PARKERSBURG - Fort Boreman Hill visitors have reported a number of otherworldly sitings over the years, but visions of Civil War-clad specters seem to have ceased after the park was developed on the hill.
Brian Kesterson, local author, Civil War historian and member of the Fore Boreman Park advisory board, said there has been extensive research done on the hill and the reports of the ghost sitings came from "credible people in the community."
"There was a fellow who saw two young men walking on the path wearing blue trousers and white shirts. He alone so he ducked behind a log. As they got closer, he put his head down and about the time they should have been passing by, he raised his head up and they were gone," Kesterson said. "We later learned there were two young men who had been in the military units on the hill that had both died of smallpox, so we figured that's probably who he saw."
Young men wearing blue trousers and white shirts, a barefoot boy wearing Civil War-period clothing driving oxen and a Civil War soldier who pointed out where relics were are just some of the ghost sightings reported. A white mass also has been reported.
"A woman reported seeing a young boy. He was barefoot and wearing Civil War-period clothing. He was driving oxen, then the animals just disappeared, faded away," Kesterson said.
"There was another local fellow who was metal detecting and had gotten a good signal. He knelt down to investigate and something made him feel uneasy. He looked up and there was a man standing in a Civil War officer's frock coat with epaulets, full military regalia. He wore a large black brimmed hat that shaded his eyes. He said the man had a little bit of a beard and he was pointing to the ground. He said he was so scared he just froze. Then the apparition disappeared. The man then went over to the spot that had been indicated and begin to dig. He found an Eagle breast plate," Kesterson said.
Kesterson himself has been witness to some of the ghost activity on the hill.
"I didn't believe until I saw it myself. I know what I saw, I guess people can either believe me or not," he said.
One of Kesterson's sitings occurred near the area to the walkway up to the fort site there is a sign talking about artificer.
An artificer is in charge of military weapons.
"They basically were in charge of repairing pool weapons when they needed to be used. I was standing right about there, there was a tree there and I looked up at the road, it had wagon cuts in it and I saw a man leaning against a tree, resting, looking at me. He had on a forage-style cap, dark blue uniform with black trousers, frock coat, an earlier type, militia style. I did a double take and he was gone," Kesterson said.
Kesterson said his first encounters were during the summer months in daylight hours at least eight years ago.
Another time Kesterson said as he knelt down to pick up a piece of pottery, and he felt the ground rumble.
"I've been on foot when cavalry re-enactors rode by, and I'd felt that sensation before; you feel it before you see the horses," he said. "There was a sudden gust of wind, in just a small area leaves moved. I could see the outline of a horse that had come over the ridge, it headed toward the fort area. It was almost transparent, others have reported seeing it up there as well. There are several other accounts of people seeing this horse running with no saddle and no rider, no one seems to know where it came from," Kesterson said.
On another occasion Kesterson said he was on the ridge walking toward the area where the fort site is. He said there was an old road flanked by oak trees. It was in the summertime, and there were leaves on the trees, it was a sunny day.
"One of my friends was on down over the hill, probably 20 yards away. All of a sudden I felt weird, there was a coolness in the air. I averted my eyes up," Kesterson said he saw a large white mass that appeared to be literally hanging in the air.
"It had a pulsating bright light, it looked like cheesecloth, you could see through it. Then it started dissipating. It unsettled me," Kesterson said. "I know I looked at it with my own eyes, it was if it sensed me, it shuttered and shot straight up in the air disappearing into the sky." Kesterson said his friend came up and asked why he had been looking up.
Kesterson related the story of two local men, Daniel Grogen and Thomas Boice who were hung from scaffolding erected on the hill underneath a tree after being convicted of murder.
"They put white shrouds over their bodies. During the hanging, the rope broke, they fell to the ground and were rehung. I'm thinking that maybe that's what the white things were that I saw, the shrouds, it was almost like a mist in the air. It was the most bizarre thing I've ever seen," he said.
In September 1864, Abram Deem, a peaceful and well-liked farmer from Lubeck District who had shown sympathy to the southern cause, was murdered by two of his neighbors, Daniel Grogan and Thomas Boice.
A third person, Mortimer Gibbony, was also convicted of the murder; Gibbony was not from this area. Following a trial and appeals, in February 1866, Grogan and Boice were hung within the shadows of Fort Boreman. Gibbony, who had escaped the local jail a few months before, was eventually captured and in June 1866, he climbed the same gallows steps that his two co-defendants had climbed earlier. It was recorded that thousands of people came to Parkersburg to witness those hangings.