The entirety of Virginia is historic ground. Fierce battles of multiple wars have stained the land, and dark moments in history have left their mark. Why wouldn’t Virginia be the perfect place to explore the paranormal? These sites are not even a tip of the iceberg, but they’re great places to start.
— BACON’S CASTLE | SURRY —
Virginia’s oldest house and the nation’s oldest brick dwelling dates to 1665 and sits on the southern banks of the James River in Surry. Dubbed “Bacon’s Castle” thanks to Virginia Rebel Nathaniel Bacon and his occupation in 1676, this 9,300-square-foot Jacobean mansion is open for 45-minute tours select days of the week.
Bacon’s Castle. Photo by Chris Malpass Photography.
— ROSEWELL RUINS | GLOUCESTER —
A one-time grand colonial mansion, Rosewell was built along the York River over the course of 13 years, beginning in 1725. It burned in 1916 but four impressive chimneys, a wall, and vaulted cellar remain. The massive structure was the centerpiece of a 3,000 acre plantation. Visit the ruins Monday through Thursday, Saturday, or Sunday for a nominal fee.
DON’T MISS: Ghost Tours are offered October 29, 30 and 31 at 7 and 8:30 p.m. for $10 per person (limited and purchased in advance). You’ll hear of Leonora and the ghost, Scarlett Lady of Rosewell, as well as the boy who lights the doorway at night. Call 804-693-2585 for tickets.
— BLANDFORD CHURCH AND CEMETERY | PETERSBURG —
One of the nation’s oldest and largest cemeteries, Blandford is the resting place of roughly 30,000 Confederate soldiers whom died fighting during the Siege of Petersburg (June 9, 1864 to March 25, 1865). Blandford Church was built in 1735 and is Petersburg’s oldest structure. It has seen use as an Anglican and Episcopal house of worship, as well as a Civil War field hospital. Of note are the 15 Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass windows, a contribution from each of the Confederate states in remembrance of their Civil War fallen.
DON’T MISS: A special “Historic All Hallows Eve” event is held every October 31. It’s an hour-long walking tour offered from 6 to 8:40 p.m., highlighting the cemetery and the secrets it holds. $7 per person; reservations must be made in advance by calling 804-733-2396.
All Hallows Eve at Blandford Cemetery Walking Tour
— THE MARTHA HOTEL & SPA | ABINGDON —
This grand old dame is just one of the places you’ll encounter Virginia’s warm Southern hospitality. Built in 1832 as the retirement home for General Robert Preston (of the War of 1812), The Martha has served as a women’s college, a makeshift hospital during the Civil War, and finally, a welcoming, luxurious place of rest for the travel weary. It’s from its time as a hospital that some of the “stories” were born, like the one of Beth. She played violin while a soldier in care care quietly passed away. It is said that she was haunted with heartbreak and her spirit remains restless in the room.
DON’T MISS: Historic Abingdon Virginia GhostWalks are two- to three-hour walking tours held daily. Call 423-743-9255 for reservations.
The Library at The Martha Hotel
— VIRGINIA MILITARY INSTITUTE | LEXINGTON —
Who said the statue of “Virginia Mourning Her Dead” doesn’t actually weep? There have been tales of her stained face on the campus of VMI, the nation’s oldest state-supported military college. Founded in 1839, you’ve likely heard of at least one prominent professor, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.
Why might Virginia mourn her dead? The VMI Corps of Cadets marched to participate in the May 15, 1864 Battle of New Market some 78 miles north of Lexington. Of the 258 cadets in action, ten were killed and 45 were wounded. They ranged in age from 15 to 25. One cadet lost in battle was 16 year old William H. McDowell, captured in the fictional work by Elaine Marie Alphin titled “Ghost Cadet.” Virginia Military Institute makes his actual biographical information available here. McDowell is one of the soldiers in rest at the foot of “Virginia Mourning Her Dead,” the statue by Moses Ezekiel, VMI Class of 1866 and a New Market veteran.
DON’T MISS: Haunting Tales is a 90-minute walking tour offered 8:30 to 10 p.m. select evenings. It introduces you to Lexington’s Civil War history with the last point of interest being the eerily dark Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery, where the general is laid to rest. Rates start at $6; reservations are required. Call 540-464-2250.
Virginia Military Institute
— GADSBY’S TAVERN MUSEUM | ALEXANDRIA —
Two buildings with plenty of ghost story action, that’s Gadsby’s Tavern Museum. The tavern proper dates to 1785 while the attached City Hotel came along in 1792. Named for John Gadsby, proprietor from 1796 to 1808, the property was the flame to which the moths of politics and business were drawn. Music and dance were the norm, and such entertainment is still celebrated during events like Birthnight Ball, an occasion that celebrates George Washington, whom actually attended two.
As the story goes, the ghost of a beautiful woman lured a tavern guest to a deserted bedroom where a hurricane lamp was lit. While the wick burned fingers, it appeared brand new, as though it had never been lit. Suspicious, no?
DON’T MISS: The one-hour, six-block walking tour, Alexandria’s Original Ghost & Graveyard Tour, includes an 18th century costumed guide who will share legends and lore along the cobblestones of Old Town. Select dates and times; reservations accepted.
Gadsby’s Tavern Museum. Photo by CameronDavidson@CameronDavidson.com.
Looking for more haunted history? You’ll find them at Virginia.org/GhostlyHaunts.