Virginia may be for lovers. But, apparently, it’s also for ghosts — and lovers of legend and lore.
The state boasts a number of historical destinations the likes of Colonial Williamsburg, Monticello, Jamestown, and Mount Vernon, and you may just get more than what you bargained for — or exactly what you were seeking — with your history lesson.
With so many history-laden places that were once the grounds of American Revolution battlefields or Civil War sites, it’s no surprise that the state is prime territory for paranormal activity.
But, the “haunted houses,” hospitals, hotels, and more on this list take the ghostly grounds a step further with goosebumps-inducing stories and sightings that are guaranteed to spook you.
Ferry Plantation House
Where: 4136 Cheswick Ln., Virginia Beach
A Lady in White, a witch, and eleven other spirits are all apparently long-term guests of this 1830 Federal-style brick house that’s a popular site for hundreds of paranormal investigations. In fact, it was one of these investigations that determined that an African American spirit was a former slave named Henry who lived on the property.
As for that Lady in White, she tumbled to her death on the stairs, and the witch is supposedly Grace Sherwood who was convicted as such in a trial. Victims of an early 19th-century shipwreck are also said to have taken up residence here. You can check them all out for yourself during the Stroll of Lost Souls on October 26 and 27.
Gadsby’s Tavern Museum
Where: 134 N. Royal St., Alexandria
The museum includes two buildings — a circa 1785 tavern and a 1792 hotel — both of which were formerly central to political, business, and social life in Alexandria. But, when a young woman traveled there in 1816 and died, she apparently never left the premises. Reportedly, a tavern guest has even followed her apparition upstairs to an empty bedroom where a hurricane lamp glowed without being lit.
The Exchange Hotel Civil War Medical Museum
Where: 400 S. Main St., Gordonsville
Virginia’s only standing Civil War-receiving hospital, this place was also a grand hotel prior to the war. By war's end, more than 70,000 men had been treated here, and about 700 were buried on the surrounding grounds. So, it’s probably no wonder that the location has been said to be fully haunted by numerous apparitions with strange occurrences like items moving around, unexplained voices, and many documented ghostly experiences inside the property and on its grounds.
Multiple paranormal teams have been on site over the years to check out the phenomena that also include the sensation of being pushed by invisible forces, hearing footsteps, and the appearance of shadows, eerie orbs, and strange lights.
George Wythe House
Where: 112 Palace Green St., Williamsburg
The stately mid-18th century home of prominent attorney and thinker George Wythe was a hotbed of activity, even serving as General George Washington’s headquarters before the British siege of Yorktown. So, it’s no surprise that it now also serves as a potential stomping grounds for ghosts including Washington and Wythe. But, apparently, it’s Lady Ann Skipworth's spirit that is most frequently encountered. When Wythe hosted a gala at the mansion in 1780, she and her husband had an argument — likely because he was a well-known womanizer.
Lady Skipwirth stormed out of the ballroom and fled upstairs just before the clock struck midnight, and in a fit of jealous rage, it’s believed that she took her own life in one of the home’s bedrooms. Many investigators cite the strong scent of lavender perfume lingering in the halls, the echoes of heels clicking on the stairs, and more as her ghost. Some visitors have even seen her, decked in her gala gown, materialize then disappear through the house’s walls.
Where: 4601 Ironbound Rd., Williamsburg
In 1773, the Public Hospital for Persons of Insane and Disordered Minds admitted its first patients at this institution that was also the first institution in North America exclusively dedicated to the treatment of the mentally ill. That said, patients were treated no better than prison inmates and often suffered long periods of confinement while shackled to walls, amidst dismal living conditions. Now, the reconstructed building is the main entrance to the art museums of Colonial Williamsburg. But, apparently, ghosts of the former hospital residents have been seen in the windows at night.
St. Albans Sanatorium
Where: 6248 University Park Dr., Radford
Speaking of mental hospitals, St. Albans is another destination that’s rife with tales of ghostly and ghastly encounters in the dusty hallways of the old asylum, where disembodied conversations, screams, and footsteps only scratch the surface of the spookiness. The place has been frequently investigated and has even been described as one of the most active locations on the East Coast for paranormal activity.
