Fort Fisher is located off of Hwy. 421 near Kure Beach, North Carolina. It is open to the public during posted hours, but please... no pets and do not trespass after hours or in areas not available to the public.
Fort Fisher is widely known for it's role as the protector of last trade stronghold of the South during the Civil War. Wilmington was the last of the Confederate south's trade ports to remain open during the end days of the Civil War and Fort Fisher allowed it to stay open to blockade runners and to Robert E Lee's army. By the time it fell in January 1865 Fort Fisher protected over a mile of ocean defense and about a third of that in land defense. Today the remaining ground that still stands is a National Historic Landmark.
This Fort was virtually impossible to defeat... at least until December of 1864. Two major battles were fought there. On Christmas eve 1864 the first attack came in the Union's effort to close down the South and win the war. By the next day 3 of Fort Fisher's garrison were dead and approximately 25 more from the Army and Navy were dead, with many more missing, captured or wounded. But Fort Fisher still stood.
Late that December Major General Alfred Terry was chosen to lead the next assault. By January 12, 1865 the arrival of the Federal fleet commanded by Terry could be seen at the Fort. The next day massive bombardment began as the Fort was assaulted from sea and land. General William Whiting was injured on January 15 on the third traverse. To literally add insult to injury, General Whiting was forced to officially surrender to Major General Terry that night. Fort Fisher had been defeated and with it the Confederate South.
Only a few months later the south would also surrender. In all during the second attack the Fort Fisher garrison lost almost 2000 men... 500 killed. The Confederate army as a whole lost over 2200 men during these attacks. The Federal forces lost over 1500. General Whiting was taken to a Union prison and left there to die.
With so many violent and emotional deaths it is no wonder locations of battles seem to have ghosts everywhere you turn. Fort Fisher is no different. Fort Fisher's best known ghost is General Whiting himself. Seen on the parapet and walking the grounds, his ghost still commands the Fort. Does he blame himself for the fall of the Fort? Or does he simply return to the last place he knew?
Another story tells of sighting of a confederate soldier still seen standing watch in the pine grove north of the Fort. Other reports sent to us include the sounds of footsteps on the wooden walkways, the appearance of an apparition going from the ocean towards the fort, and the sounds of battle over the ocean at night. Are there ghosts at Fort Fisher?
Initially we arrived during a nice afternoon with the intentions of doing a daytime mapping of the location. We got an added bonus with the cooperation of several volunteers who told us many ghost reports... from a door that flings itself open despite locks and bars, to many reports of a figure of a man in gray seen on the grounds. Inside the visitor center is a large photo taken 3 days after the end of the battle... between two knolls is the hazy gray outline of a man. Was the Fort haunted even then?
Two weeks later we returned and spent 4 hours one night working a full investigation. We were blessed with good weather, a somewhat remote location with no disturbances and we were able to gather a great deal of data.
Of the encounters that occurred probably the most amazing was the sighting of a man standing on the 4th knoll... seen simultaneously by three separate investigators and accompanied by a sharp drop in temperature at that spot (from 68 to 43 degrees, verified by an infrared thermometer) a little after 12:00am. Because we had checked and rechecked our location we were sure there was no live person, further verified by the fact no motion detectors went off nor was the fence around these knolls opened. He was described independently as average height (probably difficult to tell for sure from the ground below the knolls), lean and wearing gray with a hat pulled down over his forehead. He was standing facing South East and simply faded while being watched. At the same time this occurred the second team was working over the trail and battlefield opposite the knolls... all described in their notes, prior knowing of the sighting, a strong feeling of someone standing and watching over there shoulder.
Shortly afterward we heard a scream and the faint sound of help. Realizing the motion detectors had NOT gone off, we worried that it was possible there was someone actually on the beach. Two investigators walked the perimeter, and while they did not find a live person (either on the ground or within site on the beach) they did note two things... they took Abe with them and noticed that from the time they passed the third knoll until they passed the oak grove he attempted to respond in the manner he had been trained to, then resorted to whining and growling facing back towards the 3rd knoll. Once past the grove he lost interest in this and returned to his working position with no further incidence. In two locations around the perimeter the almost overwhelming feeling of someone following them was pervasive despite no one being found. On one side the phenomenon was confined to about 50 feet... on the other side about 20 feet. You could actually step into and out of this area and feel the change. In the 20 foot section flashlights repeatedly went out and then came back on, a problem that was not evident during equipment checks prior and after that evening, nor any other time during the night. Cameras also jammed, refusing to advance film or release the shutter. Additionally during the night we went through batteries like crazy. While everything started out with fresh batteries as is normal practice, and batteries are tested with a multi-tester, one audio recorder failed within 25 minutes with testing showing dead batteries. Digital cameras, flashlights and the flash on a SLR 35 mm Camera failed within a short period of time. All were tested and showed dead batteries.
On the bridge (which is NOT the original bridge but does lie directly over the marshy battlefield that claimed many Union soldiers who were cut down by gunners on the battery) there is a single spot on the eastern side of the bridge where the overwhelming feeling of depression and coldness and a physical sensation of crushing pressure in the chest. One investigator burst into tears and removed herself from the immediate area. Photos taken of this spot at that time did not come out.
We gathered several interesting photos during both trips. In addition, several EVP - including the sound of a gunshot - we captured. An infrared video picked up the most interesting thing. We were allowed the rare privilege of being able to set up both audio and infrared video on top of the knoll where the figure was sited... the gates were closed and everyone stayed within site but several hundred yards away in the visitor center. During this time an orb moves across the screen, accompanied by the sound of several footsteps. The audio recorder at the same time confirms the footsteps. It was impossible for someone to have caused this and been able to retreat without being further picked up by the video camera. Perhaps General Whiting does still command the Fort.
A couple of things happened that were explained naturally, if still startling in their timing. At one period the motion sensors kept tripping... further investigation (we were worried someone live was harassing us) found we were indeed being harassed... by a herd of about 10 deer. :-) During a radio conversation while conferring between the two teams about moving a audio recorder a voice broke in... while the team on the opposite side of the knolls only made out a little of it (a deep guttural man's voice) the other team recorded it as "that's illegal". While most likely a stray CB transmission it was still momentarily unnerving. Periodically a metallic banging appeared to emanate from the incoming surf... while we couldn't absolutely find an explanation for this, and it has been reported over the years, it is possible that due to the way sound can carry, it is coming from the nuclear plant across the Cape Fear River. It would be interesting to see if anyone has reported this prior the plant being there.