Has the spirit world taken up residence in your home or neighborhood? No? You sure about that? No eerie moans whistling through your hallways? No strange sightings on your local highways and byways? Nothing going bump in the deepest, darkest hours of night? You might want to think about that, because according to Pamela K. Kinney, Richmond-based author of "Virginia's Haunted Triangle—Williamsburg, Yorktown, Jamestown & Other Haunted Locations" (Schiffer Publishing, Ltd, 2011), there is nary a spot in our area that hasn't, at one time or another, been the site of some sort of paranormal activity.
Kinney should know. Beginning in 2009 and for more than a year, she spent days traipsing across the Virginia Peninsula, armed with ghost-hunting equipment and a healthy curiosity, to ferret out the truth of the many tales of ghost sightings in and around the Historic Triangle. She interviewed shopkeepers, residents and visitors and came away convinced that ghosts are among us, whether we know it or not.
"I was pleasantly surprised to find not one spot that was not haunted in the Triangle area," Kinney says. "Not just the three main places of Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown, but nearby in West Point (the Cohoke Light), Gloucester, Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson and Charles City (where the plantations are). The area is just rife in legends and ghostly hauntings. "
It's not surprising, considering Hampton Roads' rich history, according to Kinney. "History has a way of causing hauntings," she says.
Here's a look at some of Kinney's more intriguing finds. Five haunted places you may want to check out for yourself:
Haunted Goal and Hangman's Road
From the earliest days of the Colony, up to the early part of the 20th Century, the building housed the area's criminal element, including the worst of the worst whose penalty was death by hanging. In Colonial times, jailers would transport those prisoners by wagon to the gallows.
"The wheels of the wagon of death would be heard creaking up Nicholson Street to take (the prisoners) to the gallows. Those who rode it sat on their own coffins for the mile-long ride. People gathered around the gallows for the hanging events, as this was entertainment in those days," Kinney writes.
Since those days, the sounds of those carriage rides have haunted locals and visitors alike. In 1985, a guest at the Coke-Barrett House "told how he awoke to wagon wheels and a cracking of a whip. ... He even heard a voice urging the horses on. He got out of bed to stand at the window," but found nothing on the street. Several years later, says Kinney, an employee in the Carpenter's Yard heard the same, and when he rushed out to see who could be mistreating an animal, he arrived to an empty street. A woman visitor staying on Capital Landing Road (Hangman's Road) complained of being woken to the sounds of people cheering and a horse whinnying. Upset at the early-morning disruption, "she stalked to the window angry, but found the yard empty of life."
Kinney rates Crawford Road high on the creepy scale.
"It gave me the heebie jeebies when my husband took me there during the day, but when we returned at night, that part of me deep inside screamed to get out of there," she says.
Yorktown, Main Street
Built in 1730 by Thomas Nelson for his wife and their three children, and restored to its colonial appearance by the National Park Service in the late 20th Century, this three-story home on Main Street is said to be one of the most haunted structures in Yorktown, Kinney says. During the War Between the States, it was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers, Rebel and Yankee alike.
"Filled to the brim with the wounded, the odors of decaying flesh made it difficult to breathe and the windows were kept opened. The third floor held the most critically wounded. No doubt, many died, and not peacefully, in their sleep," she writes.
Kinney reports numerous sightings of ghosts and other spooky happenings over the years.
"There have been reports of rotting flesh, gusts of wind rushing through empty hallways, and voices when those that heard them were alone in the place," she writes.
Sightings of men of the Civil War era, as well as a young British soldier of Revolutionary times, have been reported, along with the sounds of a woman sobbing from the third floor.
Few local sites are more famous for ghost sightings than Gloucester's Rosewell Plantation. The Georgian-style plantation house, built in 1725 on the banks of the York River, was home for a century to the Page family, known for throwing lavish parties even in the years following the Civil War. While the family's tombs were moved to Abingdon Episcopal Church at some point, "the bodies themselves are still buried at Rosewell," reports Kinney. The house burned to the ground in 1916, leaving ruins that draw curious visitors to this day.
According to Kinney, "Music (like from a harpsichord) is heard playing, guests are seen descending down invisible stairs, boys with lanterns stand where doorways once were, and a woman in a red cloak rushes into a rose garden."
The Boxwood Inn, located in the Lee Hall area of Newport News, was built in the late 1800s as the family home of Simon Curtis ( son of Dr. Curtis of Endview Plantation), and his wife Nannie. Over the years, it was used as the Hall of Records for Warrick County, a general store, and a post office. It even hosted officers from Fort Eustis during both World Wars. Now it operates as a bed and breakfast, and according to Kinney, current owners Kathryn and Derek Hulick count a total of seven ghosts in residence, including Nannie Curtis herself.
Kinney writes, "It is said (about Nannie) that doors open and close all by themselves. Nannie is also blamed for knocking on doors in the morning. Apparently she does not believe in sleeping late."
Kinney writes that owner Kathy Hulick has her own stories to tell – things like sightings of a beautiful woman wearing a bonnet, random sensations of cold, and even a tap against a glass of wine she held.
"Was it Nannie, who was rumored to be a teetotaler?" Kinney says, "(Hulick) is never disappointed that things happen in the dining room. Always when places are set on tables, there's sure to be a fork missing or placed somewhere else."
Kinney devotes several pages of her book to Fort Monroe, relating the history of the fort from its founding by Captain John Smith, to news of the Army vacating the site in 2011, including a legend of a Loch Ness-like monster living in the moat.
"Regardless of whether the monster in the moat is real," writes Kinney, "it is said that ghosts haunt the various places on the fort."
Writing of ghosts spotted at the Casemate Museum, Kinney says, "Confederate ghosts have also been sighted there. One appeared in front of (a) security guard, freaking him out enough to spill his coffee on himself!"
The quarters of Robert E. Lee are among those most haunted, she writes.
"Toys move with no one living moving them, and people hear heavy footsteps when no one mortal has made them. Pots and pans in the kitchen rattle and plates are smashed, drawers yanked open to spill utensils, and cabinet doors open and close with no human hand doing so. Elsewhere flowers have been torn out of vases and petals scattered," she writes.
To Kinney, this might seem to be expected, and she cautions us that there is no statute of limitations on ghostly phenomena.
"To me, any place where violence happens and many people die is a spot where paranormal activity will be happening a hundred to 200 years, even much longer after that," she says.
About the book
"Virginia's Haunted Triangle—Williamsburg, Yorktown, Jamestown & Other Haunted Locations," by Pamela K. Kinney; Schiffer Publishing, 2011. Available at amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com, $15.59-$19.99.
About Writer's Block
For up-to-date information on Hampton Roads books, writers and events of interest to readers and writers, visit Leah Price's blog, Writers Block athttp://www.dailypress.com/entertainment/books/writers-block-blog/. Like the Daily Press Arts & Entertainment Facebook page -- https://www.facebook.com/dpentertainment -- and never miss a blog post again.
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