St. Louis, Missouri

The Ghosts of Jefferson Barracks -- From a Book Review about the Book by David Goodwin

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A Vintage View of the Old Post Headquarters on what may be one of the Most Haunted Places in the St. Louis area!


Jefferson Barracks was officially established on October 23, 1826. The fort was named in honor of former president Thomas Jefferson, who had died earlier that same year. The earliest role for Jefferson Barracks was to house the soldiers protecting the settlers from Indian attacks. In April 1832, a steamer of troops were sent north to participate in the Black Hawk War. A young lieutenant named Jefferson Davis, who would later go on to serve as the president of the Confederacy during the Civil War, was assigned to escort the captured Indian leader back to Jefferson Barracks. In 1836, other troops from the post would be sent to Florida to take part in battles against the Seminole Indians.

A Vintage Postcard of Jefferson Barracks

Jefferson Barracks was used for many years as a staging area, post and military hospital from the early days of the frontier until after World War II. The National Cemetery located here was established in 1863 and like so many of the buildings on the post, has ghost stories of its own. Many of the tales at Jefferson Barracks revolve around the old buildings and former hospitals where so many men died after being wounded on the battlefields.

In January 1922, President Warren G. Harding ordered a section of Jefferson Barracks to become the home of a Veteran’s Hospital, which opened in March 1923. The physicians here were given the task of caring for wounded and invalid soldiers and the hospital began providing continuous treatment for veterans until the base closed down. During the years of its operation, the building became known for hosting a ghost.

According to a story, there was once a private Halloween party that was held at the hospital. Security officers who worked the gate later commented to one of the party organizers about the “excellent” Civil War officer’s uniform that one of the guests had worn to the party. The official was taken aback and replied that there had been no one wearing such a costume. The security officer was just as surprised because he distinctly remembered a man in a Civil War-era uniform who had entered the hospital grounds, presumably to attend the party that was going on.

Another similar version of the story involves the same Halloween party at the hospital. The host of the party, who was one of the officials at the hospital, noticed a man in a Civil War officer’s uniform sitting on a stone wall at the edge of the throng of guests. The host walked over to the man and asked him how he liked the party. The soldier whispered a hoarse reply “Like it good”, he said. The host, apparently miffed at the guest’s crude reply, turned around and started to walk away. However, he looked back over his shoulder a few moments later and saw that the man in the Civil War costume was gone. He later discovered that no one invited to the party, or in attendance that night, wore such a costume to the event.

And the former hospital as far from the only site known for its ghosts... There have been stories told about the post for many decades.

During the Civil War, and for years after, soldiers guarded the train depot and the railroad tracks located along the Mississippi River. They also guarded the headquarters building that was located on the bluff above the depot. One night during the Civil War, a sentry was walking his post near the building. As he rounded the corner, he reportedly observed a solitary figure walking up the grassy hill from the train yard. As the soldier stood watching, he realized that the man was not a person at all, but what was described as a blurry “spook”.

Stories about the Headquarters building continue to be told and stories range from encounters with the ghost of the Civil War-era officer to strange sounds that cannot logically be explained. It is not uncommon for security officers to hear footsteps and rustling sounds in the building when no one is there!

There is also a long-running legend about a ghost who haunts the post’s old powder magazine as well. The massive limestone building was built in 1857 as a secure location to store rifles, cannons and gunpowder for the troops at the post. In 1871, the Federal Arsenal in St. Louis was closed and its contents were also moved to Jefferson Barracks. The powder magazine remained in constant use until the post closed in 1946. In more recent times, it has become a historical museum that is run by the St. Louis County Parks and Recreation Department.

The story of the ghost here has its beginnings around the start of World War II. In the dark days at the start of the war, sentries were posted all around the fort to protect it from possible incursion. One of the most important guard positions was the powder magazine. Armed sentries were often seen patrolling around the building or walking across the top of the stone wall that surrounded the magazine.

Several of the soldiers who stood guard here reported seeing a ghostly sentry who would occasionally appear and challenge the confused guard who was standing his post. The threatening spirit was said to have “a bullet hole in his head, running red with blood” and was said to be so frightening that several guards allegedly threw down their guns and deserted their posts after encountering him. One story had it that a certain soldier was so frightened that he not only left his post one night, but that he also left the army! According to the story, the spectral sentry was a guard who had been killed years before when a raiding party attempted to steal munitions from the powder magazine. He was believed to have confronted his living counterparts because he thought they were trespassers. Even after all of these years, he was still on duty, even in death.

Many of the former barracks buildings are said to be haunted as well, including Building 28. This building was constructed back in 1897 as a double barracks with a three-story tower in the center. It had been designed to hold up to four companies of cavalry soldiers and their non-commissioned officers. Today it is the home of the 218th Engineer Squadron.

Throughout the 1970’s, men working inside of the building reported hearing ghostly footsteps pacing the corridors of the building. One night, a man was working on some training records for an upcoming inspection when he heard someone walking around on the second floor above his office. He didn’t think that anyone else was in the building, but as it simply sounded like another soldier working upstairs, he never bothered to check on it. Later though, more footsteps joined the first set and the noise became very distracting as he tried to finish his reports. Finally, he tossed aside his papers and went upstairs but when he got to the area where he believed the sounds had been coming from, he find nobody there! He looked around for a few moments and then decided to write the whole thing off to his imagination. However, as soon as he got back downstairs to his desk, the footsteps started again. This time, he decided to just wrap up his reports and call it a night.

One evening in the fall of 1980, Chief Master Sergeant Eugene Anacker and several other Air National Guard NCO’s were working late in the building. When they decided to leave for the night, the group turned out the lights, locked the doors and then walked out into the parking lot in front of the building, where they stood talking for a few minutes. As they started to leave, Anacker happened to look up and notice that one of the lights on the third floor of the building had been accidentally left on. He dispatched the lowest ranking of the small group to go back into the building and turn it off.

The young NCO unlocked the main doors, climbed the stairs to the third floor and turned the light off. A few moments later, he re-appeared downstairs and he locked the door behind him as he left the building again. As the young man walked toward him, Chief Anacker looked up and noticed that the same light was on once again, even though they had just seen the other soldier turn it off. Thinking that the wiring in the old building was going bad, he sent the same NCO back into the building again to turn it off.

When the NCO returned to the parking lot once more, Anacker was stunned to see that the same third floor light was once again shining. Again, he sent the same NCO back inside to turn the light off once more. This time when he came out though, none of them looked to see if the light had turned itself back on.

This time, they simply got into their cars and went home!

What you have just read is a brief synopsis and account of just a few of the Ghosts of Jefferson Barracks from a review of the book by Troy Taylor. Readers are encouraged to find about more about the post in Dave Goodwin's book, Ghosts of Jefferson Barracks.

(C) Copyright 2003 by Dave Goodwin. All Rights Reserved.

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