Many people enjoy a good scare on Halloween or other times of the year. Given its colonial past, conflicts with Native American tribes, and its role in the American Civil War, Virginia has a lot of ghost stories to tell. Read on as we explore some of the most haunted locations in Virginia.
Bacon’s Castle (The Arthur Allen House)
Bacon’s Castle is not an actual castle but the oldest brick residence in North America. Arthur Allen oversaw the construction of his home in 1655. In 1676, men led by Nathaniel Bacon took it over during Bacon’s Rebellion. Upset that the governor would not drive Native Americans out of the colony, colonists took up arms against him. Nathaniel Bacon led thousands of men to put the torch to Jamestown and drive the governor away. It took years for British troops to quash the uprising.
The castle is reportedly the site of a high level of paranormal activity, from mysterious fireballs to touching and pulling on people. Paranormal investigators have reported hearing screams in the night, and some have told of seeing a floating disembodied head of a young African-American woman.
Preservation Virginia owns and operates Bacon’s Castle and regularly offers haunted history tours throughout the year.
Address: 465 Bacon’s Castle Trail, Surry, VA 23883
Simon Reid Curtis built Boxwood Inn in 1896. It is the only remaining 19th-century house in Lee Hall Village. The family hosted many well-known people, including W.C. Fields and World War I General John Pershing. Reid built it as a private residence, though the community later used it as a post office and general store.
The house’s hauntings are reportedly gentle and relatively harmless, including knocking, moving items, and the appearance of an elderly gentleman with a cane. The most well-known of these apparitions is Nannie Curtis, the original owner’s wife. When the Lucas family purchased the home in 1995 and began renovations, Mrs. Lucas reported that she was given small items she wished for. A nail file appeared when she felt she needed one, and she even tested this by hoping for $100. She said she immediately found a gold tooth, which a pawn shop offered $100 for.
The Boxwood Inn is now an event venue, hosting dinners, weddings, and parties, and is not open for touring. It is available, however, for your events if you’re looking for a howling good time.
Address: 10 Elmhurst Street, Newport News, Virginia 23603
Cold Harbor Battlefield
The American Civil War probably has thousands of ghost stories surrounding it, with many of these centered on the sites of significant battles. Cold Harbor Battlefield in Richmond, Virginia, has its share of stories. The field was the site of a Confederate victory, with the Union suffering over 12,000 casualties and about 4,000 men lost to the Confederacy.
As a site of conflict, pain, and suffering, the battlefield is popular among paranormal enthusiasts. People have heard the sounds of distant battles going on. Others have reported seeing ghosts wander through the old battle lines. This is even creepier because of the fog falling upon the battlefield quickly. It disappears just as quickly. A cemetery and house across the road are said to be haunted by the ghost of a young girl.
The National Park Service has a page dedicated to a self-guided battlefield tour. There are miles of hiking trails throughout the battlefield. The park closes at dark, though.
Address: Richmond National Battlefield Park, 3215 East Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23223
The Exchange Hotel
The Exchange Hotel, built in 1860, just before the Civil War, to take in travelers from the nearby railroad crossing. With the outbreak of the war, its original purpose was abandoned, and it was repurposed to serve as a wartime hospital. Over 300 casualties are buried on the hotel grounds. By the end of the war, the site had seen over 70,000 wounded soldiers from both sides of the conflict.
Supernatural sightings at this location have been centered on the pain and suffering of the soldiers from that great conflict. People have reported paranormal experiences of glowing orbs and light columns here. There have also been reports of apparitions, including visions of Civil War-era nurses, garbed in black, floating through the rooms. It is regularly reported that an African-American woman, known as “Anna,” has been seen going from the summer kitchen to the main building. It has been speculated that she is the ghost of a household cook for the second wife of the original hotel owner.
Owners of the Exchange have embraced the paranormal history of the hotel and offer rates for overnight paranormal investigations, as well as their occasional Friday night tours.
