Harpers Ferry Streets and Buildings

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The streets and buildings of historic, lower town Harpers Ferry have been restored as they looked pre-Civil War, capturing history of a hot spot in the Civil War where so many battles took place, beginning with the assault of John Brown and his 21 men.

Visting Harpers Ferry National Park is like a step back into time; very much like Old City Williamsburg.

With its authentic cobbled streets, and lovely old buildings, some of which were reconstructed by Federal money.

Cars park across the river, and people walk over the bridge. It is possible to walk all around the town to see everything, if you have the time to do so.









The town sprung up and grew during the first part of the 1800s as the Armory and businesses that moved here created many jobs and prosperity for all. Having a Federal Armory and living by the powerful Patomac was an economic asset during these boom years.

The disadvantages of being at this location however raised their deadly heads in 1859, when it became apparent that Harpers Ferry was a coveted prize to hold by warring participants and for those who were after the fruits of the Armory. Another disadvantage was that the town was impossible to defend, and easily taken by hostile forces who didn’t care about the residents at all. Uh Oh! Death and Disaster followed, testing the fortitude and the faith of the town’s residents as they struggled to stay alive and survive.

After the bloody invasion of John Brown and his men, and the equally violent retaking of Harpers Ferry by the US Marines, the town of Harpers Ferry suffered through 14 battles between the Union soldiers and the Confederate soldiers who both sought this strategic location and the goodies for war found in the Ferderal Armory.

After the Civil War, a small community survived to try to rebuild. Early on, folks wanted to see where John Brown made his stand which started the tourism business that probably help all to recover.

Years later when the old historic town was made the Harpers Ferry Monument, to honor all the people who died here on both sides of the Civil War, tourist trade boomed! Years later, the Harpers Ferry should be preserved as a historic district as well so it was turned over to the National Parks and it became Harpers Ferry National Park. The advantage to this is that the buildings and streets were under the care of National Park specialists.

Apparently, living tourists aren’t the only ones visiting or staying here. Former residents and visitors who had a bad end here also keep the living company expressing a variety of moods.



Towns and places that have become historically preserved , as well as the National and State Historical Parks CAN draw back restless spirits back into this world who enjoy their old homes, businesses and favorite places. Harpers Ferry has been restored to look like it did before the destruction of the Civil War. Former residents now in Spirit-form, including an infamous one are drawn back to the town they loved or valued. They want to continue on existing in this world here, enjoying the rebuilt structure or place, remembering the good times, regretting their sudden loss of life, and perhaps even holding grudges.

Places that suffered mass sudden violent death due to accident, slaughter, and war often have many restless souls stay in this world, wanting to comfort themselves with the good times and pleasant memories they experienced.

Harpers Ferry Citizenry were suddenly killed by artillery shells in lower town and bullets during the 14 battles that took place here. Explosions that happened on civilian housing was deadly and terrifying. A baby was killed when the chimney fell through the roof, and landed on top of him or her. Defenders and attackers also died in lower town Harpers Ferry

People who die unexpectedly from murder, injuries, execution and disease, often like to hang around the building where they died, or attach to the land where they died being restless because of injustice done to them, or still wanting to complete their quest of goal or just can’t get over their personal disaster.

harper-paranormalIn 1799, a garrison of soldiers were sent to Harpers Ferry to guard the Federal Armory in case talks broke down with the French. To keep the men busy, this garrison of men was marching around lower town Harpers Ferry, to fife and drum. Unfortunately, the soldiers got their camp water from the polluted river and most of the regiment came down with Cholera when it spread through their encampment and most didn’t survive.

A young Confederate drummer boy was adopted by Union soldiers instead of being sent to a ghastly prison of war camp. The lad was put to work shining their shoes, doing their laundry, etc. for food, protection and a place to sleep. It all was working out well until some soldiers got drunk and started throwing the young lad around the room until he was thrown probably by accident out the window to the street below. His hope of staying alive by serving these soldiers and going home to his mother was dashed.

