Fort Douglas ghost keeps on haunting

Tourists have asked about him. Lone curators have met him in the Fort Douglas Museum. Every year around Halloween, the museum hosts an event is his honor.

And he’s not even alive.

Clem, the resident ghost of the Fort Douglas Museum, has caused quite a stir in the museum over the last several years.

He has been the focus of investigations and will be the star of the museum’s “Who’s Our Ghost?” celebration on Saturday, curator Jay Nielson said.

“He appears in different places and disappears,” said Robert Voyles, the museum’s director.

Though some might doubt the existence of ghosts anywhere-let alone at the fort-Nielson and other staff members insist there is proof that the museum is haunted.

In a previous Chronicle article, former curator Jess McCall said he met Clem the ghost.

McCall said he was alone in the museum reading a book when he spotted someone out of the corner of his eye.

He dropped his book and saw a stocky man with very dark brown hair and a beard like Ulysses S. Grant’s wearing a post-Civil War five-button blue jacket.

“…his eyes got as big as saucers you might say,” McCall said in the article. “He darted to his left into the hallway.”

“I’ve heard sounds, but I’ve never seen him,” Nielson said.

Besides their own encounters, museum staff said there is other proof.

Last year, ghost hunters investigated the fort.

Nielson said the investigators took pictures of the cemetery that came back with orbs-the energy a ghost leaves behind-above the graves.

The investigators also placed recorders in the museum’s back room after hours.

Nielson said they recorded a little girl saying, “It’s dark in here.”

Other people are taking an interest in Fort Douglas’ ghosts.

Brian Fetzer, a U professor, is making a film on the museum’s hauntings. The film will be released in three months, Voyles said.

Nielson said Fort Douglas is the perfect environment for ghosts.

“There’s a lot of history up here,” he said.

Originally, the two buildings that make up the museum were barracks, built in the 1870s to improve housing.

According to Hibbard, several suicides probably occurred in one of the barracks.

“Desertion was common and violence was no stranger at Camp Douglas in the early days,” wrote museum historian Charles Hibbard in “A Dark Side of Fort Douglas.”

Lucius O’Brien, a hospital steward, was the fort’s first murder victim. Cpl. William Foster shot him on Jan. 29, 1869. The reason for the murder was not recorded.

“Suicide occurred more often than murder at thwe fort,” wrote Hibbard.

Pvt. Marshal Mitchell shot himself on Feb. 18, 1896. According to Hibbard, Mitchell left a note that said, “A pang is in all I feel, there is blight in all I see.”

Ordinance Sgt. August Lange hanged himself on Oct. 20, 1901.

He was about to retire due to a disability, but “apparently couldn’t face the change to civilian life,” wrote Hibbard.

Hibbard speculated that Clem is the ghost of John Jackson, a First Sergeant who was shot and killed on Aug. 11, 1899, by Pvt. William Carter.

“Carter had a bad reputation for violence and he resented it when Sgt.

Jackson ordered him to curry [groom] his horse,” wrote Hibbard.

Carter shot Jackson in the barracks then fled to a ravine near 1300 East and South Temple.

Ninth Cavalry troopers shot Carter in the ravine.

Judging by his fondness for the museum, Clem was probably one of those residing in the barracks, McCall said in The Chronicle article.

To hear these and McCall’s ghost stories, students can drop by the museum between 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Saturday. Fetzer will also be there to sing ghost songs.

“They have all the good stories,” said Voyles.

For more information, call the museum at 581-1251.

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