Address: 400 S Main St., Gordonsville, VA 22942
Ferry Plantation House
The Ferry Plantation was located at the site of a local ferry. The Walke family owned it. Part of the plantation house burnt down in 1828 and was reconstructed two years later from bricks undamaged in the fire. It was built for the seventeen-year-old son of the family, Charles Fleming MacIntosh, who would later serve in the Confederate Navy.
Paranormal investigators report as many as 11 ghosts haunt the plantation, including a man who appears regularly and is usually in a talkative mood. There is also a ghost associated with a nearby shipwreck, a formerly enslaved person, and a Lady in White, who died when she fell down the manor stairs. The most interesting may be the rumored ghost of Grace Sherwood, otherwise known as the Witch of Pungo. She was one of the only people convicted of witchcraft in Virginia. The trial was held near the Ferry Plantation. Electing to undergo trial by water, she was bound and tossed into water. She freed herself from the water but was then imprisoned for seven years. After her release, she lived a long life, but she wasn’t exonerated of witchcraft until 2006.
The plantation is currently open to visitors and is run by volunteers. The organization embraces paranormal investigations; tours can be booked through the plantation’s contact page.
Address: 4136 Cheswick Lane, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23455
The Martha Washington Inn & Spa
The Martha Washington Inn & Spa was built in 1832 as the retirement home for General Francis Preston after the War of 1812. It was home to the Preston family with their nine children for years. It was sold in 1858 and converted into a women’s college, named after the former First Lady, Martha Washington. Martha Washington College was known by the locals as “The Martha” and operated through the Civil War and the Crash of 1929, only to finally be shut down in 1932. It reopened in 1935 as a hotel and has hosted several influential people.
Many of its ghost stories are rooted in its operation as a war hospital during the Civil War. Union and Confederate forces skirmished in and around the town, and The Martha served as a hospital for both forces from time to time. Consequently, there are reports of both Union and Confederate ghosts, as well as the spirits of enslaved people and residents of the women’s college.
There have been reports of eery violin music being heard throughout the inn, perhaps related to the story of the Yankee Sweetheart. The tale is told of a Union officer, Captain John Stoves, who was wounded and taken prisoner. He was brought to a room and tended by a student from the college named Beth. She would play her violin to soothe his pain, and they soon fell in love. As he was dying, he asked her to play a tune for him, but he passed before she could begin. She died of typhoid weeks later, and it is said that her violin can still be heard playing for her lost love.
Another story is told of a Confederate soldier carrying dispatches for General Lee, who wanted to say goodbye to his Washington College sweetheart before leaving. There were tunnels beneath the grounds that entered the building, which he took, climbing a secret staircase within the college to meet his love. Unfortunately, Union soldiers spotted him on the stairs and shot him dead. His blood stained the floor, and no matter how it is treated or covered, the stain eventually reappears.
The Martha Washinton Inn & Spa currently accepts reservations, which are booked through their site.
Address: 150 West Main Street, Abingdon, VA 24210
St. Albans Sanatorium
St. Albans was initially built as a Lutheran Boys School in 1892. It operated for 17 years before it closed, its last days marked with allegations of bullying and abuse by the faculty. However, its cruel history was not done as it was soon reopened as a sanatorium. Electroshock therapy, lobotomies, and hydrotherapy characterized the treatment of mental illness and disability in the early 20th century. The hospital was also dangerously overcrowded, and the inhumane conditions reportedly led many patients to take their own lives.
The horror of the place is visible to even the most casual observer as a breath of decay and the artifacts of its terrible past remain behind. Among paranormal investigators, St. Albans is one of the most spiritually active places on the East Coast. People have claimed to hear voices, see levitating objects, and feel a shadowy presence. There are even tales of the ghost of a male staff member who wanders the lower levels, behaving aggressively to female visitors.
Address: 6248 University Park Dr., Radford, VA, 24141
Contact Page: https://www.stalbansvirginia.com/contact-us
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Jim Buzbee/Shutterstock.com
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