National Civil War parks usually don’t discuss theft from battlefields for fear it will encourage more of the same. However, the most recent post on the blog of the Gettysburg National Military Park has changed that by publicizing the theft of rocks because those illegal souvenirs may be cursed.
The boxes of rocks have shown up in the mail for many years according to a park official. The blog says the packages are usually addressed just to the park without any department or person noted. There is rarely a return address. Sometimes a note is enclosed.
Two of those notes were included in the blog, both of them claiming lives had been ruined because of a long-ago visit to Gettysburg and what was then considered an innocent picking up of a stone or two.
Two months ago, an unnamed man returned three small stones that he and his wife had picked up 10 or 11 years ago. Fairly quickly after that visit, he said, “our lives fell apart. My wife took my son and walked out on me. I lost my house and [the] majority of what I owned and ended up in jail for nine years. My now ex-wife has fared no better. She has been plagued with health problems and other issues.”
He goes on to say that after he was released from prison, he searched through boxes of his belonging his mother had saved for him. That was where he found the three souvenirs from Gettysburg. He recalled reading somewhere that they were cursed. “I’m sorry that we had taken them,” he wrote.
Another letter, sent to the park in June 2015, told a similar story. The writer had also suffered some personal setbacks after taking a small stone from the battlefield. He acknowledged that he knew at the time it was the wrong thing to do. “Since then I have had nothing but horrible times, injured on the job, several surgeries, relationship failures, etc. Perhaps coincidental, maybe, but I’m returning this small stone and twig.”
In the conclusion of his handwritten letter, the man asked that the two items be returned to Devil’s Den where he had found them.
The blog’s writer, Park Ranger Maria Brady, reminds readers that it is indeed a federal violation to take anything from the battlefield. “If these individuals had been caught in the act, they would have been cited and fined $100 plus a $30 processing fee,” she wrote. “All in all, they may have preferred that.”