When William Tecumseh Sherman declared, “War is
hell,” he had no idea just how literal that statement was. For the
millions of people who have died over the centuries fighting around the world,
the battlefield often ends up being their own personal eternity—their own hell,
if you will.
There’s something about taking your last gasp of life
while gunning for your fellow man that has produced thousands of haunted
battlefields all across this planet. You could say that Rich Newman’s newest
book, Ghosts of the Civil War: Exploring
the Paranormal History of America’s Deadliest War, is a direct
examination of this phenomena. It contains more than 160 instances of this just
in the United States alone. But what about the rest of the world? Do they also
have these haunted locations steeped in dark history? The answer is a
resounding yes! Let’s talk about a few of these.
When the discussion of horrific death tolls and war are
together in one sentence, World War I comes quickly to mind. At best guess,
over 18 million people were killed in this conflict, so it is really no
surprise that there would be haunted areas associated with this war. One
example would be the town of Passchendaele. It’s said that this Belgian city is
currently plagued with the spirits that were left behind after a battle that
took place on October 29, 1917. After allied forces attempted to dislodge the
German Army from the small village, over 400,000 people lost their lives.
Today, residents of Passchendaele regularly claim to
experience bizarre, ghostly activity throughout their town. Phantom soldiers
have been seen walking down streets and across the surrounding countryside. The
sounds of gunfire and screams are also a regular occurrence. In fact, most
everyone in the small town has a story to tell—either about themselves or a
relative that has had an otherworldly encounter.
Another famous battle of the first World War, the Battle
of the Somme, is also said to be plagued with an inordinate amount of spirits.
Drawn out between the dates of July 1 and November 18, 1916, this particular
clash is mostly known for the first ever use of a tank in battle, as well as
the need for air dominance in the war. More than a million people were killed
or wounded in the fighting and occurrences of ghosts plaguing this area are
well known (if a bit sporadic). The area around the upper River Somme is dotted
with quite a few towns, but it’s said to be the actual river where apparitions
have been spotted. Reports of ghostly cries and spirits that appear to be
wounded soldiers have popped up over the years along the riverside, as well as
one eyewitness account that states the odd sounds of an entire army on the
march were heard!
In addition to World War I, the second World War also has
its fair share of spooky battlegrounds. More than 60 million perished in the
six year war at hundreds of sites, so there’s bound to be a few known for
paranormal activity. Two come to mind immediately: the Battle of Stalingrad and
the beach of Dieppe, France.
Lasting more than five months (August 23, 1942 to
February 2, 1943), the Battle of Stalingrad was a serious blow to the Soviet
Union. Almost two million people were wounded or killed in the extended
conflict and most consider it to be the single bloodiest battle in history.
Ultimately, the Red Army would win the clash, but the cost of the affair would
be staggering. The German Army would suffer their largest defeat of World War
II at Stalingrad—and the battle would be the turning point of the war on the
Today, the city of Stalingrad is known as Volgograd, and
it’s said that entire neighborhoods are haunted by the ghosts left behind after
the battle there. In addition to the typical battlefield sounds that are heard,
families have reported seeing apparitions in their homes—sometimes dressed in
WWII era uniforms—as well as appearing on the street. Other hot spots include a
former German field hospital and Volgograd State University.
As for the beach at Dieppe, France, it was the site of
Operation Jubilee (also known as the Dieppe Raid), a military incursion by the
Allies to dislodge the German troops located there. The raid took place on
August 19, 1942 and was an almost complete failure. Of the more than 6,000
soldiers who stormed the beach, 3,600 were either killed or captured. It was a
hard lesson that was learned and, if there’s a silver lining to the battle, it
taught the Allies that much preparation would be needed to invade the area
again a bit later on D-Day.
Ghost sightings at Dieppe seem to occur along the beach
where so many people lost their lives. Some say the battle noises announce the
presence of the dead—others have seen lonely souls trudging along the sand
without a sound. Either way, it seems that the war has certainly left behind a
few sad spirits that haunt the area. They’re a sobering reminder of the hellish
events that happened during World War II.
It’s an ugly truth that mankind’s history of warfare is
almost as old as history itself, and that the scars of these events are all
around us. Other examples of haunted battlefields around the world include:
- Battle Abbey and Battlefield in Normandy,
- In addition to the spirit of a young woman and those of bloody monks, it’s said
that the sounds of war can be heard on the anniversary of the Battle of
Hastings that took place there.
- Battle of Towton in England. During
the infamous War of the Roses, more than 28,000 died during this battle that
would ultimately drive King Henry VI out of England. Many say that if you
venture out into a snow storm on the anniversary of the battle (March 29), you
will see a phantom version of the clash.
- Battle of Culloden in Scotland. Known
as the final battle of the Jacobite uprising in 1745, this fight claimed at
least 2,000 souls. A historic monument marks the affair and is said to the
stomping grounds of several spirits dressed in tartans of the day.
- Chibichiri Cave in Okinawa, Japan. After
the famous battle that claimed more than 100,000 lives, many of the Japanese
were instructed to commit suicide rather than be captured. Many did just that
in this cave and the spot is now thought to be haunted by those who despaired
and died there. The sounds of crying children have been heard and many
experience cold spots, phantom hands touching them, and the sighting of the
As you can see, the haunting of a battlefield is not a
uniquely American situation. Wars have, unfortunately, affected every area of
the world at some point in history. Perhaps, some day, we will see the end of
such wastes of human life—and maybe then the souls that still march these
battlegrounds can finally rest in peace. Until then, keep an eye open whenever
you are visiting such hallowed grounds. You never know what you might see or