Saturday, October 23, 2010

Horrors of the Harbor

Magnet # 376:  Baltimore's Inner Harbor

Material:  Rubber

Purchased By:  Me

I know I've mentioned on here before of just how nervous I was during my trip to Baltimore last year and how I felt that its Inner Harbor was one of the few places I felt safe there, but I'm starting to wonder if that's really the case.  Sure, there's an increased police presence there, and I might have less chance of being robbed or attacked, but this historic site, along with other places off of Baltimore Harbor, are reputed to be perhaps the most haunted part in the city. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to visit the one nearby place where much of the paranormal activity is said to go on, but reading about it has been pretty interesting.

One of the Inner Harbor's most famous sights is the U.S.S. Constellation, the first U.S. Navy vessel to be put to the sea in 1797.  She saw much action and violence over the years, becoming the first of our ships to engage and defeat an enemy vessel, and participating in multiple wars.  She was built in Baltimore's Fells Point and the people of the city wanted their ship back to proudly display it.  Some have argued that what is now docked at the Inner Harbor is another version of the ship, rather than an original version of it, but the ghosts of those who sailed on it seem content that this is their vessel.  Many have been seen on board over the years and it's believed that they began their hauntings when the ship was dormant, awaiting repairs.  Plenty of men died on here, including a young physician's assistant who was stabbed to death by two sailors for unknown reasons.  His spirit is said to still be there.  Another sailor who supposedly hung himself as he was unable to deal with the difficult life at sea has reportedly has been spotted wandering around the gun deck.  But the most disturbing death on the ship may very well have been that of Neil Harvey.  He made the unfortunate mistake of falling asleep when he was on guard duty.  And when he was caught, it was considered to be a very serious offense.  Captain Thomas Truxton, the first to command the Constellation, ordered Harvey to be tied to a cannon and blown apart to warn the other sailors against making his mistake. He may have already been dead by then, but it was a horrific act nonetheless.  Now, Harvey is seen almost more than any other spirit aboard the ship and usually haunts the lowest deck.  Captain Truxton himself seems to have remained aboard after his death in 1822.  People claim to have seen him and he's even believed to be the subject in a photograph taken by a Naval lieutenant commander in 1955.  It featured a figure in Navy uniform with gold epaulets bending over, perhaps reaching for a sword and was printed in the local newspaper.  And there seems to at least one haunt on board the ship that lived a happy life there - Carl Hansen, who served there as a night watchman.  Some have claimed to see him playing cards on the lower decks and attending a Halloween party.  One priest holds that it was this apparition that gave him a very insightful and enthusiastic tour of the vessel.  When he spoke of the guide to other staff, they said there was no one working that fit his description.  People also hear cries and moans, see phantom figures, hear and feel people running around them, and have smelled gun smoke aboard the Constellation.  It certainly seems that there is more than meets the eye going on at this landmark.

Just across from the Inner Harbor is Fort McHenry, which has served as the seaport's guardian since its  completion in 1803.  It was made famous in 1814, when defended Baltimore Harbor from a British attack during the War of 1812.  That was the event that, of course, inspired the creation of our national anthem,"The Star-Spangled Banner."  But that's not the extent of what this famous location is known for. Lieutenant Levi Claggett was one of those killed during the conflict and many now feel that he is haunting the place of his demise. A figure walks the exact spot where he perished, wearing traditional 1814 military attire, and has also appeared at other locations throughout the grounds.  He may have even appeared in a photo.  A mysterious woman has also been seen looking out of a second-story window.  She's thought to have been a wife of sergeant and may have knocked one visitor down when he got too close to her territory.  There are also stories of a Private named John Drew who, like Neil Harvey, fell asleep while at his post.  He was imprisoned and distraught over the loss of his military career, managed to kill himself.  Now, those who stand in the cell where his life ended may feel an unnatural chill.  Drew may also continue to guard the same outer batter where he failed all of those years ago, as some have claimed to see a phantom there.  And other unusual occurrences at Fort McHenry have included lights going on and off, doors and windows being opened and closed, and ghostly footsteps.  Park administrators have tried to downplay the curious presences there, discontinuing popular ghost tours, but with all of these sightings and activities, it's been impossible to do away with their supernatural reputation entirely.

Defending a nation can be a brutal business.  Whether fighting off the enemy or simply trying to maintain peace, all sorts of deaths and mistakes can occur.  And now, two sites on opposite ends of  Baltimore's Harbor serve as reminders of the high price many have paid for our freedom.  Worst of all, the spirits which are perhaps trapped in the Constellation and Fort McHenry may continue to pay the price for our freedom throughout eternity.

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