Phantom Armies

Throughout history, in many different countries, there have been stories of phantom armies haunting battlefield sites. For example, in 490 B.C. a battle was fought near Athens, Greece, between the Athenians and the Persians, and for years thereafter, visitors to the site would hear the sounds of the battle and/or see the ghosts of the warriors who had fought there. In most cases reports of phantom armies occur in the first few months or years after a battle has taken place. Sometimes, however, they occur many years later. One such case was investigated by the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) in 1950 after a woman in Scotland reported seeing ghostly figures in tights and tunics, carrying torches, searching the ground in a field.

Eventually the SPR discovered that the site had been the location of a battle in A.D. 685 between Scottish Picts and Northumbrians; after the battle the Picts, who won the battle after killing the king of Northumbria, searched the area for their dead. Similarly, over a decade after World War II ended, people on a South Pacific island where Allied and Japanese forces battled in 1944 would see the ghost of a Japanese soldier manning the remnants of a Japanese antiaircraft gun every night at midnight.

People who believe that such sightings are real have theorized that witnesses are experiencing retrocognition, an ability to see images from the past. Others have suggested that the traumatic nature of warfare causes people who have died during a battle to leave “psychic residue” of themselves at the site of their deaths, and this residue is responsible for the images. Sceptics, however, say that such images are hallucinations or fantasies.



The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning

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