History & Hauntings
HARPERS FERRY HISTORY
John Brown believed he could free the slaves, and he selected Harpers Ferry as his starting point. Determined to seize the 100,000 weapons at the Arsenal and to use the Blue Ridge Mountains for guerrilla warfare, abolitionist Brown launched his raid on Sunday evening, October 16, 1859. His 21-man “army of liberation” seized the Armory and several other strategic points. Thirty-six hours after the raid begun, with most of his men killed or wounded, Brown was captured in the Armory fire engine house (now known as “John Brown’s Fort”) when U.S. Marines stormed the building.
Brought to trial at nearby Charles Town, Brown was found guilty of treason, of conspiring with slaves to rebel, and murder. He was hanged on December 2, 1859. John Brown’s short-lived raid failed, but his trial and execution focused the nation’s attention on the moral issue of slavery and headed the country toward civil war.
It is said that the ghost of John Brown himself haunts the streets of Historic Harpers Ferry! In the early 80s, during a reenactment weekend, several witnesses saw a re-enactor with an amazingly similar appearance to legendary abolitionist John Brown. He was very polite, although a little frightening with his wide-eyed appearance. He even agreed to be photographed. However, when the photos were developed, Brown had disappeared!
The nearby KOA Kampgrounds has its own share of ghosts and paranormal activity! Restless spirits have been known to turn on lights after the Kampstore closed and apparitions have been seen walking along Civil War battlements still standing on the property!
Seemingly cursed by the heritage of the Booth family legacy, the Haunted Cottage has gone down in local legend, hidden and forgotten in the hills of Harpers Ferry, WV!
According to local legends, The Haunted Cottage is the most paranormally active location in all of Harpers Ferry! Tales of ghostly apparitions, shadowy figures and poltergeist-type activity permeate the history of this property…
Until now, the Booth House has remained unavailable to the public, lost and forgotten. Then, in 2009, the determination of two friends finally made it possible for research into the building’s dark legacy to come to fruition…
THE BOOTH HOUSE
John Wilkes Booth himself has been said to have stayed here. Although, in truth we initially misinformed by local sources about how the home became labeled the Booth House (on some maps and local property records), we were able to track down information from a local living history museum historian. Not the Booth family home, nor even a summer home, it turns out a Booth family descendant confirmed that John Wilkes rented a room at the Cottage a few times when in town. He may have brought girlfriends here. After all, he was a notorious womanizer. Locals remembering the visit of the notorious villain, labeled the quaint farmhouse, The Booth House.
Strongly opposed to the abolitionists who sought to end slavery in the U.S., Booth attended the hanging on December 2, 1859, of abolitionist leader John Brown, who was executed for leading a raid on the Federal armory at Harpers Ferry (in present-day West Virginia). Unlike the rest of his family, John Wilkes Booth had always been a supporter of the South. He believed the Civil War was necessary to maintain Southern freedom. Booth resented the Northern position that slavery had to be outlawed. He attended the execution of John Brown (1800–1859), one of the most famous abolitionists (opponents of slavery) in history. Booth wrote that he considered abolitionists to be “traitors” and that they deserved the same fate as Brown. Booth had been rehearsing at the Richmond Theatre when he abruptly decided to join the Richmond Grays, a volunteer militia of 1,500 men travelling to Charles Town for Brown’s hanging, to guard against any attempt by abolitionists to rescue Brown from the gallows by force. When Brown was hanged without incident, Booth stood in uniform near the scaffold and afterwards expressed great satisfaction with Brown’s fate, although he admired the condemned man’s bravery in facing death stoically. Later he told his sister, Asia, “(John Brown) was a brave man; his heart must have broken when he felt himself deserted at the gallows.”
Objects being thrown and shadowy apparitions have been reported in the nearly 200 year-old Booth House. Otherwise known as The Haunted Cottage, this infamous property has had its share of mysteries. Were there slaves or indentured servants in the room above the library? Was the cellar a bootleggers hiding area and did they use it for the Underground Railroad?
Stories tell of moaning coming from the servants quarters. Feelings of dread have overwhelmed the few daring enough to go into the foreboding area! Strange glowing lights have been reported emanating between the cracks of the boarded windows outside.