Virginia State Capitol
1000 Bank Street
The mass of human beings who were in attendance were sent, mingled with the bricks, mortar, splinters, beams, iron bars, desks, and chairs to the floor of the House of Delegates and in a second more, over fifty souls were launched into eternity! —Richmond Dispatch, 28 April 1870
Under the headline “HORRIBLE CALAMITY” the Richmond Dispatch was admittedly at a loss of words for the events that had occurred at the state capitol the previous day. A mass of spectators had gathered in a second-floor courtroom to bring about an end to mayoral tensions in the city when the room seemingly disintegrated throwing the mass of humanity through the floor into the room below. The reporter who had been given the sad duty of reporting the events was taken aback in “palsied horror in the undertaking of the narration.” Continuing, he remarked, “To describe it would be beyond the power of man, and with those who witnessed it its recollection will remain indelibly vivid as long as life shall last.”
The city of Richmond, over the past decade had witnessed the heights of glory when it was named the capital of the Confederacy to the depths of despair as war waged around it. A portion of the city was left a smoking ruin after the war and the city had to endure the indignities of Reconstruction before self-rule was once again allowed. It was the issues of this self-rule that was the cause of this court session.
Under Reconstruction, the city’s mayor was appointed by the state’s Federal military commander. Appointed in 1868, George Chahoon immediately undertook a purge of former Confederates in the city government and stiffened many local ordinances, causing a good deal of consternation among the city’s citizens. When Reconstruction ended in the state in 1870, the new governor appointed newspaper publisher Henry K. Ellison as mayor. Chahoon and his supporters refused to leave office and with much of the loyalty of the police force, battled the forces of the new mayor and his acolytes.
The Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals undertook the case and was poised to announce the verdict on April 27th in the second-floor courtroom inside the state capitol building. Just after 11 AM, the clerk entered the packed courtroom with the two mayors and their counsels were already sitting along with reporters for all the city’s major papers. A piece of the ceiling fell into the courtroom followed by one of the girders supporting the spectator-laden gallery. As the gallery’s structure crashed into the floor, the room’s entire floor gave away sending those gathered and debris to the floor of the House of Delegates chamber below. “In a moment, a few survivors clinging to the windows and fragments of hanging timber, and the bare and torn walls were all that remained to mark the place where only a moment before there was a scene of life, vigor, and hope.”
Within the twisted rubble lay 62 dead or gravely wounded who would die from their injuries in short order and nearly 250 were injured. Among the casualties were Patrick Henry’s grandson and three members of the state’s General Assembly. The injured included both the men vying for mayor; Henry H. Wells, a former governor; and a former Confederate general, Montgomery Corse.
The cause of disaster was attributed to a poorly designed floor for the courtroom, which had been added to the building some years previous. The architect failed to provide proper support for the courtroom’s floor which had developed a noticeable sag. With the political turmoil brought about by the Civil War and Reconstruction, the sag was overlooked. After the disaster, consideration was made to demolish the capitol, though others decided to repair the noble Thomas Jefferson and Charles-Louis Clerisseau designed structure.
For many years since the disasters there have been murmurs of paranormal activity within the halls of the venerable state capitol. L.B. Taylor, Jr., the state’s major chronicler of its mysterious events, was the first author to note “some say the eerie cry of mournful voices, muted under tons of debris, can still be heard in the hallowed corridors of the Capitol.” Pamela K. Kinney echoes this description in her 2007 HauntedRichmond.
It wasn’t until the 2013 publication of Paul Hope’s Policing the Paranormal, that the Capitol’s haunting activity has enjoyed a detailed description. Hope, a former member of the Capitol’s police force, records the experiences of many of the force’s officers throughout the complex of buildings that comprise the Capitol complex. At least some of the activity experienced in the building centers on the Old House of Delegates Chamber, the room which witnessed the tragic events of 1870.
Only a few days into his training for the Capitol police force, Hope was assigned to work a graveyard shift along with one of the longtime officers. The nightly patrol of the building provided the young officer with his first brush with the odd activity of the Capitol at night. Entering the magnificent Rotunda occupied by Jean-Antoine Houdon’s marble likeness of George Washington, the pair made their entry into the Old House Chamber. Hope notes that the room had a constant mysterious chill, so much so that the doors of the room were sometimes opened to help cool the other parts of the building during the sweltering Southern summers.
Scanning the dark chamber with their flashlights, the training officer encouraged Hope to read the plaque memorializing the 1870 collapse. As the pair stood silently reading the plaque, Hope saw a dark shadow move and then disappear in the gallery above them. The other officer saw this as well and the pair scanned the gallery with their flashlights to determine that no living humans were up there. No one appeared in the gallery, and the pair resumed their patrol after only a brief acknowledgement of the strange moment.
Perhaps one of the souls that was “launched into eternity” here in 1870 has remained within this old chamber for eternity.
The Old House of Delegates Chamber is not the only haunted space within the Capitol building, Hope reports experiences throughout the building and on the surrounding grounds.
George Chahoon. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 19 January 2020.
Hope, Paul. Policing the Paranormal: The Haunting of Virginia’s State Capitol Complex. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2013.
“Horrible Calamity.” Richmond Dispatch. 28 April 1870.
Braley Pond Campground
Forest Development Road 96
West Augusta, Virginia
Regrets collect like old friends
Here to relive your darkest moments
I can see no way, I can see no way
And all of the ghouls come out to play And every demon wants his pound of flesh… –“Shake it out,” (2011) Florence + the Machine
Deep within George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Virginia, a paranormal investigator had a frightening experience at a popular campground some miles from civilization.
