J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Archive for the tag “seances”

Happy Halloween!

All Hallows Eve has finally arrived, the night when we celebrate all things unworldly, undead, unholy, and unknown. Or in other words, the night when kids can load up on free candy without fear of repercussions!

So many soldiers died during the Civil War (620,000) that a kind of spiritual revival took place in America. Victorian culture was odd in many respects, but some traditions have remained, like wearing black to funerals, although this tradition is gradually going by the wayside. The Victorians liked to make “wreaths” from their loved ones’ hair, cover their windows with black curtains when someone died, and send out postcards with deceased family members displayed in their coffins. Wearing black for a year after a loved one died was expected. During that time, communicating with the dead became a huge fad, and provided closure. (Many soldiers were MIA’s – their families never knew what happened to them.)

Seances became fashionable, and famous celebrities of the time participated. Ouija boards were popular, as were “spirit tables,” and many shady characters took advantage of mourners. Photographers of the day made a “killing” by experimenting with special effects to make it look like spiritual entities were lurking in the tintypes’ backgrounds. What we now consider to be spooky, Victorians considered seances to be consoling and intimate.

If you dare, you can participate in a Victorian seance at various locations around the country. The most popular place, of course, is in Gettysburg. It won’t take much effort to summon ghosts there.

Haunted Lincoln

It is said that ghosts are the spirits of people who met traumatic, violent, untimely deaths. Abraham Lincoln, of course, is one, because he was murdered by John Wilkes Booth about a week after General Robert E. Lee surrendered his troops to General Grant at Appomattox, and on Good Friday at that. Before his assassination, the president foresaw his own death in a dream, where he was wandering around the White House, and was told by a soldier that the president had been killed.

Since then, Lincoln’s ghost has been roaming the halls of the White House. Jenna Bush, one of President George W. Bush’s daughters, said that she had heard phantom opera music coming from the fireplace in her bedroom while she was living at the White House. In the same breath, she expressed her disappointment about never seeing the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. It’s common knowledge that Lincoln’s spirit still resides within the Executive Mansion, as the White House was called during the Civil War. Several heads of state have witnessed the ghost of Lincoln, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, President Coolidge’s wife, Grace, President Harry Truman, Winston Churchill, and Ronald Reagan’s daughter, Maureen.

The president’s widow, Mary Todd Lincoln, said that her husband’s ghost often visited her. She became an avid believer in the supernatural and regularly attended seances, usually under an assumed name to disguise her identity. In one photograph, an eerie manifestation of Lincoln appears behind her. It could have been a photographer’s trick, but many other witnesses have seen his ghost as well.

Sightings of Lincoln’s ghost have occurred near his grave in Springfield, Illinois, and at his former home there. It has also been seen at the Loudon Cottage in Loudonville, New York, which belonged to one of the women who was sitting in the president’s box at Ford’s Theatre when he was shot. The President’s spectral funeral train has been observed on the anniversary of its journey from Washington D.C. to Springfield, thundering through the darkness to its spooky destination.

Fortress Monroe, where Confederate President Jefferson Davis was incarcerated for several years following his capture at the end of the war, is said to be haunted by Lincoln, as is Ford’s Theatre, where Lincoln was shot.

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