The Paranormal at Home: Hauntings in 50 States – Delaware’s Fort Delaware

Please click here if you would like to read the first article in the series.

Today’s second location is the historic Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island. Military facilities are frequently the site of paranormal activity, especially locations that are very old, saw significant action and/or were the site of a tragic event. Many have explored Fort Delaware and came away with personal paranormal experiences – sometimes even witnessing events as a group.

Haunted Delaware: Fort Delaware

Fort Delaware
Overhead view of Fort Delaware taken in 2010

French military engineer Pierre Charles L’Enfant was surveying locations for defensive fortifications in 1794. He came across an uninhabited island which he called Pip Ash, but was actually Pea Patch Island. He declared it a strategically advantageous position and recommended that the Americans build on the small land mass.

It was owned by New Jersey resident Dr. Henry Gale at the time. Gale didn’t actually live on the island, but used it as a private hunting ground. He loved the island so much that he turned down a $30,000 offer made by the U.S. military.  Eventually the military went to the state and managed to seize the land in 1813.

A seawall and dykes were added during the War of 1812 and work on a star fort began in 1817. Attacks during the Revolutionary War convinced the military that a fort was needed further away from Philadelphia to delay invaders. The current pentagonal structure was added between 1848 and 1859.

Paranormal Activity at Fort Delaware

Numerous prisoners were held captive at Fort Delaware during the Civil War. Many apparitions are believed to come from this period because of the enormous amount of anguish, pain and death that the region saw. The dungeon area is the site of unexplained moaning, chains clanging and other audio phenomena.

A visitor allegedly captured a photograph of a transparent confederate officer in 1985. The figure was standing in an archway, likely one of the unfortunate prisoners taken during the war. Soldiers weren’t the only ones being held at Fort Delaware during that time. Pirates were also often thrown into the dungeon. A park ranger was shocked to witness a pirate dressed entirely in period clothing, looking wistfully out of a window in the fort while working nearby.

Some incidents actually involve entire groups of witnesses. Visitors can participate in candlelight ghost tours which feature period dress and the darker side of the location’s history. On one occasion, lead historical interpreter Dan Citron was sharing the tale of Private Stefano to a large group of 65 people. He was in costume as Union officer Captain George W. Ahl.

Citron and 12 year old Cody Scheers stood on the spot where Private Stefano perished, illustrating the event to the crowd. As the tale’s climax was told, two loud banging sounds echoed through the stairwell.

Ghost at Fort Delaware
Possible ghost image discovered by contributor
Click here for more information and close up view

Another event was described during a tour that focused on the officer’s kitchen, which is a hot spot for activity.  A group of costumed women (live, earthly women) were  preparing food around a table during a re-enactment.  Another woman suddenly entered and observed them. She gave an approving nod then disappeared into a corner. At first everyone thought she was another re-enacter, until she faded away.

A photograph of a female figure clad in black was captured by a visitor in 2005.  The historic site manager, George Contant, was purchasing a picture frame for the image at a store in Dover. As he stood in the checkout line, a corner of the frame mysteriously broke off and went sailing across the shop. The incident scared the cashier so much that she left her post. Contant still purchased the frame, and it currently displays the image with the corner missing. The January 27th, 2009 episode of Most Haunted was filmed at Fort Delaware as well as the June 18th, 2008 episode of Ghost Hunters.

Fort Delaware from the Ground
Wall view of Fort Delaware Photo taken in 2011

Fort Delaware Today

Fort Delaware and all of Pea Patch Island have become a state park. A 3,500 foot sea wall was erected in 2005 and 2006 to protect the landmark from erosion. Numerous events are hosted at the fort, including the Escape from Fort Delaware triathlon and seasonal walking ghost tours. The site continues to draw interest from the paranormal community.

Have you been to Fort Delaware (or would you like to go)? Share your personal experiences or investigative approach to this location in the comments.

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