For a spooky way to experience the Civil War, drive the Historic National Road and stop in Frederick—Maryland’s most haunted town! Frederick has many supernatural attractions to offer, but be sure to visit two haunts where Civil War history comes to life through the spirits of the dead.
One of these famous historic haunts is the Barbara Fritchie House, where many claim that the ghost of Barbara Fritchie still resides. When Stonewall Jackson’s Confederate troops marched past her house on their way to the South Mountain battlefield in 1862, the then 95-year-old Barbara brazenly waved the Union flag in their faces from her window as they passed. Barbara’s stunt earned her national attention, and she became a morale-booster for other Union sympathizers of her time. Her spunky spirit still seems to haunt her house as if to remind visitors of her patriotism. Museum staff have reported many strange occurrences, such as her creaky rocking chair rocking by itself in her room upstairs and her personal items disappearing or moving mysteriously. And no one can explain how the informative slideshow about Barbara often pauses on her portrait—even if a staff member rearranged the slides. Glance up during your visit —you might glimpse Barbara’s ghostly shadow drawing the curtains back as though preparing to wave her flag once more!
Another spectral stop for Civil War buffs is the National Museum of Civil War Medicine. After the battles of Antietem and South Mountain, the town of Frederick became one big hospital for up to 8000 wounded soldiers. Back then, the museum was James Whitehill Furniture and Undertaking, and many deceased soldiers were embalmed there before being sent back to their grieving families. Unexplained sounds, such as voices and footsteps, are part of the daily routine for many at the museum, and other eerie events—such as books levitating off shelves—have been reported as well. Perhaps you’ll see “the Shadow of Death,” a Civil War nurse in a long dress, stalking the halls or glimpse the ghost of John Hardt, an imposing six-foot-tall German undertaker who worked at James Whitehill in 1862.
No special reservations are required to visit the Barbara Fritchie House or the National Museum of Civil War Medicine. For more information about the Barbara Fritchie House and its business hours, call 301-698-8992. Visit the National Museum of Civil War Medicine website for information about their hours and services. All you’ll need is a few hours and an open mind to re-live the haunting past of the Civil War in Frederick on Maryland’s Historic National Road.
- Copyright © March 2, 2008 Christopher Busta-Peck.
- Public domain. Tourism Council of Frederick County