The Dying Rebel: The Twelve Ghosts of Christmas, 6

Captain Todd Carter, CSA, whose ghost still haunts the ancestral home at Yuletide.
Captain Todd Carter, CSA, whose ghost still haunts the ancestral home at Yuletide.

While I have written about this haunting before, notably in Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground, and briefly in passing in Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee, it does fit in with the current theme of this blog, as it is most certainly a Yuletide ghost. So for those of you who have read my books, please forgive the redundancy; but as I’m sure there are many who haven’t yet, please bear with me.

We must go back more than one hundred fifty years, to the ill-fated Autumn Campaign of 1864, which was the last gasp of the Confederacy. In a bold maneuver the gallant Army of Tennessee marched northward, even as Sherman’s marched southward to burn and pillage their way to the sea. The idea was to capture Nashville, restock the Confederate army there with the abundant warehouses full of supplies and then chase the Yankees back into Kentucky, take Louisville, burn Cincinnati and hopefully make the North sue for peace. Perhaps it was a vain and hopeless quest to start with; or perhaps in the hands of a better general than John Bell Hood, it just may have had a chance for success.

A sketch of the open fields the Rebels had to charge over--a longer distance than Pickett's Charge. via Harpers
A sketch of the open fields the Rebels had to charge over–a longer distance than Pickett’s Charge. via Harpers

In any case, after several delays and missed opportunities, the Rebel army lay before the town of Franklin, less than a days march from Nashville. In their way stood two Yankee corps, doing their best to avoid being annihilated by Hood, yet still stall the Rebels advance on Nashville. Just the night before the Yankees, under General John Schofield, had escaped from the trap set them near Springhill, escaping in the dark and filtering into Franklin by the dawn’s early light.

In a rage Hood pursued, ready to attack anyone and anything that dared get in his way. On the southern outskirts of Franklin the Yankees had been entrenching all day, posting their cannon and rearguard behind trench and wall to keep the Rebs at bay. Hood was advised to simply go around the town and outflank the rearguard; to use his cavalry to cut them to ribbons on the road into Nashville; but he would hear none of it. Attack, he said; the enemy is before us; attack!

The Battle of Franklin, September 30, 1864
The Battle of Franklin, September 30, 1864

And so, late on the afternoon of November 30, 1864, even as the sun was westering on the horizon, the gallant Army of Tennessee advance over a broad plain of cleared fields, marching as if on parade and fully exposed to the deadly rifle and cannon fire of the enemy. They talk about Pickett’s charge being an ill conceived attack at Gettysburg; it had nothing over the charge at Franklin, where the distance to cover was far greater and equally clear of cover. Yet the men advance behind their colonels and brigadiers, some quietly reciting the poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade” with its refrain, “someone had blundered.”

Among this band of brothers in butternut was one who knew the ground well. Todd Carter had grown up in Franklin, and like his older brothers, had volunteered for service in the Confederacy. As quartermaster of his regiment, he was not required in the front lines; but there he was nonetheless, advancing with the rest. Half a league, half a league onward the army advance, with shot and shell growing fiercer and more accurate as they closed with the Yankee lines, whose center lay just before the carter home.

Confederate troops charging the Yankees at Franklin, by a veteran.
Confederate troops charging the Yankees at Franklin, by a veteran.

With a blood-curdling yell the Rebels rushed the Yankee defenses which sat astride the Columbia Pike and for a crucial few minutes it seemed as though they might win the day. In the end, however, they were forced back from the parapets, and though the fighting continued on into the darkness, despite the Rebel soldiers best efforts, the enemy slipped away in the night.

The side of the Carter House in Franklin still pock-marked with hundreds of bullet holes. It was here Capt. Carter was brought home to die.
The side of the Carter House in Franklin still pock-marked with hundreds of bullet holes. It was here Capt. Carter was brought home to die.

The next morning, the carnage was ghastly to behold; men heaped in piles, horses, five generals and twenty colonels lay among their men; fully a third of the Confederate army dead or wounded—among the Captain Todd Carter. His family found him lying close to the Union lines, shot more than once, but still clinging to life. They brought him home, put him in a room in the rear of the house and nursed him as best they could.

Todd Carter was alive, but his wounds were serious. He lingered to life for a few days; but the wounds were too serious and he finally died. He was waked in the front parlor of his home and buried nearby in the family plot. But though he was buried, he was hardly laid to rest.