The group of investigators had arrived around 4:30 in the afternoon of October 25, 2003 to investigate Braley Pond Campground. Stepping out of their vehicles, the lead investigator noted that the atmosphere was “so heavy as to be almost palatable, and I knew immediately that [this feeling] was not my own. I was feeling something that belonged to someone else.”
As the group neared the dam, a couple of group members became physically ill and the entire group retreated. Two of the investigators decided to return to the campground after nightfall to investigate further.
Arriving around 11:30 PM, the pair sensed the same heaviness in the atmosphere that they had experienced on the first visit. Moving on, they felt as if whatever had been there before was lying in wait for their return. As they tenuously made their way towards the dam, one of them saw an orb of light in a nearby pine tree. “Roughly thirty or forty feet in the air, looking as though it were nestled in the branches of one of the big pines that flank the opening to the path, was a brightly glowing fluorescent green light.”
After the light mysteriously blinked out, the pair began to hear violent splashing in the water below. Sensing that something was coming after them, the pair took off for the safety of their vehicle. As they ran, one of the investigators was knocked off the bridge into the water. “I don’t know how to explain it except for he literally flew upwards and to the left, as if something had hit him right in the middle of his back, like using his forward momentum, and he went off the side of the bridge into the water.” The pair would later discover that their audio equipment picked up a mysterious screech just before the man was thrown into the water.
When the lead investigator stopped to check on her companion, he was fine but encouraged her to continue running back to the truck. As she stood up on the side of the pond, she began to feel something crawling on her back. She recalled that it moved like an inchworm and felt as if it had tentacles.
Continuing back to the truck, she screamed that something was on her. Both investigators piled back into the vehicle and nothing was found on the investigator, though she continued to feel the thing creeping along her body.
Over the next few months, the lead investigator was plagued by nightmares and dark feelings and images that would surface in her mind periodically. The pair returned to the campground several more times and witnessed odd events, but none as dramatic as the events of that first night. When the lead investigator felt oddly drawn to visit alone, she found herself walking trancelike around the parking lot and suddenly found herself in the restroom without any memory of getting there.
Several weeks later, she and her husband heard a terrifying scream from her eight-year-old son in another room. The boy had witnessed the image of a man standing in the corner “with multiple holes in his chest; wet and covered in blood.”
Following this frightening vision, the dark feelings began to retreat. Revisiting the campground a few years later, the investigator did not sense anything there.
According to the Mysterious Universe website, campers and hikers in the area have encountered sudden feelings of nausea and dread, orbs of light, shadow figures, the sounds of splashing water, and a feeling of being drawn into the water.
What could be the cause of the darkness here? The answer may lie in tragedies that have occurred here. Mysterious Universe notes that the quiet pond has been the scene of suicides, which I have not been able to confirm, but it was here that a vicious gang-related murder took place in May of 2003, some months before the terrifying investigation took place.
On the evening of May 21, 2003, two young men picked up 19-year-old Christopher Kennedy in nearby Staunton. Kennedy had reportedly become a member of the Los Angeles-based street gang, the Crips. After being picked up by two other members, the group drove to the Braley Pond Campground. A short time previous, Kennedy admitted to his grandfather that he had joined the gang and expressed his anxiety that he was “too young to die.” An account of the murder in the Staunton, Virginia News Leader says, “Kennedy first left with Noa and Tinsley voluntarily and might have realized he was going to be killed on the way out to Braley Pond.”
Once they arrived at the pond, Kennedy was stabbed 12 times in the chest and back at the water’s edge. It was there that his partially submerged body was found. In the initial reports of the murder, police speculated that Kennedy had tried to leave the gang.
Details of the murder would line up with some of paranormal activity reported here: feelings of nausea and dread, splashing of water, and the investigator’s son’s vision of a wet man with holes in his chest and covered in blood.
Allow me to speculate a bit on this haunting. I sincerely hope that Kennedy’s spirit is at rest, and it seems that his residual energy may be felt at the campground. The lead investigator, who is sensitive, noted in her journal that she felt “another presence ‘behind’ the original one. This one didn’t feel like the others. In fact, it didn’t feel human.” This leads me to believe that perhaps this inhuman spirit may be an elemental, or nature, spirit angered by the intense violence that took place in its domain. In fact, it was this spirit’s ire that attached itself to the investigator and haunted her.
If you visit the Braley Pond Campground, enjoy the scenery, but beware that this beauty has a darker side.
Harrington, Tim. “Family worried about troubled boy.” News Leader. 24 May 2003.
This is the first entry of my Encounter Countdown to Halloween. There are only 30 more days until All Hallows Eve!
TWA Flight 514 Crash Site Memorial
VA-601 Bluemont, Virginia
Early on a chilly morning in 2004, a long-haul trucker pulled into a closed gas station near the intersection of VA-7 and VA-601 to check his map. It was extremely dark in this rural, mountainous area, though close to the bustle of cities like Winchester, Leesburg, and suburban Washington, D.C.
He was startled by a knock on the door of his cab, turned on the interior light, and rolled down his window. Staring into the dark, chilly morning, he saw a man standing next to his truck oddly wearing an airline uniform.
The man climbed up onto the side of the truck and asked if the trucker could give him a lift. The trucker noticed the TWA insignia on the man’s cap and the four stripes of a captain on the shoulder of his short-sleeved shirt. The man also reeked of kerosene.
“I am with TWA. I have to get to Dulles Airport to work a flight. Please give me a ride. I’ll pay you.”
