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Friday, October 30, 2015

Halloween Edition!!!!- Haunted Williamsburg!!

A nice spooky picture to get this Halloween edition blog off to a good start! This is a recent photo of me(Jessica Waddell),
taken by photographer Anna Marie Keenan of AMK Photography. You can check her and I out on facebook.

Perhaps you've heard about the many hauntings in Williamsburg, VA? Or perhaps you just think of Bush Gardens, Williamsburg Winery and other attractions that Williamsburg has to offer? There is a history of hauntings from before the 17th century up until now, with research supporting these claims. Colonial Williamsburg is really the most haunted area of Williamsburg. Colonial Williamsburg is like a live museum, made up of 160 renovated buildings, on 175 acres of land.  It is protected by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and allows visitors to explore the town, much as it was in the early 1600's.  They wear colonial costumes, and have demonstrations.

Colonial Williamsburg actors

Map of Colonial Williamsburg

There are numerous haunted places in Colonial Williamsburg, such as the Wren building, the George Wythe house, Peyton Randolph house, College of William and Mary, Nicholson House, The Ludwell Paradise house, and there are Indian burial grounds and there were also witch trials. There are other haunted places there as well. Williamsburg was also the birthplace of the American Revolution, so there are supposedly a lot of ghosts from the War. There are several ghost tours that will take you to these places and others as well. Probably the most well known and well reviewed ghost tour company is called Williamburg Ghost Tours.  They take you to the College of William and Mary, the Brafferton House, Market house, Bruton Parish Church, Merchant's Square, Matthew Whaley Elementary School, Fort Magruder, Peyton Randolph house, George Wythe house and the Kimball Theater.  That is a lot for one blog so I picked a few of the most haunted ones to write about this time. But stay tuned, because I fully intend to visit Williamsburg and go on the ghost tour as soon as possible and will write about all of the places that I went to!

Lantern Ghost tour

Wythe House

We are starting with the George Wythe House, which is 1 of 5 original structures of the Williamsburg, VA. It is located on the Gloucester Street West side of the Palace Green, built during 1700s. In 1755, the George Wythe House was designed to be a wedding gift for the newly wed George Wythe, a dedicated patriot, also America's first law professor, teacher and mentor of Thomas Jefferson.  He was also the first Virginia signer of the Declaration of Independence. Sir Peyton and Lady Ann Skipwith would come and stay for extended periods of time, up until 1779. Here is where the stories vary. Some say, that Ann Skipwith died in childbirth in 1779, some say she took her own life, in the room she would share with her husband, after hearing about her husband and her sister (Jean Miller) having an affair. The fact that they were wed soon after Lady Ann Skipwith's death, did little to put to rest the rumors. Continuing on with the history of the Wythe House, it makes sense it could be haunted. After the capital was moved to Richmond in 1780, the Wythes moved there as well. George suffered a painful death by poisoning in 1806.  A greedy relative did it, hoping for a large inheritance. George's grandnephew, George Wythe Sweeney was suspected but not charged. However, George Wythe did change his will quickly before he died, knowing that he was dying.

George Wythe

Lady Ann Skipwith

There have been many paranormal investigations of the house, revealing as many as 3 ghosts who reside there. A strong aroma of perfume has its place among the Wythe House's files. In 1986, or around that time, an employee keeping track of visiting groups was sitting in a chair at the back of the hallway when she smelled perfume and concluded that someone in a current group of visitors had been wearing it. But her clipboard notes showed that the last group had left twenty minutes before. It was, as she said, as if someone wearing strong perfume had leaned over her shoulder to read the clipboard. Perhaps it was Lady Ann Skipwith, seeing if she was being written about? A second perfume sensing was reported in March 1999, when an evening interpreter said she heard chairs being dragged about in the empty parlor and smelled perfume as she stood in the open front doorway. Other occurrences have been reported, such as an incident in 1987, where someone reported seeing blue lights inside the house after closing. They wished to remain annonymous to avoid ridicule. Another told of a scowling gentleman in 18th century clothes, walking up and down the hall outside of Mr. Wythe's library. One woman actually fainted upon seeing the ghost of a woman pass through the bedchamber, over the parlor and leave through the wall by the closet. That would be pretty scary for your average person. There have also currently, been candlesticks moved from the windows, other objects moving about, doors closing and strange noises.

Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin

Something supernatural caught on camera at the Wythe house perhaps?