Hayward Shepherd was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was coming home when he bumped into the stealthy approach of John Brown and his men about to attack. They killed him immediately.

A freed slave, Dangerfield Newby joined John Brown’s raiders, hoping to earn enough money to buy his wife and seven children out of slavery. This focused goal was squashed during the initial attack in 1859 when a determined group of town defenders shot spikes at the hostile Brown militia. One spike hit Dangerfield in the throat, causing pain and death by bleeding out. His body was left behind by John Brown’s forces, where his remains suffered mutilation by the frustrated townspeople, and left for hog food.

The Mayor and twenty other people were taken hostage, and no mercy was shown them. Their purpose in being kept alive was to keep the townspeople under their control by threatening to kill them. I bet they were all killed before the Union Forces attacked.

John Brown’s grand plans for a slave-empowered rebellion ended in a disappointing bloody disaster, for his men and on a personal level. The slave soldiers never showed up.Two of his sons were killed along with eight of his men when the U.S. Marines retook Harpers Ferry, and his life ended in failure-disgrace, being hanged like a common thug.

Spirit of a Crying Baby

Is heard by the living in one of the houses in Harpers Ferry

Sounds of the Spectral Garrison of 1799 Soldiers

These spirits of dedicated soldiers apparently are still marching around the streets of lower town Harpers Ferry, to Fife and drum.

Must keep up discipline even when in spirit form!

Spirit of the Confederate Drummer Boy

His sorrowful cries for his mother are heard by occupants of the townhouse on High St.; just up the steps from the Iron Horse Inn.

This mournful spirit is still very disappointed that he was suddenly killed by the men whom he had hoped would pull him through the war, so he could go home to his mother.

Spirit of Dangerfield Newby

He still haunts the area where he was violently killed and desecrated; In Hog Alley, between High and Potomac Streets.

Dangerfield is described as a black man “wearing baggy trousers and an old slouch hat, with a scar across his throat.”

He walks around Hog Alley, looking at the ground, deep in thought, trying to form a plan B to raise money to buy his family, rescuing them from slavery.

John Brown was a big disappointment, but he hasn’t been deterred.

Spirit of Hayward Shepherd

Seen in his railroad baggage handler uniform.

No details of his haunting actions has been shared, but we can have theories about what he may be doing by looking at other stories on Hauntedhouses.com.

Perhaps he is still trying to tell the people in town that an attack was imminent.  He could be reliving his walk home and the deadly surprise he ran into; trying to make it have a different outcome.

He could be going into the building he lived in with his family, and may look for them, which must be a surprise to the living people now inhabiting this building.

Spirit of John Brown

He is often mistaken to be a re-enactor, dressed in costume. He appears as a solid human, talks and is friendly, perhaps comforted because tourists are interested in him and don’t see him, as a traitor and thug.

He is called Johnny B or Johnny B Good by some of the locals; who apparently have forgiven him and see him in a positive light.

The spirit of John Brown was first seen in 1974, loitering around the Harpers Ferry Park area. He enjoys walking around historic lower town streets, seeing all the reconstructed pre-Civil War buildings. He probably still loves his farmhouse as well.

Perhaps, some of his men / his two sons who were killed keep him company there.

This realistic, intelligent life-like apparition enjoys pleasing the tourists and even poses for pictures with them. Funny though, when these tourists get their pictures back, he is not in the picture.


A big Yes Indeed is in order!

There are even more spirits that stay for a variety of reasons that are not mentioned above. They must find some peace here to calm their restlessness if even just temporarily.

Some in great emotional pain like the Confederate drummer boy really needs to be helped to the other side by a medium who specializes in this gift so he can finally find his mom.

Harpers Ferry has its own paranormal investigating group, and they have captured some hard evidence. The spirits above have provided the living with years of paranormal experiences. There are also Ghost Tours offered to bring people to the haunted hot spots.



Streets and buildings of historic lower town Harpers Ferry.


  • westvirginiahauntsandlegends.com
  • www.washingtonpost.com
  • m.facebook.com/Harpers-Ferry-Paranormal-Association

Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr


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