A lot of people nowadays are obsessed with the weird, wacky, and paranormal. As a lover of all three, I have decided to do some research on the wonderfully weird side of the state I was born and raised in: Virginia. So I’ve compiled a list of the Top 10 Historic Haunts in Virginia!
1. The Woman in Black of Roanoke
What better way to start than with my very own hometown? Legend has it that in 1902 over the course of about a week many men encountered a “Woman in Black” who seemed to follow them to their homes in the downtown area of Roanoke. In some stories it was due to the men being unfaithful; in others it was to see if the men would prove to be unfaithful. Either way, the Woman in Black would follow them to their homes silently and then disappear as soon as they were inside. All were married men, of all different backgrounds and social statuses, and all described the same events. After about a week, she was gone and never seen again. However, some men in a nearby town said they, too, were being followed by a Woman in Black about a month afterward. Was it the same one? We may never know.
2. The Public Hospital of Williamsburg
Williamsburg is one of my favorite places in Virginia, not only for the wonderful Busch Gardens but also for all of the historical sites that surround your every move. One of my favorite parts of the town is Colonial Williamsburg. Here you get to step back to the 1700s and live the simple life; however, with all the history oozing from every pore, there are also many paranormal stories, and The Public Hospital is no joke.
I visited this hospital while I was in Williamsburg in October of 2015 just sightseeing. The Public Hospital is now an art museum but used to be the first mental hospital in America. The living conditions were poor and the treatment of the patients was horrendous. That all changed in 1862 when Doctor John Minson Galt II became superintendent of the hospital. He strived to make a real difference in the lives of his patients. However, after the Civil War started, Union soldiers took over the grounds and Doctor Galt later committed suicide in his home. Along with patients, he is said to haunt the Public Hospital now.
This place gave me the serious creeps. I wasn’t aware of the history surrounding this it until I stepped in the doors and into the exhibit about the mental hospital—and it was intense. It felt as though someone was watching you as you walked through the exhibits; the general unease never left me the entire time I was in there. I’m not one to be anxious about the paranormal either, but this place just exuded bad vibes. We were in the exhibit for maybe 15 minutes when it just became so overwhelming that we had to leave before even seeing the art exhibits. However, I’m definitely planning a trip back to see more! It was an incredible experience and I definitely recommend a visit!
3. The Peyton-Randolph House in Williamsburg
This is one of my all-time favorite places in Colonial Williamsburg, but I have yet to be able to tour it due to the odd schedule they have every time I go. I have looked around the outside, and the energy of the place is indescribable. It is said the owner’s wife treated their slaves horribly, so an unnamed female slave cursed the house before she died. There have been many other deaths on the property, from Civil War soldiers to a young boy who fell out of a tree, a young girl who fell from her window, and two men who fatally shot each other during a heated argument. It is said to have poltergeist-like activity. People hear glass breaking, children laughing, a woman who sings to herself. People also report being touched, pushed, and even a security guard claims to have been held down with extreme force. I’m definitely going to be planning a trip to tour this home as soon as possible.
4. The Curse Tree in Jamestown
The legend of the Curse Tree has always fascinated me. The story goes that Sarah Harrison was engaged to be married when after two weeks she met the handsome James Blair, whereupon she called off her engagement and started a relationship with Blair. After a short while they were married and this upset Sarah’s parents as not only was Blair much older than her, he also did not come from a family with money. This drove a wedge between Sarah and her parents, but the Blairs lived a happy life—that is, until Sarah died. A few years later James died and they were buried together. However, something peculiar then happened. A tree began to grow and the roots separated their graves. People now say that this is Sarah’s mother’s final revenge and her attempt to keep them apart for all eternity. You can still see the graves if you visit Historic Jamestowne, the site where the original fort stood. They are located beside the Jamestown Memorial Church, which was built on the foundations of the original church that was built there in 1617.
5. St. Albans Sanatorium in Radford
Before St. Albans was even a sanatorium, it was the site of the Draper’s Meadow Massacre. Shawnee Indians beheaded, tomahawked, and even bashed in the skulls of the settlers in the 1700s and took the survivors back with them to their village. Then during the Civil War, the area was bombarded by artillery during the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain.
It was originally constructed as a boys’ home in 1892, and it quickly became known as a school for tough and rambunctious boys who were held to high standards in both academics and sports. This also led to alleged suicides on the campus. The enrollment gradually slowed and in 1916 Doctor John C. King bought the building. King had great visions for the place, but psychiatric patients were given harsh treatments in the 1900s.