There was a Doctor W.A.R. Goodwin who believed in Williamsburg's ghosts and did not care if other people didn't. He thought there to be possibly as many as 3 ghosts haunting the Wythe house. He once told newspaper columnist Ernie Pyle, "I wouldn't give a hoot for anybody who doesn't believe in ghosts." That was in 1936, while Pyle was visiting Williamsburg's Restoration. Goodwin was actually credited for the idea of Colonial Williamsburg. He spoke often of Williamsburg's ghosts as he served the restoration as local director in the 1920's and 1930's. Goodwin's ghosts were not the stereotypical chain clanging type. They were benign enough for him to write to ten year old Joan Scott of Norfolk, that you can, "Shut your eyes and see the gladsome ghosts who once made these places their home. You can learn to call them back," he said. "You can train yourself to hear what they have to say." That was in 1927, but his beliefs went much further back. In 1905 he had taken on a restoration of Bruton Parish Church that led to replacement of the floor and explorations among the graves beneath it. His daughter Evelyn recalled "digging down to the coffins" as his partner "in this archaeological work. Many years later, he finally decided to accept an invitation to sit in Wythe's house office at midnight to wait for something supernatural to occur. "Tonight," Goodwin wrote in 1935, "I am in the Wythe House waiting for the hour to strike for the midnight Christmas Eve service... One is not alone here. The Ghosts of the past are my gladsome companions in the near midnight silence."

Wythe house as it appears today

Now, here is where it gets spooky!  One apparition seen in the house, has been heard making a peculiar clicking rhythm going up the main staircase, around midnight. It is thought to be Ann Skipwith, dashing up the stairs, after a huge fight with her husband at the Governor's Palace.  This was most likely when she confronted him about his affair with her sister. On her way home, she lost one of her shoes, and the strange click was from her one dress shoe clicking up the stairs. She has also been spotted coming out of the bedroom in a satin gown and red shoes. She was also seen sitting at her dressing table, combing her hair.  We may never know the whole story, how she really died, so I say use your imagination to fill in the blanks! One evening, a custodian saw a very life-like apparition of a woman in a colonial evening dress, standing on the staircase. At first, he thought she was a tour guide. When he went to speak to her, she disappeared before his very eyes!

George Wythe grave

Dr Goodwin and John Rockafeller in front of Wythe house prior to restoration

The air on the second floor landing at the top of the stairs,  has unexplainable cold spots, often, even on hot days. A hostess was walking through this frightfully cold stop one day and suddenly felt a pressure try and push her back.  Other hostesses there have had creepy experiences as well. Some have been tapped on the shoulder, by an invisible hand, or heard furniture moving around when no one else was in the house.  This is how common hauntings are at the Wythe house! Other employees there have even heard what sounded like an argument, between two people, when no one was there. Imagine, being so angry with someone, that you were to continue arguing even in death. Some people have also seen a small group of "spectral gentlemen" as they were described, sitting together in wing back chairs by the unlit fireplace in the study. Would you be able to work in such a haunted place? I feel that they should pay "hazard" pay. Haha.

Many orbs like this have been caught on camera at the Peyton Randolph house

Now we are moving on the the also very haunted, Peyton Randolph house. This is another one of the original structures. It is a two story colonial mansion, build in 1715 by Sir Jon Randolph. His family lived there throughout the 1700's.  Then the mansion was eventually sold to someone outside of the family. In 1824, Mrs. Mary Monrow Peachy began as new owner of the home. Then her tragic story began. One of her children died after falling from a tree, then several more of her children died from various diseases and illnesses. This was unfortunately common in these times for people to die from simple illnesses that can be easily cured today. Then a male relative killed himself in the drawing room. After the civil war, a young orphaned solider stayed with the Peachy family while he went to William and Mary. Unfortunately, he came down with the deadly disease, Tuberculosis. He suffered a long and excruciating death. Many families lived there before the house became part of the historical living museum.

Image caught on camera at Peyton Randolph house

With all of the deaths at the Peyton Randolph house, it isn't terribly surprising that there would be manifestations there. There have been ghost sightings for over 200 years.  There is only speculation about who the spirits may be. Many think that a young girl had fallen down the stairs and still resides there. People have heard shattering of a mirror and the sound of heavy stomping of boots going across the polished floor. There is a room upstairs where residents had been woken up in the middle of the night to see a white "shimmering" translucent male apparition, standing in the corner of the room. That would probably make most leave!  Psychics who have visited the Randolph house have felt uneasy vibes on the stairs and in some of the rooms. Employees have seen life like apparition of perhaps the same young man in a colonial outfit. Could it be the young man who succumbed to tuberculosis? He looks like an employee, as far as his clothes are concerned, then disappears.

A "face" at the Peyton Randolph house, when no one was there

One female employee has a particularly terrifying experience.  I personally would have had a hard time staying there after this happened, even as much as I like haunted places and a good scare. She met an angry, seemingly evil, presence on the top of the staircase on the second floor, that tried to push her down the stairs. She fortunately was able to grab hold of the banister and held on tightly until the attack stopped. There was a mentally disturbed man who killed himself in the parlor, but this also could have been another ghost, since there were several sightings of male apparitions. Because of this presence, several hostesses are afraid, understandably, and will not go upstairs or work in the house at all, alone.