Todd Carter lingered in his father's home for weeks before he died. His ghost lingers there still.
Todd Carter lingered in his father’s home for weeks before he died. His ghost lingers there still.

For every year, about the time of his wounding and death, visitors will report seeing a young man, all bandaged up, in that room in the rear ell where he lay before dying.

I have been to the Carter House and seen the hundreds and hundreds of bullet holes still in the brick and wood; I have been to the room where Todd Carter died, and while I saw no ghost, I felt his presence nonetheless.

So if you go, let me know, if you see the yuletide ghost of Todd Carter.

For more on the ghost of Todd Carter and other Civil War ghosts of Franklin, see Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground, Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War and the latest, Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee.

Ghosts & Haunts of the Civil War. True accounts of haunted battlefields, CW ghosts and other unexplained phenomena.
Ghosts & Haunts of the Civil War. True accounts of haunted battlefields, CW ghosts and other unexplained phenomena.
Strange tales of unexplained phenomena and paranormal activity in the Mid-South.
Strange tales of unexplained phenomena and paranormal activity in the Mid-South.

The Christmas Picket: A Civil War Ghost Story

 

Valerius Cincinnatus Giles, was in northern Virginia when he had his uncanny encounter on Christmas Day, 1861.
Valerius Cincinnatus Giles, was in northern Virginia when he had his uncanny encounter on Christmas Day, 1861.

It was the twenty-fifth of December, 1861, the first Christmas of the War.

A nineteen year old private in the Confederate army, Valerius Cincinnatus Giles, was outside on guard detail along the Potomac River.  Facing him on the Maryland side were the Yankees of General Sickles’ Brigade–The Excelsior Brigade.

As a picket, his duty was give the alarm of any enemy activity, lest the Yankees should decide to abandon the comfort of their warm huts and brave the bleak cold outside.

Private Giles’ unit, a detachment of the 4th Texas Infantry, had just relieved another unit which had been guarding that sector. The men would rather have been back in camp, enjoying the holiday as best they could; but duty called, and someone needed to be on duty, no matter what the day.

Private Giles and his two brothers had all answered the call of duty and volunteered for the Confederate army. Giles, still smartly dressed in his long grey frock coat with black waist belt and black strap over his right shoulder, and adorned with a black Hardee hat with one side turned up, looked the model of a military man. One of Giles’s brothers was with the Tenth Texas Infantry in Arkansas, while the other, brother Lew, was with Terry’s Rangers (Eighth Texas Cavalry), somewhere in Kentucky.

There was little likelihood of Valerius being in any personal danger. The Yankees desired a break from war that day as much as the Rebels did.

That afternoon there was a brief to-do when a Yankee steamboat came in sight. But it was soon recognized as a hospital ship and not a gunboat and was left alone to ply it trade on the opposite shore.

More out of boredom than necessity, Private Giles began to walk his post, tramping through snow knee deep in places. The colder clime of northern Virginia was a change of scene for the Texas boy and there in the piney woods in midwinter, when the earth and green branches of the trees were covered with snow, there was no sound of birds singing or crickets chirping. With not a breath of air blowing, the stillness all around him seemed oppressive.

Valerius’s thoughts started to wander, thinking about home and family that Christmas Day.

It was at four p.m. that afternoon when he heard it. He remembered that he was not sleepy or drowsy and perfectly wide awake when he heard it.

He heard his brother Lew Giles’s voice, clear as day, calling out his name:

“It was then 4 P.M., December 25, 1861. I was not sleeping or dreaming. and firmly believed at the time that I heard my brother calling me, but it must have been a delusion of the imagination.”

Knowing Lew was far away to the west in either Kentucky or Tennessee, Val thought at first that somehow it was just his homesickness playing on his imagination; that it was some kind of delusion. Yet he knew his brother’s voice and knew that the voice he had heard was his brother’s.

It was only later that Val learned that Lew had been wounded in Kentucky on the seventeenth of December. Seriously injured, he had been taken to Gallatin, Tennessee, to the home of a family friend, where he lingered for several days.

Wartime image of Gallatin, Tennessee, which changed hands several times during the War.  Lew Giles died here the same day he appeared to his brother in Virginia.
Wartime image of Gallatin, Tennessee, which changed hands several times during the War. Lew Giles died here the same day he appeared to his brother in Virginia.

