- Last Updated On
- June 24, 2023
12 Fun Things to Do in Harpers Ferry with Kids — Family Friendly Activities!
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Historically significant and panoramically blessed with sweeping views of Shenandoah Valley, Harpers Ferry is a little town packed with incredible attractions.
From being the site of abolitionist raids to being the location of the headquarters of the Appalachian Trail, Harpers Ferry is a haven for family adventures back in time or out on the grandeur of nature.
Here’s a list of the top fun things to do in Harpers Ferry with kids to get you planning and packing.
1. Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
171 Shoreline Drive Harpers Ferry, WV 25425 (304) 535-6029
Founded in 1944, this 3,660-acre park teems with historical sites, fascinating scenery, and educational activities.
Why We Recommend This Kid Friendly Activity
With a series of historic attractions and museums, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park beautifully details the Civil War era in the region.
Over 20 miles of trails lead to war remnants, gorgeous scenic overlooks, and free kid-friendly things to do.
Wherever you go in the historical park, there will always be stuff to do with kids near you.
Come with children ages five and older and enjoy all the history lessons and wonderful scenery.
2. The Point
Shenandoah Street and Potomac Street Harpers Ferry, WV 25425
Easily accessible from the downtown area, the Point sits on the shores where Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers meet.
The Point is, no doubt, one of the mesmerizing places to take kids in Harpers Ferry.
From this vantage point, you’ll catch sight of three states: West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland.
This outdoorsy adventure is best experienced with kids ages seven and up.
Related: Best Things to Do in Harpers Ferry, WV
3. Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters
799 Washington Street Harpers Ferry, WV 25425 (304) 535-6331
Since 1925, the ATC has been working tirelessly to manage, preserve, and protect the Appalachian Trail.
The ATC—the midpoint of the majestic Appalachian Trail—isn’t just a visitor center and a convenient pit stop.
With souvenirs, children’s activities, and educational exhibits, visiting it is one of the best things to do in Harpers Ferry with kids.
Hit the road with kids ages seven and up for an educational hiking trip and enjoy the exhibits at ATC to learn more about the terrain.
Recommended Hotel Nearby: Clarion Inn Conference Center Harpers Ferry
4. Jefferson Rock
Shenandoah Street Harpers Ferry, WV 25425 (304) 535-6029
Sandwiched between Camp Hill and Lower Town, this rock formation is an iconic site noted by Thomas Jefferson in his 1785 book on Virginia.
Jefferson Rock is one of the eye-catching natural attractions along the Appalachian Trail.
Named after the renowned Thomas Jefferson himself, this landmark enthralls visitors with the views it affords.
For cheap family-fun, hike your way up to this rock with kids ages five and up.
Recommended Hotel Nearby: Quality Inn
5. St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church
110 Church Street Harpers Ferry, WV 25425 (304) 725-5558
Established originally in 1883, this church impresses visitors with its elaborate stone-clad Gothic Victorian architecture.
Not only does St. Peter’s dazzle with Insta-worthy architecture; it also rewards visitors with sweeping views of the surrounding landscape.
Stop by, rest a while, say a prayer for peace, and tour the grounds with a docent for a chock-full of history lessons.
This stunning historical church welcomes guests of all ages as long as you observe silence.
Recommended Hotel Nearby: Holiday Inn Express Charles Town, an IHG Hotel
6. Appalachian National Scenic Trail
Harpers Ferry, WV 25425 (304) 535-6278
Spanning 2,180 miles, this national treasure is the world’s largest hike-only pathway.
No list of the best family activities in Harpers Ferry is complete without this legendary trail.
From Maine, this trail stretches all the way to Georgia and passes through 14 states.
Hiking this in Harpers Ferry offers you a glimpse of its tantalizing natural beauty.
Foster a lifelong love for the great outdoors in your kids by taking them out on an Appalachian Trail adventure.
Come with a baby, toddler, grade schooler, tween, or teen and plan the day carefully!
Recommended Hotel Nearby: Hampton Inn & Suites Charles Town
7. John Brown’s Fort
Shenandoah Street and Potomac Street Harpers Ferry, WV 25425 (304) 535-6029
John Brown’s Fort was constructed originally by the Harpers Ferry Armory in 1848 as a fire engine house.
In 1859, an abolitionist troop led by John Brown invaded the armory and held over 50 people hostage.
Today, it’s a historical attraction and is a shrine for African Americans.
Taking the little ones to John Brown’s Fort is a golden opportunity to teach kids ages five and up a thing or two about the struggles of African Americans.
Recommended Hotel Nearby: Rodeway Inn and Suites
8. Harpers Ferry Station
Potomac Street & Shenandoah Street Harpers Ferry, WV 25425 (800) 872-7245
Harpers Ferry station dates from 1889 and is currently still operational.
Amtrak’s Capitol Limited and MARC commuter service still serve this wooden Victorian station, so if you’re looking for fun kids activities in Harpers Ferry, WV, why don’t you catch a train ride here the way people from the 1800s did?
This affordable train ride is great for kids ages three and up.
Recommended Hotel Nearby: Bavarian Inn
9. John Brown Wax Museum
168 High Street Harpers Ferry, WV 25425 (304) 535-6342
Housed inside a tall brick building, this museum relives the exploits and life of the famous John Brown, the historic American abolitionist leader.
With its unique dioramas and haunted-house feel, the John Brown Wax Museum recounts the dark period of John Brown’s fight to help end slavery.
This compelling, educational glimpse to John Brown’s heroic raids is fun for teens.
Related: Best Restaurants in Harpers Ferry
10. River Riders
408 Alstadts Hill Road Harpers Ferry, WV 25425 (304) 535-2663
Started in the 1970s, River Riders is the place to go if you need a shot of adrenaline.
Need a break from the nonstop historical tours in Harpers Ferry?
Do yourself a favor, and swing by River Riders this weekend.
From river thrills to zip-lines, River Riders will give you a heavy dose of adventure in a variety of ways.
The heart-pounding activities and attractions for kids at River Riders is perfect for children ages four years old and up.
Recommended Hotel Nearby: Home2 Suites By Hilton Charles Town
11. Harpers Ferry Adventure Center
37410 Adventure Center Lane Hillsboro, VA 20132 (540) 668-9007
Harpers Ferry Adventure Center brings wanderers to Harpers Ferry’s treetops with 50 cable and rope bridges.
The outdoorsy activities at Harpers Ferry Adventure Center offer nature-loving youngsters a stimulating experience through guided, self-paced obstacle courses.
Want the little ones to gain friends?
Have them join summer camp!
Don’t know the first thing about what to do in Harpers Ferry with kids?
Take children ages four and older here.
Recommended Hotel Nearby: The Inn at Charles Town / Hollywood Casino
Also See: Things to Do with Kids in Charleston, WV
12. True Treats Historic Candy
144 High Street Harpers Ferry, WV 25425 (304) 461-4714
Looking for gastronomically fun things to do in Harpers Ferry with kids?
True Treats is the only research-based candy store in America specializing in historical candy.
True Treats is like a museum with some luscious edible exhibits.
In fact, it’s the only shop in the country to recreate vintage candies from each era!
Sample the 1900s classics or try their ancient goodies, such as the mastic resin and Native American fruits!
Looking for things to do in Harpers Ferry with toddlers?
Take three-year-olds or older kids to True Treats.
Recommended Hotel Nearby: Motel 6-Charles Town, WV
Harpers Ferry Kids Activities: 12 Family Things to Do for 2023
- Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
- Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters
- Jefferson Rock
- St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church
- Appalachian National Scenic Trail
- John Brown’s Fort
- Harpers Ferry Station
- John Brown Wax Museum
- River Riders
- Harpers Ferry Adventure Center
- True Treats Historic Candy
Harpers Ferry Has a Complex and Dizzying History
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At the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, near a spot in the water where Maryland, Virginia, and the easternmost tip of West Virginia converge, lies Harpers Ferry, a quaint, sometimes bucolic 19th-century town with a rich and dizzying history.
In the early 1800s, Harpers Ferry became a pioneer in the way goods were manufactured, beginning with munitions. Just 70 miles (112 kilometers) or so northwest of Washington, D.C. , it bloomed into an American transportation hub, with railroads, bridges spanning the two rivers and boats carrying goods throughout the new country.
During the Civil War, it changed hands from Union to Confederate and back again at least eight times. Things got so confusing that the townspeople were called both rebels (when the Union army occupied) and Yankees (when the Confederates were in charge). A church in town flew a British flag, just to be safe.
But it was in 1859, a few years before the Civil War, with a bold and disastrous bid to launch a slave rebellion, that famed abolitionist John Brown truly put Harpers Ferry on the map.
"It's a very complicated place, and it's hard to tell one story of Harpers Ferry," says Paul Shackel , an archeologist and professor of anthropology at the University of Maryland. "There's a lot of different stories and a lot of different histories."
The Start of Harpers Ferry
The john brown raid, the town after john brown, harpers ferry today.
Harpers Ferry sits in a gap among steep, rocky ridges that rise into the rolling hills of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. The Potomac and Shenandoah rivers flow east toward the Chesapeake Bay, meeting at an area of town known as the Point .
In 1783, Thomas Jefferson proclaimed the place "worth a voyage across the Atlantic." He wrote about it in his, " Notes on the State of Virginia ," in 1785. (Harpers Ferry became part of West Virginia when it joined the Union in 1863.) An excerpt :
The town's setting was a natural for commerce and industry. George Washington pushed for Harpers Ferry as the spot of a new national armory, and one was erected in 1799. By the outbreak of the Civil War, in 1861, the U.S. Armory and Arsenal had churned out more than 600,000 muskets, rifles and other weapons .
John H. Hall , a Maine gunmaker, devised precision machinery to forge interchangeable parts that could be assembled by less-skilled workmen, rather than individual craftsmen making individual rifles. It increased production and quality and changed the face of American manufacturing.
At that time, the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal , the Winchester & Potomac Railroad and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad already had established the area as a transportation powerhouse. In the 1850s, Harpers Ferry was a bustling place, with pigs running through the streets, hundreds of people working in the armory, and many more laboring in associated mills along the rivers.
All that came to a halt, though, with the Civil War. Even before that, the abolitionist Brown made a move that hastened both the start of the war and the decline of Harpers Ferry.
Today, at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (which covers parts of three states), you can visit the building where the famed abolitionist hero holed up — it's now called John Brown's Fort — as his plans for sparking a slave rebellion went terribly awry, almost from the start.
The long-planned raid Oct. 16, 1859 consisted of Brown and fewer than two dozen men taking over the armory. Two days later, the engine house into which he retreated — his "fort" — was surrounded by soldiers. Brown was captured and, about two weeks later, tried and found guilty of treason. He was hanged Dec. 2. That morning, he wrote these words:
Brown's audacious plan of a slave uprising struck fear into slaveholders in the south. And when he was hanged, Northerners saw it as a rallying cry to finally end slavery.
Harpers Ferry found itself in the middle of everything once again.
Once war erupted, Harpers Ferry turned out to be a critical spot to occupy but a difficult one to defend, stuck as it was under high ridges with few avenues for escape. "Whoever controlled Harpers Ferry could control the railroad, which would supply the Army," Shackel says. "It was considered key, but the North and the South did not invest enough to hold it. So they were always blowing up the bridge and rebuilding the bridge."
U.S. forces abandoned the town when the war began, burning the armory on the way out. But the soldiers didn't do a very good job of it and the Confederates took over, moving much of the gun-making machinery deeper into the South.
"The guns that were produced in the Civil War [for the South] were from Harpers Ferry equipment and technology and machinery," Shackel says. "That was just a major blunder on the part of the Union."
John Brown's Fort, used as a prison and a powder house at various times during the war, became a touchstone for both sides; Union soldiers often treating it with reverence, Confederates cursing it as they passed.
"It was one of the only buildings that wasn't destroyed," Shackel says. "U.S. troops would cross the bridge into Harpers Ferry, and there would be a silence as they would march by, or they would break out into song: ' John Brown's body lies a'mouldering in the grave ' ..."
The damage inflicted as troops came and went (often burning buildings in their wake) eventually took its toll. From " The Making of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park: A Devil, Two Rivers, and a Dream ," co-authored by Shackel and Teresa S. Moyer:
The C&O Canal proved to be an economic boon postwar, and the town soon wobbled back to its feet. It became a pilgrimage of sorts to those who revered Brown and what he stood for, even as the town's main attraction — Brown's Fort — was moved to Chicago (for the World's Columbian Exhibition of 1893 ), back to a farm near Harpers Ferry (many Southern sympathizers didn't want it in town), to a black college established in Harpers Ferry shortly after the Civil War, and finally, in 1968 (years after the National Park Service bought it), to within 150 feet (45 meters) of its original location, now part of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park .
The hills and mountains around Harpers Ferry now are frequented by hikers and trail lovers. The waters are used by kayakers and rafters and are good for catching smallmouth bass. The town also marks the approximate halfway point of the Georgia-to-Maine Appalachian Trail and the headquarters of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy .
Many of the 19th-century buildings in the lower town now have been restored. John's Brown Fort continues to be a place visited by those still dreaming of racial equality. And the townspeople, thanks largely to the efforts of those telling the town's story at the national park, mostly have embraced their place in the middle of American history.
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In August 1906, Storer College in Harpers Ferry became the site for the first public meeting of the Niagara Movement . There, on John Brown's Day , members made a silent pilgrimage to the fort where the abolitionist was captured, removing their socks and shoes as they entered the "hallowed" ground. The Niagara Movement, founded in part by W.E.B. Du Bois , is considered the precursor to the NAACP.
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DETOUR! DETOUR! DETOUR!
There is currently a major road/rock stabilization project causing a detour into Harper's Ferry from the Frederick/Brunswick, Maryland side of the approach to Harper's Ferry! Click on the link below for details and then plan accordingly:
Ghost Tours of Harpers Ferry by "O' Be JoyFull" Historical Tours has been rated the #2 Tour/Activity in 'Historic Lower Town' of Harpers Ferry, WV on TripAdvisor.com! (Our daytime Historical Tour is #1!)
Ghost Tours of Harpers Ferry is the oldest Ghost Tour in America, NOW AN INCREDIBLE 53 YEARS OLD!, has also been rated as the
#1 Ghost Tour in America by TripAdvisor.com (Based on customer ratings)! Check it out at: http://multivu.prnewswire.com/mnr/tripadvisor/42931/
"O' Be JoyFull's" Historical Walking Tour is rated by TripAdvisor.com as the #1 Historical Tour/Activity in Harpers Ferry, WV!
Click here for more information on Walking Tours ! : http://www.obejoyfull.com/
Updated: Tuesday , October 10th, 2023
RESERVATIONS ARE STRONGLY SUGGESTED: (We would not turn you away without a reservation, BUT, if no one reserves a tour 'Off Season' and/or 'Midweek,' we do not drive into town to conduct The Ghost Tour! And, on busy nights it's very helpful to know if a second tour guide would be good.)
Best to reserve by calling 304/725-8019 by 6 PM the day you would like to attend.
Listen to information, leave First Name, # of people, Contact (cell) Phone Number.
Please do not expect a return confirmation phone call, we only call you back 'IF' there is a problem with your reservation.
It is a single line phone, so if you get a '# Not Available Message,' please try back in a few minutes.
We collect cash or check, no Credit/Debit Cards, when you arrive, and have change on hand. See below for more information.