It’s also probably one of the creepiest with its maze-like configuration and spooky former laboratories and savage treatment rooms that lie in ruin. And, on Halloween night, you can participate in a public investigation yourself or hit up the Haunted House that’s on Fridays and Saturdays in October.
Captain Timothy Hill House
Where: 5122 Main St., Chincoteague Island
If walls could talk in this oldest house on Chincoteague Island, the place would probably tell the story of a family of Yankee sailor Timothy Hill who forbid his daughter, Jennie, from marrying her love, Tom. He killed her and himself in a fit of rage and devastation. And, Jennie is rumored to still haunt the house to this day.
Where: 3944 Cameron St., Dumfries
This museum boasts more than a history lesson. While it’s the former home of Mason Locke Weems (George Washington’s first biographer) and Benjamin Botts (a lawyer on Aaron Burr’s defense team), it is said to be haunted by members of the Merchant family who later moved into the house in 1869. Many believe that the Merchant daughters, Mary and Violet, are the female spirits who wander the museum now. The place was even the subject of an episode of “The Dead Files” on the Travel Channel.
Where: E. Nicholson St., Williamsburg
The jail’s ghosts apparently include pirates, thieves, runaway slaves, and corrupt political prisoners, all of whom once paced the cells of this infamous prison before they were tried — and often hanged.
Peyton Randolph House
Where: 100 W. Nicholson St., Williamsburg
One of the most popular “haunted houses” on the Williamsburg block, the Peyton Randolph place is a Georgian-style mansion originally built in 1715 that was inhabited by a man of the same name. His wife, Betty, was known to be a cruel slave master and one of her slaves, Eve, is said to have cursed the house — at least, that’s one of the rumored explanations why many people have died at the mansion from freak accidents, murder, and mysterious illnesses with their spirits still roaming the grounds to this day.
The Martha Washington Inn & Spa
Where: 150 W. Main St., Abingdon
Stay overnight in a “real” haunted house at this elegantly gracious, historic property that reportedly has a few ghosts, too. A former upscale college for women, it also served as a makeshift hospital for wounded soldiers during the Civil War, and many who died there apparently haven’t yet left the building. There's the tale of a Yankee sweetheart who plays the violin, a phantom horse wandering the grounds, reappearing bloodstains of a wounded soldier, and more.
Where: 465 Bacon’s Castle Trail, Surry
As the oldest brick dwelling in North America, this stately manse is bound to have some secrets (and ghosts) — and you can get in on them with a tour of the place that got its name when several of Nathaniel Bacon’s men occupied the home for four months during the uprising that became known as Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676. The spiral staircase is kind of creepy in its own right, but not as much so as the spectral fireballs, floating heads, and disembodied voices which have been reportedly seen and heard at the estate.
If you’re really wanting to dig deep into a ghostly endeavor, head to Historic Haunt Night on October 27 in partnership with the Center for Paranormal Research and Investigation. What is definitely real here is the beautifully restored 17th-century plantation home and it's English formal garden.
Patrick Henry’s Scotchtown
Where: 16120 Chiswell Ln., Beaverdam
Scotchtown is the only original standing home of Patrick Henry, patriot and orator of the American Revolution, who lived at the property from 1771 to 1778 and where he reportedly conceived his most influential revolutionary ideas, including his famous “Liberty or Death” speech. You can take a guided tour of the historical place. But, if you believe some of the more frightening fables, you might get more haunts than history.
The other side to the story involves Patrick’s wife, Sarah, who apparently suffered from mental illness and was dangerous to herself and others. He moved her to the Scotchtown home’s basement and locked her there in a straight dress. She died several years later, but many people think that her ghost still wanders the place, citing mystery footsteps, objects moving around, and strange noises as proof. Motion detectors and security alarms even often go off by themselves with no apparent explanation. Creepy.