In honor of spooky season I decided to have a little fun with this week’s post. Houses, spots, locations, whatever you want to call them, Virginia has plenty. As a firm believer in the paranormal (shouts to my Aunt Annie), I could talk ghost stories endlessly, and particularly so when they occur in places I’m familiar with. So strap on your ghost hunter hat and let’s take a gander at the five most haunted houses in Virginia!
5. Swannanoa Palace, Afton
Swannanoa Palace was built around the turn of the 20th century by James and Sallie Dooley. Richmond-ers might recognize them as the same folks who built/owned the beautiful Maymont property. After completing the palace it was only a few short years before James passed, with Sallie following him (or did she?) two years later. Rumors of paranormal activity have really ramped up in recent years, with member of the Twisted Paranormal Society reporting spectral orbs, eerie voices responding to specific questions, as well as several team members falling ill during their visit!
Haunted by servants and groundskeepers, it’s Sallie Dooley who most often frequents the joint. Current owner, James Dulaney, is doing his best to restore Swannanoa Palace it its former glory. But even he can’t deny the spookiness of the place. Dulaney says his cats refuse to visit the third floor, where Sallie (a notorious cat-hater) is known to roam the halls.
4. Paxton Manor, Leesburg
No stranger to death and violence, it’s not surprising Leesburg makes this list. Home of brutally infamous Native American and Civil War battles, there’s plenty for those souls to be disgruntled about.
Paxton Manor was built in 1872 by Charles Paxton for his wife, Rachel. The sprawling estate was over 20,000 square feet with a labyrinth of underground caves. The tragic figure here is Rachel, who outlived Charles and their only daughter, Margaret, for many years. After the death of her young child, Mrs. Paxton devoted the rest of her life to caring for orphans and needy children. The site was also used as a refuge for bewildered Civil War soldiers during the Battle of Ball’s Bluff.
The most common trespassers seem to be those aforementioned soldiers, Native Americans, and the numerous child orphans who passed away on the property. Rachel herself is also alleged to still make her rounds, checking on the children. Perhaps the spookiest of the locals, though, is Jebediah Carver. A man who, legend has it, lived at the manor but was exiled from Leesburg after engaging in some intense animal cruelty. It’s speculated that he never actually left, but took his family to the caverns below, where he remains to this day!
3. Staunton Train Depot, Staunton
Listen, I could’ve chosen any number of spots near Staunton. The Clock Tower building played host to dozens of deaths; the insane asylum was home to all kinds of evil, with an experimenting doctor the crazy culprit. Likewise there’s the famous “Richard” of Mary Baldwin College, and the “Yellow Peril” of VMI. But I decided to go with the Train Depot because 1) the asylum stuff is just too much and 2) the primary ghosts are wonderfully specific.
The Train Depot has gone through two major traumatic events in its history. First, it was burned to the ground by Union General David Hunter in 1864 in an effort to cut supply lines during the war. 26 years later it was demolished by a fatal crash due to brake failure. The lone death in the crash was a miss Myrtle Knox, an aspiring opera singer. Miss Knox is known to roam the terminal in a nightgown, pulling the hair of female passengers. Another frequenter is D.C. McLewry, a confederate soldier who was hit by a train in 1861. McLewry is said to have been excessively drunk at the time, and still stumbling around the tracks today.
Staunton is an absolutely gorgeous town and one of my favorite places to visit in our state. So if you go visit (and you should) make some time to check out some of the more active areas. And say hey to Myrtle and D.C. while you’re there.
2. Edgewood Plantation, Charles City
Civil War history comes in to place once again at Edgewood Plantation. Home to several famous visitors and a major hub during the war, the plantation was listed on the National Registrar of Historic Places in 1982. Slaves and soldiers make up the bulk of the action here. Activity is so common, in fact, that it’s been the subject of an episode of Ghost Hunters on the SyFy channel. Additionally it’s been examined by teams from Virginia Paranormal Investigations and other similar groups, who left utterly convinced that it’s quite haunted.
One of the big timers at Edgewood is Aaron Young III, a confederate soldier said to have kept a guest up all night with incessant conversation. But the most popular spirit is that of Elizabeth “Lizzie” Rowland. Lizzie is said to have died there of a broken heart, after her soldier lover failed to return home from the war. In fact, if you’re brave enough, you can even stay in the very room where Lizzie died – and her name is etched into the window!
1. St. Albans Sanatorium, Radford
Is anyone surprised that a mental institution was named the most active location for paranormal activity on the east coast? I think not. I’m not even really sure where to begin. There’s the tragic story of Mary Draper Ingles at the hands of the Shawnee. There’s one of the Civil War’s most violent battles, the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain, which took place on the hill where the structure now sits and is likely responsible for reports of rifle shots, the smell of gun smoke, and spectral mists occurring to this day. But it’s the sanatorium, constructed in 1892, that is the main source of all this funkiness.
Originally a Lutheran Boys School, St. Albans became notorious for a hyper competitive atmosphere where bullying was not only accepted, but encouraged. Lots of athletic scholarships came as a result, but so did homicides and suicides. Soon after the death of its founder, enrollment dropped significantly and the school soon closed. “Shew, good” you might be thinking. Well, not so fast. The property was then purchased by Dr. John C. King, who hoped to fulfill his vision of the nation’s first top-notch psychiatric hospital. I probably don’t need to go into too much detail, but let’s just say that his dream was NOT realized. Poor medical practices of the time led to thousand of deaths on the premises.
According to the folks at colonialghosts.com, “Full body apparitions have been photographed in the old alcoholics’ ward, for instance. Tourists and experienced ghost hunters alike have heard disembodied conversations, screams, and footsteps. Some have seen objects move on their own, or been pushed by invisible forces themselves. The hospital’s maze-like configuration also makes it easy for visitors to get lost, making explorations both scary and dangerous. For several paranormal film makers, then, St. Albans Sanatorium was the perfect place to shoot some scary footage.”
Goodness gracious, that got heavy real quick. Here’s a picture of a beautiful rainbow to balance things out. Thanks for bearing with me during that spooky spooky recap of the five most haunted houses in Virginia! If you need to contact me for any reason, I’ll be in my bed with all the lights on for the foreseeable future. Otherwise, have an amazing rest of your October and I’ll be back again soon with some completely random topics for ya 🙂