“Well, how about I give you a ride to the next open store where you can call a taxi?” the trucker responded.
“Okay, thank you.” the captain muttered awkwardly. “He said we could descend.”
The trucker invited him to get in and the captain jumped down off the side of the truck.
As he walked around the front, the captain suddenly vanished. Shaken, the trucker got out of his cab to investigate, even looking under the truck with a flashlight. The captain was nowhere to be seen.
Agitated, the trucker continued his lonely route home pondering his strange encounter, made especially strange when he realized that TWA had gone bankrupt just two years prior. A little research revealed that his experience had occurred a short distance from the crash site of TWA Flight 514 in 1974.
The trucker recounted his story on the Your Ghost Stories website where it was picked up by the late L.B. Taylor, Jr. and included in his 2010 Big Book of Virginia Ghost Stories.
The crash site today, along a wooded stretch of VA-601 on the flanks of Mount Weather, is marked by a small memorial stone set upon a rocky outcropping. It was at this site on the morning of December 1, 1974, the TWA Boeing 727 with 92 souls aboard slammed into this mountain on their descent into Dulles Airport. Miscommunication between the pilot and air traffic control led the plane to shear off the tops of trees before it disintegrated.
Ghost stories concerning the crash site have circulated for some time receiving attention from the nearby Queen City Cryptic Researchers who checked out the site in October of 2018. According to their case file, the group witnessed lights in the woods around the crash site as well as a hearing voices. They also noted feeling a powerful energy there.
Pamela K. Kinney, author of Virginia’s Haunted Historic Triangle (now in its second edition), and her husband took a guided tour of the Old Capitol in 2010. As the guide and the group descended the stairs from the second floor, the pair was briefly alone, and Kinney snapped some photos before returning to the group. When she uploaded the photos at home, she was stunned to find that one of those pictures included the head of a person, Kinney and her husband were alone on that floor.
The man is standing in front of the photographer and his head is very brightly illuminated, with individual hairs quite visible. Did she capture the image of one of the spirits that lingers in this reconstructed building?
The building that stands today is a reconstruction of the first capitol building constructed between 1701 and 1704. That structure was gutted by fire in 1747 with only “the naked Brick Walls only left standing.” Using those remaining walls, another capitol was constructed, though it was architecturally different from the first building. It was this second building that witnessed the fiery speeches of Patrick Henry and meetings of revolutionaries as they worked to throw off the shackles of British rule. After the removal of the colony’s capital to Richmond in 1780, the building was used for a variety of purposes before it was also destroyed by fire in 1832.
In his 1938 book, Old Williamsburg, William Oliver Stevens related two fanciful tales about the old capitol building: the first that Patrick Henry’s portrait hanging inside has come to bear a disgusted look thanks to the British flag flying overhead, and second, that Henry and other patriots assemble in front of the building at the stroke of midnight on July 4th and “use the most reprehensible language.” I presume they are cursing the modern government, though Stevens doesn’t clarify.
Aside from William Oliver Stevens’ fanciful tales and Kinney’s photo, there is little published on the building’s ghosts, though Jamie Roush Pearce features accounts from several interpreters in her 2013 book, Historic Haunts of the South. These accounts concern two spirits that staff members have encountered. The first is reported to be a little girl who has been heard to call out, “Mommy?” and some interpreters have sensed her following them as they close the building for the day.
The second spirit is a person in blue holding a handkerchief. Pearce and a friend actually saw this spirit while attending a historical reenactment in the courtroom. An interpreter saw this spirit descending the stairs one morning as he unlocked the door. After seeing someone disappear into the courtroom, the interpreter followed to find no one there, and no one should have been in the locked building. Those who have witnessed this apparition have been inclined to identify it as the shade of former guide who enjoyed her work so much that she has continued her duties in the afterlife.
Kinney, Pamela K. Virginia’s Haunted Historic Triangle: Williamsburg, Yorktown, Jamestown, & Other Haunted Locations, 2nd Edition. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2019.
Olmert, Michael. Official Guide to Colonial Williamsburg. Williamsburg, VA: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1985.
Pearce, Jamie Roush. Historic Haunts of the South. CreateSpace, 2013.
Taylor, L.B., Jr. The Ghosts of Williamsburg, Volume II. Progress Printing Company, 1999.
In that first review, I used the analogy of paranormal researchers and writers tending to ghost stories as a gardener tending to a garden. “They tend to stories that have been cultivated by others; they add and correct facts; update reports of paranormal activity; and generally, maintain stories. They also seek out seeds of information and work to grow these into full stories. If a story isn’t tended it may simply pass into the realm of legend.” This analogy applies to this book even more so than the first.
Pamela Kinney has been very busy in the garden of Virginia ghosts. Since my first review, she has penned a second book on the haunts of Richmond, a book on the paranormal side of Petersburg, as well as short pieces in anthologies, a blog, and fiction works. Watching her comings and goings involving writers’ groups, conventions, book signings, investigations, library appearances and other trappings of a successful writer is fascinating. In fact, she’s living the life I hope to someday attain.
During this time, she has investigated some of the places she covered in her first book and she covers those investigations in her new book. This additional evidence adds to the concise entries Kinney has provided. She has also added in several new locations including Williamsburg’s Fort Magruder Hotel and the Busch Gardens theme park, which heighten the haunted nature of the whole area.
