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Virginia: Guide

to going places



produce memories


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of the Virginia Tourism Corporation

September, 2004

For a truly spirited fall vacation, consider a trip to Virginia’s

haunted places that are so inviting some souls never leave.

Be ye fond of phantoms or excited by apparitions, ye are in the right

place in the Old Dominion, which may be our most haunted state, according

to a Williamsburg author who has written more than a dozen books about

the subject.

“I’m not the only one to claim that,” says L. B. Taylor

Jr., the preeminent authority on Virginia’s ghosts. “But it

appears that’s true due to the long history of the state and the

fact that there has been so much trauma and tragedy here, with the Indian

conflicts, the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.

“Couple that with the abundance of old, historic houses here and

you have an explanation for all the paranormal activity,” he said.

“Ghosts seem to hang around old houses.”

Taylor has compiled reports of ghouls in places open to anyone who craves

the ambiance of a tourist spot said to be haunted by spirits both ordinary

and famous.

Guides to ghosts

One way to rub elbows with apparitions is to take an organized tour.

Leesburg Ghost

Tours bills itself as “the only ghost tour in America led

by a paranormal investigator.”

Tours leave Friday and Saturday nights from April through

November. The tour’s Web

site says guides “discuss in a scientific way the existence

of paranormal phenomena” and warns, “young children do not find

this interesting and are sometimes frightened by our stories.”

So many spirits reside in Virginia’s first capital city that Taylor

needed an entire book, “The Ghosts of Williamsburg,”

to chronicle them. A guided tour through the town’s colonial section

is based on that work. One stop is the home of Peyton Randolph, where

a female apparition has been seen, apparently as a guest in an upstairs


“She appears very agitated, like she’s trying to warn people

of something,” said Taylor. The tour runs nightly.

Another tour based on Taylor’s work highlights ghosts of Yorktown,

the site of Cornwallis’ surrender. A bus will take you past

Revolutionary War hotspots where wraiths of long-dead soldiers are said

to dwell. Then, a candlelight walk leads past haunted 18th-century houses

and taverns.

Included is a stop at the home of Revolutionary War general Thomas Nelson,

where the ghost of a British soldier killed there allegedly resides. Taylor

said Nelson advised George Washington to fire cannons into his own house.

Tours run nightly from June through August, then on Saturdays in September

and October.

Ghost tours of Old Town

Alexandria are available on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from

March through November. They start at Ramsay House, home to the Alexandria’s

visitors’ center and itself said to be haunted by the ghost of the

town’s founder.

On Virginia’s Eastern Shore, a walking tour of Cape Charles

and its Victorian homes includes tales of The Phantom Schoolmistress

and The Ghost of the Old Lamplighter. Tours are held between Father’s

Day and Labor Day.

In Lexington, home to Washington and Lee University and Virginia

Military Institute, ghost tours leave the visitors’ center and wind

through backstreets and alleyways by candlelight in search of the dearly

departed. Tours run from Memorial Day through October.

Haunted hotels, specters of the stage

Apparitions have apparently appeared at several Virginia accommodations.

The best-known is The Martha Washington Inn in Abingdon, a popular

hotel due to its Four Diamond rating from the American Automobile Association.

Pete Sheffey, a bellman for 51 years, says he’s seen ghosts there

about 30 times. “I’ve been touched,

pushed and everything,” he said.

Sheffey can spin detailed tales of the supernatural off the top of his

head. “It’s an amazing place,” Sheffy said of the hotel.

“It’s an awful lot of fun.”

One of the stories says an apparitional horse roams the lawn looking for

its rider, a slain Union officer. Another speaks of a Confederate spy’s

bloodstains that always reappear where he died, showing through even after

new carpet is laid.

Then there’s the spirit of room 403.

Her name is Beth. She is, in one version, searching for her dead lover,

a Yankee

officer. In Sheffey’s version, she is pining for the Confederate

spy and died from a broken heart a year after his death.

Across the street is the Barter

Theatre, which is home to two spirits. One is said to be the founder,

Robert Porterfield, who brought unemployed actors from New York to start

the theater during the Great Depression. Although Porterfield died in

1971, actors have claimed to see him in the audience. Another spirit,

alleged to be

malevolent, has been said to chase actors from dressing rooms.

If a bed-and-breakfast is more your style, head toward Urbanna

and visit Hewick, a 326-year-old plantation house owned and run by

11th-generation descendants of its founder. Its charms include views of

66 picturesque acres on an offshoot of the Rappahannock River, homemade

pecan coffee cake, a family cemetery, artifacts from

an archaeological dig on site, and the unofficial title as the most haunted

house in Virginia.

“I do believe in ghosts but I’ve never encountered one,”

said Helen Nichols Murphy Battleson, the owner. However, Battleson says

she often hears unexplained noises, and intermittently “we do smell

the sweet smell of tobacco” in the house for no explainable reason.

Taylor, the chronicler of Virginia ghost stories, says no fewer

than seven spirits are believed to haunt the mansion, including a “lady

in pink” who appears only every seven years, and a big man dressed

in black.