On April 1st, 2022, New Pricing went into effect for first time in several years:
$18 Per Person anyone over 12 years of age
$14 Per Person anyone 8 to 12 years of age
No charge for anyone under 8 years of age
We will attempt to keep a pretty full schedule this year, however as I continue to deal with 'Post Covid Fatigue Syndrome/Long Covid' there are good days, not so good days, and bad days. It is best to call 304/725-8019 to make a reservation and be sure to leave a contact phone number in case we need to call you. (My wife does fill in for me on occasion.)
During 2023 we will be closed on:
Closed on Memorial Day, Monday May 29th
(We wll have a Sunday night, May 28th Ghost Tour instead!)
Closed on most Wednesdays but open:
Wednesdays' in June, July & August
Last three (3) Wednesdays in October.
Open Wednesday, October 12th, 19th, & 26th in October.
Closed on Labor Day, Monday September 4th
(We will have a Sunday night, September 3rd Ghost Tour instead!)
Closed on Columbus Day, Monday October 11th
(We will have a Sunday night, October 9th Ghost Tour instead!)
Closed on Thanksgiving Eve & Thanksgiving Day
Closed on the follwoing days in December...
Closed December 1st & 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th.
Closed on Christmas Eve & Christmas Day
Closed on New Years Eve & New Years Day
We are open year 'round and offer tours Mondays through Saturdays EXCEPT JANUARY, FEBRUARY, MARCH & SEPTEMBER WHEN WE WILL ALSO BE CLOSED ON MOST WEDNESDAY NIGHTS!
(Please scroll down to see more Daily Schedule and Reservation Information)
Tours begin at 8 PM Sharp!
(Please be sure to arrive to St. Peter's Church by 7:45 PM to check in.)
NOTE: Please remember that when the sun goes down it can get chilly at night, even during some of the warmer months, so check the forcasted temperature and dress appropriately.
In the colder months you should be sure to dress very warmly! It's colder out at night! Especially in the late fall and winter, unless you are very warm blooded, extra layers, long johns, wool socks, etc. will make your experience more enjoyable! *
* PLEASE NOTE: In the event of really bad weather, heavy rain and/or lightning and thunder, and/or when the temperature is 40 degrees, or below, include Wind Chill, we go inside to the Beautiful and Historic Sanctuary of St. Peter's Chuch, where you will hear the same historically based ghostly stories, while viewing pictures of the same haunted sites, plus as an extra bonus you will get to see the Beautiful Sanctuary of St. Peter's, as well as some Historical Artifacts and hear about some of Harpers Ferry's Church History! Then after the Stories Session you can spend as time as you would like at those sites (all located within a few blocks of the church and parking lot on Potomac Street) to take pictures, EVP's, etc.
With many years experience we have found that when the temperatures is 40 degress or colder, people find themselves freezing cold, especially their feet, within the first 30-45 minutes of the tour, making the experience less enjoyable because you are not walking around that much to create body heat, you are standing still listening to the stories.
Additionally, feedback from customers tells us that hearing the same historically based ghostly stories, while viewing pictures of the same haunted sites, in the Historic and Beautiful Sanctuary of Historic St. Peter's Church, provides a very enjoyable night of ghostly entertainment, especially when you can then walk just a few blocks to see those sites right after the warm and comfortable Ghostly Sanctuary Stories Session. (Plus, you will have walked by most sites on your way to St. Peter's Church and will most likely recognize the sites in the pictures. You can also go back to those sites after the stories to hang out, take pictures, etc.!)
"My Fiancee' and I planned a weekend getaway and chose to add the ghost tour to our evening plans. I had called 4 days prior to schedule our evening. The night of the tour, there were wind chills of -4. Rick called us a few hours prior and suggested we go for Parlor Ghost Stories (Before I worked from St. Peter's Church I had a small shop) by the wood stove instead to which we happily agreed... Being a historian, Rick was able to paint an excellent picture of the town in the days of the war. We would definitely attend this tour again, rain or shine!"...Shaunee, Glen Burnie, MD, January 4th, 2010.
Amelia - Guide & Storyteller for...
The One, The Only, The Original...
Ghost Tours of Harpers Ferry
The oldest ghost tour in America!!!
Circa. 1970, is now...
"O' Be JoyFull" Historical Tours
( www.obejoyfull.com )
We are open year round and always conduct the Ghost Tour or Sanctuary Ghost Stories, Rain or Shine!
You can "click" on:
"Cusomter Reviews/Comments/Forums" Page
to see more of what people have said about our tours!
We meet at:
The Piazza (Front Patio) of
St. Peter's Catholic Church
100 Church Street, H arpers Ferry, WV.
(One long block up Public Way from the
intersection of High Street & Public Way .)
Please be sure to arrive by 7:45 PM to Check In.
We do start Promptly at 8 PM!
Scroll down for very important Parking Information/Instructions...
Cost... ( See top of page for new pricing that will go into effect on April 1st, 2022.)
The cost for the approximate 1 & 3/4 hour Ghost Tour is $18.00 per person, $14.00 for children 8 to 12 years of age , and there is no charge for well behaved children under 8 years of age. See above for new pricing starting April 1st, 2022.
(Children who are not well behaved will be given a sugary and caffeine loaded snack at the end of the tour, along with a free puppy for their parents to care for, plus they'll also be sent home with a very cranky ghost to keep you awake every night for at least the next week!) (Just kidding! Or are we?)
We accept cash and checks only and we will have change on hand. (We apologize for not having the ability to take credit cards.)
There are group discounts available for groups of over 10 or more. Call for more information and pricing. (Groups discounts are not available, or offered for any nights in October and the 1st weekend in November.)
Important Parking Information!
There is no parking at or next to St. Peter's Church!
Warning!: Parking in the very small lot next to the church, or in any driveway near the church, or anywhere on the street near the church, risks as much as a $175.00 Federal Parking Ticket and/or having your vehicle towed at your expense, and there are no exceptions for handicapped plates, handicapped stickers, or for veterans, V.I.P.'s, etc!
THE SAFE PLACES TO PARK ARE:
1) AT THE AFMTRACK TRAIN STATION ON POTOMAC STREET. (There is no fee when the National Park is closed, 5 or 6 PM depending on the season, and/or if you are not visiting any of the National Park's Exhibits or 'The Point,' where the rivers meet because the fee is an 'Entrance Fee' to the National Park and NOT a 'Parking Fee.')
If the Train Station Parking Lot is full, then proceed back out to Potomac Street and look for parking:
2) ALONG THE STREET ON POTOMAC STREET IN DESGNATED PARKING SPOTS. (It is 'Pay By The Hour' parking, via your smart phone or cell phone up until 6 PM, then it's free parking.)
If there is no parking on Potomac Street, proceed back to Shenandoah Street and make a right onto Shenandoah Street, go one short block and make a right onto High Street and drive up the hill 4/10's of a mile (High Street turns into Washington Street) and park:
3) ALONG THE STREET ON WASHINGTON STREET IN DESIGNATED PARKING SPORTS. (As you drive up the hill on High Street the street turns into Washington Street where there is a lot more "Pay By The Hour' parking, via your smart phone or cell phone up until 6 PM, then it's free parking. )
The address for the Amtrak Train Station on Potomac Street is:
120 Potomac Street, Harpers Ferry, WV, 25424, which is approximately 6 blocks down the hill from St. Peter's Church.
It's best to check out MapQuest.com or Google.com/maps for directions because GPS systems do not always work well here.
(IMPORTANT NOTE ON DIRECTIONS: It has recently come to our attention that MapQuest.com and/or GPS systems are sometimes incorrectly routing/directing people to take Bakerton Road to arrive to the Potomac Street Train Station, which is wrong and ends in a DEAD END road with no access to Harpers Ferry. Only enter Harpers Ferry by either N. Washington Street, Union Street, or Shannendoah Street. DO NOT TAKE BAKERTON ROAD. )
We offer Ghost Tours or Sanctuary Ghost Stories Monday through Saturday nights all year round (EXCEPT FOR WEDNESDAY NIGHTS NOVEMBER THROUGH APRIL, AND SEPTEMBER, IN ADDITION TO THE OTHER CLOSED DATES AS NOTED NEAR THE TOP OF THIS PAGE) !
