SOUTHWEST PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia is known for its rich history in Old City, but there is also an historically significant fort near the airport that dates to the Revolutionary War. Just in time for Halloween, a longtime tour guide is providing not only the history of the site, but the ghost stories too.
Michael Kalichak served in the Navy during the Vietnam War, but for the last 20 years he's been sharing the history of much earlier American conflicts as a tour guide at Fort Mifflin on the Delaware in Southwest Philadelphia.
"I represent somebody from the militia," said Kalichak. He wears a period costume while working at the fort and giving tours.
"I've been a Civil War buff since I was 13 and getting a job here, it was just a matter of learning history of a different war, the Revolutionary War," he explained.
And the fort's role was indeed revolutionary in the course of American history, even though it was built by the British.
According to Kalichak, the fort was designed to protect the city of Philadelphia and is now known as "the fort that saved America."
"There was a battle here in October and November of 1777," he said. This battle kept the British busy at Fort Mifflin, buying time for the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, General George Washington.
"We delayed them enough so Washington could actually escape to Valley Forge," said Kalichak.
Beth Beatty, Executive Director of Fort Mifflin on the Delaware, says the fort played a role from the Revolutionary War through both world wars.
"The fort is a brick-and-mortar veteran of three centuries of service to the country," Beatty explained. "It was garrisoned for the War of 1812, a federal prison during the Civil War, ammunitions depot in the early 20th century."
Kalichak literally walks visitors through that history, showing where both ammunitions and people were housed. Visitors can tour the gunpowder magazine which was built in 1867 and the casemates where Confederate prisoners of war were held.
And on weekends in October, after the sun sets, Kalichak also gives candlelight ghost tours.
"These are group story-based tours. It's probably the most authentic Halloween experience in Philadelphia," said Beatty. "We just turn out the lights and tell true stories."
"Since the fort was a battlefield, it may be haunted," said Kalichak. "People have reported apparitions and they've reported strange occurrences here at Fort Mifflin."
Kalichak said he can attest to hearing his name called at the fort, even though no one else was around.
By providing living history interpretation through tour guides like Kalichak, Beatty says the history of Fort Mifflin on the Delaware becomes more accessible to visitors.
Kalichak enjoys getting to share his love of history with visitors of all ages.
"It's history come to life. I enjoy it. It's fun," he said.
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