Virginia Haunts

At times, a sense of things past seems to envelop tourists and residents who stroll quietly along Fredericksburg streets at twilight or drive through a countryside still scarred by the battles of the Civil War. Some swear that more than a general sense of the history of the place overwhelms them. At twilight, at midnight, or even at high noon, specters and shades of those whose place this was may return to their homes and habits to pray, to flirt, to dine, and to stroll, to fire their rifles and march in formation, or lie wounded in hospital beds, wearing uniforms of gray or blue.

Federal Hill, an antebellum mansion, was used as a hospital by Union soldiers during the Civil War, had its floors stained with the blood of the wounded and the dying and sustained 125 direct hits during the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862. According to an interview in Taylor's Ghosts of Fredericksburg, although the Laniers, the house's later owners, did not believe in ghosts themselves, they did take the precaution of having the house exorcised by the local Episcopal rector and his bishop before moving in during the late 1940s. One of Federal Hill's ghosts is said to be a very sociable fellow. A jolly colonial governor by the name of Spotswood (for whom Spotsylvania is named) was seen, once hoisting a silver cup to toast his portrait on the wall.

Aquia Church in Stafford County is home to one of our numerous "White Ladies", a kind of ghost that occurs frequently in European folklore. Aquia's White Lady is believed by some to be a young woman who was murdered by a highwayman in the chapel after a violent struggle more than 200 years ago. There have been tales of manifestations of the woman, as her foot steps race up and down the stairs to the belfry and her terrified apparition has been seen standing at the windows. According to Taylor's book, she may or may not be related to another eerie occurrence at the church during the Civil War.

There are several sources for area ghost stories, including a brochure from the Fredericksburg Area Tourism Department. The brochure mentions a few of the more famous local spirits, but ghost enthusiasts can continue their readings with these books, available at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library:

Civil War Ghosts of Virginia by L. B. Taylor
A ghost train, a "winged harbinger of doom", and the lone sentinel of Sailor's Creek and other ghosts all await Taylor's readers in this volume dedicated to spiritual manifestations of the bloody battles of the Lost Cause.

Ghost Stories of Woodlawn Plantation by Judy McElhaney
Woodlawn, a historic house three miles from Mount Vernon, has been the home to many haunts through the years.

The Ghosts of Charlottesville and Lynchburg: And Nearby Environs by L. B. Taylor
Taylor continues his haunting legends: the carnival of death, the albino beasts of Montpelier, stone showers from hell, and the spectral hound of the Blue Ridge.

The Ghosts of Fredericksburg and Nearby Environs by L. B. Taylor
For such a small town, Fredericksburg is certainly big on ghosts! From John Wilkes Booth to the headless blue lady of Charlotte Street, the town fairly bustles with supernatural tales.

The Ghosts of Richmond ... And Nearby Environs by L. B. Taylor
The one-time capital of the Confederacy has its share of ghost stories including "Ghost Brigade of Centre Hill" and "The Mad Carpenter of Cocatamoth".

The Ghosts of Tidewater and Nearby Environs by L. B. Taylor
Tidewater is home to the legendary Dismal Swamp and the very haunted town of Gloucester.

The Ghosts of Virginia by L. B. Taylor
Vengeful witches, psychic searches, and the haunts of Robert E. Lee are just a few of the dozens of stories in L. B. Taylor's first volume. Also available as an audiobook.

The Ghosts of Virginia. Volume II by L. B. Taylor
Meet the ghosts who love to read and the white lady of Avenel. Includes stories of a true tell-tale heart and a vanishing building.

The Ghosts of Virginia. Volume III by L. B. Taylor
More than fifty stories by eye-witnesses document the lore of haunted Virginia.

The Ghosts of Virginia. Volume IV by L. B. Taylor
Do you dare enter into a realm where spectres haunt saw mills and people are truly buried alive?

The Ghosts of Virginia. Volume V by L. B. Taylor
From the suburbs of Northern Virginia to the rutted paths of the Blue Ridge, Taylor delivers more local legends to tempt the psychic palate.

The Ghosts of Williamsburg and Nearby Environs by L. B. Taylor
Learn about the ghostly side of the famous colonial city.

Ghosts: Washington's Most Famous Ghost Stories by John Alexander
Legend has it that the waters near Georgetown were cursed by three Indian sisters, and General Braddock's French and Indian War fighters can still be seen on the bluffs above the Potomac. On a lighter note, Dolley Madison's sociable spirit is said to still be rocking in the shadows of her old house on the corner of Madison and H Streets. This book's many legends give a memorable history lesson on the District of Columbia.

Virginia Ghosts by Marguerite du Pont Lee
Mrs. Lee's collection of ghost stories from the Old Dominion was one of the first of its kind. The author, born at the beginning of the Civil War, draws on old lore and some interviews for her writing. The book is enhanced with photographs and paintings of the spirited subjects, many of which date to colonial times.