We also offer Sunday night tours on some 3 day Holiday Weekends (We then are closed on that Monday night), and we also offer 6 PM Sunday night tours during last 2 weekends in October. (Scroll down this page for more information.)
During the months of April through September , Ghost Tours are conducted every Friday & Saturday nights at 8:00 PM. Please arrive by 7:45 PM as the tour starts promptly at 8PM, plus tours are also conducted Monday through Thursday nights at 8:00 PM, by reservation, which must be called in to 304/725-8019 or 732/801-0381, by 6:00 PM on the day that you would like to take the tour. (YOU CAN ALWAYS TAKE THE CHANCE OF JUST 'SHOWING UP' AND WE WILL NOT TURN YOU AWAY, BUT IF NO ONE CALLS FOR A RESERVATION, I/WE MAY NOT BE THERE TO CONDUCT THE TOUR FOR YOU.)
(NOTE: If you leave your reservation on our answering machine by 6:00 PM, please be assured that your message will be received and that you can then simply arrive to St. Peter's Church for your tour. You do not have to and most likely will not receive a call back from us for as we are often just not able to call back with such confirmations, but again, please be assured that we will be there for you.)
Again, from April through September, Friday & Saturday night Ghost Tours do not require reservations* (*EXCEPT FOR DATES CLOSED AS SPECIFIED NEAR THE TOP OF THIS PAGE) and will leave from The Piazza (Stone Patio) of St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church , 100 Church Street, Harpers Ferry, WV, PROMPTLY at 8:00 PM. (Arrive by 7:45 PM to check in)
Note: During the very busy month of October, and during our "Off Season," from November 1st through March 31st, tours are available Monday through Saturday by reservation only, and reservations must be called in by 6 PM on the day you'd like to take the tour or experience Sanctuary Ghost Stories.
OCTOBER & HALLOWEEN NOTICE - Because October is our very busiest month, we do ask for reservations in order to know how many people to expect and you have to anticipate being a part of a large group on Friday & Saturday nights, especially during the last 2 to 3 weekends of the month.
October is not a time to expect a small and intimate tour group. During the last two weekends of October, we will offer tours both at 6 PM and 8 PM on Saturday nights, as well as, a 6 PM tour on the last two Sunday nights of October.
From October through March we offer tours, or Sanctuary Ghost Stories inside St. Peter's Church, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday & Saturday nights at 8 PM. We do need you to call us for a reservation, by 6PM the day of the tour to make sure we will be there for you!
(All Ghost Tours, or Sanctuary Ghost Stories, start at St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church and start promptly at 8 PM, so please make sure to arrive for your tour by 7:45PM, or earlier!)
(Please carefully listen to the instructions and then leave a message! Note: We do not call back to confirm a reservation, we only call if there is a problem with your reservation. )
Scroll down the page to see on which Sunday nights that we will also conduct Ghost Tours:
(We are normally closed on Sundays)
Sunday night tours...
We are normally closed on Sunday nights and do not offer tours, however if you have a group of 10 or more people, we will gladly conduct a Sunday night tour for your group (Pre-payment is required and discounts are not offered). Please call us for more information, including pricing, if you would like to arrange for a Sunday night tour.
Pre-scheduled Sunday night tours that you can join in with (Please call to let us know you'll be joining us) will be conducted on...
(These Sunday night Tours will start at 8 PM)
Sunday, May 28th, 2023 (Memorial Day Weekend)
Sunday, September 3rd, 2023 (Labor Day Weekend)
Sunday, October 9th, 2021 (Columbus Day Weekend)
(The following Sunday night Tours will start at 6 PM)
Sunday, October 22nd, 2023
(Tour will start at 6 PM)
Sunday, October 29th, 2023
Cost... ( See top of page for new pricing going into effect on April 1st, 2022.)
The cost for the approximate 1 & 3/4 hour Ghost Tour is $18.00 per person, $14.00 for children 8 to 12 years of age , and there is no charge for well behaved children under 8 years of age. (Children who are not well behaved will be given a sugary and caffeine loaded snack at the end of the tour, along with a free puppy for their parents to care for, plus they'll also be sent home with a very cranky ghost to keep you awake every night for at least the next week!) (Just kidding! Or?)
We accept cash and checks only, and we will have change on hand. (We apologize for not having the ability to take credit cards.)
There are group discounts available for groups of over 10 or more. Call for more information and pricing. (Groups discounts are not available, or offered for any Sunday night tours, or in October, and the 1st weekend in November.)
If you call by 6:00 PM for a tour, we'll be there for you at The "O' Be JoyFull" Center, at 7:30 PM, for an 8:00 PM tour! (Just be sure to always check below under "Closed On The Following Days..." to make sure we are open and offering tours on that day immediately prior to calling as these dates can change from day to day!)
Note: You do not have to hear back from us to know that we'll be there to conduct your tour! If you leave a message for a tour by 6:00 PM, please be assured that we will be there by 7:30 PM, to conduct your tour at 8:00 PM. However, due to other professional committments, we may not be able to call you back with a confirmation.
When it's really cold, we bundle up with lots of layers, long johns, wool socks, etc., and we still conduct the nightly Ghost Tour for those hearty souls who long for the tales of Harpers Ferry's lost souls!
BUT, w hen the weather is just too cold (30's or below) or too bad, when it's just too rainy or snowing, you can still plan on a special evening of Harpers Ferry Ghost Stories told in the warmth of the beautiful sanctuary of St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church!
You will enjoy all the same great Harpers Ferry Ghost Stories, while viewing color pictures of the town's same haunted sites! (We conduct the tour outdoors in most light, or moderately steady rains, unless it is just too cold.)
Otherwise, the tour will be conducted outside, so in cooler weather make sure to bundle up! Extra socks, warm shoes, layers, long johns, etc. will enhance the enjoyment of your tour! Keep in mind that it gets much colder at night after the sun goes down!
"My Fiancee' and I planned a weekend getaway and chose to add the ghost tour to our evening plans. I had called 4 days prior to schedule our evening. The night of the tour, there were wind chills of -4. Rick called us a few hours prior and suggested we go for Parlor Ghost Stories (Before I worked from St. Peter's Church I had a small shop) by the wood stove instead to which we happily agreed... Being a historian, Rick was able to paint an excellent picture of the town in the days of the war. We would definitely attend this tour again, rain or shine!"... Shaunee, Glen Burnie, MD, January 4th, 2010.
Rick Garland, of "O' Be JoyFull" Historical Tours, the owner/manager of Ghost Tours of Harpers Ferry , is a Historian, Licensed Tour Guide, Musicologist, Vocalist, Pianist and Historical Story Teller, who conducts historical tours of Harpers Ferry, WV, as well as several Historical Songs & Stories Shows (Historical Stories, Singing and Piano Playing!)
Rick's website for "O' Be JoyFull" Historical Tours & Historical Songs & Stories Concert Shows is http://www.obejoyfull.com/ .
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The tour is a 'Family & Dog Friendly' Spooky Stories experience appropriate for most people of all ages (see a more detailed description on page 2 of this website, labeled 'Tour Information'). We do not attempt to contact, talk to, or 'Hunt,' any ghostly spirits, however we do allow and encourage picture taking!
The stories are based on the 1977 book, pictured above, "A Ghostly Tour of Harpers Ferry."
Shirley Dougherty, the author, had opened up a popular Harpers Ferry restaurant in 1968, "The Old Iron Horse." Although Shirley did not believe in ghosts when she opened the restaurant, she and others soon experienced a number of unexplainable ghostly phonomenon that caused her to start asking questions about the history of the building and Harpers Ferry hoping to find explanations that might account for, or explain the strange things that were happening.
