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Spirits of Arkansas Still Roaming the Land

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October 20, 2011 by Devils Den

By Rebekah Sprulock

Children will always be afraid of the dark, and men with minds sensitive to hereditary impulses will always tremble at the thought of the hidden and fathomless worlds of strange life which may pulsate in the gulfs beyond the stars or press hideously upon our own globe in unholy dimensions which only the dead and the moonstruck may glimpse. — H.P. Lovecraft, “Supernatural Horror in Literature”

Can you feel the chill in the air and hear the rustling through the trees? Is it just a fall breeze or can you feel spirits in the air? Saturday, Oct. 22, Devil’s Den State Park will be hosting a very special talk on Arkansas’s Haunted Historic Sites. This program will feature spooky folk tales about five purportedly haunted Civil War sites across the state in commemoration of the Civil War Sesquicentennial. The sites include the Tower Building of the Little Rock Arsenal (Pulaski County), the Borden House and Prairie Grove Battlefield (Washington County), the McCollum-Chidester House in Camden (Ouachita County), Jenkins’ Ferry Battlefield (Grant County), and the Confederate Cemetery in Helena-West Helena (Phillips County).

The Old Arsenal in Little Rock’s MacArthur Park is the only remaining structure of the more than 30 buildings that comprised the munitions storage facility that originated as the Little Rock Arsenal, established shortly after Arkansas joined the Union in 1836. Ghostly voices and music have been heard by visitors and workers in the building. On occasion, an apparition has been seen walking through the stairwell, playfully throwing objects at people. Shadows of dualing soldiers have been witnessed, and on April 25, 2005, the Spirit Seekers Paranormal Investigation Research & Intervention Team visited the Old Arsenal and noted that there are more spirits outside the museum than inside, though orbs were caught on camera inside as well. Investigators came in contact with three spirit entities including a man they believed was a guarding the building.

The Borden House and Prairie Grove Battlefield have seen their unfair share of bloodshed, and many people believe that it permeates the area with the spirits of the lost. The heaviest fighting of the Battle of Prairie Grove on Dec. 7, 1862, took place around the Borden House and orchard. After the battle, General Herron reported 250 dead within a 100-yard radius of the house. One soldier noted the ground was “muddy with blood” on the hillside where the Confederate cannons sat during the battle. Evidently this brutal, bloody scene has left a mark on the landscape of Prairie Grove Battlefield, which many can still feel the “spirit” of today.

The McCollum-Chidester House in Camden is also believed to be haunted by spirits lost during the Civil War. It was used as the headquarters by Sterling Price, a Confederate general and Frederick Steele, a Union general during the Battle of Poison Springs in April 1864. The Battle of Poison Springs is considered a Confederate ambush of Union troops, which ended in the massacre of many African Americans from the First Kansas Colored Infantry. The name Poison Spring was known to area residents at the time of the engagement and was used in battle reports, but its origins ​are unclear. Legends suggested that Union soldiers became ill after drinking the cold spring water, ​but no contemporary accounts confirm this story.

Several battles were fought throughout the state near the end of the Civil War including one at Jenkins Ferry, a small crossing located on a tributary of the Saline River just south of Sheridan. Many accounts surrounding the Jenkins Ferry Battlefield center on a family which were allegedly caught up on the battle and mistakenly killed by Union soldiers. Among the ghosts that haunt the area are a middle-aged man, his wife and two small children. Several witnesses claim that they have heard the woman pleading for the lives of her children.

The Helena Confederate Cemetery is also believed to be haunted by soldiers who lost their lives in the Battle of Helena on July 4, 1863. The “Stonewall Jackson of the West,” General Patrick Cleburne, is buried there. And many say that the soldiers still cry out among the headstones.

The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program is the Department of Arkansas Heritage agency responsible for identifying, evaluating, registering and preserving the state’s cultural resources, so the spirit of Arkansas may live on. Join Amanda Driver-Sobel of the AHPP as she explores Arkansas’s spirit and the spirits of Arkansas this Saturday at the Devil’s Den Amphitheater at 8p.m. For more information contact the park at 479-761-3325.

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