The call to serve is only answered by a select few, and the scars of war are some of the most enduring. While the American Midwest is not often noted for its military history, it is home to a number of battlefields and war memorials, as well as past and present military installations and prison camps. Missouri saw its share of bloody battles during the Civil War, and conflicts between settlers and American Indians raged until the early 1830s. As a result, Mysterious Heartland has found that the ghosts of former servicemen have been encountered in many places throughout the Midwest, from abandoned forts and bases to cemeteries and beyond. Which will prove to be the most haunted of them all?
10. Harrison’s Phantom Militia
Warren County, Indiana
Bordering Illinois in west-central Indiana, Warren County is one of the most rural counties in the Hoosier State, with approximately 23 inhabitants per square mile. In the fall of 1811, General William Henry Harrison and his army of militia marched from Vincennes through what would become Warren County and defeated Tecumseh and his American Indian confederacy at the Battle of Tippecanoe. An estimated 50-65 American Indian warriors and 63 U.S. militia died in the battle. According to Wanda Lou Willis, author of Haunted Hoosier Trails, each November residents of a farmhouse roughly 12 miles north of Williamsport, Indiana have heard the sound of a passing column of soldiers. The echo of their boots and rattling of their muskets and equipment grows louder as the phantom army draws near, then dissipates. It is believed these sounds are from the spectral remains of General Harrison’s militia, marching toward the fateful battlefield.
9. Unknown Soldier of Evergreen Cemetery
In tiny Vinton, Iowa, a stone sentinel stands watch over Evergreen Cemetery. According to legend, this granite statue of a Union soldier stirs to life each night and patrols the burial ground. Evergreen Cemetery is located at the northeast corner of 10th Avenue and East 13th Street across from Trinity Lutheran Church. The Women of Relief Core dedicated this particular statue in 1912 “to our boys of 1861-1865.” At some point in the middle of the 20th Century, rumors began to circulate that this unknown soldier descended from his pedestal at night to chase off trespassers. In the dark, eyewitnesses say the statue is missing one of his eyes. Others have seen strange lightning or colored balls of light floating through the cemetery. Even more dramatic are tales of a headless man staggering among the headstones.
8. Chanute Air Force Base
Chanute Air Force Base opened in Rantoul in July 1917 and was a vital part of the local economy for nearly 76 years. After its closure in 1993, much of the base was divided up into residential and commercial properties, but most of the core buildings remain abandoned. Inevitably, local kids exploring the abandoned parts of the base in the past few years have begun to bring home unusual stories. Some visitors have, through the broken windows, reported seeing an officer working at his desk. Others say they have seen phantom airmen strolling the weed-choked sidewalks or sitting in the cockpits of the planes behind the Air Museum. On September 13, 2001, at 10pm, a police K-9 unit responded to a trespassing call at White Hall, one of the largest abandoned buildings on base. Dutch, an experienced canine with 957 drug arrests under his collar, pursued something up to the roof, where he suddenly and unexpectedly leapt 15 feet off the building and fell to his death.
7. Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield
Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield is located off State Highway 22, southwest of Springfield, Missouri. On August 10, 1861, Confederate forces under the command of Brigadier General Benjamin McCulloch defeated Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon’s Army of the West, killing General Lyon. Over 2,500 Union and Confederate soldiers fell on the battlefield. Most of the casualties occurred at a place called Bloody Hill, where Confederate troops charged Union lines three times throughout the day. John Ray and his family witnessed the battle from their small ranch house, which quickly filled up with wounded Confederates. Today, some visitors have seen a girl carrying a pail of water walking toward the Ray House. Others claim to have witnessed ghostly soldiers moving around the battlefield. An unnatural, chilly silence is believed to settle on Bloody Hill.
6. Camp Grant Museum and Command Post Restaurant
Camp Grant was established in 1917 as a sprawling army compound southwest of Rockford, just north of where the Chicago-Rockford International Airport exists today. It was a 5,460 acre facility with 1,100 buildings that housed 50,000 officers and enlisted men. During World War 2, it served as an induction and training center, a prisoner of war camp, and a medical training unit. Today, Camp Grant Museum is located in a building that served as one of the former fire stations and later the Induction and Muster Out Center for Camp Grant. According to Yolanda Weisensel, the museum’s owner, the building is haunted by servicemen that died during an epidemic in 1918. She has felt an unseen hand push her shoulder, and psychics have described seeing a soldier with a bandage on his head. Yolanda added, “I was walking past the hallway and looked down the hall, something or somebody (a young man) dressed in white ran across the end of the hall. If he had been real he would have run into a door. He was looking back over his shoulder laughing as if he was being chased for fun.”