Not only did Shirley learn about some of her building's past history, but local people also came to her with stories about many of the other buildings in the historical "Lower Town" section of Harpers Ferry, which she subsequently published in her book and began to tell on nightly tours, which she had combined with other stories, including some that were told on tours that the National Park used to conduct themselves.
Today, the tour continues to tell both the stories originally recorded by the National Park, as well as those compiled and told by Shirley Dougherty herself on what is now the oldest ghost tour in America!
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Ghost Tours of Harpers Ferry
The Ghost Tours of Harpers Ferry by "O’ Be JoyFull" is a 'Family & Dog Friendly' walking tour appriopriate for most people of all age. The tour is approximately 1&1/2 to 1 & 3/4 hours in length and takes you around several blocks of the historic "Lower Town" section of Harpers Ferry to view a number of sites and buildings that have had ghostly phenomenon reported in, or around them, over the years.
You will be told about the unexplained, or ghostly phenomenon that has, or is still occurring, as well as stories of both legends and/or historical events, which may account for such unexplained ghostly happenings and encounters .
Of course, with Harpers Ferry’s violent past, especially during the American Civil War, many of the stories will tell of death, and some background history of Harpers Ferry is also an element of the tour.
Although the tour has often been described as "spooky," it is not especially scary. We have found that the tour is appropriate for all age groups and that most children are perfectly fine with the tour and its stories.*
* - Note: Although most all children of all ages have been fine with our ghost tour and its stories, if your child is especially sensitive, or especially scared of ghost stories, or stories about unexplained phenomenon, including ghostly experiences, and if your child expresses serious reservations or concerns about taking the tour, we ask that you respect his or her concerns and to carefully consider whether the tour would be appropriate for that "little person."
Open Year Round. In season: April - September, tours Monday through Saturday 8 PM, reservations required Monday through Thursday.Off season: October - March, reservations required for all tours. Available Monday through Saturday 8 PM. Extra tours during October at 6 PM and on Sundays. Call for more information.
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The Harpers Ferry Ghost Tour You Won’t Want to Miss
- September 20, 2022
Prepare for the spooky season and get into a Halloween mood with a ghost tour of one of America’s most haunted towns, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
Located at the northeastern tip of West Virginia on the border of Maryland and Virginia, you’ll love your stay at one of Harpers Ferry’s cabin rentals . Known for its quaint, small-town feel and numerous hiking opportunities, including the famous Appalachian Trail, Harpers Ferry is also a mecca for lovers of the paranormal.
With a long and sometimes gruesome history, particularly surrounding its role in the Civil War, Harpers Ferry has no shortage of sightings, spirits, and specters. Taking advantage of the ghost tours of Harpers Ferry is a thrilling way to learn about the history and paranormal activity of the town.
History of Harpers Ferry
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia has played an important and sometimes tragic role in American history, which, in part, is what makes it such an excellent location for a ghost tour. Established in 1763 by Robert Harper, whom the town is named for, this small town of 285 residents has had more than its fair share of historical significance.
Prior to the Civil War, abolitionist John Brown led a raid of the Harpers Ferry armory in hopes of arming enslaved people for a revolt. The revolt ultimately failed but when he was hanged in 1859 he made a famous speech stating that the uprising had captured the attention of the nation.
In the Civil War, Harpers Ferry was stuck between Confederate and Union forces, changing hands eight times during the course of the war. It was the northernmost area the Confederacy controlled and was considered the “best strategic point in the South.” Throughout the many skirmishes and battles, Harpers Ferry was all but destroyed by the war.
By 1859, a freedman’s college had been built in Harpers Ferry. It became a major tourism spot for African-Americans who wanted to visit the site where, as Frederick Douglass put it, the end of slavery began.
In more recent history, the town is known as being an incredible place for a plethora of hiking trails and other outdoor activities. Harpers Ferry is the halfway point on the Appalachian Trail and is home to the Appalachian Trail headquarters. The Appalachian Trail is a famous hike spanning almost 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine.
The destruction and death surrounding the historical events in Harpers Ferry may explain the town’s claim to unusually high paranormal activity. With battles, raids, and a Civil War hospital in town, it’s no surprise that residents claim to have experienced hauntings throughout the area.
There are a number of well-known ghosts in the area, and while most of them are seen as benevolent and harmless, it can still be quite a shock to see Civil War-era ghosts strolling down the town streets!
The Ghosts of Harpers Ferry
Dangerfield Newby is one of the most commonly spotted ghosts and, according to local legend, has a tragic story. Newby was one of the men who took part in John Brown’s failed raid and was killed during the skirmish. The angry townspeople allegedly left his body in the alley for the hogs to eat, and he can sometimes be seen walking the streets.
The Phantom Army
The Phantom Army is another common group of specters, occasionally seen marching through Harpers Ferry with their rifles and drums. These soldiers supposedly died during a cholera outbreak in 1798.
Screaming Jenny is one of the few ghosts in Harpers Ferry that doesn’t have anything to do with the war. The story goes that Jenny, a poor woman living alone in a shack by the train tracks, was warming herself by the fire one day when her clothes caught fire. She ran screaming for help and unfortunately didn’t notice that she was running across the train tracks right as a train was coming. It is said that on the anniversary of her death, you can see a ball of fire on the train tracks where she was struck.
The Most Haunted Place in Harpers Ferry
A guest house owned by the National Park Service is considered one of the most haunted buildings in Harpers Ferry, and supposedly the ghost inhabiting the house is less friendly than the others in town. An employee reported seeing the spirit of a smartly dressed man with a cane in the house. She felt negative energy coming from the spirit before feeling a hand on her back pushing her over. When she looked up, the man was gone.
Harpers Ferry Ghost Tour
The Harpers Ferry ghost tour is considered the oldest ghost tour in America, boasting an incredible 52 years of ghost-spotting. The approximately two-hour walking tour is put on by O’ Be JoyFull Historical Tours and takes visitors around the historic Lower Town of Harpers Ferry to stop at numerous haunted sites. This section of Harpers Ferry is said to be more haunted than others, so it only makes sense that the tour begins there.
At each site, your experienced guide educates you on the history and legends of the town through storytelling that’s sure to make your spine tingle.
Starting at 8 P.M. sharp, your tour begins when you meet your tour guide at the piazza of St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, which also happens to be the home of one of the ghosts you will learn about. You will walk about 14 blocks during this tour, some of which is uphill, so comfortable shoes are recommended.
Providing you a ghostly tour, the tours mix history and mystery, sharing great stories and giving guests some insight into the significance of Harpers Ferry and how it became considered one of the most haunted towns in the country.
Those who love history, the supernatural, and good old-fashioned spooky stories will love an evening learning about the ghosts of Harpers Ferry. It is a great way to prepare for Halloween while you are on vacation in beautiful West Virginia.
Even for those who don’t necessarily believe in ghosts or the supernatural, the tour is a wonderful way to experience the culture of Harpers Ferry and learn about the history of the area. The tour isn’t just about ghosts and the paranormal but instead combines historical facts with the mystery of the supernatural.
The tour is also an excellent way to see Harpers Ferry without the usual crowds, as almost all other visitors have left town by the time the tour begins. You might truly say it becomes a “ghost town”!
The tour states that it is appropriate for people of all ages, and there are no “jump scares” or scare actors along the tour. Kids that are scared by ghost stories might be nervous but most children do well along the tour. Well-behaved dogs are welcome, as well.
When to Tour
While the tour is generally open year-round except for Wednesdays, Sundays, and holidays, a tour in the fall season can really up the creepiness factor. It is the perfect way to get into the Halloween spirit!
Note that in late autumn it can get quite chilly after dark, so dress appropriately in warm layers and comfortable walking shoes. Reservations are recommended.
