Haunted National Parks: The Shadow Soldier
It wasn’t a dark and stormy night. It was the middle of the day and I was standing in a group of about 6 people, talking about the restoration project that returned this landscape to Civil War era appearances. But let me back up a bit and give you some background.
Personally, I had never seen an apparition or anything unusual with my eyesight. I’ve certainly heard spirits, both make noise in the physical world and inside my head. But I was in for a treat that warm fall day in Manassas National Battlefield park. I was visiting the Deep Cut area to view restoration work that had been completed there. The purpose of the project was to return the area to the landscape that would have been present during the Civil War, so that visitors could better understand the Battle of Second Manassas.
Battle of Second Manassas
“On the afternoon of Aug. 28, 1862, Confederate Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson ordered his troops to attack a Union column led by Gen. John Pope along Warrenton Turnpike, now Route 29. The battle, thought to be fought at a 50- to 80- yard distance, was waged on the open fields of Brawner Farm, north of Route 29. Two days later, the fight returned to the area of Deep Cut, just east of Brawner Farm on Featherbed Lane. Union troops were working their way up a hill, but Jackson's army and artillery fired down on them. Visitors finding a heavily wooded hill might find it hard to envision the six cannons that were pointed at the Union troops, Sutton said.” (The Washington Post, 2007)
Capture of Ricketts' Battery, painting by Sidney E. King, National Park Service.
A Shadow Solider Emerges
I stood facing the sloping hill on Deep Cut, where Confederate troops would have been positioned uphill to my left; the open battlefield downhill to my right. I was standing in a close circle of colleagues facing the hill, when I noticed a black figure about 30 feet behind the people directly across from me. The figure was pitch black and had sharp,distinct edges - a solid black silhouette of a Civil War soldier. The shadow figure walked carefully down the hillside, directly left to right across my field of vision. He passed behind the trees just 20 feet or so in front of me and then passed behind one tree on the far right of the stand of trees and didn’t emerge on the other side (see photo). Because I was with a group of coworkers, I couldn’t call out, take a photo, or otherwise react - all I could do was watch the shadow figure walk slowly across the battlefield. It felt almost as if time stood still, yet I could still hear the conversation going on in the group, see the tree branches move, and feel the warm breeze blowing. Still, it was both amazing and shocking to see this soldier so clearly and on such a bright and sunny afternoon.
Deep Cut Restoration Project, November 21, 2013 (Dr. Pollio, Personal photo)
Not Just a One Time Sighting
Curious about seeing this shadow figure, I decided to check in with a friend who is also a medium and who lives near the Battlefield. I asked her if she had ever seen something like this; to my surprise, she said she had. While driving with another friend, they both witnessed a black figure running across the highway - just as I had - black, crisp around the edges, and in a Civil War period uniform. They were so taken aback, her friend (the driver) slammed on the brakes, thinking she was going to hit something. My friend asked, “Do you see that?” and her friend replied, “Why do you think I’m braking?” It was at that moment they realized that both of them were seeing the shadow figure/apparition!
I also asked another colleague if he had ever seen anything like this while visiting Manassas National Battlefield. While he admitted that he hadn’t seen a shadow figure, he did have an unnerving paranormal experience there. I think I’ll save that story for another time.
Battlefields Are Typically High in Paranormal Activity
As many paranormal investigators are aware, battlefields are very busy areas for paranormal activity. Manassas National Battlefield Park is no exception. These are sites where many young men lost their lives, often under the most difficult of conditions. It is also hallowed ground and not a place to disrespect fallen soldiers. I would love to return and do an investigation there and plan to do so and share the results here.
This was an amazing experience I hope to have again someday - and I certainly hope you are lucky enough to experience it, as well.
I hope you join me on my next Haunted National Parks adventure!
Carol Pollio, Ph.D.
Director and Lead Investigator
Biography: Dr. Pollio has worked and lived in national parks since 1977, when she began her career at Gateway National Recreation Area. Her first experience with spirit was at that park, sparking her interest in and belief of the paranormal. Now retired, she is finally able to tell the many paranormal stories she has experienced and been told first hand as an insider in this incredible organization. Her own intuitive gift made itself known during her pre-teen years through a variety of experiences, including clairvoyance as primary, clairaudience, and clairsentience. Dr. Pollio put those experiences aside and chose instead to pursue a career in science, eventually obtaining her Ph.D. in Environmental Science and obtaining the rank of Captain (O-6) in the USCG Reserve. Dr. Pollio also served as a Professor in academia for more than 20 years. She now chooses to write about, investigate, and help others using her inherent psychic abilities. She currently serves as a member of Maryland Paranormal Research team and is the Director of Intuitive Investigations, LLC, serving Delaware, Maryland, and D.C. She currently lives in Milford, Delaware.
Disclaimer: National parks and refuges are federal property. This series does not approve nor give permission to anyone to enter national parks or refuges without any required permits or permissions. Many parks also include hallowed ground, such as battlefields, memorials, cemeteries, and sites of mass casualties. It is not this author’s intent to encourage unprofessional or unethical behavior on these sites or to suggest visiting them in any other manner than by legal and ethical means.
Manassas National Battlefield Park, Civil War Trust Partner for Landscape Restoration Project. September 4, 2014. Joint project is designed to enhance visitor experience to Deep Cut, minimize impact during implementation. Available online:
Recreating Battlefields Causes New Skirmishes. (C. Goodman). The Washington Post. August 5, 2007. Available online: