Brittany Mackley’s favorite Halloween tradition is to host an annual party for family and friends. Even though there’s no one named Jennie or James Wade on the guest list, that doesn’t mean one of them has never showed up.
Since she was four years old, Mackley, a teller supervisor at PNC Bank’s Tyson’s Corner branch in northern Virginia, and her best friend, Alyce Evans, were active in school plays and musicals. Eventually, Evans landed a tour guide role at a ghost tour company in Gettysburg, and Mackley knew she fit the part as well. When she was younger, she dedicated two Halloween seasons to telling stories of the Battle of Gettysburg’s haunted history. The following is her story:
“It was a brisk October night as I left work. Leaves cracked under my shoes as I reached my car to begin the 15-mile trip to Gettysburg. I spent a majority of my fall evenings there as a guide for a local ghost tour company.
July 3, 1863, marked the end of the bloodiest Civil War battle, with upwards of 50,000 U.S. soldiers and civilians wounded or killed during the Battle of Gettysburg’s three-day span. Their souls leave an eerie yet symbolic shadow over the town of Gettysburg. Other guides and I would bring their stories back to life each Halloween season, and this particular night would be one I wouldn’t forget.
Once I arrived at the historic town, I fluffed out my 19th century dress, complete with a hoop skirt, lit my Civil War-replica lantern and headed to the cobblestone streets to greet my evening tour group of about 25 to 30 guests.
As we strolled through the same roads used by the Union and Confederate soldiers, I stopped at distinct points to share stories about nearby houses. Each has its own stories passed down from the generations of people who experienced them. Eventually we made our way to a sturdy, two-story brick house on Baltimore Street, located in the heart of the 1863 battlefield. Here once lived 20-year Jennie Wade, along with her sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew.
One evening during the battle, Jennie was in the kitchen baking bread with her mother and sister. Some say the bread was for her very pregnant sister; others say they gave it to the Union soldiers. While they were baking, a stray bullet penetrated two brick walls and struck Jennie, piercing her corset and killing her. She is believed to be the only civilian who died during the Battle of Gettysburg. Her father, James Wade Sr., who was hospitalized at the time, was unable to come see her after her death and is said to haunt the house to this day looking for his daughter.
While touring the house that night, guests in my group experienced the plastic-chain stanchions moving randomly, lights flickering and their personal cameras malfunctioning. There was speculation among the group that these mishaps were caused by the ghost of Jennie’s father.
At the end of the night’s tour, a member of my group came up to me with a digital camera and said, 'You’ve got to come see this!' The picture on the camera’s screen showed a man in the window, and when we zoomed in, I definitely saw a dark figure resembling a man’s shape.
The next evening I drove to the house and peered into the same window. There were rocks behind the glass covered with undisturbed spider webs. It was impossible for someone to have stood there the previous day.
After two years with the ghost company, I blew out my lantern candle. Although I am officially retired as a tour guide, I continue to actively celebrate my favorite holiday, whether it’s helping with the local Halloween parade or designing costumes. I always look forward to dressing up for Halloween to entertain guests and hand out candy to the neighborhood children.
Now whenever the lights in my house flicker, I can’t help but think Jennie Wade or her father has made an appearance at my party, even if my 'real' guests don’t see them.”
One of the ghosts I mentioned on my tours was known for pipe smoking, and I had a little kid say they smelled smoke while on my tour.
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