A&E’s Unexplained, Sightings, Unsolved Mysteries, and renowned psychics all agree that the Farnsworth House Inn in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, is definitely haunted. This 189-year-old house is now a bed and breakfast. It has four haunted Victorian guest rooms and an attic from which Confederate sharpshooters accidentally shot Jennie Wade. The Farnsworth House Mourning Theater is held in the basement.
My fiancé Scott and I planned to get married on Halloween, and we were looking for the ideal place to spend our honeymoon. The Farnsworth House turned out to be exactly what we were looking for.
The only disappointment was not being able to get their most haunted room, the “Sarah Black.” Instead we were given the second-most-haunted room, the “Catherine Sweney.”
I have always been sensitive to my surroundings. On occasion, I have been able to see spirits, but usually I sense them. Sometimes this feeling has been so overwhelming that I have had to leave the area in question. Scott, on the other hand, has never experienced anything like this. He was hoping to have his first experience at the Farnsworth House.
When we checked in, the first thing we noticed was an unusual photograph hanging on the oak wall next to the reservation desk. Inquiring about it, we were told that the inn had just received it from a guest who had stayed in the Sarah Black room. It showed a smoky wisp of an image next to a Victorian canopy bed. Neither woman behind the desk seemed excited about the photo. They just casually commented that it was probably “Mary” in the picture.
The original part of the house was built in 1810, followed by the brick structure in 1833. The Sweney family occupied the house during the Civil War battle and the Black family opened it as an inn in the early 1900s. The current owners, Loring Shultz and his family, bought the house in 1972. They restored the house to its 1863 appearance.
We were shown to our room by our hostess. Entering the original section of the house was like being sent back in time. Everything was completely restored to look like the 1860s. Proceeding down a narrow, twisting hallway, we came to the section built in 1833.
The layout of this section has a dramatic impact on one’s senses. The warm tones of the original house were replaced by dark oak colors. It gave the appearance of two entirely different homes. The connecting feature between the two was a small landing and a staircase leading down to the main dining room. On the landing was an oversized antique grandfather clock.
Our hostess informed us that there were only two bedrooms on this floor- the Sarah Black room and ours. As it turned out, the rooms were side by side, sharing one wall between them. The only other features were the massive stairs that led to the attic. Before taking her leave, she told us the other guests in the Black room hadn’t checked in yet, but we would probably see them at dinner.
We decided it was time to get settled into our room. After some difficulty, Scott managed to get our door opened. When the Shultzes restored the house, they kept the original walls, flooring, rafters, and doors. We were surprised upon entering our room. Considering how ominous the hallway and staircase appeared, we expected our room to match the decor. Quite the opposite was true. The room was bright and cheery, featuring colors such as rose and tan. Beautiful antiques, which included personal items such as an old fashioned brass shaving kit and jewelry box, were carefully placed throughout the room.
After having driven almost four hours, Scott suggested we relax awhile before exploring Gettysburg. We were both tired from our wedding the day before. Besides, I was still recovering from a cold. The large, antique oak bed was appealing, but as I tried to relax, a feeling that something was severely amiss took hold of me. Unable to shake this, I informed Scott that it was time to go into town. I could tell he thought I was crazy by the look on his face. Looking down at his watch, he started to say that we’d only been here…then he stopped in mid-sentence. His watch was stopped at 1:10 p.m., the exact time we had entered the room.
Standing a few feet away from our door facing the grandfather clock, I could hear Scott behind me locking the door. An icy coldness suddenly seemed to pass right through me. Every hair on my body stood straight up and goose bumps appeared. I received the distinct impression we were being carefully watched and evaluated. Turning to Scott, I noticed he seemed frozen with his hand still on the doorknob. His face was pale, and he had a confused look about him. After some discussion it became apparent he had experienced the same uncomfortable sensation. However, someone had one more experience in mind for us. Behind us we could hear the distinct sound of footsteps leading to the Sarah Black room. We knew at that time no one else was in that section of the house. Gathering our courage, we approached the room to find the door ajar. Reaching for the knob, it suddenly slammed shut. We decided it was definitely time to visit Gettysburg. After spending a relaxing afternoon browsing in town we came upon a jewelry store that fixed watches, but to our astonishment, Scott’s watch was once again working perfectly.
The main dining room of the B&B was charming, decorated with oil paintings and original photographs from the Civil War. Our waitress, Karen, told tales of the ghosts that allegedly haunted the Farnsworth House in the past.
