The Cannonball Ghost… and Other Scary Halloween Tales: Part II

On November 15, 1777, the British lobbed 1000 cannonballs per hour into the tiny Fort Mifflin in an all out effort to resupply British troops in Philadelphia. Four of my ancestors fought in the battle and two were killed. Did they become ghosts?

On November 15, 1777, the British Navy lobbed 1000 cannonballs per hour into the tiny Fort Mifflin in an all out effort to resupply British troops in Philadelphia. Four of my ancestors fought in the battle and two were killed. Did they become ghosts? The forts ammunition magazine can be seen on the other side of the Canadian Geese.

Fort Mifflin, located next to the Philadelphia Airport, is well-known for its ghosts. For a time during the Revolutionary War, it was all that stood between the mighty British Navy and George Washington’s ragtag army of Revolutionaries. The few brave men stationed there had fought a heroic battle and succeeded in holding off the British for several weeks. Many of the defenders were killed, including two of my Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather’s brothers.

Peggy and I visited the Fort several years ago on Halloween and decided it would be fun to go on a special Halloween Night tour. “Maybe the Mekemson ghosts will be lurking,” I had told Peggy.

Our guide had gathered us up. His lantern was immediately blown out. “It’s only the wind,” he explained. “I don’t believe in ghosts. I don’t hunt them and they don’t hunt me.” His disclaimer came with a ‘but.’ He worked at the Fort, and occasionally ‘things’ happened. Doors closed and latched on their own. A woman screamed like she was being murdered. The police were called but couldn’t find anyone— or thing.

He related story after story as we made our way through the candle lit buildings of the fort. Other staff, volunteers and visitors had also experienced strange phenomena. More than one visitor had left on the run and even the guide had packed up and gone home on one occasion. He was spending the night in a second-floor room when he heard footsteps coming up the stairs. He opened the door and no one was there. Next he heard voices coming from the room next to him. He checked. No one was there either. He packed up and left, quickly.

We arrived at the Fort’s ammunition magazine, a bush covered hill that resembled an ancient burial mound. A bright hurricane torch outlined the dim opening. We entered and walked down a narrow, dimly lit corridor that opened out to a large, arched bunker. A single candle created dancing shadows on the far wall. Reputedly, a man dressed in Revolutionary Soldier garb had once greeted guests in the dark room and vividly described the horrendous battle that had taken place on November 15, 1777. Afterwards, the tourists had stopped at the park headquarters to report on how much they had enjoyed the presentation. The Fort had no such guide.

The entrance to the ghostly ammunition magazine taken during the day.

The entrance to the ghostly ammunition magazine taken during the day. The hurricane lantern is on the right.

“I’ve never felt anything in here,” the tour leader related. “It’s dead space,” he quipped. I stared hard into the corner where the soldier had supposedly stood, trying to create something out of nothing. But there were only the dancing shadows. Peggy tried to take a photo but the camera froze and refused to work. As she struggled with it, the last of our tour group disappeared down the narrow corridor, leaving us alone with the flickering candle.

We hurried after the group. There was no one outside the magazine, only the glowing torch and the dark night. “I saw them heading down a side corridor,” Peggy said. With more than a little reluctance, we dutifully trooped back inside. Peggy’s corridor was a bricked in wall. I was starting to feel spooked.

“Maybe we should go back to the bunker,” she suggested.

“Maybe not” I had replied and headed for the entrance, with Peggy close behind. Just as we arrived, the hurricane torch, which was designed to withstand high winds, was blown out by a slight puff of ice-cold air, leaving us with nothing but dark.

The hairs on the back of my head stood at attention. Was my ancient Uncle Andrew trying to communicate with us? He had been cut in half by a cannon ball after saving the Fort’s flag. Maybe he was still seeking his other half. Peggy and I decided it was time to vacate the premises.

Once you've become thoroughly "spooked," every dark corridor, such as this one at Fort Mifflin becomes a potential hiding place for a ghost.

Once you’ve become thoroughly “spooked,” every dark corridor, such as this one at Fort Mifflin becomes a potential hiding place for a ghost.

Fortunately, we found our group several buildings away and stuck like super glue to them the rest of the tour.

Tomorrow’s Halloween Blog: A Lonely Grave… Peggy and I are looking for the grave of an ancestor, shot down as a Scottish Presbyterian Martyr, when we see what almost had to be a ghost.

27 comments on “The Cannonball Ghost… and Other Scary Halloween Tales: Part II

  1. I must admit that I was a bit unnerved by the experience. I definitely saw the group heading down the corridor…..followed the corridor….only to find the wall. I had to work on a sense of humor about it all!

  2. By the time I finished reading this, I was glad I hadn’t read it in the middle of the night. If someone asks, “Do you believe in ghosts?”, I’m in the “Well, not really. But…” group. Hamlet got it right. We’re all Horatios, and there are more things in heaven and earth than we sometimes dare to dream. I would have been out of there faster than you were.

    • There is a great deal that lurks deep in our minds, Linda, beyond our grasp. And reality at times is tenuous at best. (Just think of the present election.) We were prepped for a ghost experience at Mifflin, our imaginations could have gone wild, but did they? Whatever, the experience was truly scary. –Curt

  3. You are definitely creeping me out. There is no way I would do as Peggy did and accompany you. I’d just have to wait for Bert somewhere else and hope he made it out alive! There’s a part of me that does believe in the supernatural even though I’d never admit it openly. But going in to a dark, dank bunker — better you than me!

  4. Pingback: The Last Laugh… Plus Three Final Scary Stories to Wrap up Halloween! | Wandering through Time and Place

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