Tuesday, 28 May 2013 00:44

Examples of Collective and Crisis Apparitional Experiences During the Civil War

Written by 

PRG Staff member - Dave Schumacher

Memorial Day is a time to remember those brave men and women in the military who gave their lives in the line of duty to protect America and promote freedom throughout the world.

Having the day off to honor our military heroes and having taken a recent trip to Gettysburg makes me pause and consider the emotional and traumatic times of war that affect those both on and off the battlefield in natural and sometimes paranormal ways. It also makes me remember that certain types of ghost sightings and paranormal phenomena have been occurring for a very long time and are frequently reported during times of war.

There is no shortage of paranormal reports from the American Civil War. Two types of experiences, collective and crisis apparitions, provide fascinating phenomena for paranormal researchers to study and data that is hard to reconcile with natural explanations.

A Battlefield Collective Apparitional Experience

On July 2nd, 1863 Union and Confederate forces were engaged in the fierce and bloody Battle of Gettysburg at Little Round Top. Both sides were taking heavy casualties when all of a sudden a single Union soldier on horse rode through the battlefield. Soldiers took aim, fired and their shots looked to hit the brave soldier over and over again. However, the soldier never went down and continued to ride on, which left both Union and Confederate soldiers in a state if disbelief. The untouchable soldier eventually disappeared.

Later in the day the Union forces decided to make a final charge. They grabbed whatever ammunition they could, attached their bayonets to their rifles and charged with full force down the hill at Little Round Top.

No sooner had the charge began when the bulletproof phantom soldier from earlier returned to the battlefield. Once again a barrage of bullets could not bring down the seemingly invincible soldier. The fight raged on and eventually the mysterious soldier disappeared.

Union soldiers reported their experiences to Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain and eventually the stories made their way to the War Department. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton took notice of the paranormal reports emerging from the battlefield and decided to send Colonel Pittenger to investigate. Colonel Pittenger interviewed many people including General Oliver O. Howard of Maine. Colonel Pittenger never produced an official report but did document the many people collectively witnessed the ghostly apparition.

The Census of Hallucinations conducted by the Society for Psychical Research showed that approximately 8% of experiences are shared or ‘collective.’ More than one person perceives these experiences at the same time and these experiences can be visual, auditory, olfactory and/or a sensed presence. Different people can experience something at the same time but can experience it using different senses. The important point is that they are collectively perceived and that is especially interesting because it makes reconciling these experiences with natural processes more difficult. One would think people would have different experiences when interpreting natural phenomena since we all have different backgrounds, beliefs and experiences to frame our interpretation. 

So, the question is then, why do different people who have no prior knowledge of a location with different backgrounds and different beliefs all have the same experiences? This is why collective paranormal experiences are so interesting, need further investigation and may provide insight into the true nature of paranormal experiences. Apparently the War Department thought it was interesting enough to investigate in 1863!

A Civil War Crisis Apparition

George Roberts was a Union Soldier in Port Hudson, Louisiana. Port Hudson was attacked on June 14th, 1863 and George was killed in the battle around 10am.

Approximately 1,500 miles away, George’s parents were in the State of New York. Around 9:45am George’s mother was getting ready for church when she suddenly and clearly heard her son’s voice calling out, “Mother! Mother!” Around the same time George’s dad was at church ringing the church bell and he had a strong feeling that someone was standing behind him. He turned around but no one was there.

Mr. and Mrs. Roberts did not find out until later that their son had been killed around the same time they both had their experiences.

This is not only another collective experience, but also an excellent example of a crisis apparition. These experiences happen when one person is in a crisis or life-threatening situation and are perceived by another person who is emotionally connected to them, such as a family member or friend. Most people are familiar with the visual crisis apparition. However, the experience can also be auditory (as Mrs. Roberts experienced), a sensed presence (as Mr. Roberts experienced) or part of a dream. When an apparition is seen, the people experiencing it do not realize it is an apparition until it is gone. The final characteristic of these types of experiences is that the person who has the experience does not know that the person they are seeing or sensing in other ways is in danger, dying or just deceased.

These two types of paranormal phenomena, collective experiences and crisis apparitions, provide for interesting study by paranormal investigators and should be evaluated carefully since they contain certain characteristics such as: collectively perceived, emotional connections, spontaneous, happen to people who don’t expect them and the people who experience a crisis apparition have no idea that the person they are seeing are in a crisis situation or have just died. These make them more difficult to just explain away with normal causation. It is also different than the phenomena that most paranormal investigators and ghost hunters investigate.


Chamberlain, J.L. (1915). The Passing of Armies: An Account of the Final Campaign of the Army of the Potomac. Reprinted by Stan Clark (1994). Military Books, Gettysburg, PA.

Coleman, C.K. (1999). Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War: Authentic Accounts of the Strange and Unexplained. Thomas Nelson Publishing Company. Nashville, TN.

Gurney, E., Myers, F.W. and Podmore, F. (1886). Phantasms of the Living. Volume 2. London: Rooms of the Society for Psychical Research: Trubner & Company.

Hardison, S.A. (2013). Paranthropology: Journal of Anthropological Approaches to the Paranormal. Vol. 4(1), 62-67.

Tyrell, G.N.M. (1953). Apparitions. Pantheon Books Inc. New York, NY.

{jpgremote}https://paranormalresearchgroup.com//home/swprg/public_html/images/Little-Round-Top-1.jpg{/jpgremote} Little Round Top where Union and Confederate soldiers collectively witnessed an apparition on two occasions on July 2nd, 1863. Photo by Dave Schumacher, Paranormal Research Group.
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