Fort Delaware became a State Park in 1951. Dating back to 1859, the Fort was originally used to protect the ports of Wilmington and Philadelphia, and served as a Union fortress and a Confederate prison. Many of Fort Delaware’s first Confederate prisoners were brought from the Battle of Kernstown in 1862 and the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. A total of thirty-two thousand prisoners were kept at Fort Delaware. The state of Delaware obtained the Fort from the United States Federal government in 1947.
Visitors can access Fort Delaware from Delaware City to Pea Patch Island via a ? mile ferry ride across the Delaware River. Historically dressed tour guides take visitors on a journey through Fort Delaware that includes hands-on activities that date back to the times when Fort Delaware served as a Union fortress and Confederate prison. During the Civil War, the Fort was known as the Fort Delaware Death Pen, and was also called the most dreaded Union prison. Almost 13,000 Confederate prisoners were housed in an area meant to hold only 10,000 men.
Many prisoners attempted to escape and were caught. Over 2,700 men died in the Fort during the Civil War. According to an article by James A. Cox in the Civil War Times for July-August 1993, Fort Delaware “had the highest death rate of any Union prison, and through a combination of dreadful location, official mismanagement, and political malice and vengeance, it managed to develop its own style of shocking, inhuman treatment. ” Apparitions have been spotted during tours, by visitors, park officials and by re-enactors.
Alleged paranormal activity that has occurred in recent years includes loud bangs with no known source, disembodied voices, objects moving and full-bodied apparitions. One of Fort Delaware’s most well known specters turns out to be a woman who frequents an officer’s kitchen. No one knows who she is exactly but she seems to think she owns the kitchen and made an appearance to female re-enactors who use the room. She’s also called out names and moved objects. Others have reported witnessing the spirits of Confederate soldiers in and around the Fort.
Paranormal activity associated with prisoners includes moaning and unexplained voices. The ghost of a woman and child supposedly haunt one of the buildings at the Fort. Paranormal activity associated with the mother and child includes tugging on hair and clothing, children’s laughter, a woman’s sobbing, books falling and candlesticks moving. In other areas of the Fort, a harmonica has been heard as well as the sound of a man swearing. People have reported to have been touched, tugged and spoken to by unseen entities.
Several ghost-hunting groups have visited Fort Delaware including Sci-Fi Channel’s Ghost Hunters Grant Wilson, Jason Hawes and team. The Ghost Hunters caught some amazing evidence during their two trips to Fort Delaware in 2008, some of which included thermal video of an alleged apparition in a tunnel, several clear electronic voice recordings and video evidence of something unseen grabbing the hood of Wilson’s jacket several times in a row. Today, the paranormal activity is still strong at Fort Delaware.
So many deaths in such cruel conditions have produced one of the most haunted places in America. Starting in the basement, people have claimed to hear moans, chains rattling and voices. Apparitions of Confederate soldiers running under the ramparts have also been seen. It has been suggested that these ghosts are still looking for ways to escape the prison camp. There is a woman apparition that visits the officer’s kitchen seen by re-enactors. She has yet to be identified but she has been known to call out names and move things around. Maybe she had some form of authority in the kitchen?
There have been many pictures taken at the fort and some have unexplained orbs, mists and some even show the presence of soldiers in them. The apparition, who prefers the pantry, hides ingredients stored there and calls people by name, sometimes telling them to get out, two women were baking cinnamon swirls and, when they went to get the spice, it was missing. They searched for it several times and cleaned out some cabinets while doing so. They asked other staff members if they had used the cinnamon and the answers were negative. The women looked in the pantry again and the spice was where it belonged.
One day, when several women were preparing a large meal, a woman they didn’t know appeared, looked at the food on the table and stove, grinned at the women, then walked away disappearing through a wall. A child’s ghost haunts several rooms on the second floor of one of the buildings. It tugs on peoples’ clothing and its spectral laughter is heard. A woman’s ghost has tapped people on the shoulder and touched them. Books fall from shelves by themselves. Crystals hanging from a set of candlesticks move back and forth when there is no breeze to account for this. The laundry room is used for staff to demonstrate how it was used in the 1800s.
Its resident ghost threads needles and collects loose buttons and strings them together. Some people think it’s the kitchen ghost who does these things. Witnesses have heard phantom sounds of a harmonica being played by the laundry area. Some of the other paranormal activity includes one of the buildings having an apparition of a woman and a child attached to it. In the building it is said you can hear children laughing, falling objects, candles moving, a woman cry and even reports of a tugging on clothing. There have also been reports by multiple people about being touched or tugged on all around Fort Delaware.