Monday, October 01, 2012

Butterflies and Ghosts

We went to Harper's Ferry for the weekend to visit our dear friends.  This is a delightful little town and less than three hours from C'ville, so a handy place to take your children for extracurricular history lessons disguised as a "vacation."

Saturday's activity was a hike, up Maryland Heights.  We all walked down the hill to the lower town.

Harper's Ferry, West Virginia

We crossed the railroad bridge to Maryland and walked along the tow path next to the Potomac until we reached the trail, where we were greeted with this.

So, we're expected to hike without alcohol?  We suffered, but the view is spectacular.  That's Virginia to the left, West Virginia is the point between the two rivers, (Shenandoah and Potomac) and we were in Maryland.

The top was occupied by a group of reckless Asian youth.  The very first thing I saw once emerging from the trail was a girl clinging to the brink, laughing as if this were the must amusing thing that had ever happened to her.  Others in their group launched themselves down the cliff face, which was a sheer drop.  Some of them had difficulty dragging themselves back up the cliff and had to be shoved by their friends.  We maintained a more circumspect distance from the edge, but I took pictures of the Asians.

 We thought it would be sensible to start our return hike ahead of the Asians but no sooner had we gotten on our way, when we saw them coming behind us.  It was at that moment that Seamus got a stone in his shoe, and my friend noticed an injured butterfly on the path.  We stopped for shoe adjustments and to assist the butterfly.  The Asians were getting closer, they were nearly upon us and Seamus was having difficulty getting his shoe back on and the butterfly did not seem to realize that it was being assisted and not harassed.  At the very last second, Seamus got his foot back into his shoe and the recalcitrant butterfly was deposited safely out of danger of tramping feet.  We sprinted up the trail, laughing.  It was exactly like one of those tense chase scenes in a movie, where the hero falls or gets caught up on something or has to stop to save his weaker friend, while the evil villain with the flame thrower gets closer and closer.

The mountain from the bottom.  You might see specks of color where people are standing at the overlook.

The Asians were close behind us for a little while and then abruptly disappeared.  We stopped for lunch in town and detoured through the Catholic church on the way home to view the scary Jesus.  I was expecting an Infant of Prague sort of thing, like those mummified saints' bodies in Italian churches, but this was a nude wax figure, covered from head to toe with oozing bloody wounds in addition to being crucified.  The effect was more a bad case of chicken pox than "He suffered for YOUR sins," but I couldn't bear to take a picture.

I did take a picture of the ruined Episcopal church and a house of controversy which was built without approval and contains tacky non-historic windows.

That night I took Seamus and his friend to the Harper's Ferry ghost tour.  Harper's Ferry was a violent place during the Civil War and is a haunted place.  Our guide pointed out numerous apartments in which it is impossible to keep tenants.  Below is pictured the most haunted house in Harper's Ferry.  When the National Parks Service bought it, they planned to use it as a residence for long-term guests like visiting scholars, but the ghosts made it impossible for anyone to stay there for long.  Today it's used as offices, and our guide noted that there is never anyone in that building at night.

It's the white building on the far right--about 200 years old, but the ghosts seem to date from the 1860s.


  1. Biking the trail on the other side of the river from HF is great. We did it a few years ago and have been thinking about going back up there sometime soon for a longer family ramble.

  2. Looks like it was a great day, butterfly rescue and all!
    Haunted? That is so crazy. I cannot fathom a place so haunted they can't lease it during nighttime hours. How have I never heard of this before?

  3. I have a distinct memory of my husband having to do shift work on Christmas Day in 2001 and myself, in a fit of bored desperation, driving to Harper's Ferry and dragging my pregnant self and 4 kids (one on my back) up that same trail. It did not end well.

    Larry took the kids back a few years later; we have several pictures of then-6-year-old David sulking on that railway bridge because he was scared to walk over the "holes." That would be the same kid who now cheerfully flies gliders and airplanes.

    I definitely should try visiting there again, now that I'm no longer pregnant, eh?

  4. Wow, SC. I'm amazed you did that trail pregnant AND carrying a baby. I was really tired when we got to the top, and totally shamed by the guy with a newborn in an infant carrier and two tiny children following him.

    Green Girl, if you're ever in the area, it's worth a visit. It's about one hour from Washington DC, and there's a train.

    Jen, did you see Jefferson's Rock and all the other sites? Some of it is pretty cheesy, like the John Brown wax museum, but it's all part of the fun.

  5. LOVE Harper's Ferry. We go up there quite a bit. We like to rent the red house at the top of the hill through PATC.

  6. Just the pictures you took of the Asian kids made me feel kind of woozy. And I'm disappointed --I kept thinking that you were going to find out they'd fallen after they disappeared from behind you. Oh well. At least there are ghosts.

  7. Thanks Jen for such a lovely post. I'd heard about Harper's Ferry during my reading about your Civil War (or should that be War of Northern Agression?) but I'd pictured it completely differently. For some reason the pictures don't look like they're from the USA, but more European.

  8. Looking forward to going myself someday and meeting the ghosts.

  9. Never been to Harper's Ferry. That was a spectacular view, though. (Especially of the Asians.)

  10. Those crazy Asians ;) I really like HF. One year our church's youth group went for a family fun day. Since it was a church group, we took a "Myths and Legends" tour. Totally hilarious watching the tour guide, who was wonderful, answer the children's most direct questions. It was interesting. Need to go back some time as we are not too far.