St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church (Harpers Ferry) – Paranormal History Profile

St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church (Harpers Ferry) – Paranormal History Profile

August 7, 2019 8 By William Hollis


hey can you tell me of a church that
survives several Civil War battles and is built on a top of a freaking Mountain the one in Harpers Ferry that’s right
st. Peter’s Church let’s tell them about it okay ah hahahahaha hello para peeps and welcome to another
episode of our haunted travels I’m your host Sean Donnelly and I’m your co-host
Maryann Donnelly that’s right today we’re talking about st. Peters Roman
Catholic Church saints got a long title kind of like our livestreams must be why
you like it so much that’s right we visited this location Allen Harpers
Ferry West Virginia back in July would you say July July
13th July 13th of 2017 last summer yes yeah mm-hmm all right so this is panic
deed number one 875 it’s located at 1 1 0 Turk Street shocker Harpers Ferry West
Virginia and it is open to the public it is still an active church yes not quite
as active as it used to be but it still is open and and providing services yeah
we come to know this church because this is where the Harpers Ferry ghost tour
begins and ends and ends and what I said in the beginning about built on top of a
mountain Harpers Ferry is you know depending on where you live mountains
could be huge but you know it’s built on a hill so not only do you have to walk
down for the ghost tour walk back up again yeah I was that was that was kind
of rough that was a rough little hike so but you made it I did make it twice
actually we went up there waiting for the ghost tour and then we walked back
down and then when we got there it was like there gonna be a lot of walking
yeah yeah and actually at the time both you and I had knee problems yeah yeah it
didn’t have my knee brace no no so hey before we talk any more about
this let’s show you some of the history and come back afterwards and we’ll tell
you about some of our experiences so watch this we’ll be right back Saint
Peters is a Catholic Church located in the hillside between public way and
Church way streets in Harpers Ferry West Virginia the original construction began
in 1830 and was completed in 1833 but the church that is seen today is the
result of a rebuild in 1896 the current church is constructed of granite rock
with red brick archway entrance and window sills it also includes a single
Tower and a wooden steeple in neo-gothic exterior design
so here’s how it all began a May 5th 1830 notice in the Virginia Free Press
sought financial contributions for the building of the new church st. Peter’s
Parish Robert Harper and his great grand nephews James B Wagar and Gerald B Hager
and his great grand niece Sarah Ann wagger donated the property on which st.
Peter’s stands you see in Harper’s last will and testament in 1782 he set aside
approximately four acres for use in establishing a church the three Wagar
siblings implemented his desire by conveying the land on which st. Peter’s
is now located to the Catholic Church providing that the land only be used for
the establishment of a religious institution and the Catholic Church has
retained ownership of this land through today with the land at hand
Construction soon began and the church was consecrated on Sunday May 5th of
1833 by Archbishop Whitefield of Baltimore aided by Reverend Gildea and
two other clergymen from Maryland from 1833 through 1896 the structure of st.
Peter’s Church was 39 feet wide 75 feet long and had an interior height of 25
feet to its eaves it was one story tall built with brick walls over a stone
foundation an oversized front facade of brick and a central steeple made of wood
there were four arched windows on each side wall and one window in the vestry
room at the rear of the church the front facade had three arched windows and two
round windows along with the entry door and four stone steps that led up to that
the interior included arched ceilings a marble pulpit and an image of the Virgin
Mary and infant Jesus the church acquired additional adjoining land by a
lease in 1854 on which they built a schoolhouse it is now today part of the
existing rectory building on the west side of the church
now they originally got the lease for a 20-year term but later it turned into a
full title on December 15th of 1868 the schoolhouse that was built on the parcel
was built between 1854 and 1857 and was later converted into the rectory
building in 1889 after the school was moved in 1886 this schoolhouse was built
as a two-story stone structure and the exterior was covered in plaster and
scored to resemble the outlines of cut stones the building had a cupola
centered on the ridge of the roof and a large two-story porch on the south side
both of which were later removed the original dimensions of the building were
40 feet in length and 22 feet in width a later addition of ten feet extended that
off the West End this addition is evident by the existence of an original
exterior bearing wall which is 24 inches thick and is made of stone located just
10 feet inside the current West facade now Harpers Ferry did change hands
between the Union and Confederate control 14 times during the years of the
Civil War in the early 1860s st. Peter’s was the only Church in town that was not
severely damaged or destroyed by the heavy bombardments and destruction that
leveled Harpers Ferry by both northern and southern forces the Reverend Michael
a Costello is credited with this feat of preservation he became pastor of st.
Peter’s in 1857 and was in his late 20s during the war rather than accept an
invitation from bishop mcgill to travel to Ireland during the war he stayed at
the church throughout the hostilities and even during severe artillery
bombardments from surrounding Heights during the war he reportedly raised a
Union Jack flag over the church this dissuaded the Confederate artillery from
aiming their guns at it as Confederate forces viewed Britain as a potential
ally in June and July of 1863 and July of 1864 many of the buildings were
damaged in the course of various skirmishes remarkably though all of on
bargmans miss st. Peters and the undamaged st. Peter’s Church and the
schoolhouse were then used as makeshift hospitals and father Costello held
services and administered sacraments as much as possible throughout the war
station as a short aside note father Costello also had witnessed the dramatic
events of the famous john brown’s 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry and after one of
the Harpers Ferry residents was shot by a member of Browns group he was summoned
to give last rites to the dying man later after the United States Marines
stormed the armory firehouse in which Brown and his group had barricaded
themselves father Costello was summoned to give last rites to two wounded
soldiers one of whom did die and even later he visited Brown in his jail cell
in Charlestown 1877 brought on a few renovations for
the church it received a new altar made by artisan mr. bill Wiig of Winchester
Virginia and it was documented in newspapers of the time that the church
received a fresh coat of paint in 1877 as well a timber frame bell tower was
added to the grounds in approximately 1880 which served the church until a
year or two after completion of the 1896 church renovations which added a new
stone bell tower to the southeast corner of the church new frescoes were added
for the Christmas of 1881 and a new pipe organ was installed in 1882 in 1890 an
earlier Bell weighing 400 pounds was replaced with a new bell that weighed
1400 pounds the new Bell made by the McShane firm of Baltimore was three feet
six inches tall and cost four hundred and thirty dollars the last mass service
in the original church building was held on July 2nd of 1896 and the structure
was then replaced by the current neo-gothic structure built with granite
walls and redstone trim those materials though were not native to the Harpers
Ferry area they were actually brought in for this project the granite was
obtained from a Loudoun County Virginia and the sandstone from Seneca Maryland
the main construction contract for this was awarded to mr. Witt row of
Charleston and the brickwork to george Armentrout of Charlestown William
Phillips sons handled the finishing work including the wood trim door frames
window frames and sashes the entire construction project overall cost about
twelve thousand dollars this renovation enlarged the church’s footprint to 39
feet in width 90 feet in length the Piazza on the
front side of the church was enlarged and the front facade of the church with
a new recessed portico who has built several feet further west the central
steeple was replaced with a larger bell tower that was located at the southeast
corner of the new front facade an original lean-to of brick on the west
end of the church was similarly replaced with a cut stone ask heating stoves were
replaced with a central heating system and a slate roof was also added in this
renovation though it has since been replaced with roof composite shingles
unfortunately due to the reduced size of its congregation regular services at st.
Peters were curtailed in 1995 as part of a reorganization and revitalization plan
of the Diocese of Wheeling Charleston this plan called for the preservation of
st. Peter’s Church in view of its historical significance with the
anticipation of occasional liturgical celebrations that would be held there
each year st. Peter’s does remain open to the public today and receives
hundreds of thousands of visitors each year many of whom come to tour the
surrounding Harpers Ferry National Historic Park alright so hey another job great job on
the history by the way thank you dear so yeah we kind of started out hitting
locations at Harpers Ferry with the church because that’s really where it
kind of like began for us we did do the ghost tour in Harpers Ferry and like I
said it starts at the church so we parked right well first of all we
thought that we could walk down to it from where we were staying yes because
there was supposed to be a path yeah so I did specifically picked that location
where we were staying because we want to do the ghost tour and it’s like oh yeah
just walk right down the road well it don’t know that don’t work that way
because it’s like yeah you walk down this road and then you gotta climb down
this hill and then yeah wasn’t gonna happen so we drove
around we’re not very athletic you know or not you know those of you in the
hiking community yeah we’re not one so we drove around a
parking and downtown Harpers Ferry is virtually non-existent so we called and
they said yeah you could perk down at the train station
well we drove down in the train station was actually farther than what we were
staying so we kind of perked in parking lot at the church and I guess you’re not
supposed to park there yes we did anyways there’s like five parking spaces
there yeah there was nothing going on that night we were there so they said
that if something was going on the car could be towed but there was nothing
going on so yeah is what it is but yeah so the ghosts were started right there
in the beginning of the church or the the archway of the church which is well
one of the claims lore but which by the way for the paranormal claims and stuff
we did the ghost stories in folklore for st. Peter’s Church and I’ll put a link
to that right here ding that covers two of the claims that are there one of them
being that archway where the ghost tour begins have some claims there people
seeing glowing lights and hearing yeah right on right inside the like portico
yeah basically yeah of the church right it as you go up those couple of stairs
that’s where they do sit you and give you the rules and the lay of the land
for the tour and so the claims there at that spot is the parks way some you know
people report late at night that it glows there’s a glowing or an orb or
something and also they either here or record the
EVP of a soldier saying thank God I’m saved
because there was a soldier that was carried across the threshold and he died
unfortunately right there so those are the two claims that were
we’re hope we found some more and then we found some other stuff Mary and that
kind of like debunked them so we’re not putting those and but you’ll find more
out there the second one is of a priest now you found something different than
what I found for the ghost stories and folklore you found that the priest is
reading a book yes that he’s walking along the path reading a book which
would probably be a Bible you know which would be my estimation it’s kind of
interesting because like in the history you mentioned that father Costello
walked down from the church which would it be that path down to give last rites
so what if that’s like a residual of seeing him gathering him stuff you know
you always see that with with ministers and priests and stuff before they’re
getting ready to do something they’re kind of making sure they have the right
stuff and they’re on the right page right you know it’s a theory mm-hmm hey
let us know your thing if you watch the ghost stories of folklore just listen to
the history what’s your theory leave it in the comments because that kind of
this is what we love doing is piecing these things together that could be him
it’s possible but yes even during the ghost tour when they tell you okay you
know they sometimes would see you know a person walking down here
they think he’s dressed in you know priestly garbs you automatically at
least I did thought oh let’s father Costello yeah you know but this would
you know tie it a little bit more closely together yeah pretty amazing
that the building survived all those battles mm-hmm you know and if he would
have went back to Ireland right he was from he was born in Ireland
mm-hm and funny enough I don’t know if you found this in your research but he
was born the same year that the original Church here was built 1833
he was yeah I did see that because in the ghost stories and folklore I put his
birthday yeah so I found it interesting that you know he was brought to that
church but you mentioned in the history that he got I don’t know who you call it
orders or whatever but he got he’s something to go back to Ireland because
of the ability the invitation invitation yeah they decided to stay there and
protect the church sorry yeah see what I left probably wouldn’t been there
because there’s photos and I think put them in the history and everywhere of
all the buildings and trees and everything like all right around
churches like gone yeah but the church is there yeah so he saved
