Haunting tales of Civil War told

NILES — Mark Dawidziak and Sara Showman took people back to the Civil War era and into the paranormal Saturday with a ghostly performance.

The husband and wife duo, dressed in garb from the 19th century, told ghostly tales of the Civil War that included both Northern and Southern battlefield stories, as well as anecdotes about Abraham Lincoln haunting the White House and premonitions the president had about his assassination. The performance was interwoven with literary selections by Ambrose Bierce, Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman and a variety of songs and hymns.

The event at the National McKinley Birthplace Memorial was part of the memorial’s centennial celebration.

Dawadziak said the ghost stories are a way to get people more interested in history, which is why he and Showman are sure to include historical documents, songs and literature in their performances.

“We are sort of sneaking in history when we do this,” he said.

Showman said ghost stories immediately appeared during and after the Civil War.

“If something was going to be haunted, think of all the drama and conviction people had during that time,” she said. “And if you look at the pictures from the Civil War, the officers are so young.”

Dawadziak said it’s no wonder such stories took form, because the war was brutal and widespread.

“The sheer amount of death that touched every American was on such a massive scale,” he said. “No matter where you were, you were touched in some way by the Civil War. There were towns in Ohio where the entire young male population was killed off.”

Dawidziak said he’s never actually encountered a ghost in his travels to Civil War sites, but hauntings can be figurative and not just literal. As we head further into the 21st Century, the Civil War is still with us, he said.

“We are still haunted by the Civil War whether you believe in ghosts or not,” he said. “Ghosts are real, it just depends on what you think they are. Are they figments of our imagination? Are they actual surviving personalities? Or are they images left behind and imprinted? Whatever your theory is, the Civil War becomes a huge magnet for that.”