Fort Delaware was the latest place visited by the SciFi Channel's popular "Ghost Hunters" TV Show. Is the state treasure haunted? Delaware City watched to find out with a viewing of the episode's debut at Crabby Dick's.
Is Fort Delaware haunted? Lee Jennings, Middletown resident and chief of cultural resources at Delaware State Parks, said that the beloved historical park on Pea Patch Island doesn’t lack for stories.
“There have been ghost stories in Fort Delaware that originate from World War II,” he said.
The tourist site, popular for its historical re-enactments, was originally used as a fortress and prisoner of war camp during the Civil War and remained active after World War II. In 1947, the State of Delaware took possession of the fort from the federal government and turned it into a state park in 1951.
“Virtually from the first day there have been reports of unusual activity,” Jennings said.
Visitors and staff have told stories of ghostly soldiers walking down hallways, children crying and cleaning ladies working in the mess hall, but while the stories were numerous, the hard facts were not.
Enter The Atlantic Paranormal Society, better known by their acronym TAPS, the stars of SciFi Channel’s “Ghost Hunters.” On an episode that aired June 18, the TAPS crew was shown at Fort Delaware, and the people of Delaware City celebrated the occasion with an evening showing at Crabby Dick’s Restaurant, which donated a portion of its sales for the night to Fort Delaware.
“We kind of knew there was stuff happening out there,” said the restauratnt’s co-owner Dale Slotter.
Jennings said TAPS heard about Fort Delaware after its visit to Fort Mifflin in Philadelphia. They made arrangements in February and started shooting for the show in April.
He said Fort Delaware agreed to the showing because TAPS’ focus is not on proving ghosts exist but debunking them. While the place makes for great Ghost Tours, that’s not all Fort Delaware wants to be about.
“Fort Delaware is a pretty special place,” Jennings said. “We don’t want to turn it into the haunted castle.”
He said getting the crew out to Pea Patch Island was something of a struggle. The crew of “Ghost Hunters” contains about 20 people and involves lots of cameras, infrared, digital, radio, audio and computer equipment. However, the shoot went smoothly.
“They took every precaution to make sure they didn’t damage anything,” Jennings said. “They followed every rule we gave them.”
Fort Delaware also offered TAPS?a unique situation with its island location.
“This is the first place they’ve ever been where it’s totally isolated,” he said.
What did they find? Well, Jennings said they had only planned to stay at the island for one night and do half of an episode on the fort. That one night became a week and TAPS had a full hour-long episode cut down from 100 hours of footage.
In the episode, TAPS investigators set up shop in the officers’ quarters, mess hall, tunnels and hallways of Fort Delaware. Using ghost-hunting gear like thermal imaging cameras, white noise generators and ion generators they try to record any signs of ghosts.
To this viewer, the TAPS investigators seemed really excited to be at Fort Delaware … when they weren’t freaked out. I’ve never had much of an interest in the ghost hunting/unsolved mysteries television shows, but I did like their approach. Whenever they heard a spooky sound, they would test the windows or the stalactites in the ceiling to see if they could repeat the sound. If something spooky came up on the camera once, they tried to wait to see it again.
And their conclusions in the end? If you haven’t seen it yet, I won’t tell you, but they were pretty surprising.
“The show was awesome,” said Alicia Lewis, an employee at Crabby Dick’s. “It’s a great show and it’s very believable.”
Delaware City Mayor Cordelia W. Bennett said she wasn’t sure what to think of the show’s conclusion, but found it interesting.
“I think there might be ghosts,” she said, “but I also think ghosts would be friendly.”
I hope so. Jennings said Fort Delaware’s appearance on the show could be great for the local treasure. If all goes well, people can come and won’t be scared away.
“I think people are really going to want to come here,” Jennings said.
For more information about Fort Delaware, go to www.destateparks.com/fdsp. For more information on Ghost Hunters, go to www.scifi.com/ghosthunters.