The tour is enjoyable at all times of the year as long as the proper attire is worn. West Virginia is hot and humid in the summer and cold in the winter, so be sure to check the forecast before heading out!
If you can’t get enough of Harpers Ferry and the natural beauty of West Virginia, there are tons of fun activities besides the ghost tour.
The town of Harpers Ferry is encompassed in the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, and the park contains numerous hiking opportunities and outdoor activities. Of course, the most famous of the hikes here is the Appalachian Trail, which cuts right through the park and the town.
Along the AT, you will find Jefferson Rock, a famous landmark that gets its name from Thomas Jefferson himself. Jefferson wrote in his notes that he stood upon this rock and admired the beauty of the Harpers Ferry area as he passed through in 1783.
If you visit in the summertime, you and your family can enjoy tubing down the Shenandoah or Potomac River . It’s actually ranked one of the best places in the U.S. to go tubing, so you’re sure to enjoy this outing.
Appalachian Trail Conservancy
After walking along the Appalachian Trail yourself, it makes sense to visit the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters in town. AT thru-hikers often stop here to take their halfway point picture in front of the sign. Take a photo yourself and look through the thru-hiker photo album to see all the hikers who have stopped by.
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
Harpers Ferry is steeped in American history and was an important site in the Civil War. Head over to the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park to learn about this area’s role before, during, and after the war.
The Battle of Bolivar Heights was one of the most important battles in West Virginia and is the site of the largest surrender of the Civil War. The battlefield is located in the park and is a great spot to visit for deeper insight into the history of Harpers Ferry.
The railroad through Harpers Ferry is a major reason for its importance during the Civil War. Visit the historic Harpers Ferry Station, which is still in use today, before heading over to the Harpers Ferry Toy Train Museum and Joy Line Railroad. This museum is fun for all ages and has an antique toy train collection, railroad memorabilia, and even an outdoor miniature train that you can take on a short ride.
John Brown’s Fort
The fort used by John Brown and his group of abolitionists during their raid in 1859 still stands and is a popular stop in Harpers Ferry. In the late 1800s, the fort was very popular with African-American travelers who wanted to visit the site where the end of slavery began.
Enjoy Your Ghostly Tour
Get into the Halloween spirit while vacationing in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Only a short drive from your cabin rental is downtown Harpers Ferry, one of America’s most haunted towns with a fun ghost tour for all ages. You and your family will love this unique addition to your holiday and will have so much fun talking about everything you saw and heard for days to come afterwards.
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Scroll down on this page for more information about... Historical Walking Tour of Harpers Ferry, WV (Bad Weather Alternatives) "O' Be JoyFull" Biography Click on "Songs & Stories Shows" tab for more information about... My unique, entertaining, educational, and highly acclaimed... Historical Songs & Stories Concert Shows Plus, I now also conduct the oldest Ghost Tour in America! C irca. 1970! This year we are celebrating 50 years of Ghost Tours/Stories in Harpers Ferry! Ghost Tours of Harpers Ferry *Also Open Year Round!* Rated the #1 Tour in Harpers Ferry, WV, on www.TripAdvisor.com ! My Ghost Tour is also rated as the # 1 Ghost Tour in America by TripAdvisor.com! (Based on customer reviews!) Check it out at: http://multivu.prnewswire.com/mnr/tripadvisor/42931/ More Ghost Tour information is available at... www.harpersferryghost.20m.com (Four years ago, "O' Be JoyFull" Historical Tours & Entertainment acquired the oldest Ghost Tour in America, "Ghost Tours of Harpers Ferry," in business for almost forty years (circa. 1970)! Please click on the link above for more information about nightly Harpers Ferry Ghost Tours.) Public Speaking Engagements Rick is available for speaking engagements at libraries, schools, civil war round tables, etc., on the history of Harpers Ferry, WV and John Brown's raid, as well as for Harpers Ferry's Ghost Stories. Rick is also available as a "Step-on" guide for Tour Bus Groups.
Historical Walking Tours of Harpers Ferry, WV Scroll down on this page for a detailed description! *Note: Tours are conducted all year round!* ***Please call for reservations.***
Detailed Description of... The Harpers Ferry, WV Tour...
Bad Weather Alternatives Whether you are already here in Harpers Ferry, or on your way, or even if you are still at home pondering a visit to "The Ferry," you never have to let bad weather stop you from enjoying your time here, or interrupt your plans! Why? Because Thomas Hall and Saint Peter's Church is the perfect place to spend some real quality time in Harpers Ferry during any kind of inclement weather! Just imagine sitting in the indoor sun room of Thomas Hall, overlooking the Shenandoah River and 'The Gap,' as well as in the beautiful and historic santuary of Saint Peter's Church and enjoying either a guided tour like historical presentation of "The Ferry's Story," complete with historical pictures, or experiencing a rousing "O' Be JoyFull" Historical Songs & Stories Concert Show! By visiting Thomas Hall and Saint Peter's Church you can still enjoy a historically entertaining experience during any type of bad or incement weather, while also making your visit to "The Ferry" an especially unique and memorable one! So don't let bad weather keep you from having a good time while you're visiting Harpers Ferry, or prevent you from visiting us, instead just head in for a historically good time! Any time!!!
"O' Be JoyFull" Bio After playing piano for over 20 years for his own enjoyment, Rick began performing historical songs and telling historical stories on a volunteer basis at The Longstreet Living History Farm, Holmdel, NJ, in 2001. In 2003, Rick made his first appearance in Gettysburg, PA, first with an Irish, and then with an American Civil War Sing-A-Long Songs & Stories Show, under the name of "O' Be JoyFull," which is a civil war soldier's nickname for moonshine whiskey. Six years later, and after a life-long interest and study of 19th Century American Cultural History, and more recently the American Civil War and the Battle of Gettysburg, PA, Rick had developed numerous historical sing-a-long musical programs, combining historical songs & factual stories of American Cultural History, the American Civil War and the Battle of Gettysburg, as well as the Irish and the Scottish peoples. Rick became a part time Licensed Gettysburg Town Guide in the spring of 2006, upon completion of a highly specialized testing procedure. Since then, Rick has successfully branched out on his own and developed a full time business as a Licensed Tour Guide, offering historical guided tours of both Gettysburg, PA and Harpers Ferry, WV, where his tour & historical concert company is now located. Rick has performed at numerous and various venues including schools, museums, churches, civil war re-enactments & events, civil war round tables, county fairs, Irish festivals, special fund raising events, club meetings, assisted living & nursing care facilities, birthday parties, organizational and corporate luncheons, as well as at inns, hotels, bed & breakfasts, restaurants and pubs in many eastern States of the U.S., including Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia. Most recently, Rick has appeared as a "Speaker" at Civil War Round Tables and Libraries, speaking about the history of Harpers Ferry, WV and John Brown in a program entitled, "Hapers Ferry & John Brown Revisited.
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History and Ghosts Combine At This Tour Of Harpers Ferry
Just across the Potomac lies this historic West Virginia town. A major battleground during the 19th century, it is now home to dozens of ghostly figures.
By Michele Kettner October 7, 2021
Harpers Ferry has played an important role in the country’s history, but did you know it’s also famous for its number of ghost sightings? That’s where the Ghost Tours of Harpers Ferry comes in.
Started in 1970 by Shirley Dougherty, it claims to be the oldest paranormal tour in the country. At first a skeptic, Dougherty supposedly changed her tune when she had an encounter with a spirit in her tavern. More than a half-century later, the tour is still thriving under husband-and-wife team Rick and Amelia Garland.
While the tour offers up plenty of legends during the hour-and-a-half walk through the historic community, Rick says one story is a fan favorite. On a street named Hog Alley, our guide took the group back to 1859 with the story of Dangerfield Newby. “That contains a good blow-by-blow description of the John Brown Raid,” says Rick. “It’s a spooky story. We get a lot of strange pictures on Hog Alley, where the Dangerfield Newby story takes place. So, between the history and the spookiness, I’d have to say that’s my favorite one to tell.”