More apparitions at Peyton Randolph house

There is also supposed to be a grieving old lady's spirit there, who is very polite apparently. She also lived upstairs, in the small, oak panelled read bedroom on the second floor, many guests over the years at first enjoyed the warmth and coziness of the room.  It had a nice, corner fireplace and two narrow windows that faced north. Her low post bed was next to one of the windows. The most common occurrence is when the very gaunt old lady's spirit, dressed in a flowing gown and laced night cap on her head, would wake up guests, very politely by calling them by their first name and then would go into mourning, wringing her hands. The moonlight would shine through the window and through her apparition, "polishing the bones on her skeletal face," as they say. Perhaps she was trying to warn people not to stay in the house? Or did she lose a loved one in a war?

Entrance to cellar at Peyton Randolph house

Basements are already creepy.  They say that another suicide took place in the house, in the basement. This is due to all of the creepy occurrences there. But it hasn't been confirmed. The entity seems to be very unhappy and disturbed. I suppose I would be too, if I were a ghost. 
In the 1970's, just as a security guard, Mr. Jones, was about to go home one night. Then he heard moans and groans coming from the house's basement. When the brave security guard entered the basement to see what was making the sounds, something, or someone slammed the door shut and locked from the outside! Imagine how terrifying that must have been! Mr. Jones found himself paralyzed, he could not make himself move at all. Was it just fear, or something more? But when his boss knocked on the front door of the house, the basement door unlocked itself and Mr. Jones was able to move again. He ran out, left his job, and found another, less spooky job. There have been a ton of orbs photographed there by tourists.

gravestones in Williamsburg

What haunted town would be complete without haunted burial grounds? There are burial grounds scattered all over Williamsburg, which really isn't surprising considering Williamsburg's history of wars and the Spanish flu. There is also Indian burial ground! About 6,000 Virginians died from the Spanish flue in October 1918, during the big epidemic of the 20th century. Many bodies were sent home for burial, but others were just buried on a piece of land near William and Mary College that is partially paved over now. There were two graves found in the Merchant Square parking lot as well, where the tombstones had actually been paved over. There are said to be British soldiers buried under the Palace Green in front of the Governors Palace as well. French soldiers were buried at the Bucktrout Cottage. Eight bodies have been confirmed to be buried at the Public Gaol under the wall. But the most interesting find was discovered on accident. Construction workers found an ancient Indian burial ground while they were building the National Park Services National Colonial Parkway tunnel that runs under Colonial Williamsburg. The grave site had to be moved. With all of these disturbed and forgotten burial sites, it's no wonder that restless spirits wonder about at night. They can't be happy about their graves being covered, paved over without a care or notice, or relocated. Blackbeard and his crew were actually held in Williamsburg's Gaol, which only traces still exist. It was thought that they were hung and buried there originally, but that actually is untrue. They were hanged and buried in Hampton actually. They do claim that Blackbeard's ghost haunts Williamsburg still, but that is probably just another story.  But there were a lot of hangings in the gallows, the bodies were dumped in a nearby ravine. I'll bet their spirits are a little more than agitated.

re-enactment of hanging at the Gaol Gallows
orbs seen at the Stocks

Colonial did not celebrate Halloween as thought by some. They didnt' have jack o lanterns, costumes or go trick or treating for candy as they do now. There were actually witch trials there, so perhaps the Episcopalian population wasn't keen on celebrating a dark holiday as Halloween. They did however have pumpkins, a lot of pumpkins, large and small, in a variety of colors they used to decorate and consume. Our use of pumpkins would be frowned upon by the colonials. They would have been confused by the waste of a food that was so vital to their survival in the harsh winter months. But they sure do celebrate it now! Williamsburg lights up for Halloween celebrations, ghost tours, trick or treating, storytelling, costume contests and much more. With such a spooky history and their awesome Halloween celebration now, what better time to go visit and go on a ghost tour there?

Is Williamsburg really haunted? It sure seems like it is and the history lends itself to such speculation. Visit, go on a ghost tour and see for yourself! A lot of times it seems that groups of people in ghost tours don't always have the best of luck having ghostly experiences, but it seems different with these tours. People have ghostly encounters, and captured pictures of orbs, and some spirits as well. I can't wait to go and check it out as soon as I have a chance, and I will of course report my findings in full detail.

Ghostly images in Williamsburg, area unknown

Lots of orb activity at the church cemetery

"ghosts" of a time long since passed

Another Halloween photo from my latest shoot with AMK Photography /Anna Marie Keenan

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