Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Real life ghost stories in Northern Virginia? You be the judge

Virginia is known for ghost stories. This is partially due to the region's strong connection to colonial times, Revolutionary War era and the Civil War years. There are countless ghost stories which relate to many famous and “regular” folks in the area.

In Old Town Alexandria there are a couple of different ghost tours which offer fascinating tales of ghostly apparitions, strange events, sensed spirits and tantalizing legends. There are stories of deadly fires, mysterious illnesses and much more.

To be honest, I am not usually inclined to really believe in ghosts, although I guess these days I do believe in presences. That being said, I have been witness to a couple of interesting events that did leave me with a weird vibe. What's interesting to me is all the places where these things happened are rumored to have experienced paranormal activity.

I am naturally drawn to “old” items and love architectural history so it is not uncommon for me to drag my family to go visit historical homes on a whim. Several years back we'd dropped by to take a tour of Woodlawn Plantation when family from out of town was visiting. First, our tour guide led us through an interesting visit of the first floor, and then we were invited to continue the tour on the second floor where the bedrooms were located.

Photo of Woodlawn
As were going up to the second floor on the stairway, the 9-month-old baby of the family suddenly started laughing with a tremendous belly giggle. This laughter came out of the blue, but what was bizarre was the fact it was a laugh we'd never heard, and sounded as if she was being tickled – a lot. The laughter immediately ceased as soon as we reached the top of the stairs and no sound was uttered by her as we continued the tour.

After this portion of the tour concluded we all headed on back down the elaborate curved staircase. About halfway down, in almost the precise spot as going up, the baby starts the same uncontrollable laughter all over again. At this point we still weren't thinking ghosts, our thoughts were along the lines of how funny and cute it all was. The older kids choose their souvenirs and we left.

A few days later my daughter pulls out her souvenir, a volume of the "Ghosts of Virginia" series and she points out an entry about Woodlawn. There was a paragraph that discussed this same stairway - and that it's been said an impish girl around the age of 6 or 7 is said to haunt the stairway (this story was not part of the tour, although some other spooky occurrences were mentioned). At this point my mind wandered back to the baby's sudden outbursts of laughter on that stairway. It is said younger children and pets all have a keen sense that we adults don't have.

Is it possible this "ghost" was tickling or playing with the baby? I don't know, but she never did laugh like that again until she was a bit older. Really odd.

The second instance was at Gadsby's Tavern, which has also been purported to have paranormal activity, but I'd never heard any stories about the rooms we were in. As we viewed one of the upstairs bedrooms, a closet/storage area door opened. Now, there is nothing unusual about this, but what was weird was the door opened just a few inches, as if someone was peeking in or out. Then there was a long pause. Suddenly, the entire door swung open in full. I made a comment about it and the tour guide simply answered matter of factly, "must be a ghost". And then the focus immediately went back to the tour. Again, this door opening in such strange fashion could be likely explained, however, it was definitely one of those moments that make you go "hmmmm"…

The third instance was in Fredericksburg as we were across the river and toured Chatham Manor. While in one of the rooms, I had this distinct feeling of blood. It was to the point I started staring at the floor.  I couldn’t explain it and then after we left the room I didn’t feel it anywhere else in the house (the home was used as a Civil War Hospital – so I chalked it up to that knowledge being fresh in my mind). So later in the weekend we went on the ghost tour in Fredericksburg (btw, fab tour!) and during our time walking around the city, our guide pointed across the water to Chatham and told us that some people get a sense of blood while in the house. Turns out the room I felt it in is said to be the room was where the doctor did his work - and the amputations were disposed of outside the window, pretty much behind where I was sitting, being I was in the back row and all. When I told our guide my story, we both got chills and goosebumps. She had no knowledge of my story and I had no knowledge of anything about Chatham except what I learned while touring the house. It was an interesting moment.

Did we experience ghostly presences or not? You be the judge.

Do ghosts exist? Have you ever felt a ghost, presence or other kind of paranormal activity here in the D.C. area or in Virginia? Or wherever you live? If so, share your story in the comments below!

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