The Germans that immigrated to the United States between the late 1600s and the mid-20th century bestowed on our country a rich legacy of history, traditions, language, and architecture that has had a lasting influence on American culture. When many of these German-Americans departed again for the next great journey into the unknown, they also left behind their ghosts.
There are many historic haunted German-American sites across the U.S., as well as sites purported to be haunted by German-Americans. These include Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery, located outside of Chicago, Illinois. Bachelor’s Grove is considered to be one of the most haunted cemeteries in the world. Established in the 1840s in the township of Bremen, an area that became heavily populated by Germans, the cemetery was later the final resting place of many of the German settlers. Reports of paranormal activity at the cemetery include mysterious lights in the woods surrounding the cemetery, phantom vehicles, a phantom farmhouse that floats and disappears before peoples’ eyes, figures in robes, and other strange anomalies.
Fort Mifflin in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is home to one particularly noisy German-American ghost. The fort was commissioned in 1771 and first used during the American Revolutionary War. It later housed Confederate prisoners of war during the American Civil War. Among the numerous reports of ghostly activity are sightings of a screaming woman and a man with no face, and the phantom voices of children and barking dogs. The infamous spirit of Jacob Sauer, a blacksmith of German descent, has never been seen, but is known for slamming and opening the doors at the fort’s blacksmith shop.
There is also the haunted Schifferstadt Museum in Frederick, Maryland. The following is an excerpt about the museum from the book, Maryland Ghosts: Paranormal Encounters in the Free State.
The Schifferstadt Museum
Frederick, Frederick County
The Schifferstadt Architectural Museum is an historic treasure that can be found on Rosemont Avenue, near the Hood College exit off of I-70. Built in 1758, it is one of the finest examples of colonial German architecture in the country, and boasts many of its original architectural features, including a large stone furnace inscribed with an old German adage along the lines of, “Home is where the heart is.”
It is operated by the Frederick County Landmarks Foundation. Open to the public at certain times for tours and living history demonstrations, the Schifferstadt is dependent entirely on volunteer power, donations, and grants.
The original stone house was built by Josef Bruner, one of the many German immigrants who settled the Maryland and Pennsylvania areas. He traveled from his hometown of Schifferstadt, Germany to establish a home in what was at the time considered frontier land and a crossroads of battle during the French and Indian War.
The museum is allegedly haunted by several ghosts, including his. The house has seen numerous owners, occupants, and caretakers over the centuries, but the main spirits encountered are a male, a female, and a child that all seem to date from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The little boy spirit is mostly seen in the attic, the female spirit in the kitchen area, and the male apparition in the gift shop on the first floor.
Volunteers and staff have also reported hearing disembodied voices echoing through the house (speaking in German!), footsteps, phantom doors slamming, and even hammering and construction sounds.
I did an internship at the Schifferstadt during two semesters in college as a freshman and into my sophomore year. I had a rather interesting experience while working up in the office alone on a crisp fall day. The inside door of the gift shop that leads to the upstairs is equipped with a set of jingle bells that prevents visitors from accidentally going up to an office area where they aren’t allowed.
The museum was closed and I was by myself, working on the computer in the office. Sometimes other volunteers or an employee with a set of keys would stop by to drop something off or perform some other task for the museum. Without really thinking about it, I heard the door from the gift shop to the upstairs open and the bells start to jingle. I figured someone was coming up and I just hadn’t heard the main front door open. Then I heard several heavy footsteps coming up the stairs.
At some point, they just stopped. I stopped typing and looked up, wondering why the person wasn’t saying anything and had stopped halfway up the stairs. I had the distinct impression that there was a man there, and got up from my desk to walk over and see who he was. Of course, I saw no one, and the gift shop door was still closed. I quietly returned to my desk, thoroughly weirded out, and resumed working.
There were a few other occasions when I remember being alone and getting a serious case of the creeps, suddenly and out of nowhere. My solution was usually to pretend I didn’t notice anything and just keep working until the odd sensation would fade away.
The Schifferstadt is an otherwise friendly and inviting place, and the spirits are known to be warm and not scary. Perhaps Josef Brunner just likes to stop by every once in a while and see who is looking after his historic home…
More information on the Schifferstadt Museum and Frederick County Landmarks Foundation can be found at www.frederickcountylandmarksfoundation.org.
Maryland Ghosts: Paranormal Encounters in the Free State, by Amelia Cotter
Black Oak Media, 154 pages
$13.95 paperback/$4.99 eBook
Available on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble.com, and at Barnes & Noble stores in Maryland
Photos by Cobra97  and Amelia Cotter