The Commonwealth of Virginia has been called the birthplace of presidents, with storied history around every corner. But with this history comes specters of the past, specters that creep and groan from every shady crevice. Only the limits of your imagination can protect you from the phantasmal horrors at the creepiest places in Virginia.
The origin of Bladensfield, a 2 1⁄2-story Federal style frame building near Warsaw, Virginia in the Tidewater region, is as murky as its demise. Some say it dates back to the late 1600s, others that it was built as ‘recently’ as 1790. It was a private residence until 1854, when it became a female seminary. Students and staff believed the building and its grounds were haunted by the ghosts of its previous owners, including John Peck and his daughter Alice, a beautiful young woman who died before she could marry her sweetheart. The 300-year-old building burned down in 1996.
The Poquoson Commons
Dolly Mammy, also known as Dorothy Pauls Messick, was a local woman who lived in York County in the early 20th century. She was also said to be a recluse who rarely left her home and was rumored to be involved in witchcraft. According to legend, she trudged into the wilderness alone when her two daughters refused to help retrieve their cows. The next day, her lifeless body was found sucked into the muck at Bell’s Oyster Gut. After their mother’s death, the girls were plagued by knocking and banging noises, had their hair tied together at night and scratches appeared on their bodies. Some believed this was the ghost of their mother, furious at having been left to die in the marsh.
The Fauquier History Museum at the Old Jail
The old Fauquier County prison in Warrenton, Virginia operated from 1808 until 1966. Over that 158-year time span, it housed criminals of every variety, mainly in the addition opened in 1823. A 3-person gallows loomed over its exercise yard. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and is today operated as the Fauquier History Museum at the Old Jail. According to former museum director Frances Allshouse, the old jail and adjoining jailer’s home is rife with supernatural activity. Disembodied footsteps creak the floorboards above the main level, the sound of a heavy object being dragged across the floor, and phantom whistling have all been heard. In 1994, a contractor scraping paint in the stairwell was startled by the appearance of a petite woman wearing a blue dress who faded from sight just as mysteriously as she appeared.
Thomas Center at Virginia Western Community College
Today, this nondescript building sits on the campus of Virginia Western Community College southeast of downtown Roanoke. But at one time it was the Roanoke City Almshouse. Built in 1925 on the former Persinger Farm, the almshouse served Roanoke’s homeless and indigent population for several decades. In theory, it was a place where they could find food and shelter and be cared for at public expense. In practice, almshouses were often poorly maintained with substandard, even dangerous living conditions. Since being purchased by the community college, visitors report seeing lights and shadowy figures, and hearing noises at night when no one is supposed to be inside. Two campus policemen reportedly encountered a “strange old man” who vanished when they confronted him.
Weems-Botts Museum & Annex
The Weems-Botts Museum & Annex is a historic house museum in Dumfries, Virginia. It was built in the late 18th century and was originally the home of Parson Mason Locke Weems, who was a famous author and clergyman. The museum is named after Weems and Benjamin Botts, a prominent lawyer and member of the Virginia legislature who lived in the house in the early 19th century. But it is the tragic ghosts of sisters Mamie and Violet who believers say haunt the old house. Though Mamie died at a young age, Violet lived long enough to spend her adulthood caring for her sick mother, who lived to the age of 98. They were the last inhabitants before the town of Dumfries acquired the property. Ever since, visitors and staff have reported a multitude of ghostly encounters, including windows rattling and opening and closing on their own, items moving around, and even full-bodied apparitions.
Pohick Church and Remey Mausoleum
A tall, cross-shaped memorial in the woods near Pohick Church in Lorton, Fairfax County, is all that remains of an ambitious tomb conceived by architect Charles Mason Remey (1874-1974). Remey was an architect and early American follower of the Baháʼí Faith. In 1937, he contracted with Pohick Church in Lorton, Fairfax County, Virginia to lease land in their cemetery for a sprawling mausoleum complex. It was fitted with luxuries like chandeliers and marble reliefs. In the 1950s, however, vandals broke in and destroyed the interior. Pohick Church reclaimed the site in 1968 and took steps to secure it. Today, the site has been buried aside from this tall, cross-shaped memorial. Remey died in 1974 and is buried in Italy.
Old House Woods
Marshy, mosquito-infested, and inhospitable, it’s been said that Old House Woods in Mathews County, Virginia, located east of Diggs near the Chesapeake shore, is home to a cornucopia of ghosts. Among these are a spectral crew of either pirates or British loyalists who buried treasure in the woods during the colonial days. Other sightings involve ghostly cows and a headless man searching for his lost love.
Crawford Road Bridge
A remote bridge along Crawford Road in Virginia’s Historic Triangle holds secrets, or at least that’s what storytellers say. Otherworldly phenomena is responsible for events ranging from electronic disturbances to car accidents, and real-life murders have darkened the spot’s already sinister reputation. “Bad vibes” and “negative energy” make some locals steer clear. The most popular legend surrounding Crawford Road Bridge involves a young bride forced into a loveless marriage. Rather than spend the rest of her life with a man she loathes, the woman hanged herself from the Tour Road overpass. Since then, a ghostly woman in white can be seen standing on the bridge, only to reenact her sickening plunge. Cars swerve to avoid a lone specter in the road, or experience engine trouble while driving through the narrow tunnel.
- Allshouse, Frances A. R. and Andrew B. Allshouse. Ghosts of the Old Jail. Middletown: By the author, 2013.
- Hauck, Dennis William. National Directory of Haunted Places. New York: Penguin Books, 2002.
- Kinney, Pamela. Virginia’s Haunted Historic Triangle. Atglen: Schiffer Publishing, 2019.
- Taylor, Jr., L.B. Ghosts of Virginia, I. Lynchburg: Progress Printing Co., 1993.
- Taylor, Jr., L.B. Ghosts of Virginia, II. Lynchburg: Progress Printing Co., 1994.
- Taylor, Jr., L.B. Ghosts of Virginia, III. Lynchburg: Progress Printing Co., 1996.
- Taylor, Jr., L.B. Ghosts of Virginia, IV. Lynchburg: Progress Printing Co., 1998.
- Varhola, Michael J. Ghosthunting Virginia. Cincinnati: Clerisy Press, 2008.