Kinney’s second edition is a nice upgrade from the first edition. The layout has been adjusted which changes the rhythm of the book, visually speaking, from the crowded and chaotic first edition, when compared side by side, to a book that is more relaxed and consistent. The move from matte to glossy pages also improves the visual appeal of the second edition giving the photographs, especially those that may capture paranormal phenomena, are much clearer.
Overall, the book is a tremendous addition to any bookshelf on paranormal Virginia.
Throughout the South, there are many places where you can sip with spirits. This guide covers all of the bars that I have explored in the pages of this blog over the years. Not only have I included independent bars, but breweries, wineries, restaurants, and hotels with bars as well.
Haunted Charlottesville and Surrounding Counties Susan Schwartz with photographs by Cliff Middlebrooks Jr. Schiffer Publishing, 2019
In her introduction to this book, Pamela K. Kinney succinctly describes the Charlottesville region as being among the many “ghost-ridden territories” in the state of Virginia. Susan Schwartz sets out to prove this in her book, Haunted Charlottesville and Surrounding Counties. Covering some familiar haunts and many that are unfamiliar, Schwartz has laid out a brilliant new guide to this most important region.
Not far from the geographical heart of Virginia, the Charlottesville area encompasses a historically important region within state and national history. Before the arrivals of Europeans, this area was the homeland for several noted Native American tribes and afterwards became one of the first frontiers for new settlers. The growing pains of nationhood were distinctly felt here in the form of military action during the Revolution and the Civil War. Among these hills and valleys lived presidents, planters, statesmen, scholars, industrialists, and many others who may remain in spiritual form.
Prior to this book, the region’s spiritual fabric has only been described in one book, L. B. Taylor’s 1992 Ghosts of Charlottesville and Lynchburg…and nearby environs. While Mr. Taylor’s numerous volumes on the ghosts of Virginia are excellent, his book is nearly 30 years old. Ghost stories need regular tending, with information being updated to include not only new encounters, but fresh historical research which may shed light on these hauntings. Indeed, new stories should also be added as they come to light.
Schwartz masterfully navigates readers to some 77 locations in 12 counties. In the process of this tour, Schwartz examines some familiar hauntings such as Castle Hill Manor, Tuckahoe Plantation, and Gordonsville’s Exchange Hotel with stops that she serendipitously discovered as she traveled the backroads in search of ghosts. From abandoned roadside stores to a small deli in the community of Troy in Fluvanna County, Schwartz provides a fresh and lively commentary on these newly discovered haunts.
As she guides readers to these locations, Schwartz does well to cite her sources by including in-line citations. Often, I’m left to puzzle over where an author got their information, but Schwartz sees to it that there is no question. Her bibliography forms an excellent guide to the foundations of her book and is exceedingly useful for researchers like me.
Overall, this book is a spectacular guide to these “ghost-ridden territories” in central Virginia for everyone from the paranormal dilettante to the serious, academic researcher and provides well-marked trails for all to follow to explore the haunted past of the Charlottesville region.
Virginia possesses a vast history; subsequently, it could be described as one of the most paranormally active states in the country. This is a selection of some of the more interesting hauntings throughout the Old Dominion.
Aquia Church 2938 Jefferson Davis Highway Stafford
As with many of Virginia’s great landmarks, Aquia Church has a ghost story attached. The legend tells of a young woman murdered in this National Historic Landmark church at some time in the eighteenth century and her body hidden in belfry. Accordingly, her spirit descends from the belfry at night and has been witnessed by many over the centuries. One caretaker also spoke of seeing shadowy figures among the tombstones in the graveyard. The current Aquia Church building was built in 1751 and destroyed by fire just before the construction was complete. Using the remaining brick walls, the church was rebuilt in 1757.
Driggs, Sarah S., John S. Salmon and Calder C. Loth. National Register of Historic Place Nomination form for Aquia Church. Listed 12 November 1969.
Lee, Marguerite DuPont. Virginia Ghosts, Revised Edition. Berryville, VA: Virginia Book Company, 1966.
Taylor, L. B., Jr. The Ghosts of Virginia. Progress Printing, 1993.
Assateague Lighthouse Assateague Island
In terms of books documenting the spiritual residents of the state, Virginia has an embarrassment of riches. Marguerite DuPont Lee can be noted as one of the first authors to document many of Virginia’s ghosts in her 1930 book, Virginia Ghosts. More recently, L.B. Taylor, Jr. has published some 22 volumes covering the state. Most recently, Michael J. Varhola published his marvelous Ghosthunting Virginia and it is that book that documents the haunting surrounding the Assateague Island and its lighthouse.
Assateague Island is a barrier island along the coast of Maryland and Virginia. Much of the island is now Assateague Island National Seashore with parts of Assateague State Park and Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. The island is famous for its feral horses, descendants of the horses aboard the Spanish ship, La Galga, which wrecked just off the island in 1720. It is said the spirits of the humans who died in the wreck still comb the beach near the Assateague Lighthouse. The lighthouse, constructed in 1866 and first lit the following year to replace an earlier lighthouse from 1831, may also have some spiritual activity related to it. Varhola cites a National Park Service employee who tells of the door to the lighthouse being found mysteriously unlocked.
Varhola, Michael J. Ghosthunting Virginia. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy Press, 2008.
Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission Staff. National Register of Historic Place Nomination form for Assateague Lighthouse. December 1972.