The sanatorium is said to be haunted by many spirits, with a full spectrum of ghoulish happenings. People claim to see the smoke and hear the sounds of the artillery fire from the Civil War, see apparitions, hear voices, get touched, etc. There’s even a room called the Suicide Bathroom where 12 suicides allegedly occurred. There is also a haunted bowling alley said to contain the spirit of a woman who was murdered in 1980 near the hospital. A number of paranormal teams have investigated the sanatorium and captured some amazing evidence. You can also tour the sanatorium with local paranormal teams, and around Halloween there’s a pretty amazing haunted house held there!
6. Historic Avenel in Bedford
The Avenel House was originally just a small plantation owned by William M. Burwell. However, many things seem to go bump in the night here. Many have claimed to have captured multiple EVPs, seen an orb that looks like an eye, heard a phantom cat meowing, as well as smelling tobacco when no smokers were around, feeling dizzy, and hearing other strange noises.
There is also a room called the Lee Room, where former family friend Robert E. Lee was said to stay every now and then. In that room people seem to experience an indentation in the bed as if someone is lying down on it. Also familiar to the Plantation is the ‘Lady in White,’ who is seen floating down the halls or around the garden, always with a parasol in hand. As far as I can tell, the Avenel House is open for paranormal teams to investigate and for Halloween parties during the month of October. So enter…if you dare.
7. Public Gaol in Williamsburg
In the mid 1700s while Williamsburg was the capitol of Virginia, the Public Gaol (Jail) held everything from war criminals to pirates. Most famously, Blackbeard’s crew spent some time here after the Governor of Virginia had the Queen Anne’s Revenge raided and it was during this time that Blackbeard was killed and the rest of his crew was sent to Williamsburg. Having been in the Gaol before, I can tell you it wasn’t a pleasant experience for these men. Two of the original cells are left and two replicas stand across from them. With just my fiancé and I in it, I felt claustrophobic and in the 1700s, there would have been more than two people in there. Even in the cool weather of mid-October it was toasty in there and dimly lit. I definitely wouldn’t have wanted the door closed on me.
Haunting wise, people have experienced footsteps, conversations being overheard, and even shackles on the wall have moved without explanation. There is also said to be a phantom horse and buggy that rides up past the jail on its way to the gallows. It is said that people who live in Colonial Williamsburg can hear the hooves of the horse and the wagon wheels all the way up the street. The best part is the gallows standing eerily on the hill behind the jail. The site is beautiful, but for some reason, I couldn’t convince myself to walk up hangman’s road.
8. The Wythe House in Williamsburg
The Wythe House is absolutely stunning to see in person, and I truly wish I could have toured it the last time I was in Williamsburg. However, gorgeous as it may be, it has a slightly colorful history. The original owner of the home was poisoned with arsenic. Though it did not happen in the home, he is said to return with his beloved wife and visit. Then there is Lady Anne Skipwirth, who had a fight with her husband while at the Wythe home for a party, ran upstairs, and committed suicide in one of the upstairs bedrooms.
Visitors have seen Lady Skipwirth materialize in her finest gala dress and then disappear. Doors open on their own, footsteps can be heard creaking over your head, and candles have moved mysteriously from one place to the other. It seems as though Lady Skipwirth and the Wythes don’t wish to leave their deathly home anytime soon.
9. The Ghostly Lovers of Lake Drummond
This tale has been told many, many ways for as long as I have lived here. Most famously Sir Thomas Moore wrote his ballad that he claims was based on an old Native American tale. In the tale, a man’s soon-to-be bride died suddenly from a mysterious illness just weeks before their wedding. The man then became crazed and overwhelmed with depression and soon began to believe that his bride-to-be was somewhere deep in the Great Dismal Swamp. So he set out to find her and became lost. He survived on berries and edible plants until he came across a lake in the middle of the swamp. As he neared the lake he saw the flickering of what he assumed was a lantern and quickly built a small raft to sail across to his bride. Unfortunately for him, the raft fell apart and he drowned in the lake. Now it is said that the man and his bride to be can be seen floating across the lake together in a canoe with a lantern lighting their way.
Now, I have never been to Lake Drummond, but I’ve been through the Great Dismal Swamp a few times and it is beautiful—but in a way that you wouldn’t expect. It’s dark, marshy, and ancient. It’s well worth the trip, even if you don’t get to see the ghostly man and his bride-to-be.
10. The Witch Road in Danville
This has been a place I’ve always been terrified to visit. According to locals and mostly teenagers, there is a road in Danville called Oak Hill Road and if you stop on the hill and put your car in neutral, it will roll up the hill toward the witch’s house. From what I have read, a long time ago this area was populated by heavily religious people, so a witch moved into town just to torment them. They later found her and burned or hung her and then just let her there and put crosses all around her. Now, I don’t know about you, but the religious people sound more terrifying than the witch, but honestly…I still wouldn’t chance it!
So those are my Top Ten Historical Haunts for Virginia! If you enjoyed this, let me know what state you would like to see next!