The Andersonville Stockade – Soured Ground
The sky was sunny and clear as we walked up the hill toward the looming Andersonville stockade. I imagined a scene quite similar taking place 137 years before as Union soldiers exited the long prison train and began their march toward the very same place. I am certain that their walk passed more quickly than mine did. However, I doubt their sense of foreboding was any more than my apprehension in walking toward this dread place.
It seems that anyone who visits Andersonville prison leaves with a strong sense of sorrow. The air inside the prison yard is heavy with the exasperation and trepidation of doomed men. The ground of Andersonville is sour. It brings with it the negative vibrations of a cursed place.
It was into this strange atmosphere that members of the IFRS had journeyed to examine the ghostly phenomena alleged to be abundant there. With our trusty EMF meters, cameras, and tape recorders, we began a slow walk of the stockade itself. The examination would prove both startling and illuminating at the same time. It’s not often that one can touch a window to the past. Yet, the spirits of Andersonville have never left their eternal misery within the ethereal walls of this hateful place.
The prison is situated in the most barren area imaginable. The miles surrounding the prison are swampy and devoid of much civilization. This statement was even more relevant in the summer of 1864. Andersonville was literally an island in a sea of enemies. It was a prison with little hope of escape.
The prison has a strange configuration. It stretches across a low-lying swampy area up two opposing hills. The ground is hard and uninviting. The sun's heat beats down through the South Georgia sky.
Inside the walls of the prison was a “dead line”. This “dead line” was erected by the prison guards and would spell the death of hundreds. If a Union prisoner crossed the line – they were shot.
One thing that was noticed before venturing onto the prison proper was that there was little wildlife noise. There were birds visible, but it appeared that none were willing to cross into the prison yard itself, especially the crows. They tended to skirt the edges of the area and stay close to the tree line. It has been noted in legend that crows can see into the “other” world and are harbingers of death in fey happenings. (In fact, while in Japan as a student, I was once driven from a Shinto temple by a group of ravens. The ravens were residents at this temple and would allow no one of non-Japanese descent to enter the grounds. I pointed this out to the Shinto priest in residence, and he confided that this was a common complaint of tourists in the area. He felt that the crows could see “past” lives and knew those who were alien in spirit to the sacred ground of this temple. I think these particular birds just didn't like me.)
There are many theories about hauntings at Andersonville in general. Some say that the place itself remembers the events that took place, then periodically replays the event in the form a ghostly encounter. I think Andersonville is a completely different matter. I feel that the ground at Andersonville is literally charged with the negative events which took place in the American Civil War. The ground itself will harbor no new life other than the resistant nutgrass that covers the ground like a burial shroud for the fallen. This is soured ground. It has death written in it, and the memory of death. Such is the living terror and misery that the wind is afraid to blow across this place. My theory is such that the prolonged exposure of sorrowful men baptized this ground with the unremembered tears of pain and suffering. This ground will never forget.
Our first foray into the actual area was at Providence Spring. This spring was suddenly born in the summer of 1864 and provided much relief to the thirsty prisoners.
The EMF meters seemed to literally bounce as we approached this location. The needles on the meters buried themselves on two occasions as we walked.
We proceeded into the main prison yard, which produced many strange occurrences. For instance, a cold spot near the Ohio memorial suddenly stopped me. I felt a shiver and it passed by. The EMF meter bounced rapidly.
The area with the most activity was near the trees (located in the northwestern portion of the prison yard). There were many occasions when the EMF meter would indicate something strange was nearby. In this area was where the doomed soldiers tried many things in order to escape. One was to dig tunnels. These were done at the base of the oak trees. Looking into the remnants of these tunnels, one gets a sense of hopelessness, of a frantic attempt at doing anything to get away from the madness that was Andersonville. According to the records, no one was successful in this way. This would account for the readings on the EMF meters and the pervasive feeling of the area.
Local legend has much ghostly activity taking place around the “raiders”. The “Andersonville Raiders” were six Union soldiers condemned and hung for their criminal activities within the prison. They were accused of many crimes – murder being the most heinous. It is said that they still roam this ground at night.
The sound of musket fire is often reported at night as well. Many locals say that they hear a sound like a great tumult of people speaking all at once when the sun disappears.
Our trip proved fruitful. The photographs turned out very well. In one photo, a mist can be seen across the "raiders" graves. Another photo shows a strange anomaly across the prison field - like a human form in a mist.
I would suggest that Andersonville is one of the most haunted places in the United States.
James P. Akin, Director
08 February 2001
Above: The Raiders' graves from the same roll of film (Fuji 400). The image is darker.
Below: The Raiders' graves photograph with
The long, swishing discoloration was like a washed out place on the photo.
The EMF meters were very active in this area.
Above: A prisoner's eye view of the "deadline" (with guard posts).
If a prisoner crossed the line - he was shot.
Above: A prisoner's eye view of the walls.
Above: The old entrance to the stockade.
This would have been a prisoner's first view of Andersonville Prison.
Above: The swamp which crossed the center of the stockade.
It was a disease infested nightmare.
Above: An overview of the entire prison (from south to north).
Above: A well dug by prisoners.
Above: An IFRS member walks the grounds with an EMF meter.
Same as the photograph above.
Below: Providence Spring. This location
proved to be an EMF nightmare.
The meter bounced several times in this area.
Below: Wirz. He was the commander of Andersonville.
He was hanged for the atrocities committed in Andersonville Prison.
There is a monument to him within the city itself.
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