Gettysburg, PA. It’s the first stop for every armchair Civil War historian, and it was my first stop after I packed my bags and made the move from Montana to D.C.
Road trip opportunities are aplenty in this part of the country and the I saw fit to brave the beltway for the first time en route to a haunted paradise in Southern Pennsylvania – a mere hour and half drive from the city.
My fascination with ghost hunting shows started a couple years ago when syfy’s Ghost Hunters visited the Cashtown Inn in Cashtown, PA near Gettysburg. While I am open minded when it comes to the paranormal, these made-for-TV investigators came back with some very compelling evidence from that particular episode (including a picture frame that moved on its own). Whether you are a skeptic or a true believer, you can’t deny that these shows (including Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures) provide their fair share of entertainment value.
With that, I decided to book a room at the Inn for the eve of Memorial Day. While my girlfriend, Breeah, had never been to the battlefield, I had visited on a family trip in the past and figured a Memorial Day tour plus a haunted hotel would freshen the experience for me.
The Sunday drive to Cashtown was peaceful and quiet as we whisked past the Cacotin’s via Route 15. We cut directly through the cute and very Catholic town of Emmitsburg, Md. where it seems every storefront has some connection to the church. Then we connected on to the backroads to Cashtown-McKnightstown which is an adventure in its own right. You really feel like you are in Civil War country now and I’d advise future travellers to take this more scenic route into Gettysburg (make sure to follow Old Route 30 after making it to Cashtown).
The coolest part of the whole experience was turning left onto Old Route 30 to see the haunted inn looming large in the background. I think Breeah had a moment of “what did I sign up for” while I felt a bit star struck. Upon entry I was greeted by a very friendly staff member and given a key (with a confederate flag on it – for this hotel was used as a headquarters (and hospital) of sorts for the Southern Army during the great battle.
After checking in we headed into the town of Gettysburg – first making our way through Gettysburg proper as the GPS navigated us towards the visitor’s center. Packaged tourist “traps” like these never quite resonate with me, but everything is worth seeing once and the history lessons provided in museums go along way into understanding where you are and what you’re seeing. After seeing the famed Cyclorama we took a self-guided road trip throughout the battlefields, stopping at monument after monument until we got hungry.
Downtown Gettysburg is quaint and gives off a rather European feeling. The tourists make this town feel bigger than it is – and a walk through Lincoln Square feels kinda like walking in a refurbished old town of a larger city – especially with all the traffic. This mirage is broken once you go down a block or so near the 7-11 by the train station. Still, we had a great time kicking back at The Pub and Restaurant – a classy and fun eatery right in the Square. The BBQ Chicken Pizza (our second choice after we were told that they were “out of Pepperoni”) was delicious and the Carrot Cake slice was the size of a full cake on its own.
We found our way back to Cashtown as it got dark. The Inn was made more eerie by the sets of old electric candles in the windows. A guest was on the porch and wished us well on our journey into the paranormal as we went inside.
First let me say that the Inn itself – ghosts or not – just bleeds history. The place is a relic and feels right out of the “olden days”. Everywhere you look their are photos – past and present – of Civil War heroes of reality and of the silver screen. The decor is authentically rustic and helps create a pleasant, yet spooky aura. A haunted house couldn’t be better staged.
We investigated the General Imboden room (whether he actually stayed there is up for argument, but it’s plausable considering he was a prior “guest” during the days of the battle). Pictures of the General and his wife graced a nightstand and gave off a creepy stare. Still, it was hard not to feel “at home” in this room – as it was, well, quite homely and felt more like we were staying in the farmhouse of a well-to-do turn of the (19th) century family rather than a hotel.
Each room in the hotel has a journal littered with entries of past visitors. This was fun to peruse through as each guest gave an account of their stay. Everyone of them enjoyed their experiences – haunted or not – but some gave vivid details of hauntings, including one who claimed a Civil War soldier came up to her at night and told her to help him get out of there. Most of the paranormal experiences dealt with an object (usually one of the plush teddy bears in the room) moving during the night.
With that information in hand, I was tired and ready to (try to) sleep. This was easier said than done, as it was tempting to keep at least one eye partially open (I don’t know why one does this – am I actually thinking I can be tricking the ghosts into thinking I’m sleeping?). It didn’t help that my allergies were kicking my butt that night as well – more than any other day this whole year. Must’ve been those consarned paranormal orbs!
Anyway – our experiences. We each thought to have heard a “woosh” while I definitely heard something move along the floor or desk (or at least a sound resembling such an event). Nothing groundbreaking and nothing sensational, but just enough to keep me wondering. For fun I had my camera shoot video for an hour (the max for my memory card) and my voice recorder was running all night. I’ve yet to dive into the “evidence”, but maybe I’ll find something else once I do.
One last thing about the Cashtown Inn – the breakfast. The banana stuffed french toast was absolutely fantastic. In the kitchen were pictures of ghosts taken at the Inn as well as the TAPS crew truck parked outside during the Ghost Hunters episode.
Our Memorial Day was spent at the Cemetery where we paid our respects to the many lives lost at Gettysburg. Little known to me before this trip was that Memorial Day was started in recognition of the fallen Civil War soldiers and Gettysburg was the prime location of festivities for many years. We also paid no mind to Sarah Palin’s visit that day as we made our way out before the parade at 2 p.m. Seriously, I don’t know how people could stand the near 100-degree heat that day. On the way out we stopped at the Roy Rogers in Thornton, Md. for some classic fast food fare before heading home.