Ghost stories aren’t scarce within the armed forces, with some of the most haunted places in the world being military installations and battlefields. These stories typically have a pretty direct tie-in to the military itself, like the WWII ghost soldier at Gate 3 at Kadena Air Base, or room 4714 at West Point, home to a Civil War musket wielding apparition. This story is a little bit more lore-based but, in so many words, was actually acknowledged by the U.S. Army in 2012. For this one, we’re heading to Germany.
Freihung, Germany is a 17-square-mile municipality in Bavaria and sits just 10 miles east of Grafenwoehr Training Area. Grafenwoehr, established in 1907, was initially used to train the III Royal Bavarian Corps before and during WWI. It was expanded and utilized by Nazi Germany’s Wehrmacht from 1935-1945 and, following WWII, became occupied by the U.S. Army. It remains the largest NATO training facility in Europe and is home to the 7th Army Training Command.
Now, back to the ghost…
The narrative passed down by locals is that during the Middle Ages, a castle stood in the center of Freihung, and the owner of that castle, a noblewoman, died a tragic death. The nature of her death seems to be open to interpretation–and embellishment–but the name she was given is consistent, and may be familiar to ghost story enthusiasts: Die Weisse Frau or “The White Lady.”
Almost every country has their own version of “The White Lady.” While the identity of Freihung’s entity seems to be wrapped in anonymity, Germany’s first recorded sightings of Die Weisse Frau are as early as 1625. Over the years, several names have been tied to specific sightings or locations. By and large, White Lady stories usually involve seeing a female apparition, typically very pale and wearing a white dress, accompanied by a tragic backstory. Some have been said to be mourning the loss of a husband or child, victims of homicide or suicide, or maybe a casualty of a very dramatic, yet accidental death. While most legends portray White Ladies as sad, lost souls, harmless and full of unrequited love, some have been said to be vengeful spirits, sticking around to bring harm to those who cross their paths.
The White Lady of Freihung was said to haunt the castle and its grounds following her death. It’s unclear what happened to this castle, but the place where it is said to have stood is now home to another favorite location for the paranormal–a hotel. Gasthaus Alte Post was built on top of underground mining tunnels, which they used in one way or another for some time. That was, of course, until Die Weisse Frau became more active, and by some accounts, more aggressive.
What do you do when you’ve got a ghost causing trouble? Call in the Army, of course. By the 1970s, the owners of the hotel were looking for a better solution for their supernatural struggles, so they decided to do the only thing they could think of: blow up the tunnels. U.S. troops from nearby Grafenwoehr were called in, and used explosives to collapse and effectively seal off all of the tunnels beneath the hotel. Why American military was called in over German troops, or even a civilian demolition team, remains a mystery. In fact, any additional details regarding this event are hard to track down, but a 2012 write-up by Molly Hayden from Grafenwoehr Public Affairs, available on the Army’s website, seems to at the very least confirm that it happened.
Unfortunately for guests of Gasthaus Alte Post, and anyone visiting the area, Die Weisse Frau was apparently impervious to high-power explosives. She has been said to still wander the streets in the center of Freihung, and give those driving through the area a good scare by showing up in their rearview mirror or sitting in their back seat.
For skeptics and non-believers, the repetition of The White Lady throughout history may be explained away as a simple, yet effective, storytelling device. The idea of a tortured soul seemingly stuck at the place of their death makes for a great plot, but for believers, it may be a sign of what can happen when you die with unfinished business. At the very least, reading another story about paranormal events so impactful that they warranted military action, makes me think twice before I’ll write off the next story someone tells around a campfire.
Feature photo of Grafenwoehr Training Area courtesy of U.S. Army