It seemed the Farnsworth House had several ghosts. There are the Confederate sharpshooters in the attic, and a young boy who was trampled by a wagon in front of the inn. Since his injuries were so severe he was brought into the inn but died several days later. And of course Mary, who lived at the inn and died in the Sarah Black room. Mary seemed to be the most predominant one who makes herself known to guests and the staff. Evidently, she has a habit of sitting on people’s beds while they are sleeping, playing with their hair, misplacing their personal items and sometimes actually showing herself.
Towards the end of dinner, Karen introduced us to the guests that were staying in the Black room. They had heard the ghost stories as well, including our own experiences. After dinner, the four of us ascended the stairs to our rooms on the second floor. Since our neighbors had an exhausting day of sightseeing they decided to stay in for the night. We were going on the “Candlelight Ghost Tour.” Not wanting to be late, I asked Scott how much time remained before we had to leave. Again his watch had stopped, this time at 6:30 p.m., which was the time we had returned to our room.
Relaxing in the Killer Angel Tavern we analyzed the day’s events. We had accomplished what we had set out to do on this trip. Scott had his first psychic experience, and he did not want to experience another. Meanwhile, I was experiencing sensory overload. Hoping for a peaceful night, we retired to our room.
Seeing that bed was a welcome sight. Scott was asleep and I was soon to follow. That’s when the noises started. We heard heavy footsteps in the hallway and people whispering. This was enough to wake Scott up, and he went to check who was causing this disturbance. As he opened our door, it was quiet; no one was in the hallway. After a few minutes, we fell back to sleep. Far off, I could hear someone pacing back and forth. Eventually it became louder, and now fully awake I listened intently. The sound seemed to be coming from the wall that separated our room and the Black room. I woke my husband and had him listen for a while. He commented that our neighbors must be having a bad night. By this time, both of us were having a hard time falling back asleep. After what seemed like hours, we began to fade away. The last thing I heard was Scott complaining how cold the room was getting despite the fact that the heat was on. I must have been asleep for a while when my senses went off in full force. The first thing I noticed was the temperature in the room; it was freezing. Sitting up in bed, I realized I was drenched in a cold sweat and covered with goose bumps. Reaching over to wake my husband, I noticed a peculiar mist or fog at the foot of our bed. Gazing intently at it, I started to see human features slowly forming. Eventually I could make out the shadowy features of an older woman. She was staring, intently, right at me.
Well, that was it-Scott was getting up again if he liked it or not. While waking him up, I kept asking him if he saw her. Still half asleep, he mumbled that he didn’t see anything. Then he wanted to know why I had decided to take a cold shower in the middle of the night and not dry off before getting into bed. After some convincing on my part, he agreed to leave the light on and stay up until I finally fell asleep. The rest of the night was extremely restless. If I was dreaming, I have never experienced one this real. The transparent image of the woman was standing next to my side of the bed. She kept fussing over me, stating I was sick, and I had to sweat it out before I would feel better. The emotions that emanated from her were compassion and concern. Unfortunately, her loving touch left me feeling very uncomfortable and extremely cold.
When morning finally came, we were both exhausted. Dragging ourselves down to breakfast, we couldn’t wait to hear if our neighbors had experienced anything during the night. When they entered the dining room, they looked as exhausted as we did. It seemed they had heard the loud footsteps in the hallway as well. The husband was about to check on it himself when he heard our door open. They assumed we were just returning to our room. He inquired which one of us was up pacing all night. When we informed them we hadn’t been, his wife said that she was afraid we would say that. Evidently, they had experienced unusual things as well. The wife had brought along a small, hand-held Sony TV, which kept turning itself off during the night. They also complained about the temperature in their room dropping suddenly. Worse, their video camera had turned itself on and erased their entire day of sightseeing. Engrossed in our conversation, we hadn’t noticed Betsy, one of the staff, come over. She had overheard our conversation dealing with the prior night’s unsettling activities. With a smile, she related what she knew about Mary.
It seems that she was a midwife who took care of the local area’s sick and injured. Doctors were scarce in those days and she took her responsibility to the community seriously. Evidently she still does. I firmly believe that in her own way she was trying to care for a sick, weary traveler seeking shelter at the Farnsworth House Inn.
If you are interested in staying at this fascinating inn, call (717) 334-8838