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George Washington and a World of Weirdness

The American political leader, military general, statesman known as George Washington perhaps needs no introduction. As a Founding Father and the first president of the United States and major player in the victory of the Patriots during the War for Independence, as well as instrumental in the creation of the U.S. Constitution, he is one of the most instantly recognizable figures in history, called the Father of His Country, and considered to be one of the greatest American presidents who ever lived. Yet, despite his legendary status, Washington was not above having some very weird paranormal experiences.

A lot of the weird incidents we will look at here supposedly occurred at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, during the Revolutionary War, where in 1777 Washington was serving as a commander of a weary and worn army of addled, battle beaten troops during a frigid winter. During this time Washington allegedly dictated to one of his officers about how he sometimes consorted with what he called the “Greenskins,” which who were described as somewhat short warriors with green skin that would come to him from the trees some evenings to speak with him. Washington related that these green skinned warriors lived in the wilderness within a great glowing orb that would move from place to place or even hover at times. These mysterious strangers would apparently give Washington all manner of tactical information on the enemy and advice on how to approach battles, and he purportedly credited them with being very insightful and instrumental to victory.

George Washington

Who were these Greenskins? It has been suggested that Washington at the time likely thought them to be merely an exotic tribe of Indians wearing green war paint, their home an animal skin tent that looked round from a distance and merely glowed from the firelight within, yet in later years it has been speculated that these might have actually been extraterrestrials. Scottish historian Quentin Burde has claimed to have seen lost passages from Washington himself, from the daybook the general dictated to his military secretary practically every day, which also describe his interactions with the Greenskins and their glowing orb, and it seems that Washington often mentioned the orb being in different places or disappearing altogether. Burde has taken this to mean it was a possible UFO, saying:

The usual interpretation is that the glowing globe was a rounded lodge made of animal skins that glowed from the firelight inside. Until now, historians have assumed Washington was referring to a tribe that used green war paint. He (Washington) probably thought he was talking with an extremely talented Indian war chief, or a medicine man with powers bordering on the magical. But it also is strange that sometimes the globe is behind Washington’s headquarters and sometimes it’s not. An Indian lodge is either there or it’s not. This thing came and went, which is entirely consistent with a spacecraft that pays occasional visits. There are also references to a “hovering” and “disappearing” globe.

This has led Burde to believe that the globe was actually an alien spaceship and the Greenskins its occupants, perhaps giving Washington advanced strategies, advice, or even technology to help him win the fight. There are certainly records dictated by Washington that do mention the Greenskins, but what are they really? Were they aliens, or just strange looking Natives or even hallucinations? Was there some exaggeration thrown in here over the years or outright fabrication? No one really knows, and it is a strange little forgotten historical oddity that will probably remain a mystery for some time to come.

Also from the hell of Valley Forge is another much discussed alleged incident that may or may not be connected to the Greenskins. The story goes that Washington told some soldiers of encountering an “angel” in the woods who presented him with a prophetic vision of America. The story came from a man named Anthony Sherman, who would purportedly overhear it and later in life relate it to a reporter, and according to him Washington explained the encounter as follows:

I do not know whether it is due to the anxiety of my mind, or what, but this afternoon, as I was preparing a dispatch, something seemed to disturbed me. Looking up, I beheld, standing opposite me, a singularly beautiful being. So astonished was I, for I had given strict orders not to be disturbed, that it was some moments before I found language to inquire the cause of the visit. A second, a third, and even a fourth time did I repeat my question, but received no answer from my mysterious visitor, except a slight raising of the eyes. By this time I felt strange sensations spreading through me, and I would have risen, but the riveted gaze of the being before me rendered volition impossible. I assayed once more to speak, but my tongue had become useless, as though it had become paralyzed. A new influence, mysterious, potent, irresistible, took possession. All I could do was to gaze steadily, vacantly at my unknown visitor. Gradually the surrounding atmosphere seemed to become filled with sensations, and grew luminous. Everything about me seemed to rarefy, including the mysterious visitor.

