Historic forts in the US vary greatly in type and size, from simple military posts to fortresses built to protect early pioneers within its walls. Some of the oldest sites in the US and with often tragic histories, it’s little wonder forts are a breeding ground for paranormal activity!
There are hundreds of forts dotted throughout the country, and you can bet ghosts lurk in every corner of these historic sites. However, we’ve concentrated on what we believe are the 10 most haunted forts in America. Enjoy!
Haunted Forts on the East Coast
1. Fort Knox | Prospect, Maine
When you hear Fort Knox, you might think of the famous Kentucky stronghold where the U.S. Treasury stores all of the country’s gold. However, the ghosts reside at another Fort Knox, further north in the state of Maine.
Although the state is best known for delicious lobster rolls and blueberry soda, it actually has a fascinating military history. Fort Knox, along Penobscot River in Prospect, Maine, has famously never had a shot fired from it, even across the Civil and Spanish–American wars. Nonetheless, the entirely granite fort is considered one of the country’s best-preserved forts, and home to unexplained activity.
Staff, visitors, and Ghost Hunters have reported hearing breathing and voices in the dark passages of the fort. Apparitions include anonymous figures and the ghost of Ordnance Sergeant Leopold Hegyi, fort caretaker in the late 1800s, who appears in a duster coat around the fort. See the flickering lights and disembodied apparitions for yourself on one of their annual Halloween ghost hunts, Fright at the Fort, or stay overnight with the Fort Knox Ghost Camp periodically throughout the year.
2. Fort Warren | Georges Island, Massachusetts
On the scenic Georges Island outside of Boston, the former military base at Fort Warren is open to visitors wanting to learn more about its rich history — and for ghost hunters hoping to see something spooky.
Built in the mid-1800s, this stronghold protected Boston Harbor in several wars. It was even a prison for Confederate bureaucrats and officers during the Civil War.
The famous ghost of Fort Warren, believed to be the spirit of Melanie Lanier, was the wife of one of these prisoners. She traveled from Georgia to Massachusetts to be closer to her imprisoned husband, dressed to look like a man and rowed to the island with weapons in tow.
The story says that she snuck onto shore, made her way to his cell, and fought with a Union soldier, ending in an accidental misfire that killed her husband. She was executed for her breach of the prison and buried on George’s Island in black robes — the closest they could find to the women’s clothing she requested she be hanged in. Rumor says she haunts the island to this day.
3. Fort William Henry | Lake George, New York
Nestled along the picturesque upstate Lake George sits the historic Fort William Henry, a living history museum that stands as witness to the massacre that occurred there in 1757. When a French general conducted a siege on the then-British fort, with the help of the skilled and tactful Huron fighters, anywhere from 69 to 184 people died.
Reports testify that those who remained alive were left without clothes or food, many of them perishing in the woods in the following days. The French abandoned the fort after the battle, leaving it to the tortured spirits of the dead. Rumors state that today, visitors may see the ghost of a soldier when they take one of the ghost tours available at the museum.
4. Fort Delaware | Pea Patch Island, Delaware
Another harbor stronghold, this fort is quite similar to Boston’s Fort Warren. Located on an island outside of Delaware City, the fort was transformed into a prison for Confederate inmates during the Civil War. Prisoners were treated terribly, despite their obvious wrong of fighting for the Confederacy, to an inhumane extent.
Prisoners starved and Union officers played with them like dolls, tossing live rats into crowds of inmates to watch them fight for the rat as food. Visitors today will be greeted with much friendlier treatment and actors portraying each of the important roles on the island back in the day — and maybe some ghosts, too.
With two Ghost Hunters episodes under its belt, it’s no secret that Fort Delaware is home to some spectral beings. Some consider it one of the most haunted places in the world, with the likes of unexplained cannon fire and fleeting figures occurring during visits. Some even say they feel hands on their shoulders in the kitchen areas — perhaps one of the most fraught locations on the island considering how many were sick and starving.
5. Fort Mifflin | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Right along the Delaware River, the historic Fort Mifflin emanates American history. As one of the forts captured by the British during the Revolutionary War — though it never surrendered — and as one of many forts that served as a Union prison during the Civil War, this Philadelphia stronghold is an important one despite often being overshadowed by the hundreds of historic buildings in the area, like Valley Forge. In reality, it’s due to Fort Mifflin’s strategic location that places like Valley Forge succeeded in the first place.
It hasn’t functioned since the 1960s, but its ghosts are still alive and well. Only one soldier was ever hanged at the fort, and his ghost supposedly haunts the place despite his apparition not having a face. Ghost tours, which are conducted by the Philadelphia Ghost Hunters Alliance, have also heard the screeches of a woman believed to be the late Elizabeth Pratt. Other ghost hunters have claimed that their flashlights mysteriously went dead onsite and that objects moved without explanation.