 

According to information the family later received from their father’s friend in Gallatin, Lew Giles expired at exactly four p.m. on Christmas Day of 1861.

 

 

 

For more true Civil War ghost stories, see: Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground and Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War, at better bookstores and available online.

GHOSTS AND HAUNTS OF THE CIVIL WAR 3x5
Ghosts & Haunts of the Civil War. True accounts of haunted battlefields, CW ghosts and other unexplained phenomena.
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The Paranormal Presidency of Abraham Lincoln, documented accounts of Lincolns beliefs in the paranormal and his encounters with unexplained phenomena and uncanny experiences.

Emily and Heathcliff Have a Thing Going On

 

Emily Bronte was a brilliant writer who died young. Her novel, Wuthering Heights is considered a masterpiece--creepy, but a masterpiece nonetheless.
Emily Bronte was a brilliant writer who died young. Her novel, Wuthering Heights is considered a masterpiece–creepy, but a masterpiece.

When it comes to English spooks and Gothic tales, one cannot do better than Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

While Heathcliff and Cathy get all the love (or whatever it was they had going on) few know that Emily Bronte herself is reputed to haunt the very same Yorkshire moors her two creepy lovers inhabit in her fiction.

Emily Bronte is perhaps the best known of that literary sorority, the Bronte Sisters, famous for her creepy Gothic romance, Wuthering Heights.

WUTHERING HEIGHTS FRITZ EICHENBERG 1943
WUTHERING HEIGHTS after Fritz Eichenberg’s 1943 engraving. A cozy little place to go mad in.

Although a classic of literature, for many years it was out of favor (at least with the male gender) but as supernatural romances are now back in vogue in a big way, this grandmother of all creepy romances has come into its own.

FRITZ EICHENBERG Wuthering Heights ill Catherine
Emily Bronte was a talented young authoress whose talents were taken from us too soon. She was reputedly working on a sequel to Wuthering Heights but the manuscript mysteriously disappeared upon her premature death.

Only a morbidly romantic mind such as Emily Bronte’s could dream a tale like Wuthering Heights up, so it should not be so surprising that this nineteenth century authoress is also reputed to haunt the very landscape she wrote about.

Emily Bronte wrote Wuthering Heights when she was only 27 years old. Set in the Yorkshire Moors she knew so well, it is a moody novel full of yearning and secrets–and did I say it again–creepiness?

HEATHCLIFF REALLY DUG CATHERINE
Heathcliff REALLY dug Catherine

Emily died only three years after writing her masterpiece, in the very same rural Yorkshire countryside that her masterpiece is set in. Like her novel, hers was a life full of unfulfilled Victorian desires.

Emily Bronte is said to walk in the gardens of her former home in the Yorkshire village of Haworth.

They say she only can be seen in Haworth there between December 19th and January 2,  coinciding with Yuletide. Those who claim to have seen her aver that she seems to be deep in thought.

HEATHCLIFF WAS ALWAYS ON CATHYS MIND FRITZ EICHENBERG
Heathcliff was always on Cathy’s–and Emily’s–mind.

And what stroll across the Yorkshire Moors is complete without encountering a Devil Dog?  This would be the “Gytrash” a phantom demon canine said to haunt Ponden Hall, where the Bronte sisters used to hang out. Ponden Hall has become a mecca for Wuthering Heights fans and followers of the Bronte sisters in general.

Pembroke Devil Dog image
The Gytrash is a Demonic canine said to haunt the Yorkshire moors seeking the ruin of lost souls such as Heathcliff and Cathy–and perhaps Emily Bronte as well.

Legend has it that Emily wrote a book even greater than Wuthering Heights but that it mysteriously disappeared soon after her death.

Rumor has it that sad, lonely, Emily wanders the moors looking for that lost manuscript and that until it is found her literary spirit will find no rest.

People who have encountered her shade along the byways of the North Country claim that if one tries to approach her, she will vanish like a puff of smoke.

So this beautiful phantom of a young girl remains forever out of reach–even if your name be Heathcliff.

For more true ghost stories, see Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground, Dixie Spirits, and Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee.