 

I began to feel as one dying, or rather to experience the sensations which I have sometimes imagined accompany dissolution. I did not think, I did not reason, I did not move; all were alike impossible. I was only conscious of gazing fixedly, vacantly at my companion. Presently I heard a voice saying, ‘Son of the Republic, look and learn,’ while at the same time my visitor extended an arm eastwardly. I now beheld a heavy vapor at some distance rising fold upon fold. This gradually dissipated, and I looked out upon a strange scene. Before me lay spread out in one vast plain all the countries of the world — Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. I saw rolling and tossing between Europe and America the billows of the Atlantic, and between Asia and America lay the Pacific.

This angel would then allegedly show Washington a dream-like sequence of events depicting the future of the war and the country. During this vision, several other angels apparently appeared, including one that was “a dark, shadowy being,” and it all includes imagery simultaneously surreal and frightening. The account is very in-depth and eloquent, and here it is in its entirety:

‘Son of the Republic,’ said the same mysterious voice as before, ‘look and learn.’ At that moment I beheld a dark, shadowy being as an angel standing, or rather floating, in mid-air between Europe and America. Dipping water out of the ocean in the hollow of his hand, he cast some on Europe. Immediately a cloud raised from these countries, and joined in mid-ocean. For a while it remained stationary, and then moved slowly westward until it enveloped America in its murky folds. Sharp flashes of lightning gleamed through it at intervals, and I heard the smothered groans and cries of the American people. A second time the angel dipped water from the ocean and sprinkled it out as before. The dark cloud was then drawn back to the ocean, in whose billows it sank from view.

 

A third time I heard the mysterious voice saying, ‘Son of the Republic, look and learn.’ I cast my eyes upon America and beheld villages and towns and cities string up one after another until the whole land form the Atlantic to the Pacific was dotted with them. Again I heard the mysterious voice say, ‘Son of the Republic, the end of the century cometh; look and learn.’ And this time the dark, shadowy angel turned his face southward, and from Africa I saw an ill-omened specter approach our land. It flitted slowly over every town and city of the latter. The inhabitants presently set themselves in battle against each other. As I continued looking, I saw a bright angel, on whose brow rested a crown of light on which was traced the word ‘Union,’ bearing the American flag, which he placed between the divided nation. He said, ‘Remember, ye are brethren.’ Instantly the inhabitants, casting down their weapons, became friends once more, and united around the National Standard.

 

Again I heard the mysterious voice saying, ‘Son of the Republic, look and learn.’ At this the dark, shadowy angel placed a trumpet to his lips and blew three distinct blasts; and taking water from the ocean, he sprinkled it on Europe, Asia, and Africa. Then my eyes beheld a fearful scene. From each of these countries arose thick black clouds that were soon joined into one; and throughout this mass there gleamed a dark red light be which I saw hordes of armed men, who, moving with the cloud, marched by land and sailed by sea to America, which country was enveloped in the volume of cloud. And I dimly saw these vast armies devastate the whole country and burn the villages, towns, and cities that I had beheld springing up.

 

As my ears listened to the thundering of the cannon, the slashing of swords, and the shouts and cries of millions in mortal combat, I again heard the mysterious voice saying, ‘Son of the Republic, look and learn.’ When the voice had ceased, the dark angel placed his trumpet once more to his mouth and blew a long and fearful blast. “Instantly a light as of a thousand suns shown down from above me, and pierced and broke into fragments the dark cloud which enveloped America. At the same moment the angel upon whose head still shown the word ‘Union’ and who bore our national flag in one hand and a sword in the other descended from the heavens attended by legions of white spirits. These immediately joined the inhabitants of America, who I perceived were well-nigh overcome, but who, immediately taking courage again, closed up their broken ranks and renewed the battle. Again, amid the fearful noise of the conflict I heard the mysterious voice saying, ‘Son of the Republic, look and learn.’ As the voice ceased, the shadowy angel for the last time dipped water from the ocean and sprinkled it upon America. Instantly the dark cloud rolled back, together with the armies it had brought, leaving the inhabitants of the land victorious.