Bacon’s Castle 465 Bacon’s Castle Trail Surry
Bacon’s castle ranks highly on a number of lists. It’s described as the only Jacobean house in America and one of three in the Western Hemisphere; one of the oldest buildings in the state of Virginia and the oldest brick home in the United States. Indeed, it may be one of the oldest haunted houses in the US as well. Researchers in 1999 dated tree rings on some of the home’s beams and determined the house was constructed around 1665. Originally called Allen’s Brick House, the house acquired its current name during Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676 when some of Nathaniel Bacon’s supporters took over the house. The house, which has survived and witnessed centuries of American history, is now a house museum.
As for the ghosts, this house may possess many. The final private owner of the house, Mrs. Charles Walker Warren, told many tales of the house involving doors opening and closing by themselves and footsteps that were heard. Certainly, the most well-known phenomena regarding Bacon’s Castle is the red fireball that has been seen rising from the house and disappearing in the churchyard of Old Lawne’s Creek Church nearby.
Barisic, Sonja. “Houses’ ‘Bones’ Yield Secrets of Its History.” The Richmond Times-Dispatch. 19 December 1999.
Brown, Beth. Haunted Plantations of Virginia. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2009.
Melvin, Frank S. National Register of Historic Place Nominationform for Bacon’s Castle. Listed 15 October 1966.
Taylor, L. B., Jr. The Ghosts of Virginia. Progress Printing, 1983.
Tucker, George. “Ghosts Long A Part of the Lore of Bacon’s Castle.” The (Norfolk, VA) Virginian-Pilot. 9 November 1998.
Belle Isle Richmond
Originally called Broad Rock Island, Belle Isle was used for mostly industrial purposes in the nineteenth century. Mills, quarries and a nail factory appeared on the tranquil island in the James River. Notoriety came to the island in 1862 with the opening of a Confederate prisoner of war camp that was as notorious as Georgia’s dreaded Andersonville and with a huge influx of prisoners, the camp quickly descended into squalor. Prisoners lived in tents that provide little insulation from the bitter cold of Virginia winters or the heat of the summer sun and were offered little in the way of food. By 1865, most of the prisoners had been shipped to prison camps throughout the South and the island was returned to its more tranquil use as the site of a nail factory. The Old Dominion Iron and Nail works operated on the island until it closed in 1972 and many of its buildings demolished. The island became a park around that same time and has been a popular spot for hiking and jogging.
Still, remnants of the island’s past linger: the site of the prison camp is marked but little else remains while there are ruins of some of the old industrial buildings. Indeed, spirits from the islands past may also linger. There are reports from island visitors of shadow people, hearing footsteps on the trail behind them, lights in the woods at night and photographic anomalies. Author and investigator Beth Brown in her Haunted Battlefields: Virginia’s Civil War Ghosts conducted an investigation and picked up an EVP of a male voice clearly saying, “Where are we?”
Dutton, David and John Salmon. National Register of Historic Place Nomination form for Belle Isle. Listed 17 March 1995.
Michie Tavern 683 Thomas Jefferson Parkway Charlottesville
My first introduction to the Michie Tavern came through the eyes of paranormal researcher and writer Hans Holzer. Among some of the first books about ghosts I read were some of Holzer’s books and I still vividly remember reading of some of his investigations. For his books, he traveled the world with a psychic medium in tow investigating haunted and historical locations such as the Morris-Jumel Mansion in New York City and the famous house at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York, the basis for the “Amityville Horror.” On his travels through Virginia he visited the Michie Tavern and nearby Monticello and was able, through his medium Ingrid, to find spirits still partying in the ballroom of this 1784 tavern. Staff members have reported the sounds of a party in that very room late at night.
Holzer, Hans. Ghosts: True Encounters with the WorldBeyond. NYC: Black Dog & Leventhal, 1997.
Michie Tavern. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 10 March 2011.
Monticello 931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway Charlottesville
In 1928, a Charlottesville preservationist purchased the Michie Tavern, an 18th century tavern in nearby Earlysville and moved it near to Thomas Jefferson’s “little mountain,” Monticello. Jefferson, perhaps one of the country’s most brilliant, enigmatic and creative presidents, designed and built his home over many years at the end of the eighteenth century and into the early nineteenth century. Over the years that the house has been open as a museum, there have been a few reports of phantom footsteps and other minor incidents including the occasional sound of someone cheerfully humming.
Holzer, Hans. Ghosts: True Encounters with the WorldBeyond. NYC: Black Dog & Leventhal, 1997.
Monticello. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 10 March 2011.
Varhola, Michael J. Ghosthunting Virginia. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy Press, 2008.
Octagon House (Abijah Thomas House) 631 Octagon House Road Marion
In a state of magnificently preserved historical homes, it is surprising to find a magnificent architectural gem like the Abijah Thomas House standing forlornly unrestored. Neglect and vandalism by teenagers out for a “scare” have also taken their toll on this home. The octagon house style found prominence in the middle of the nineteenth century and currently only a few hundred to a few thousand (sources differ) survive. This particular house, described in its National Register of Historic Places nomination form as “the finest example in Virginia of a 19th-century octagonal house,” also has a number of legends about it. According to Michael Varhola, the internet is full of these legends that seem scary but are unlikely to be true. Certainly, this old house is creepy in its deteriorated state, but it really needs a professional investigation.
Octagon houses. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 10 March 2011.
Varhola, Michael J. Ghosthunting Virginia. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy Press, 2008.
Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission Staff. National Register of Historic Place Nomination form for Abijah Thomas House. Listed 28 November 1980.
