The Mekemson Ghost of Fort Mifflin

I am on a ghost hunt. It’s the season. The eerie creatures are known to hang out at Fort Mifflin, which is located next to Philadelphia International Airport on the Delaware River. It’s one of the hottest ghost watching spots in America and has been featured on the popular TV series, “Ghost Hunters.”

The entrance to the ghostly ammunition magazine taken during the day.

We are scheduled for a nighttime tour by lantern.

Peggy and I decide to do a reconnaissance during daylight hours but a police vehicle blocks the road. A dozen or so media crews are pointing their cameras into the airport at a large UPS cargo plane. It has just flown in from Yemen and is being searched for ink cartridge bombs. We are caught in the midst of a “credible terrorist threat” as President Obama describes it.

Ghosts can’t be nearly as scary… can they?

By 6:30 the police car has moved but the TV crews are still on watch. We wind our way through the circus. Dusk has arrived at the Fort.  The tour is scheduled to start as soon as it is fully dark. Make that pitch black; there is no moon.

Our guide gathers us and his lantern immediately blows out. “It’s only the wind,” he explains. “I don’t believe in ghosts. I don’t hunt them and they don’t hunt me.”

His disclaimer comes with a ‘but.’ He works at the Fort, and occasionally ‘things’ happen. There are unexplained footsteps on stairs. Doors close and latch on their own. Voices are heard in the next room. A woman screams like she is being murdered. The police are called but can’t find anyone, or thing. A man walking on the rampart disappears into thin air.

Our guide relates story after story as we make our way through the candle lit buildings of the fort. Other staff, volunteers and visitors have also experienced strange phenomena. More than one visitor has left on the run and even the guide has packed up and gone home on occasion.

We arrive at the Fort’s ammunition magazine, a bush covered hill that resembles an ancient burial mound. A bright torch outlines the dim opening. We enter and walk down a narrow, dimly lit corridor that opens out to a large, arched bunker. A single candle creates dancing shadows on the far wall.

“I’ve never felt anything in here,” the tour leader relates. “It’s dead space,” he quips and repeats himself in case we missed his humor. For others, the story has been different. Tourists speak of a wonderful guide who was waiting for them in the bunker. He was dressed as a Revolutionary soldier and vividly described the horrendous battle that took place on November 15, 1777. Which is great, except the Fort had no such guide…

I stare hard into the corner where he supposedly stood, trying to create something out of nothing. But there are only the dancing shadows. Peggy tries to take a photo but the camera freezes and refuses to work. As she struggles with it, the last of our tour group disappears down the narrow corridor, leaving us alone with the flickering candle.

We hurry after the group. There is no one outside the magazine, only the glowing torch and the dark night. “I think I saw them heading down a side corridor,” Peggy says. With more than a little reluctance, we dutifully troop back inside. Peggy’s corridor is a bricked in wall. I am starting to feel spooked.

“Maybe we should go back to the bunker,” she suggests.

“No,” I reply and head for the entrance. Just as we arrive, the shiny torch makes a poof sound and goes out, leaving us with nothing but dark. The hairs on the back of my head stand at attention. Peggy and I decide it’s time to vacate the premises.

Fortunately we find our group.

Halloween experiences don’t get much better. But this isn’t the end of the story. On my next blog I will report on why our theoretical ghost may have been a very real ancestor… Andrew or James Mekemson.

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