As I tiptoe into my house early Sunday morning, in the clothes I was wearing when I left Saturday afternoon, I wonder if this is what would be deemed a “walk of shame” by my neighbors. Thankfully, most of my neighbors know who I am, and they appreciate my being quiet when I get home late.. er.. um early. See, when you are a paranormal investigator, there is no shame in coming home at the crack of dawn after a long night.

Pea Patch Island

This weekend I had the privilege of embarking on an adventure to a little place called Pea Patch Island on the Delaware River. Historians will know this location as the home to Fort Delaware, a concrete fortress dating back to 1859 that once housed as many as 12,595 Confederate prisoners of war at one time. Although that’s not entirely accurate. Only the “important” or high ranking prisoners were held within the walls of the fort; the other prisoners were confined in the barracks just outside the fort walls. The barracks seen by guests today are a replica of what had originally been built in 1862. I’ve cleaned those barracks before. Dusted, windexed…burned some sage. No, they’d not let me back if I burned anything in that building.

So why did I head over to the island? For an overnight paranormal investigation, of course. This isn’t my first overnight; I participated in one last year, and it was amazing. I’m a member of the Diamond State Ghost Investigators (DSGI). Believer or not, there is a certain awesomeness to be part of a team which is looking to make sense of happenings which may seem unexplainable. We debunk almost everything we run into when someone says their house or business is haunted.

Fort Delaware, however, has had dozens of occurrences which we are unable to explain. Can I tell you with 100% certainty that it is haunted? No, because any proof I can provide would be circumstantial and subjective. Do I personally believe it is haunted? Hell yes! Let’s just say I believe there is a sort of “energy residue” left behind by thousands of people who spent time there during a traumatic part of US history; many.. of which did meet their demise on the island.

The Investigation Begins

We were ferried over to Pea Patch Island a little after 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 8. The temperature on the island is significantly cooler than the mainland, but this turns out to be a good thing, as it keeps the mosquitoes and horse flies at bay. Nothing can be done about the creepy crawly centipedes and sprickets though. I call them sprickets; this is likely not the proper terminology, but they look like they are half spider and half cricket. They crawl, they jump, they climb walls, and they are HUGE. They also really seem to like the dark. We are paranormal investigators, we spend a lot of time in the dark. We spend a lot of time with sprickets.

The wedge inside the casemates
The wedge inside the casemates is a location where construction can be seen from both the Spanish American War era and Civil War. Photo Credit: Christy Mannering

But we don’t head to the island to inspect the insects, we spend the night at the fort so we can capture evidence of the paranormal. I’m not disappointed at the lack of evidence because we did capture a good bit, but I will say it was a slow night. While investigating the paranormal, our team sits in dark rooms and waits. And waits. And waits. We have dousing rods, K2 meters, Rem Pod, flashlights, laser grids, and thermal sensors. Last night, I felt we entertained the spirits more than they entertained us. We got into exhaustive discussions about Tiffany (the 80s artist “I Think We’re Alone Now”) which, believe it or not, did get a reaction from the spirits. The flashlights turned on and off on their own, and the K2 meters blipped.

A K2 meter measures electromagnetic fields, which typically come from man-made things like electrical wiring. When we are at Fort Delaware the only electric we have is outside the fort walls. We ask that the park staff keeps the power on for the bathrooms. It’s a very dark walk from the fort to the restrooms if the lights are out. All of this means that the K2 meters shouldn’t pick up on any activity. So when they do, we need to figure out why. Our cell phones, if on us, must be in airplane mode. We check all of these things before the investigation begins.

Nighttime Activity

Last night, the winds on the island were ranging between 12-15 mph. This means, in some of the rooms, the windows really rattled. We took this into consideration throughout the night. Thankfully, there is a difference between a rattling window and someone dragging furniture across the floor, which we heard on the second floor above the kitchen after we threatened to play Tiffany. We heard the most activity while in the kitchen. Which means our team did a lot of “wait, did you hear that, is someone else out there!?” Or ” I saw something, right behind you, it moved in front of the flashlight for a second.” Basically, it’s an incredible experience, with people who I adore.

There were footsteps outside the room and above us; there were also noises which sounded like something was being dragged across the floor. Throughout the night, each of us heard footsteps from our respective rooms. My friend Debbie and I were sleeping in the infirmary. I “slept” on a very hard, must-smelling cot covered with an itchy, red wool blanket. I was freezing cold, but managed to survive. Outside the infirmary is a metal staircase that can only be accessed by walking past the door where we were sleeping. By the time it was 2 a.m. and we heard footsteps on the stairs, it was very much a “Do you hear that?” and “Yup, but I’m tired.”

A couple members of our group brought tents this year, but with the wicked wind blowing last night, I was told that the nylon Hilton’s were not conducive to getting a peaceful night’s sleep either.

One Adventure Ends, but Another Always Awaits

Sunset view from the roof of Fort Delaware

In the morning, when I simply could not lay on the cot (in the fetal position for warmth) any further more, I got up and attempted to thaw in the Visitor’s Center. By the time we were given the word that a boat was coming for us, I had enough feeling in my toes to make the 150+ yard walk to the dock. So we made it back to the mainland, all in one piece and with a few more stories to tell.

For those of you interested in participating in a paranormal investigation at Fort Delaware, we host them every Friday and Saturday in October. Tickets for these tours will go on sale in July and can be purchased from the Delaware State Park website. The proceeds from these tours goes towards maintaining the state park.