Old ’97 Crash Site Route 58 and Riverside Drive Danville
It’s a mighty rough road from Lynchburg to Danville, And a line on a three mile grade. It’s on that grade that he lost his airbrakes. You see what a jump he made. — “Wreck of the Old ‘97” first recorded by G.B. Grayson and Henry Whittier
On September 27, 1903, the No. 97 “Fast Mail” train jumped its track on the Stillhouse Trestle in Danville and plunged some 75 feet into the ravine. The train’s engineer, who was rushing to get to Spencer, North Carolina on time, tried to slow the train as it approached the trestle, but the train did not slow. Of the 18 souls aboard, 10, including the engineer were killed. Not long after the crash stories emerged of people seeing odd lights in the ravine where the crash occurred. Even after the trestle was removed and the ravine was filled with growth, the lights are still said to appear.
Varhola, Michael J. Ghosthunting Virginia. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy Press, 2008.
The magnificent main house at Rosewell burned in 1916, but it is hardly a distant memory. The brick wall still stands, and archaeological excavations have uncovered the remains of items that were inside the house during the fire. Construction began in 1725 and the house was completed in 1738 for the powerful Page family. The power of the Page family extended into the nineteenth century and included friendships with people such as Thomas Jefferson who legend says drafted the Declaration of Independence within the walls of Rosewell. The ruins have been preserved as a historic site and still attract visitors and spirits. An old legend speaks of a woman in red seen running down the remains of the house’ front stairs with the sound of slaves singing has also been heard.
Brown, Beth. Haunted Plantations of Virginia. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2009.
Lee, Marguerite DuPont. Virginia Ghosts, Revised Edition. Berryville, VA: Virginia Book Company, 1966.
Silver Thatch Inn 3001 Hollymead Drive Charlottesville, Virginia
It’s always exciting to find a new haunted location, especially one with a haunted history that has not been well documented. Set among the pastoral landscape in the Virginia countryside just north of the bustle Charlottesville, the Silver Thatch Inn resembles many other historic Virginia homes with an original house and a series of additions extending from it. Guests of the seven-room bed and breakfast have been reporting possible paranormal activity in their rooms for years, though the owner has never had an experience herself. The dearth of stories recently spurred the owner to invite members of the Twisted Paranormal Society to investigate.
The home’s history certainly qualifies it to be haunted. A two-story log cabin was constructed here—supposedly the site of a Native American village—by Hessian prisoners of war in 1780 during the dark days of the American Revolution. In the early 19th century, an addition was added and the house was converted for use as a boys’ school. After the Civil War, the house returned to use as a farmhouse, becoming the main house for the 300-acre Hollymead Farm. For nearly 30 years, the house was the home of the Dean of Men at the nearby University of Virginia before the farmland was sold for development in the 1960s. The home became a bed and breakfast in the latter part of the 20th century.
In a 1983 article for the Baltimore Sun, Geoffrey Fielding reported on a former Baltimore couple who purchased the Hollymead Inn, as it was then called. Interestingly, the article refers to the spirit of a Hessian soldier that guests encountered while staying the night. The reporter even blamed the spirit for a missing wallet.
During recent investigations of the inn, investigators encountered a large, looming shadow figure in the attic. The first group of investigators encountered a figure described as being about “seven feet tall, just standing behind [one of the other investigators]”. Assuming that the entity did not want the investigators there, the group exited the space. A second group also encountered the shadowy form. The inn’s owner remarked that after the investigators left, “we did see a shadow figure appearing to crawl across the floor at the top of the stairs.” Perhaps this is the spirit of Hessian soldier?
Investigators from Twisted Paranormal are convinced that the inn is haunted and the owner is preparing to host more paranormal events in the coming months.
‘Twas the night before Halloween and all through the blog, little was stirring…
This move from Blogger to this new site has been tedious and time-consuming. I’ve tossed out a great deal of junky posts and put many posts aside that need to be updated and refreshed leaving me with many bits and pieces that should be republished in a different context. This is a selection of recycled pieces for Halloween.
East Coast/West Coast 138 St. George Street St. Augustine, Florida
This modest commercial building once housed Kixie’s Men’s Store and some odd activity. The shop employed a young tailor, Kenneth Beeson who would later serve as mayor for the city. While working late one evening he noticed a door opening by itself followed by the sweet scent of funereal flowers. After experiencing odd activity for a while, Beeson put out a tape recorder and set it to record just before he left. When he returned the following morning, he was shocked to discover a plethora of sounds including marching feet and guttural growls. Disturbed by these incidents, Beeson had a priest exorcise the building. The activity ceased.
Cain, Suzy & Dianne Jacoby. A Ghostly Experience: Tales of St. Augustine, Florida. City Gate Productions, 1997.
Lapham, Dave. Ghosts of St. Augustine. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 1997.
Western & Atlantic Railroad Tunnel Chetoogeta Mountain Tunnel Hill, Georgia
As the railroad spread its tentacles throughout the nation before the tumult of the Civil War, a route was needed from Augusta, Georgia to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Numerous obstacles stood in the way, but the biggest was Chetoogeta Mountain. Plans for a railroad tunnel dated to the second half of the 1830s, but work did not commence until 1848 with work completed two years later. The new tunnel was instrumental in Atlanta’s growth as a railroad hub and was a strategic feature for the Confederacy to protect during the Civil War.
The tunnel’s strategic importance led to a series of skirmishes being fought here leading up to the Battle of Atlanta. Following the war, the tunnel remained in service until 1928 when a new tunnel was built a few yards away. The old tunnel became overgrown with kudzu and was largely forgotten until 1992 when preservationists fought to save the tunnel. It is now the centerpiece of a park that features reenactments of the skirmishes fought at the site.