GHOSTS AND HAUNTS OF TENNESSEE
Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee. True haunting tales of the Mid South
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Strange Tales of the Dark & Bloody Ground, true accounts of unexplained phenomena and paranormal activity in the South.

“WITH ER’ ‘EAD TUCKED UNDERNEATH ‘ER ARMS”

 

anne-boleyn
Ann Bolyn, who lost her head at the king’s whim. She haunts many an English palace, but only appears at her home of Hever at Yuletide.

Next to Charles Dickens’ famed spectres, the most notorious of English ghosts has to be the beautiful but ill fated Ann Bolyn.

One of Henry the Eighth’s less fortunate ex’s, he had her beheaded, supposedly because of her infidelity. Ever since, she has been reported to wander the Tower of London, her beautiful visage relocated under her right arm.

In truth, however, there are a number of places in England where Ann Bolyn’s ghost has been sighted–in most cases still lacking a head on her shoulders.  Ann has on occasion been sighted at Hever Castle, her childhood home; Blickling Hall, her alleged birthplace;
The Tower of London, where she was executed; Hampton Court Palace and Windsor Castle, where Anne and Henry resided during their marriage; Salle Church in Norfolk, where Anne’s body was allegedly moved after her original burial in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London and secretly buried under a black slab near the tombs of her Boleyn ancestors; and Marwell Hall in Hampshire, a residence of the Seymours between 1530-1638.

Wherever she may roam throughout the year, one thing is certain: at Christmastime she returns to her ancestral home of Hever Castle, in Kent.

Whether she haunts this castle, “with er ead tucked underneath er arms” is not certain; but we prefer to think not. She comes home to Hever for the holidays, so perhaps that is why she is on her best behavior here.

What is certain is that on Christmas Eve she can be seen walking across the bridge of the River Eden and onto the castle grounds. She has also been sighted under an ancient oak tree where she and Henry first courted. Perhaps for one night out of the year she may find a place to rest–her head still attached–in her ancestral home.

For more true ghost stories, see Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground, Dixie Spirits, and Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee; all are available at better book stores.

Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground chronicles true stories of unexplained phenomena in the Mid South.
Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground chronicles true stories of unexplained phenomena in the Mid South.
GHOSTS AND HAUNTS OF TENNESSEE
Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee. True haunting tales of the Mid South

A Dickens of a Christmas

 

DickensCharlesWritingWatkins
“Ideas, like ghosts, must be spoken to a little before they will explain themselves.”      Charles Dickens

Far and away, the most famous Christmas ghost story is, of course, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol .

If Dickens had never written another word, he would be famous for that story alone. Perhaps he was destined to be renowned for his unearthly tales, for from childhood, Dickens was told ghost stories . He was both terrified and enthralled by them at the same time.

Ironically, there is a strong possibility that Dickens himself is a Christmas ghost. How and why he may be himself a Christmas Spirit is a curious tale unto itself. 

To start with, only five days after his death in England, Dickens appeared at a séance in America. Ever since, the old boy’s shade has been reappearing at various times and in various places.

By no means did Dickens invent the tradition of telling ghost stories at Yuletide. In ancient times the period from Semaine to Beltane was the time one gathered around the hearth in the dark of the night and related dark and uncanny tales. Whether they were true or not mattered little; but by the flickering of the wood fire stories took on a life all their own, and many things that might be scoffed at during the day, were easily believed in the long winter’s nights. For one take on this and on Dickens’ role as popularizer of Chirstmas ghost stories see: “A Ghost for Christmas? Charles Dickens, Pudding, and Spooky Stories Around the Yule Log.”

Charles Dickens, despite his great fame in life, desired a quiet funeral in his native city of Rochester (England, not New York). However, his adoring public would have none of it; like all great British writers, it was demanded that he be buried in Westminster Abbey with elaborate pomp and ceremony. So, with all the ornate and elaborate ritual as befitted a Victorian funeral, Charles Dickens’s body was entombed in the great English cathedral.

The Fezziwig Ball A Christmas Carol 1843 edition
Fezziwig’s Ball: Dickensian revelry at its finest

But despite the funeral, Dickens was not laid to rest.

SCROOGES THIRD VISITOR
THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT, Scrooge’s third visitor

It is said that, at Christmastide, the shade of the great author returns to his home in Rochester and walks again among the living, like old Marley in his famous tale. People passing by the former home have sworn to have seen a ghostly gent dressed in antique dress walking past it.

