Another grad reports on The Ghost of the 47th Division
Part 1 - West Point, June 1991
As a member of the USMA Class of 1951, I was assigned to Company L, 2nd Regiment. I lived for 4 years in the 47th Division. (That was in a part of the cadet barracks that was then called the New North Barracks, but which is now called the Old North Barracks. I know the feeling.) [Ed. Note. Believe these are now called Scott Barracks.]
In June 1991 I attended a Symposium at West Point. After lunch in the Cadet Mess Hall one day, Art Deverill, Class of 1952, also of Company L-2, and I walked over to our old barracks. We were greeted by a First Classman who took us on a short tour of our old home - the 47th Division.
As we entered the barracks, I noticed that the first room on our left (Room 4714) was not set up as a cadet room. I am sorry to say that I cannot recall exactly how it was arranged. It was sealed off or empty; possibly used as a storeroom. In any event, it was so obviously different I asked our cadet host what the story was. He exclaimed "You haven't heard about the Ghost of the 47th Division?"
When Art and I said that we had never heard of the ghost, the cadet told us about occupants of that room having been awakened at night, terrorized by having ghosts sit on their chests, making it difficult to breathe and -- of course -- impossible to sleep! After an official investigation, the Tactical Department simply closed off the room. Apparently the room had been reopened on one or two occasions, but then -- after more nocturnal festivities -- closed again!
As we left the 47th, passing by the "'ghost room" again on our way out, the cadet told us that a member of the faculty had written a book about the ghost incidents called "Shades of Gray," and that the cadet book store had copies of it.
As it turned out, the book store was not only sold out, they told me that "Shades of Gray" was out of print. Oh, great! Ah! The library! I could check out a copy, since I was going to be at the Point for a couple more days. No luck -- they had three copies, but all were checked out! They were able to give me the information as to publisher, publication date,etc.
Part 2 - Los Angeles, 1991-3
When I returned to Los Angeles, I was too busy to do anything about it for awhile, but one day (in late summer, as I recall) I called the central offices of the Los Angeles Public Library to see if they had the book. They had it in the downtown library facility, and agreed to send it out to our local branch in Westchester.
The librarian who looked it up for me surprised me when she said it was in the fiction section. Since I had understood that the book was an account of events that I knew to be real -- I had seen the ghost room with my own eyes-- I was a bit taken back . Although I could not remember just how the room looked, I did know that the Department of the Army had thought enough of the facts of the case to close off a valuable piece of real estate! I knew there was more than fiction here!
Part 3 - "Shades of Gray"
When I got my hands on the book I could not put it down. Now, I seldom have time for fiction, and ghost stories would never be my choice if I did. But since I had a very personal interest in this story, I had plenty of motivation to start; and O'Niell's writing did the rest!
Part 4 - Interview with the Author
I prepared some notes and questions and called the author. I identified myself to LTC O'Neill, told him why I was calling, and then went through my notes.
LTC O'Neill told me that the book was based on an incident which took place in 1972. As part of his research, the author had conducted a "hypnotic interview" with a Major John "Somebody" (I did not get the name) who had been a cadet in 1972. LTC O'Neill's remarks indicated that the book contained a lot less factual information than I had believed to be the case. When I stated that I wanted to separate out the fact from the fiction he immediately replied "But it's fiction!"
I responded that there had to have been some factual basis for the Army to have closed off this very expensive real estate for an extended period of time, putting themselves in a position in which they could be criticized,and even ridiculed. He acknowledged this, and went on to say that the media (presumably the New York newspapers and perhaps TV) had indeed, had some fun at the Army's expense.
Part 5 - West Point, May 1993
On several occasions, I have the honor and the pleasure of being asked to present the Class of 1923 Award to the Outstanding swimmer in the Graduating Class. I often also attend the Alumni Dinner Dance, Parade, and Luncheon on Monday and Tuesday.
I have in the past put the two or three days between the Alumni activities and the Awards Convocation to good use -- in the Academic Building (talking with the Military History folks), the Cadet Book Store (overdosing on Military History books), the Library and the Archives (doing research), the competition pool (swimming slowly), and/or on the Shea Stadium track (running very slowly). And, of course, checking up on the Ghost.
In 1993 my 91-year old Dad announced that he was going to fly into Stewart Field for his class's 70th Reunion! Suffice to say, we had a great time. Then, as usual, I had a couple days to myself before making the Nepotism Class of 1923 presentation at the Awards Convocation on Friday. These two days gave me a chance to update my investigations of the paranormal! On my pilgrimage to the 47th Division I met a Cadet Ryan Edwards '96, Company G-4 who said that there were still cadets who claimed to see the ghost.
Part 6 - West Point, October 1996
When I went back for the Class of 1951's 45th Reunion I made my usual visit to the 47th Division. About the same setup; 4714 is a study room. I did meet a Cadet "Nehrenhem(?)" Company H-4, who stated that the ghost is still making appearances in the area (apparently in places other than Room 4714). He (or another of the cadets present) said that he had obtained permission to sleep in 4714. He encountered no ghost. I responded that, were I to sleep there, I would not see a ghost either. I think you have to be receptive to that sort of thing for anything to happen. Belief may not be sufficient, but it is necessary.
During our 45th Reunion, whenever I mentioned the ghost to some members of the Class of 1951 and/or their brides, I got requests for these notes.
Part 7 - June Week 1997
When I visited West point in May 1997 I tried to learn what I could from the Library special Collections, the Archives, and others on the Academy staff, concerning any official documents regarding the case. I collected quite a bit of media material; but was told there were no official records. Dr.Steve Grove, the West Point Historian, was quite pleasant and helpful. At the end, I wasn't sure what to believe; but decided there wasn't much point in continuing my investigation.
Part 8 - Notes December 1998
There were a few posts on the wp-forum (including a version of this set of notes) in early 1998 concerning ghosts at West Point. A couple of them (McGurk, '85, and Woods, '87) reconfirmed that the ghost is, for some at least, still "alive and well" on the Hudson.
My son, a current cadet, has encountered the ghost. I think they now call
him "The Crusher" or just plain "Crusher". He said he was awakened with
someone pressing firmly on his chest restricting his breathing. It is not
unusual that my son would encounter ghosts, as he is used to them. We live
in a ghost filled 150+ year old house and have our own.