Fredericksburg Haunts


THE GARDEN behind the home of Annette Sultemeier, right, is where Capt. James P. Waldrip is believed to be buried. Sultemeier’s father teased his children that he had resurrected Waldrip’s ghost to keep the kids in line. — Photo by Christine Granados

By Christine Granados —

What do a walk in one of Fredericksburg’s museums, lunch at a local restaurant, and backyard gardening have common?

Ghosts.

What better time to talk ghosts, hauntings and spirits than Halloween. While Fredericksburgers go about their day working, shopping, eating and living, unbeknownst, and known, to some, a myriad of unexplained phenomenon occur throughout town. People in Fredericksburg have reported footsteps, phantom images, loud noises, lights flickering and objects moving. These occurrences do not happen only during All Hallows Eve, but sporadically throughout the year.

There are three camps when it comes to these types of apparitions — the non-believers, believers and undecided.

Lifelong Fredericksburg resident John Sauer said, “Germans don’t believe in that stuff. About the only spirits you’ll find here in Fredericksburg are at the local wineries.”

Sauer, a Dallas Baptist University graduate, doesn’t believe because of scientific and religious reasons. He said if ghosts did indeed exist then all ghost stories would be consistent across cultures and they are not. He also cited a Harvard University study that was conducted which explained the noises people hear and misinterpret as ghosts.

“(The study showed that) there are certain frequencies humans pick up on that are the same sound an animal makes when they are injured,” Sauer said. “We are super alert to those sounds and we unconsciously pick up on them. The sounds can be (mimicked) by machinery or wind blowing through a narrow opening.”

The closest encounter Sauer said he has had with the supernatural came on his family farm. His family was among those who came to Fredericksburg by boat from Germany with John O. Meusebach.

“I had to go to our field to turn off the water for the cows. It was at night and I saw a white thing flying across the field for about five seconds,” he said. “I thought it was a ghost but it turns out it was a bag stuck on the fence.”

He inferred that there was an explanation for the things people mistake for ghosts or hauntings.

“I think a lot of times, our imagination gets the best of us,” Sauer said. “A lot of people are afraid of what is going on for us in the great beyond and ghost stories make people feel better about it.”

The Rev. Jeff Hammond of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church said clergy oftentimes are privy to people telling them stories about supernatural experiences.

“We are receptacles for a lot those stories,” he said. “People tell us about mystical encounters with people who have died because they want validation of those encounters. It’s a primal thing. People need to seek out something greater than themselves, something beyond the material world. Who are we to say that these things are not real? I think it’s common to have those kinds of feelings. Some people believe that these things cannot co-exist with our rationality. However, I think it is pretty common. I tend to doubt people who say they have never experienced anything spiritual or mystical.”

A Gallup Poll conducted in 2005 showed that one in four Americans hold at least one paranormal belief. The most popular is extrasensory perception (ESP) mentioned by 41 percent of the people surveyed followed by belief in haunted houses (37 percent), and ghosts — that spirits of dead people can come back in certain places and situations — at 32 percent.

Fredericksburg residents seem to mirror that trend.

When taken into consideration that the word ghost is derived from the German word geist and the two German brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, collected some of the earliest paranormal stories in literature, it is safe to assume that Fredericksburg has its share of otherworldly encounters.

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