5. Fort Osage National Historic Landmark
Fort Osage National Historic Landmark sits on Osage Street, overlooking the Missouri River, north of the small community of Sibley in western Missouri. William Clark first erected this fort in 1808 to protect settlers travelling west. It was a crude stone and wooden structure, just enough to protect its inhabitants from attack by American Indians. Much of the fort was rebuilt in the 1940s to serve as a museum. Since then, visitors and volunteers alike have caught a glimpse of a black-clad man wandering the grounds. The ghost of an Osage Indian has also been seen, one of many believed to linger at the fort. In the 1990s, a delegation of Osage Indians visited the fort, and one tribal elder in the group said he could sense the spirits. The sound of disembodied footsteps is common. The ghost of a soldier in full regalia has been seen near Bunkhouse No. 4.
4. Fort Leavenworth
Fort Leavenworth is the oldest continually operating military post west of the Mississippi River, and its cemetery has been in use since at least 1844. Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery was officially established in 1862 and contains the remains of over 20,000 United States soldiers. Oddly, the ghosts said to haunt this hallowed ground are not service men. One of the oldest legends concerns Catherine Sutter, an early pioneer whose children became lost in a winter storm while looking for firewood. Catherine searched in vain all winter long, before succumbing to pneumonia. Her ghost has been seen wandering the cemetery grounds, wearing a calico dress and black shawl. Sometimes she is holding a lantern, and other times only her voice can be heard calling out for her children. The other ghost is that of an American Indian named Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce. He was incarcerated at the fort in 1877, and his apparition has been seen in the cemetery.
3. Fort Meigs State Memorial
Overlooking the Maumee River, Fort Meigs State Memorial is accessed off West Indiana Avenue, just west of downtown Perrysburg in northwestern Ohio. It served American forces during the War of 1812, when British forces and their American Indian allies laid siege to the fort. During the siege, approximately 866 men under the command of Colonel William Dudley crossed the river in an attempted surprise attack on the Native Americans under the command of Tecumseh. Dudley’s men fell victim to an ambush in the woods, and only 150 made it back to the fort. Adding to the area’s macabre history, Fort Meigs itself was constructed atop an ancient Indian burial ground. In 1813, Captain Daniel Cushing described digging up piles of human skulls while helping erect the fort. Today, Bunkhouse No. 3 seems particularly haunted. Visitors and volunteers have seen flashing lights and heard the sound of muskets discharging. Elsewhere in the fort, eyewitnesses have caught a glimpse of phantom soldiers or heard the sound of military equipment rattling.
2. Historic Fort Wayne
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Today, the Historic Old Fort from which Fort Wayne, Indiana gets its name sits in a park off US Highway 27 overlooking St. Mary’s River, near the confluence of the St. Mary’s and St. Joseph rivers. Captain Jean François Hamtramck established the wooden stockade-style fort in 1794 under orders from General “Mad” Anthony Wayne. In September 1812, American Indians from the Potawatomi and Miami tribes laid siege to the fort, but gave up after a week of fighting. The fort was decommissioned in 1819. Although the existing Historic Old Fort is a modern replica, many believe something from the past has remained. According to Mark Merimen, author of Haunted Travels of Indiana, it is generally believed that a young lieutenant named Ostrander, who died of unknown causes at the fort in 1813, haunts it to this day. His ghost is most frequently encountered in the officer’s barracks, where there is a replica of his room. One night while staying at the fort, a reenactor named Richard Ferguson witnessed a full body apparition, an antique spinning wheel turn on its own, and levitating objects. Others have heard disembodied footsteps on the second floor. Moving shadows have also been seen in the courtyard.
1. National Museum of the United States Airforce
The National Museum of the United States Airforce is located at 1100 Spaatz Street, off Springfield Street and Woodman Drive, at the eastern edge of Dayton, Ohio. First opened to the public in 1954, it is officially part of Wright-Patterson Airforce Base. It has been at its current location since 1971, where it has steadily grown to include a collection of more than 360 aircraft and missiles, including Bockscar, the B-29 superfortress that dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki in 1945. According to John B. Kachuba, author of Ghosthunting Ohio, the museum is haunted by ghosts of the past. The spirits of pilots, airmen, and their victims are believed to linger near the machines where they spend their last moments. According to Chris Woodyard, author of Haunted Ohio II, the POW exhibit is one of the worst spots in the museum, eliciting feelings of sickness and dread. The lost crew of the Lady Be Good, a B-24 that crashed in the Libyan desert during WW2, has been spotted roaming the halls and exhibits.