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of the Virginia Tourism Corporation
For a truly spirited fall vacation, consider a trip to Virginias
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
Im not the only one to claim that, says L. B. Taylor
Jr., the preeminent authority on Virginias ghosts. But it
appears thats 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
Guides to ghosts
One way to rub elbows with apparitions is to take an organized tour.
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 tours 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 Virginias first capital city that Taylor
needed an entire book, The Ghosts of Williamsburg,
to chronicle them. A guided tour through the towns 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 shes trying to warn people
of something, said Taylor. The tour runs nightly.
Another tour based on Taylors 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
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
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 Alexandrias
visitors center and itself said to be haunted by the ghost of the
On Virginias 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 Fathers
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 hes seen ghosts there
about 30 times. Ive been touched,
pushed and everything, he said.
Sheffey can spin detailed tales of the supernatural off the top of his
head. Its an amazing place, Sheffy said of the hotel.
Its 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 spys
bloodstains that always reappear where he died, showing through even after
new carpet is laid.
Then theres the spirit of room 403.
Her name is Beth. She is, in one version, searching for her dead lover,
officer. In Sheffeys 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 Ive 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
If youd like to feast with a phantom or share your wine and spirits
with a spirit, the Commonwealth boasts several haunted taverns.
Gadsbys Tavern and Museum in Alexandria is a functioning restaurant
and a historical archive. Built circa 1785, the taverns 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.
Shes 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
Thats 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 Virginias 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 fathers disapproval. That
sent her into depression and she rejected
other suitors. Those who claim to have seen her say shes 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 Pratts 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
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 Washingtons brother-in-law is said to haunt the Georgian
mansion Kenmore, also near Fredericksburg. Col. Fielding Lewis
married Washingtons sister and was one of Virginias 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
Its 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 youll 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
$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
$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
Cape Charles Tours
Between Fathers 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 Rayfields
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
133 West Main Street
Abingdon, Va. 24210
276-628-3991 (box office)