 

Then once more, I beheld the villages, towns, and cities springing up where I’d seen them before, while the bright angel, planting the azure standard he had brought in the midst of them, cried with a loud voice: ‘While the stars remain, and the heavens send down dew upon the earth, so long shall the Union last.’ And taking from his brow the crown on which blazoned the word ‘Union,’ he placed it upon the standard while the people, kneeling down, said ‘Amen.’”

Washington then allegedly told of the vision dissipating to leave him standing there looking at his mysterious visitor. This “angel” would then approach him and tell him the interpretation of what he had just witnessed, saying, “Son of the Republic, what you have seen is thus interpreted. Three great perils will come upon the Republic. The most fearful is the third, but in this greatest conflict the whole world united shall not prevail against her. Let every child of the Republic learn to live for his God, his land, and the Union.’” After this, the entity vanished into thin air to leave Washington standing there in bafflement. It is all a great story, and has been claimed to be a true and correct account, but it also has been argued as being a likely hoax.

The main problem with “Washington’s Vision” is that the story was first published in an article in June of 1861, many years after the supposed events, in the Philadelphia Inquirer, followed by the Pittsfield Gazette, the New Hampshire Sentinel, and a Civil War Union periodical called The Soldier’s Casket. The article was written by a journalist by the name of Wesley Bradshaw, who claimed to have spoken directly to Sherman about the account. However, this was found to be a pseudonym for a journalist named Charles Wesley Alexander, who would turn out had written many fictionalized stories under the Bradshaw name using historical figures as propaganda and to boost troop morale, so in this case it seems likely the Washington story was meant to be an allegory for the Civil War and thus was a completely fictional account. “Bradshaw” had written very similar stories starring Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Ulysses S. Grant, and other big names, all of which were fictional, and this casts some serious doubt on whether the account with Washington was based on any real events. It seems very likely that it was a fictionalized piece of Patriotic propaganda that got printed as being real, and over the years through countless reprintings sort of took on a life of its own, with any lines between fantasy and reality blurring to the point that it became accepted as a real historical account. Of course it is impossible to know for sure, and we are left to ask, did Washington meet an angel on the battlefield? It seems probably not, but it is still a damn entertaining tale all the same.

One of the weirder tales involving George Washington happened not during his life, but rather after his death. Washington’s demise began in 1799, when he came down with a sore throat and fever. His condition worsened, and there were several efforts to cure him via the practice of bloodletting, which entailed draining large amounts of blood in order to get the disease out of the system. It didn’t work, and he died shortly after. Yet, he was not buried right away. You see, Washington had always harbored a deathly fear of being buried alive, and so before he died he stated that after his death his body was to be kept around for three days in order to be sure that he had truly shucked his mortal coil. In accordance to his wishes, after his death Washington’s body was put on ice, and this is where a physician, architect, and family friend William Thornton, comes into the picture.

Thornton was convinced that he knew of a way that could bring people back to life if they had not been dead long, and seeing as how George Washington’s corpse was still fresh and on ice he saw a chance to test his theories out. Thornton came to Washington’s wife, Martha, and outlined his bonkers plan. He explained that the first step was to warm the body up and rub it with blankets to stimulate circulation, after which it was to be injected with the blood of a lamb in order to give a “spark of vitality.” Lamb’s blood had long been considered to have special restorative properties, and Thornton seemed to view it as the key to reviving the dead. After this infusion of lamb’s blood, Thornton wanted to perform a tracheotomy and pump the dead president’s lungs with a bellows, after which the doctor was confident that Washington would awaken as if he had just taken a nap. All he needed to begin was Martha’s permission, which was denied, leaving us to wonder what would have happened if it had been granted. Washington would be put in into the family vault after the three days had passed, still very much dead.

These are all certainly odd stories, orbiting one of the most famous Americans who ever lived. Yet they have been mostly lost to history and fallen through the cracks, taking back seat to Washington’s more historical feats and activities. What are we to make of these stories? How much truth do any of them hold? Are they real instances of a legendary figure encountering the unknown, or are they just stories that have sprouted up over the years? They certainly put a different spin on this beloved figure of history, and whether true or not they are certainly strange and entertaining at the very least.