Ghoulish grub

If you’d like to feast with a phantom or share your wine and spirits

with a spirit, the Commonwealth boasts several haunted taverns.

Gadsby’s Tavern and Museum in Alexandria is a functioning restaurant

and a historical archive. Built circa 1785, the tavern’s early customers

included Thomas Jefferson. Some claim a specter of a young woman in 1800s

clothing haunts it. For certain, period clothing is worn by servers. Candlelight

tours of the museum are held Friday nights.

Miss Lucy is the resident ghoul of the Old Town Inn in Manassas.

She’s said to haunt room 52, but roams from rooms 50 through 54 and

has been spotted in the tavern.

A ghostly couple is said to haunt the east side of the Cork Street Tavern

in Winchester.

That’s the historic side of the building, constructed around 1830.

They are thought responsible for the high number of people who have stumbled

around table L-6, says Taylor.

Plantations with poltergeist

Many of Virginia’s old plantations claim that a resident of the spirit

world still walks the grounds.

For instance, the benevolent spirit of Evelyn Byrd is said to appear at

Westover, one of the James River plantations in Charles City County.

She fell in love with a man who drew her father’s disapproval. That

sent her into depression and she rejected

other suitors. Those who claim to have seen her say she’s a mournful


Nearby, the ghost of Aunt Pratt has definite ideas on where her portrait

should hang at Shirley Plantation. Shirley is noted for its collection

of family portraits. Aunt Pratt’s picture was downstairs for a number

of years, but when the owners decided to move it, her spirit objected.

A “mighty disturbance” occurred, according to Taylor,

mainly late at night as the sound of someone rocking in the attic. When

the portrait was returned to its place, the noise ceased.

Sherwood Forest, another nearby plantation, boasts of the “Gray

Lady,” who has been heard knocking in the Gray Room for more than

200 years. She is said to have been governess to a sick child whom she

rocked to sleep there. Sherwood Forest was the home of President John


Near Fredericksburg, the historic Chatham mansion is said to receive

a spooky visitor at seven-year intervals. The story goes that George Washington

was a guest the night an English girl tried to elope with her love, of

whom the father disapproved. Washington allegedly caught wind of the plan

and prevented it. The girl was returned to

England and married another, but her deathbed vow was that her spirit

would return to Chatham to walk her favorite path on the anniversary of

her death.

Witnesses have reported seeing her on that path, now known as the Ghost

Walk, every seven years since her death on June 21, 1790.

The spirit of Washington’s brother-in-law is said to haunt the Georgian

mansion Kenmore, also near Fredericksburg. Col. Fielding Lewis

married Washington’s sister and was one of Virginia’s most successful

planters, but lost his fortune in the Revolutionary War. Lewis is said

to appear in his office, studying his financial

records with a worried look.

Government building ghouls

It’s said ghosts inhabit the Virginia Capitol. In 1870, the floor

of the gallery of the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals collapsed. It

was overloaded with people waiting to hear a ruling on a Richmond election.

About 60 people died. Some claim their moans can still be heard in the

building at night.

If you plan to visit haunted sites in Virginia, please note that you will

also find an abundance of real people, all friendly and all ready to help

make your visit so enjoyable you’ll want to stay forever.

For more information on planning a visit, ghostly or other, to Virginia,

visit the Virginia tourism Web site.

Visitors who prefer to get a printed travel guide and state highway map

can call 1-800-932-5827.

Leesburg Ghost Tours


$8 adults, $4 children (under 12)

Tour starts in front of The Georgetown

Café, 19 South King St.

The Original Ghosts

of Williamsburg

Candlelight Tour


$9 Adults, children 6 and under free

Departs each evening at 8 p.m. There is also

an 8:45 p.m. tour in June, July & August.

Ghosts of Yorktown

Moonlight and

Mysteries Tour


$15 adults, $10 children (ages 4-10)

Under 4 free.

8 p.m. nightly June-August

Saturday nights only at 8 p.m.


Tickets sold at The Williamsburg

Attractions Center, Prime Outlets of

Williamsburg or by phone

Alexandria Colonial Tours


$7 adults, $5 for children (ages 7-12)

$2 military discount

7:30 & 9:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday,

7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Sunday

All tours depart the Ramsay House

Visitors Center

Cape Charles Tours


Between Father’s Day and Labor

Day, East and West tours depart every

Friday and Saturday night.

The West tour departs from the

beachfront gazebo at 8:00 PM.

The East tour departs from Rayfield’s

Pharmacy parking lot at 8:30 PM.

Custom and private tours can be

scheduled for any day and time.

$10 Adults, $7 for children under 12

Haunting Tales of Lexington


Tours begin outside of the Lexington

Visitor Center, 106 E. Washington St.

$10 Adults (13 years and up), $6 for

children (4-12 years), 3 and under free

Tours are offered Memorial weekend

through October at 8:30 p.m.

Please call and leave a message including

the number of people in your party.

The Martha Washington


150 West Main Street

Abingdon, Va. 24210


888-888-5252 (reservations)

Barter Theatre

133 West Main Street

Abingdon, Va. 24210

276-628-3991 (box office)

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