About half an hour to the south of Wilmington, in Delaware City, lies arguably the best haunt in the area. Actually, the haunted property is not in Delaware City; it is in Delaware City that you catch a ferry that traverses the Delaware River taking you to Fort Delaware located on Pea Patch Island. The 288-acre Fort Delaware State Park is home to Fort Delaware—a fort with a dark and haunted history.
In 1820, Pea Patch Island was acquired by the government of the United States to be used for military purposes. A large pentagonal fort was commissioned to be built on the island, and construction was complete in 1859. Features of the fort included: sections of walls that reached 32 feet in height; a moat that surrounded the fort, only passable by a single drawbridge; and the fort was outfitted with a dungeon—a dungeon that would see its share of activity in the years that followed its construction.
The fort is most famous for its use a Civil War prison; it was this very activity that has left it haunted by ghosts from the past. During its time as a prison, a cumulative total of nearly 33,000 POWs were incarcerated on the island; at one point, nearly 12,000 men were held at the same time, far outstripping the maximum capacity of the prison by 300%. Conditions were deplorable, and nearly 2,460 prisoners died along with 109 guards and 39 civilians. Despite the number of deaths that occurred, Fort Delaware was one of the more “survivable” Civil War prison camps with a mortality rate of “only” about 7.5%. Conditions were far worse in other prisons. Of the 28 prison camps operated by the Confederacy, the mortality rate among Union POWs was about 15.5%. Rebels imprisoned in the 24 Federal camps suffered mortality rates of about 12%.
The horrors of the Civil War prison have left behind restless spirits, residual hauntings, and all manner of paranormal activity on Pea Patch Island. Ghostly Confederate soldiers have been spotted trying to flee the site; this could be the residual effects of a failed escape attempt. In the dungeon, people report hearing moans and screams along with the sound of clanging chains. Cold spots are reported throughout the fort and apparitions are seen, and photographed, regularly. Orbs are also regularly photographed on the island. There have also been reports of ghostly pirates being spotted on the island. In one account, a state employee claimed to see the apparition of a pirate wearing a silk shirt and silk pants. It is said that before the island became home to a Civil War prison camp, pirates that were captured were held there.