Here’s the gist: Newby, a former slave, was struggling to free his wife and children from bondage down South. Desperate to get his family back, he joined Brown as the famous abolitionist stormed the Harpers Ferry Armory. With only the guns in the armory and limited ammunition, the raiders were shooting glass, marbles, and nails. Caught in the crossfire, Newby took a spike to the neck, which killed him instantly.
Today, people claim to see Newby walking in the alley at night: a figure wearing all black, with piercing blue eyes and a melancholy expression. As the figure turns away, you can see the bloody scar on his neck from that fateful day.
Rick says two tour-goers have seen apparitions during the excursion, and a few have caught ghostly figures on camera. But don’t expect to talk to these phantoms—in fact, Rick discourages it.
“In October, I warn them,” says Rick. “I say, ‘I’m not going to conjure the ghosts. I am not going to talk to them. I’m not going to try and get them to come out for you. That’s not what we do.’”
There’s a difference, he says, between ghost tours and ghost hunts. “Ghost hunts are paranormal investigations—which, those are dangerous,” he says. “I know people love them, people do them, but they are dangerous. You never know what you’re going to uncover.”
Familiar sights, smells, and sounds might do the trick, though. Amelia told a Friday-night crowd that women wearing long skirts and lavender perfume, men smoking cigars, or singing the chorus from “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” could bring out ghosts. Rick concurs. “It seems that clothing suggestive to the time period and odors, smells—whether it’s perfume or tobacco—also seem to make them comfortable and seems to increase phenomena when taking pictures.”
So, if you’re willing to defy the warning of a seasoned paranormal expert, grab your camera and warm up your vocal cords.
This story originally ran in our October issue . For more stories like this, subscribe to our monthly magazine.
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Ghost Tour of Harpers Ferry Harpers Ferry, WV
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An approximate 1 hour 50 minute lantern lit, 19th Century Attired Historical Ghost Tour. The small town of Harpers Ferry in West Virginia has a long bloody past that is reflected in the amount of paranormal activity that happens there. The Ghost Tours of Harpers Ferry by "O’ Be JoyFull" is a 'Family & Dog Friendly' walking tour appropriate for most people of all ages. The tour is approximately 1 & 3/4 to 2 hours in length and takes you around approximately 14 blocks of the historic "Lower Town" section of Harpers Ferry to view a number of sites and buildings that have had ghostly phenomenon reported in, or around them, over the years, along with some of the most important 'Historical Highlights' of Harpers Ferry's multi-level, multi-facited, multi-dimentional history. You will be told about the unexplained, or ghostly phenomenon that has, or is still occurring, as well as stories of both legends and/or historical events, which may account for such unexplained ghostly happenings and encounters . Of course, with Harpers Ferry’s violent past, especially during the American Civil War, many of the stories will tell of death, and some background history and historical highlights of Harpers Ferry is also an element of the tour. Although the tour has often been described as "Spooky," and sometimes "Scary," we have found that "Scary" is a lot like "Beauty" and that "Scary is in the eye of the beholder." The tour is appropriate for almost everyone of all ages we have found that MOST CHILDREN are perfectly fine with the tour and its stories.*
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Home » Hauntings From The Civil War, A Snapshot Of The Ghost Tours Of Harpers Ferry
Hauntings From The Civil War, A Snapshot Of The Ghost Tours Of Harpers Ferry
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Harpers Ferry, Jefferson County is well known for its American Civil War history. The town was the site of John Brown ’s Raid, the Battle of Harpers Ferry , and the town changed hands from Union to Confederate several times.
Harpers Ferry saw so much destruction during the war that many now say it’s a town home to ghosts and hauntings.
This story is part of a Halloween episode of Inside Appalachia , which features ghost tales and legends from across Appalachia.
Up a series of steep, stone steps and just beyond a screeching gate is the entrance to the historic St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in Harpers Ferry.
Built in 1833, it still holds mass on Sunday, and is open for special occasions like Christmas. But at night, and year-round, its courtyard is the meeting place for the Ghost Tours of Harpers Ferry – said to be the oldest ghost tour in America at nearly 50 years old.
On a recent night, about 50 people have gathered to attend the two-hour tour. There are parents with young children, older couples, and a handful of teenagers. Many tour attendees are from out of town, like Melanie Ray, from Baltimore, Maryland. Ray said she and her boyfriend were visiting the area and looking for something to do.
“I love anything that has anything to do with history, and Harpers Ferry has a lot of pretty bad history, like a lot of bad things happened,” Ray said.
That history is what makes Harpers Ferry a pretty cool backdrop for spooky tales, and tourists like Ray are intrigued by that.
Not everyone believes in the stories, but some do.
Rick Garland took over the Ghost Tours of Harpers Ferry 10 years ago. He’s a local historian and tour guide. During the day, he runs a four-hour historical tour in Harpers Ferry, but at night he tells tales of hauntings.
The Ghost Tours of Harpers Ferry was originally run by a woman named Shirley Dougherty, who started the tour in 1970. She has since passed away. Garland continues Dougherty’s legacy because her family asked him to, and because he loves history. Garland also believes in ghosts, but he has a sense of humor about it.
“Is there anybody here who does not believe in ghosts? What are you doing here? I’m only kidding,” Garland said to the laughing crowd.
With his lantern in hand, Rick takes the large group around the town, highlighting spots that are known for ghostly sightings. He encourages folks to take photos – just in case they might catch something paranormal.
Rick tells many ghost stories on the tour. One of them describes how in the 1980s, a man and his three children moved into an apartment in town, but every night, the father heard a crying baby in his bedroom.
“A few minutes later, the crying sound started up for a third time,” Garland said to the crowd. “It was louder this time, and he’s getting very fed up with this. So, now [he] says louder, ‘I told you, you have to shut up,’ and the moment that got out of his mouth, he saw something flash across his bedroom.”
But when the father goes to check it out, there’s nothing there. Later, the crying starts again, but this time, when the father yells, there’s a crashing sound almost like an explosion of bricks.
Rick describes a possible explanation for the haunting. Apparently, a diary was discovered, written by a little girl named Anne, who lived in that building during the Battle of Harpers Ferry in 1862.
“Anne continues to write, ‘when the Confederates are bombing our town there’s a woman upstairs in this house on the top floor with a newborn baby, a little infant in her arms, rocking the baby back and forth,” Garland tells the crowd.
Garland said the diary entry describes how a cannonball smashed into the house killing the baby and severely injuring the mother.
The crowd is silent.
A lot of the ghost stories Rick tells are connected in some way to the Civil War.
By the end of the tour, many who came out, chat with Rick, ask questions and share photos of what they captured, including one woman, Cindy Rhodes from Charlotte, North Carolina.
Rhodes and her husband travel all over the country to check out ghost tours like the one in Harpers Ferry. The history, for them, is the biggest draw.
“That’s what they’re more fun for, you know what I mean?” Rhodes said. “There’s a ghost here and there, but they’re more fun for the history, I think.”
And for some who come out to tours like this one, like Brandon Schaefer of Baltimore, they like to be scared and to run into something spooky.
“I like the haunting stuff, and I always hope to see a ghost, so that’s mainly why we came out here,” Schaefer said.
Being a tour guide is Rick Garland’s full-time job, and though he does other historical tours, the ghost tour, is his favorite.
“It’s great to see how this affects other people,” he noted. “So, if you can entertain them, whether it’s with the history part of it, or with the ghost tour part of it, or the spooky part of it, or with a joke, the fact is, that they want to be entertained; they came out to be entertained, and if you can do that for them, they feel good, you feel good, everybody has a good time.”
Tags Related to This Article
- American Civil War
- Ghost Tours
- Ghost Tours of Harpers Ferry
- Harpers Ferry
- Jefferson County
- Rick Garland
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Ghosts Tours of Harpers Ferry
“ Rick 's knowledge of the town, the ghost stories, and the historical background of 19th century life and the Civil War battles was amazing. ” in 11 reviews
“ The tour guide is mostly a civil war historian which makes this tour that much better. ” in 2 reviews
“ Garland handled the situation very professionally and efficiently, and made certain everyone could hear him. ” in 2 reviews
Location & Hours
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100 Church St
Harpers Ferry, WV 25425
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About the Business
Business owner information
America's oldest Ghost Tour is an approximate 16 block, Lantern Lit, walk around parts of the Historic Lower Town of Harpers Ferry and recounting some of the town's incredible history and ghostly happenings and sightings as based on Shirley Dougherty's 1977 book, "A Ghostly Tour of Harpers Ferry." Reservations required by 6 PM Monday-Saturday, October- March and reservations required by 6 PM Monday-Thursday, April-September. There are also occasional Sunday tours on 3 Day Holiday Weekends and during the very busy month of October. Best to check website or call for more specifics. …
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Highly recommend this ghost tour! Educational and fun. Scary but not too scary. Good for the whole family. Tour lasted almost 2 hrs but time went by fast. Cool thing about this tour is Harper's Ferry pretty much becomes a ghost town after 5/6PM with only 1 or 2 restaurants open. The empty town really adds to the great atmosphere!!
worst ghost tour ever worst tour i have ever been on boring ,,just talked history no ghost tales at all
Don't even call it a ghost tour. worst tour ever. history yes I love history and that's all she talked about,talks all the time and so long,don't get to a lot of the places recommended. I have been on so many ghost tours that are just interesting,this so DULL AND DRAWN OUT. WE LEFT THE TOUR. TOTALLY NOT WORTH THE MONEY.
I found the blend of history and ghost stories to be interesting, however, Rick spoke so quickly and without variation in tone that at times he just seemed to be trying to get through the story and on to the next one. His tone and delivery was without any sense of connection to the people about whom he was talking. Historical narratives are the basis for the ghost stories, but Rick's delivery lacked any hint of empathy or compassion for the real people he was telling us about whose lives ended so tragically. The tour website says "Note: It is not a tour for the historically faint of heart, or those who are interested only in the standard, watered down, 'Politically Correct' narrative of American Historical Events" -- Be warned that this does not even hint at the heartless way in which he details the horrific story told near the end of the tour. As an historically accurate narrative, I would have expected - especially from an historian - at least a hint of compassion. Instead, he interspersed the truly horrifying facts of a man's grotesque torture and murder with callous jokes and even an absurd "BOO!". This Ghost Tour could be very good if it were run by someone with even the slightest sense of empathy for the historical figures they are pimping to make a buck. If you decide to bring your young children, BE PREPARED.
I have been on Ghost Tours in Harper Ferry before and they were quite interesting. Last night, there were a husband and wife team. We split up into groups since there were so many people. We chose to go with the wife. Within the first hour, we only walked a few hundred feet. This was more like a history lesson than a ghost tour. She definitely knew her Harpers Ferry History but I wasn't there for just a history lesson. We ended up leaving early. I also noticed others from our group who left.
Harpers Ferry is a quaint town rich with history and intrigue. The tour was fun and informative. Rick spins a yarn with wit and wisdom. Highly recommend this tour if you're in the Harpers Ferry area.
Zero stars but I had to pick one. 1. Yes it's outside but the lack of masks at this point in 2020 is just silly. 2. The "tour" was boring, lack of captivating stories and monotone, dead eye interaction with the crowd. And most importantly 3. THAT DUDE RICK IS A RACIST. Real talk, he made a derogatory comment about a previous tour participant being from Mongolia and being struck by how "good his English was/is." We all know how tours struggle when talking about Sally Hemmings being an enslaved rape victims; that was also present. The final bs out of this guys mouth was a joke, A JOKE, about a freed man of Color being fed to wild pigs and how it made/makes the local bacon taste so good. If you're Black or consider yourself an ally, avoid this place. Unless you want to tell him he's a racist motherf-er in front of the group. My personal advice, is avoid the oncoming cars if you do.
HORRIBLE!! The first red flag was that the tour guide's wife didn't wear a mask as she greeted each and every person attending the tour. There was no cap on how many people could attend the tour, and dozens of participants were encouraged to gather close together in order to hear the guide Rick speak. Masks were also not required as many participants didn't wear them. Obviously Rick and his wife care more about profit than safety. During the tour, Rick talked about how Thomas Jefferson had multiple children with Sally Hemings and completely glossed over the fact that Ms. Hemings was raped by Jefferson. You might think Rick did this because the show is proffered as family-friendly. Nope! A few minutes later, Rick described in graphic detail the butchering of a black man during a fight in Harper's Ferry. He did this not to help us understand what black people have endured but as ENTERTAINMENT. It was so sickening that I literally started to pass out. As I'm sitting against a wall trying to remain conscious, Rick ends the story by describing how the black man's mangled remains were fed to pigs, and how, to this day, the town's bacon tastes so gosh-darn good. Are you kidding me?! My friend immediately confronted Rick and we left. I can't believe we spent money supporting a racist.
Ghost tour.......not. History tour with a slight mention of a few ghosts over a two hour period......absolutely. The tour guide introduced himself as a historian. His love and passion for history was very obvious. However, in this case, that was a problem. We had hoped to enjoy a fun evening walking around Harpers Ferry, hearing stories of ghosts that walk the streets, haunt the homes, and perhaps even see a ghost. (haha) Instead, we stopped at just a few locations and were quizzed about historical events. Not exactly what we had hoped for the evening. After 90 minutes and just 3 stops (on the same street) we decided to bail (only 2 stops remained) and ran to get ice cream just before it closed. Good choice....good ice cream! Walked to the train station, sat on the platform and had fun making up ghost stories of our own. Thinking about starting a ghost tour business. We live close to the area and will definitely return to take the 4 hour history tour which is given by the same individual. He was a great story teller and seemed to be very knowledgeable. We are looking forward to the tour and will definitely be in the mood for history. Booooo!
Rick was a great tour guide. He was attentive, informative, and all around fun to be around! This is a great tour if you love history and also spooky stories. Thanks Rick- young woman from Winchester on September 24,200
This wasn't bad. #1 in the country though?! Not in my opinion. The stories were good and told well but we spent way too much time at each location. I felt like we didn't get to see that much as a result and the tour got boring. The guide dressing up was a nice toucb. I'm wondering if the #1 rating is leftover from the previous owners. The tour we took was just okay.
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Ghost Tours Of Harpers Ferry
Thailer Bounthisane , Engineer | April 28, 2023
Downtown Harpers Ferry – West Virginia public broadcasting
Located on St. Peter’s Church, 100 Church St, Harper’s Ferry, WV 25425. A ghost tour called “Ghost Tours of Harper’s Ferry ” consist of a ‘Family & Dog Friendly’ Spooky Stories experience appropriate for most people of all ages. The tour is based on historic moments and haunting moments from Harper’s ferry along with interesting spooky facts.
The tour continues to tell both the stories originally recorded by the National Park, as well as those compiled and told by Shirley Daugherty.
$18 P er Person anyone over 12 years of age, $14 Per Person anyone 8 to 12 years of age, No charge for anyone under 8 years of age.
The tour focuses on the “Lower Town” section of Harper’s Ferry and the national park. This ghost tour is the oldest in america. The tour is 2 hours long. It is open year round. It also focuses on civil war stories such as the John Brown accident. The ghost tour has relatively positive reviews with 4.7/5 stars and great tour guides.
Storytellers will show you old pictures of people and places of the Civil War. “The stories are also based on a book published in 1977.” T his is definitely something worth checking out if your interested in history or paranormal activity. You can pay for it online or in person.
- #ghost #ghosttour #harpersferry
- #ghost #ghosttours #Harpersferry
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