Wednesday, February 29, 2012

St. Peter's Catholic Church, Harpers Ferry

Construction on the St. Peter's Catholic church began in 1830 and was completed around 1833.  It was the third church built in Harpers Ferry, and sat on land previously owned by Robert Harper.  Over the years, it has been enlarged and renovated, but has been in continuous use since the late 1800s.

During the Civil War, St. Peter's was the only church to survive the fighting.  Father Costello is accredited with this feat.  He chose to stay with his church throughout the war, and whenever fighting started up, he'd fly the British flag over the church.  Fearing an international incident, neither side ever fired on the church.  The church WAS used as a hospital, however, and Father Costello himself helped care for patients.

There are two main ghost stories associated with St. Peter's.  The first comes from the time when the church was used as a Civil War hospital.  One young soldier was brought wounded to the hospital, but since his injuries weren't deemed as serious as some of the others, he was forced to wait outside for help.  This young soldier was of the Catholic faith, and took comfort in the fact that he was taken to a Catholic church for help.  Unfortunately, his wounds were worse than believed.  He died as he was being carried inside.  His last words are reported as being, "Thank God, I'm saved."  Visitors to the church since then have often reported a glowing aura coming from the threshhold of the church.  Some have even heard the light whisper of the dying man's last words, as he crossed over the threshhold of the church and over to the other side.

A more well known ghost story comes from the path right outside of the church.  Around 6pm, people taking the path up to Jefferson Rock have reported passing the church and seeing a priest in a black friar's hat.  The priest is seen leaving the rectory.  He looks so real that visitors have stopped to wish him a good evening...only to find out that they just talked to a ghost!

History from Christopher Fennell
National Register Application

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