When William Tecumseh Sherman declared, "War is hell," he had no idea just how literal that statement was. For the millions of people who have died over the centuries fighting around the world, the battlefield often ends up being their own personal eternity—their own hell, if you will.
There's something about taking your last gasp of life while gunning for your fellow man that has produced thousands of haunted battlefields all across this planet. You could say that my newest book, Ghosts of the Civil War: Exploring the Paranormal History of America's Deadliest War, is a direct examination of this phenomena. It contains more than 160 instances of this just in the United States alone. But what about the rest of the world? Do they also have these haunted locations steeped in dark history? The answer is a resounding yes! Let's talk about a few of these.
When the discussion of horrific death tolls and war are together in one sentence, World War I comes quickly to mind. At best guess, over 18 million people were killed in this conflict, so it is really no surprise that there would be haunted areas associated with this war. One example would be the town of Passchendaele. It's said that this Belgian city is currently plagued with the spirits that were left behind after a battle that took place on October 29, 1917. After allied forces attempted to dislodge the German Army from the small village, over 400,000 people lost their lives.
Today, residents of Passchendaele regularly claim to experience bizarre, ghostly activity throughout their town. Phantom soldiers have been seen walking down streets and across the surrounding countryside. The sounds of gunfire and screams are also a regular occurrence. In fact, most everyone in the small town has a story to tell—either about themselves or a relative that has had an otherworldly encounter.
Another famous battle of the first World War, the Battle of the Somme, is also said to be plagued with an inordinate amount of spirits. Drawn out between the dates of July 1 and November 18, 1916, this particular clash is mostly known for the first ever use of a tank in battle, as well as the need for air dominance in the war. More than a million people were killed or wounded in the fighting and occurrences of ghosts plaguing this area are well known (if a bit sporadic). The area around the upper River Somme is dotted with quite a few towns, but it's said to be the actual river where apparitions have been spotted. Reports of ghostly cries and spirits that appear to be wounded soldiers have popped up over the years along the riverside, as well as one eyewitness account that states the odd sounds of an entire army on the march were heard!
In addition to World War I, the second World War also has its fair share of spooky battlegrounds. More than 60 million perished in the six year war at hundreds of sites, so there's bound to be a few known for paranormal activity. Two come to mind immediately: the Battle of Stalingrad and the beach of Dieppe, France.
Lasting more than five months (August 23, 1942 to February 2, 1943), the Battle of Stalingrad was a serious blow to the Soviet Union. Almost two million people were wounded or killed in the extended conflict and most consider it to be the single bloodiest battle in history. Ultimately, the Red Army would win the clash, but the cost of the affair would be staggering. The German Army would suffer their largest defeat of World War II at Stalingrad—and the battle would be the turning point of the war on the Eastern Front.
Today, the city of Stalingrad is known as Volgograd, and it's said that entire neighborhoods are haunted by the ghosts left behind after the battle there. In addition to the typical battlefield sounds that are heard, families have reported seeing apparitions in their homes—sometimes dressed in WWII era uniforms—as well as appearing on the street. Other hot spots include a former German field hospital and Volgograd State University.
As for the beach at Dieppe, France, it was the site of Operation Jubilee (also known as the Dieppe Raid), a military incursion by the Allies to dislodge the German troops located there. The raid took place on August 19, 1942 and was an almost complete failure. Of the more than 6,000 soldiers who stormed the beach, 3,600 were either killed or captured. It was a hard lesson that was learned and, if there's a silver lining to the battle, it taught the Allies that much preparation would be needed to invade the area again a bit later on D-Day.
Ghost sightings at Dieppe seem to occur along the beach where so many people lost their lives. Some say the battle noises announce the presence of the dead—others have seen lonely souls trudging along the sand without a sound. Either way, it seems that the war has certainly left behind a few sad spirits that haunt the area. They're a sobering reminder of the hellish events that happened during World War II.
It's an ugly truth that mankind's history of warfare is almost as old as history itself, and that the scars of these events are all around us. Other examples of haunted battlefields around the world include:
As you can see, the haunting of a battlefield is not a uniquely American situation. Wars have, unfortunately, affected every area of the world at some point in history. Perhaps, some day, we will see the end of such wastes of human life—and maybe then the souls that still march these battlegrounds can finally rest in peace. Until then, keep an eye open whenever you are visiting such hallowed grounds. You never know what you might see or hear…