Living in Virginia, I have history at my doorstep. From historic St. Paul’s Church in Norfolk to battlefields throughout the state to the homes of many of the founding fathers, history is a short drive away. One of the things I love best is Virginia’s rich history of ghost stories and legends.
Williamsburg, Virginia features ghost tours every autumn, as do many towns and cities. One building on the tour stood out for me. The Wythe House, the home of George Wythe, a law professor, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and professor to Thomas Jefferson, has been the site of numerous ghostly encounters. The house was used as George Washington’s headquarters before the siege of Yorktown and French General Rochambeau after the final battles with England that won American Independence. One of the most widely seen ghosts in this house is a woman who has been sighted throughout the structure. She is believed to be Ann Skipwith, a former occupant who died in childbirth. She’s been spotted by employees of Colonial Williamsburg and visitors alike. If it is really Ann, she’s concerned with her appearance, because she’s been spotted combing her hair and in a mirror.
Berkley Plantation in Charles City County, nestled between Richmond and Williamsburg, was the home of Benjamin Harrison IV, the father of Benjamin Harrison V (a signer of the Declaration of Independence), and ancestor of Presidents William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison. Benjamin Harrison IV met his death at Berkley Plantation one rainy night when he tried to close a jammed window and was struck by lightning and killed instantly. Unfortunately, two of Harrison’s daughters, including one carrying the infant Benjamin Harrison V, had come to his aid and were struck by the lightning as well, dying at their father’s side. The baby survived and went on to his place in history.
Berkley Plantation has become the scene of numerous ghostly encounters over the years. A baby has been heard crying, perhaps echoing young Benjamin V’s cries on the night his mother died while holding him. The bedroom window that wouldn’t close during the rainy night in 1744 when Benjamin Harrison was struck by lightning slams shut by itself, for no apparent reason, and a young girl holding an infant has been spotted at the window late at night. These are only a few of many incidents that have led to the home’s haunted reputation.
Of course, historic homes are not the only sites for hauntings. Fort Monroe, an army base in Hampton, Virginia, is the subject of much ghost hunting lore. The ghosts of Abraham Lincoln, who once stayed at Fort Monroe, and Jefferson Davis, who was incarcerated there after the Civil War, have been spotted throughout the fort. Other specters spotted at Fort Monroe include a small child in an enlisted person’s quarters and the ghostly figure of an Army captain’s murdered wife in the officers’ quarters.
This is just a small sampling of the many ghostly legends to be explored in Virginia. Though I haven’t written a paranormal yet, the ghosts of Virginia inspire me to create a ghost story with historical overtones. With all this inspiration practically in my backyard, I’m sure I’ll conjure up a story someday.