Like Marley's ghost haunting Scrooge, Dickens ghost is said to haunt the streets of Rochester England.
Like Marley’s ghost haunting Scrooge, Dickens ghost is said to haunt the streets of Rochester England.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Such then, is the strange tale of Charles Dickens, who may well, himself, be a Dickens of a ghost.

There are those who scoff at this account; others swear by its veracity. Either way, have a Dickens of a Christmas season!

For more true ghost stories see: Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground, Dixie Spirits and Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee.

Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee                                                                              Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee: More true tales of the Unknown, the Unexplained and the just plain Spooky in the Mid-South. Read it with the lights left on, otherwise the author can accept no responsibility for the consequences.

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Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground: True Tales from the Haunted Hills and Spectral Vales of the Mid South.

 

The Twelve Ghosts of Christmas, Part I Christmas among the Spirits

 

St. Nicholas is real; originally a Christian Bishop known for his generosity, he is the patron saint of children and his spirit serves as their protector. Sailors have also adopted him as their patron as well.13th Century icon from St. Caherine's Monestary.
Originally a Christian Bishop known for his generosity, he is the patron saint of children in both the Eastern and Western churches. His spirit serves as their protector. By the way, Sailors have also adopted him as their patron as well. (13th Century icon from St. Catherine’s Monastery).

 Before the Yuletide Season fades away, just bit about Christmas Spirits–I mean REAL spirits–apparitions, ghosts and assorted paranormal encounters associated with Christmas and the Solstice season.

First on the list?  Why Santa Claus of course! He goes by many names: Americans know him as Santa Claus, but also goes by Father Christmas, Papai Noel, Sinter Klaas, Babbo Natale, Pere Noel and a whole slew more monikers around the world.

Foremost among the Spirits of Christmas is St. Nicholas himself.

I know: you don’t think of Jolly Old Saint Nick as a ghost. .  While you may not think of him as a ghost per se, the truth is he is a spirit, and at one time was a living, breathing person who walked the earth.

So, to paraphrase the famous essay in the September 21, 1897, edition of The (New York) Sun, yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.  That, after centuries he is overlain with rich myth and legend and his duties have grown exponentially, is understandable; but he is very real.

St. Nicholas was born in Anatolia (modern Turkey) about 350 miles northwest of Bethlehem, in Patara, sometime around AD 270.  He was at one time bishop of Myra, another town in Asia Minor and he is first and foremost the patron saint of children.

For those unversed in Orthodox beliefs and practices, Christian saints are generally referred to in the present tense, for although their physical form is no more, their spirit continues to dwell among as, much as any ghost or spirit may. they are known to appear at various times and perform miracles–it’s what they do, after all.

Another thing about saintly apparitions: they can appear at two places at the same time. Given that knack, visiting every home where children reside in one night if you have no physical form is not so difficult a trick .

Even in ancient times St. Nick was known for his generosity. One story told of him was that, on hearing that three maidens were too poor to afford a dowry and therefore couldn’t get married, he anonymously threw a bags of gold through the window into their home.

After first two girls were married their father became curious as to whom he mysterious benefactor was and tried to watch out for him; so when the third was due to wed, to prevent his identity being found out, St. Nicholas threw the bag of gold down the chimney.

So, girls, if you’re very, very good, perhaps jolly old Saint Nick will throw a bag of gold down your chimney–wouldn’t that be better than a Barbie?

Of course, like the Blessed Mother (more about her and the BVM phenomena another time), Saint Nicholas adapts his clothing and customs to the particular country he’s in.

Our vision of him borrows a lot from German notions about Christmas, and some of his iconic imagery has more to do with Norse Mythology than Christianity. In more recent years, sadly, the formerly slender Jolly Old Elf seems to have gained way too much weight and seems to be doing a lot of commercial appearances for large corporations.

Nevertheless, despite all the naysaying and negativity about him these days, Santa is as real as any other saint.

So to all those cynics out there who scoff at ghosts and such things and would have you doubt Saint Nicholas as well; may you all get lumps of coal this Christmas.  Ho, ho ho!

For more authentic ghosts stories and true accounts of apparitions, go grab a copy or three of  Strange Tales of the Dark & Bloody Ground or Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee.