The sad story of the Gettysburg Orphanage began when the body of a soldier was found on the Gettysburg battlefield tightly clutching a photo of his three young children. No clue to the mans identity could be found so the photo was printed in the Philedelphia Inquirer with an article and a headline that read, Whose father is he?
The article explained, A Union soldier was found in a secluded spot on the battle- field, where, wounded, he had laid himself down to die. In his hands, tighly clasped, was an ambrotype containing the portraits of his three small children… and as he silently gazed upon them his soul died. How touching! How solemn!… It is earnestly desired that all papers in the country will draw attention to the discovery of this picture and its attendant circumstance so that, if possible, the family of the dead hero may come into possession of it. Of what inestimable value will it be to these poor children, proving, as it does, that the last thought of their dying father was for them, and them only.
Soon the mans wife, Phelinda Humiston, saw the photo and came forward. The story generated such an outpouring of sympathy for her family that the proceeds allowed her to open an orphanage for the children of soldiers here in Gettysburg.
As a teacher and a caretaker, Phelinda helped to raise over sixty children from eleven different states, but eventually, though she loved her work, circumstances forced her to move away from the orphanage and leave the children in the care of a younger woman named Rosa Carmichaels. This was a big mistake, although there was no way Phelinda could have known it at the time. But Rosa was a merciless sadist who beat the children and tortured them, tying them up in the basement for days and even killing some of them.
The crimes were discovered after a runaway was caught and told of her experiences at the orphanage, which included being beaten by teenage boys who Rosa armed with sticks, and being tied to a fence in the hot sun until she suffered serious burns. Everything the little girl said was later found to be true as the house was investigated and found to be full of torture devices. The basement had even been converted into a dundgeon where children were shackled to the walls and left to die.
Soon the orphanage was closed and the building was left vacant until 1950 when it became a Civil War museum as well as a popular destination for after hours ghost tours. Today the shackles can still be seen in the basement and many of the other artifacts are on display from that time period. Not surprisingly visitors often claim to hear children crying or feel invisible hands tugging on their clothes. Many e.v.ps (elctronic voice phenomena) have been collected there as well.