It is often re-enactors who have encountered anything supernatural at the site. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of documented accounts of spirits at Tunnel Hill. At least four books and a handful of good articles document the high levels of activity at this site. Accounts include the apparitions of soldiers seen both inside the tunnel and around it. Ghostly campfires, disembodied screams, spectral lantern light and the smell of rotting flesh (minus the presence of actual rotting flesh) have all been reported by re-enactors and visitors alike.
DeFeo, Todd. “Antebellum railroad tunnel still a marvel after all These years.” com. 22 June 2009.
Kotarski, Georgiana C. Ghosts of the Southern Tennessee Valley. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2006.
Underwood, Corinna. Haunted History: Atlanta and North Georgia. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2008.
Western and Atlantic Railroad Tunnel. Tunnel Hill Heritage Center. Accessed 28 November 2010.
Old Talbott Tavern 107 West Stephen Foster Avenue Bardstown, Kentucky
Continuously open since the late 18th century except for a period in the late 1990s when the tavern was being renovated following a disastrous fire, the Old Talbott Tavern has hosted an impressive array of visitors ranging from Daniel Boone to General George Patton. Perhaps one of the famous guests who has never checked out is outlaw Jesse James who stayed frequently in the tavern while visiting his cousin who was the local sheriff. With the claims of Jesse James’ spirit which may also roam the halls of Selma, Alabama’s St. James Hotel, James’ spirit may split the hereafter between two favorite locales. But James’ spirit is not the only spirit acting up in the Old Talbott Tavern. Other ghosts may include formers guests, owners and their families.
Old Louisiana State Capitol 100 North Boulevard Baton Rouge, Louisiana
When the state capitol was moved from New Orleans to Baton Rouge in 1846, the city donated land atop a bluff over the Mississippi for the capitol building. Architect James Dakin designed a Neo-Gothic building very much unlike the other state capitols which were often modeled on the U.S. Capitol building in Washington. The magnificent crenellated and be-towered structure was used as a prison and garrison for soldiers under the city’s Union occupation and during this time it caught fire twice leaving it a soot-stained shell by the war’s end. The building was reconstructed in 1882 but abandoned in 1932 for Governor Huey Long’s new state capitol.
Even before the capitol burned during the war, there was a ghost gliding through its halls. Pierre Couvillon, a legislator representing Avoyelles Parish, enraged by his colleagues’ corruption, suffered a heart attack and died. Though he was buried in his home parish, his spirit was said to reside in the capitol; perhaps checking up on his colleagues. When the capitol building underwent restoration in the 1990s, the spirit or spirits in the building were stirred up and activity has increased. Staff members and visitors have reported odd occurrences. One security guard watched as movement detectors were set off through a series of rooms while nothing was seen on the video.
Two organizations investigated the building in 2009 and uncovered much evidence. Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations picked up a number of interesting EVPs including someone singing the old song, “You Are My Sunshine.” Everyday Paranormal, in their investigation had a few encounters in the basement of the building, the area used as a prison during the Union occupation. It seems that there are many spirits within the crenellated walls of the Old Capitol.
Duvernay, Adam. “Several Baton Rouge sites said to be haunted.” The Daily Reveille. 27 October 2009.
Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. Gretna, LA: Pelican, 2007.
Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations. Old State Capitol, Baton Rouge, LA. Accessed 11 November 2011.
Southeastern Students. “Old State Capitol Still Occupied by Former Ghosts.” com. 29 October 2009.
Jericho Covered Bridge Jericho Road at Little Gunpowder Falls Harford County Near Jerusalem, Maryland
Straddling the county line between Harford County and Baltimore County over the Little Gunpowder Falls is the Jericho Covered Bridge, constructed in 1865. According to Ed Okonowicz in his Haunted Maryland, there are legends of people seeing slaves hanging from the rafters inside this nearly 88-foot bridge. Certainly, there is an issue with this as the bridge was constructed in 1865, after the end of both slavery and the Civil War. Other, more realistic legends, speak of a woman seen on the bridge wearing old-fashioned clothing and people having their cars stop inexplicably in the middle of the bridge.
Varhola, Michael J. and Michael H. Varhola. Ghosthunting Maryland. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2009.
Corinth Battlefield Corinth, Mississippi
Following the Confederate’s disastrous attack in April of 1862 on the Union forces at Shiloh, Tennessee (for a battle description see my entry on the Beauregard-Keyes House in New Orleans), the Union army laid siege for two days to the vital railroad town of Corinth, just over the state line. To save his army from annihilation, General P.T.G. Beauregard gave the appearance of reinforcement troops arriving and being put in place while efficiently moving his troops out of the city to nearby Tupelo. The Union army entered the city the following day to find it devoid of Confederates. In October of the same year, Confederates tried once again and failed to capture the city losing some 4,000 men (including dead, wounded and missing) in the process.
The battlefield on which these two battles were fought is now incorporated into the mid-sized city of Corinth. Portions of the battlefield and earthworks are now preserved as the Corinth unit of Shiloh National Military Park. As one might expect, some of those portions have spiritual artifacts remaining. Some of the best stories from Civil War battlefields come from re-enactors who have experiences while re-enacting battles and one of the primary reports of ghosts from the Corinth battlefield comes from a re-enactor whose story was documented by Alan Brown. This particular re-enactor heard the sound of a phantom cavalry and a few nights later, the sound of someone rummaging through her tent while camping on the battlefield.
Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted Southland. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.
