Sgt. Goldy get at Little Round Top involves the stupid questions that people ask us.

Seriously. Some folks ask what stupid questions people ask us when we’re at our usual post on the Gettysburg battlefield.

“Some people,” says Capt. Gary, “want to know why it was so hard to get the cannon up here with all the paved roads they had to use. We say it’s because the horses had the wrong shoes on, and they couldn’t get any traction.”

Dick, our buddy with the Gettysburg Park Watch, laughs and shakes his head at us. “Do you guys have an answer for everything?” he asks.

For the most part, we do. Another question we often get is this:

“How long have you guys been up here?”

“What year is this?” the captain asks.

“2012.”

He and I look at each other and say, “No wonder we’re hungry!”

I tell them, “That’s how come they ain’t no squirrels up here! Me an’ him done kilt and et ‘em all!” Then I continue the conversation in a version of English my mother the English teacher would prefer that I use.

We were rained out one day during our last visit, but spent at least five hours on duty each of the four days we were there ... one day, it was closer to six.

This is not easy, but we have the cannon to lean against, and it makes a difference. You can shift your weight around and take turns giving your legs a break.

Also, the nearest convenience stations are clear at the bottom of the hill — way too far for the captain and me to walk. (Private Reggie takes the walk, although he doesn’t care for it one bit.) This is why I drink very little coffee in the morning.

Some re-enactors were sitting at a nearby table one morning at breakfast. While we weren’t eavesdropping, we couldn’t help but hear what they were talking about and said so.

A friend of theirs had been out and about during an encampment one night when he was approached by a man in a Confederate uniform.

He said, “Hey, buddy, it’s late. You better get back to your unit.”

The soldier growled menacingly at him and vanished.

They had been talking about Sach’s Covered Bridge, and we said the story was that three Confederate soldiers were hanged from its rafters for desertion. If you go there and know where to look, you can see what looks like rope burns on the wood.

One Confederate re-enactor told us a couple of years ago he was there in uniform one night when a Confederate soldier came walking up to him out of nowhere.

“He took me by the arm and said, ‘Come on. Let me show you what they did to those three boys.’ That’s when I got the hell out of there,” he said.

Sach’s Covered Bridge is on private property, by the way, and access to the public is cut off at dusk. Believe it or not, vandals have tried to burn it down.

We told them some of our ghost stories, and after they got up and left a woman at the table behind ours said, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t eavesdropping ... but ... .” And it went on from there.

By the time we get down from the hill, we’ve usually had enough for one day, so we haven’t gone ghost-hunting for a while. Besides, the park service has chopped down most of the trees at Spangler’s Spring, our favorite haunt (you might say), and that seems to have driven away most of our nocturnal friends.

Reggie, who has his own paranormal investigation outfit in Hanover, Pa., went out one night to the Triangular Field and had plenty to report.

“I got some EVPs (digital voice recordings) that said, “Meat” and “Help,” he said — two things Civil War soldiers would have had on their minds.

He said he’d gone to a place where one of his buddies had seen the shade of a legless Confederate soldier crawling through the brush.

“I heard sounds like that of someone crawling,” he said, “and when I looked I could see the grass moving like someone was crawling through it — but nobody was there.”

He also saw the little green lights that Gary and I have run across a couple of times. They’re about the size of the end of a pencil eraser and the color of the green light in a traffic signal.

They once formed into a column and marched around Gary and our buddy Mark, and one night they formed corridors that led Gary and me to places we wanted to go.

“They were following me around,” said Reggie.

One thing about these ... whatever they are ... is that they can follow you around without your knowing about it or wanting them to.

Our friends Cathy and Harry, who live near Philadelphia, made the mistake of picking up a rock and taking it home from Gettysburg. This is not a good idea, because something may be attached to it. At least, that’s what they say.

Things began to happen and there were sounds that couldn’t be accounted for, and then one day Cathy saw him in the house.

“He was wearing a flat-topped, wide-brimmed hat and a long overcoat, just standing there looking off in the distance,” she said.

She said they never made eye contact, and she and Harry took the rock with them when they returned to Gettysburg.

“We stopped the car, I tossed the rock out and said, ‘OK, we’ve brought you home,’ ” she said. “We’ve never seen him again.”