With a history as old as the United States itself, there is no doubt that there are plenty of ghost stories from the U.S. military’s almost 246 active years to keep you up at night. From watery graves to haunted houses, sites of battles and ghoulish residences of military leaders long gone are ripe for spiritual and sinister happenings.
Here are six ghost stories that’ll chill you to your bones.
1. The USS Hornet’s ghostly inhabitants
The USS Hornet and her crew served in World War II and the Vietnam War, achieving numerous awards for service and operations. She also was the prime recovery ship for the Apollo 11 and 12 missions.
During her active years, about 300 crew members died from accidents and suicides. Visitors to the ship’s permanent location in San Francisco report hearing voices and seeing apparitions of soldiers. Electronic equipment is also known to go haywire on board. Now the host of ghost tours, the USS Hornet holds the title of the most haunted ship in America.
2. The watery grave of the USS Arizona
Next on our list is another haunted WWII-era Navy ship, the USS Arizona. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the Arizona became a mass tomb for the 1,102 that perished with her. She serves as an underwater graveyard and memorial to those that died during the tragic event. However, many believe that the dead did not go in peace and still haunt the area.
Today, officers blame a ghost called “Charley” for many of the eerie happenings near the USS Arizona. This famous apparition is reportedly harmless, only turning on water faucets and causing heavy doors to swing open and closed. Another ghost, however, inspires more fear. One of the sailors who abandoned his post during the bombings allegedly haunts the deck of the ship at low tide, inspiring fear and sadness in visitors to the memorial.
3. Fort Leavenworth
U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leavenworth is widely considered one of the most haunted posts in America. Though it’s still actively used today, residents and visitors claim that it is host to a myriad of ghosts that wander its buildings and grounds. One of the more famous haunts is Gen. George Armstrong Custer, who is said to roam the General’s Residence (while also haunting another site on this list). Though he did not die here, his spirit is said remain after he was found guilty of mistreating his troops and deserting his command.
But some buildings are more haunted than others. The Rookery at 14 Summer Place is considered both the oldest and most haunted. The U.S. Army reports numerous incidents that have happened to Rookery residents, including missing items, unexplained noises, spectral visitors and more. One of the ghosts is said to be a woman with long hair who attacks residents by clawing at them with her fingernails.
Another haunted site is the St. Ignatius Chapel which has been rebuilt multiple times due to fires. A house now stands at the first location of the chapel, but residents have claimed to see the ghost of a young priest who died in a fire. As for the rebuilt chapel, it inexplicably burned to the ground again in 2000.
4. The never-ending Battle of the Little Bighorn
Though the Battle of the Little Bighorn happened in 1873, present-day visitors to the battlefield claim they can still hear and see the spirits of U.S. Army soldiers and Native American warriors fighting. Now a cemetery and national monument, it is no surprise that this site of such death and violence is haunted by those that passed there, including U.S. Army General George Armstrong Custer.
Stone House, the late 19th century cemetery caretakers’ house located there, is home to many apparitions, including mutilated soldiers and headless cavalrymen. The Crow tribe called those that lived in this house during the 1800s “Ghost Herders.” They saw the flag the caretakers raised and lowered as a signal for spirits to come out at dusk and then return to their graves at dawn.
5. The Jefferson Barracks
Missouri’s Jefferson Barracks are now home to the Army and Air National Guard, but a spooky sentry with a bullet hole through his head allegedly still confronts soldiers in the barracks headquarters. Legend has it he still thinks he is on duty during a munitions raid and believes the living soldiers are his enemies. A soldier was once so scared by the bloody sentry that he left his post and the army altogether, according to one story.
Another, older, story tells of a Halloween party at the Veteran’s Hospital in part of the barracks where a Civil War era ghost made an appearance. A man in a strikingly realistic Civil War officer’s uniform made an appearance before the party’s host. When the host asked him how he liked the party, the man was rude and then disappeared. Later when the host asked about the guest, no one knew him or anyone who wore that costume to the event.
6. Monster in the Mountains
Though this might not be a story based in the United States, this chilling tale deserves an honorable mention for being truly terrifying.
During World War II, a remote village in Switzerland became the site of strange happenings when a British company of soldiers stayed there. Wood, tarps and valuables began disappearing which were dismissed until a child went missing. When more children, as well as a private from a British company, disappeared, rumors of a monster spread.
One night, soldiers saw a mysterious figure and chased after it, thinking it was the being that preyed on the village. Thought they never caught the figure, the soldiers discovered a cave. Shots were fired from inside of the cave and the soldiers returned fire. Upon pressing further into the cave, soldiers found the body of the British private who had been shot through the heart. He was surrounded by the half-eaten bodies of the children that went missing.
Observation Post is the Military Times one-stop shop for all things off-duty. Stories may reflect author observations.