that structure yes that’s what they they attributed to is that he was you know
very instrumental in flying the flag and making sure that you know everybody
decided hey this is probably not the building to do that to and and it’s the
only Church by the way in Harpers Ferry that did withstand the battles yeah all
of the other churches did succumb to the Battle Damage so like I said this is
like the first location in Harpers Ferry we have several others that have
paranormal claims like Jefferson’s Rock or that path Lee well I think it’s the
path leading the Jefferson’s rock there’s claims there the wax museum you
know for those of you watched the paranormal shows like paranormal
lockdown they talked about the James Brown Wax Museum
what’s a paranormal lockdown or was it the special that they did on
Shepherdstown was it called paranormal lockdown for that one you’re right
superstone special for Harpers Ferry yeah it was it’s the same people but I
think it was a different like brand being on the show yeah actually we were
there the weekend that that air yes we were there and I we didn’t do that all
they called purpose but that was kind of interesting because we were scurrying
while we were traveling to try to get it on the internet or something
to launch it right yeah I remember that so there’s other locations too so expect
them to come out about Harpers Ferry and we’ll probably have to do something to
talk about Harpers Ferry itself you know but there’s that whole place is just
like another Gettysburg well it’s not as bad it’s not but yeah it’s not as a lot
of battles there’s a lot of places in the town that have paranormal claims but
I don’t think that the energy is like Gettysburg I mean the idea of so many
locations in one area being having haunted claims yes but as far as the
energy goes I didn’t really well we don’t really get to investigate that
much you know you had the recorders and stuff running during the ghost tour but
we didn’t really get a chance to like spend time because it is touristy number
one it’s like a tourist place but number two it’s a national park right that’s
what I was gonna say it’s a national park and they don’t almost all the
buildings there are owned by the National Park Service and they are not
into promoting the paranormal so you’re not really allowed in any of those
buildings for investigations or anything like that so in fact when we did this
location on the be on edge radio we did like the whole town we did and that’s
one thing that I mentioned because we were looking everywhere we go we do the
Ghost Tours and do things like that we always look for books or media or
something like that to take with us and bring back that’s why we have a whole
library book yeah you don’t see the library over there yeah and I was you
know asking is there any you know books whatever there is a bookstore and then
we go into the bookstore and I started asking her out no no no they don’t have
that kinda stuff that’s our national National Park Service National Park
Service doesn’t does it alright so yeah I guess they didn’t meet
the ones that work down and saying all this thing or other places but I know
write it that is something that interests me is that sometimes they they
do accept it and they they have books in their national park
it’s go silly bookstores but in some other towns they’re like yeah no oh well
such is life well did you have any experiences at the church because we’re
only talking about the driver right um well we didn’t go actually into the
church which I would have liked to believe there’s day tours and I wasn’t
aware of that what could have done that okay so the church was not open while we
were there motorized wheelchair but go ahead so we didn’t go into the church so
I didn’t really get the feeling inside the church inside the portico anything
like that to actually get the ability to even try to encounter the spirits that
are supposed to be there but we were outside and along the path on the side
of the church when it’s but it’s like up the hill
I think it’s video clips or maybe it goes towards it go stories and folklore
some of the pictures that path is actually the Appalachian Trail and from
downtown there’s steps that go up to the church from downtown
that’s a hike yeah that is a hike you have to be in shape you definitely do
yeah but along that path there is is where they say that they have seen the
apparition of the man with the Bible or or the book and we walked up that a
couple of times for the tour when we went up to Jefferson Rock and also the
car when we went to our location and when the tour was over afterwards in
the dark you know walking up there there’s no like streetlights up there
and it wasn’t like an eerie feeling or anything scary but you definitely felt a
difference than it did earlier in the day yeah definitely so I was a little bit off and that’s another
thing too is that tour was over it was dark out and since it’s like a national
park well they kind of where we stayed was a
national park and it’s kind of like an outdoor museum so this big it was like 8
o’clock the whole place just like shut down like there was nobody you know all
the workers left and although everybody left and it was just eerie yeah like
literally the whole town was empty yeah so as except for except for the group of
us it was roaming around on the ghost store but then once we dispersed it was
like okay we’re literally couldn’t it be the only people in this town yeah it’s
almost as if they weren’t there then that path to that you’re talking about
it was almost kind of like a parking lot path but we had to drive because that
would we park that was like a one-way thing that went down that path so when
we left need to go down past the church and in turn past Harper’s house what’s
the name of that Wagar house the Waker house and I thought was Harper’s house
well he owned all the property and passed it on to the weygers um but and
then drive by those to get down the street that go all the way up and in
turn and come back up the hill again and it was quite interesting mm-hmm that’s
definitely yeah so we really didn’t get to do any recordings or anything there
but we did we did some but nothing like well see this is one of them places too
we weren’t aware yet we weren’t aware so now Pera peeps I’m telling you we’re
telling you of these claims and if you ever go to Harpers Ferry you know go
down to Walmart it’s like 35 bucks you get a little digital recorder and we
waited at that church for about an hour okay we got there early they say to get
there early so we got there early yeah we were there by ourselves we could
right there on the steps where there’s paranormal claim but I didn’t know that
we didn’t tell her yeah so that’s usually why we go on the ghost tours
when we go to these locations is because we don’t know what the paranormal claims
are in the town and this is how we find them out yeah so so I think what we need
to do when we go traveling you know just in hindsight in Tony’s videos and going
over all the stuff we need two nights yeah two nights like the first night
we’re there in a new area ghost tour yeah okay
then the next day that’s what we did in Key West yes we did the ghost tour to
learn all the spots and then the next day before we left we went back and hit
on yeah let’s see we were not really thinking at least I wasn’t thinking that
it would be as haunted in the town as it was I thought that it we were gonna go
do a couple historical buildings go through you know and then oh by the way
there was a ghost tour I didn’t really think there was gonna be that much that
we would have to go back to him so we didn’t really leave ourselves enough
time from Harpers Ferry it was just a stopping spot on another journey yeah
so just Harpers Ferry along and I’ll let it go because we’re talking about the
church you got one two three four five six I think seven or eight different
locations that’s in Harpers Ferry I would say that it’s at least that yeah
easy easy and some of these I don’t know how we’re gonna do these you know we
stretch to help the church you know this week I don’t know if we should group
them together hey you let us know you’re a pair piece why do you want us to do it
do you want us to group together the rest of Harpers Ferry for one week of
our shows in the future or do you want them all to be individually leave your
comments down below let us know we can do it either way yeah
we’ve done it together as you mentioned for our Haunted spotlight on beyond the
edge radio so it clearly can be done we’ll just have to squish a few more
things in there not a problem are we gonna do them individually and
dig up some more dirt speaking of dirt oh speaking of dirt
speaking of dirt the church actually doesn’t have much dirt they don’t on a
rock the exactly they tried to do an archaeological dig they actually did do
an archaeological dig there and they found that it’s only you know about a
foot deep in dirt in that area and then it’s literally a rock ledge yeah and
even down inside of the basement of the Foundation’s that Hill it has it has
part of the rock in invading no that’s a funny thing that you should mention that
because now let’s think about this all these older structures that we’ve been
to that are still standing Stanley Hotel that’s the same way to this the mill
laymen’s mill there’s been several buildings that we’ve been to that are
still standing from you know to almost 200 year old buildings it’s not older
that have rock in the basement which by the way is another conduit
it’s limestone which in most cases it is around us the conduit so we’ve been
neglecting this in the last couple location videos so let’s put it here why
that’s a given but why do you think this location is haunted
well it’s surprising that they bring that up because even as some of our our
para peeps have said it’s a church why is it haunted isn’t that supposed to
like protect against hauntings but as you had mentioned
or Boris had mentioned Joe hope English Morris had mentioned in the ghost
stories and folklore it just protects against evil spirits it doesn’t hollow
ground is protection against evil spirits right and so for this specific
location yeah for this specific location I think it has a lot to do with the
energy of all the things that went on there it was used as a field hospital
just the idea of trying to protect it in the middle of all these skirmishes just
all of that tied together with the fact that it’s perched up there on the top of
this hill on the hillside with flowing limestone I just and what else is around
it oh yes the river two rivers yeah
converge which makes this right there their prosperity you got all that
running water mm-hmm for that energy yeah everything’s coming together for
the perfect one thing mm-hmm so I wonder that whole place you just
can’t go there and like to see them great yeah
okay well do you have anything else you would like to add for this location dear
no I think I I think that that’s good for now alrighty hey until next time
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