North Carolina Zoological Park 4401 Zoo Parkway Asheboro, North Carolina
North Carolina lawyer and folklorist Daniel Barefoot has done much to preserve North Carolina and Southern legends and ghost stories in his books. His series, North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred provides a single ghost story or legend from each of the state’s one hundred counties. From Randolph County, smack dab in the middle of the state, comes the legend of the aptly named, Purgatory Mountain, now home to the NC Zoo. The state-owned zoo is the largest walk-through habitat zoos in the world and a major attraction in the region.
During the Civil War, much of rural North Carolina was resistant to seceding from the Union and, as a result, the state was the final state to secede. Still, many citizens, including the peaceable Quakers of Randolph County resisted joining the butternut ranks. Recruiters were sent to these areas to nudge and sometimes force the inhabitants to join. One particular recruiter in this area earned the nickname, “The Hunter,” for his harsh methods. He rounded up a group of Quaker boys, tied them roughly and marched them to Wilmington to join the army, but a few escaped and returned, bedraggled to their rural homes. When the recruiter returned, this group of escaped boys shot him outside of his cabin at Purgatory Mountain. His malevolent spirit is still supposedly stalking the crags of his mountain home.
Barefoot, Daniel W. North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred, Vol. 2: Piedmont Phantoms. Winston-Salem, NC, John F. Blair, 2002.
Carter House 1140 Columbia Avenue Franklin, Tennessee
By some accounts, the Battle of Franklin, November 30, 1864, was one of the bloodiest battles of the war. Some historians have even deemed it the “Gettysburg of the South.” Fought right on the edge of the town of Franklin, the battle hit very close to the home front and absolutely hammered the farm of the Carter family which was located at the center of the main defensive line. During the furious fighting, the Carters, neighbors and slaves cowered in the basement of the house, emerging after the battle to witness the carnage spread through their yard and around their house. The house and outbuildings still bear bullet holes, attesting to their experience.
Fanny Courtney Carter, who was 8 years old when the battle overtook her family’s farm, later recalled the day following the battle: “Early the next morning after the Battle I went to the field. The sight was dreadful. It seemed I could scarcely move for fear of stepping on men either dead or wounded. Some were clod and stiff, others with the lifeblood ebbing out, unconscious of all around, while others were writing in agony and calling ‘Water! Water!’ I can hear them even now.” Fanny’s brother, Tod, who had enlisted in the Confederate army was found some yards from the house, his body riddled with eight bullets, but still clinging to life. The family brought him into the parlor of his home where he died on December 2.
The pastoral fields that once surrounded the Carter House as well as the town of Franklin that saw so much blood that November day have mostly been lost to development though the spiritual imprint of the battle is still felt throughout the city. The spirit of Tod Carter may be one of the more active spirits at the Carter House. He has been seen sitting on the edge of the bed where he may have died and according to Alan Brown, he took a tour of the house, correcting the tour guide when she didn’t use the correct name or date and disappearing before he and the guide could descend to the basement.
Apparently he’s not the only lingering spirit. Poltergeist activity in the house has been attributed to Tod’s sister, Annie. Objects have moved from room to room and one visitor on a tour watched a figurine that jumped up and down.
Battle of Franklin (2009). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 13 December 2010.
Brown, Alan. Haunted Tennessee: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena Of the Volunteer State. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2009.
Rockledge Mansion 440 Mill Street Occoquan, Virginia
The town website for Occoquan (pronounced OK-oh-qwahn), Virginia states that the city, “has an inordinate amount of spooks per capita” and then goes on to list a number of locations in the town with ghosts. Among this remarkable collection of haunted locations is the magnificent Georgian mansion, Rockledge, which commands a literal rock ledge above Mill Street. The town was founded in the mid-eighteenth century as a port on the Occoquan River and during the Civil War this northern Virginia town served as a post office between the North and the South.
Quite possibly the work of colonial architect, William Buckland, Rockledge was built in 1758 by local industrialist John Ballandine. In the yard of this house the ghost of a Confederate soldier has been seen and possibly heard. One witness saw the soldier then noticed peculiar wet footprints on the front steps that appeared to be from hobnail boots, the kind that would have been worn by soldiers during the war. Many people have heard loud footsteps in the house as well as someone knocking at the door. So far, no source has identified this soldier.
Streng, Aileen. “Benevolent ghost believed to haunt mansion.” com. 27 October 2010.
Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for Rockledge Mansion. Listed 25 June 1973.
Berkeley Castle WV-9 Berkeley Springs
Berkeley Springs, also known as “Bath,” has attracted visitors who come to take the waters of the mineral springs located there. Overlooking this quaint town from a commanding position on Warm Spring Mountain sits Berkeley Castle, seemingly a piece of medieval Britain transplanted. Modeled and named after Britain’s own Berkeley Castle, the castle was built as a wedding gift from Colonel Samuel Suit for his bride, Rosa Pelham. The Colonel, who was quite a bit older than his bride, died before the castle was finished and his widow finished the building. She lived in the castle after his death and squandered the fortune she inherited and died penniless well away from the castle, but legends speak of her return.
The castle was purchased by paranormal investigators in 2000 but sold fairly shortly after that. Once open for tours, the castle is now primarily a private residence, though it may be rented for weddings, parties and other events.
Fischer, Karin. “Castle in Eastern Panhandle could be in need of a new lord this spring.” Charleston (WV) Daily Mail. 21 November 2000.
History Berkeley Castle. Berkeley Castle. Accessed 19 March 2011.
Robinson, James Foster. A Ghostly Guide to West Virginia. Winking Eye Books, 2008.