William and Mary Hauntings

1. Sunken Garden


Welcome to the Sunken Garden, built in the mid-­‐1930s by President FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps and modeled after the Chelsea hospital gardens in England. The Sunken Garden is used for graduation ceremonies, concerts, classes, sports, special events, and other recreation. When our Indian runner was alive, this is the area where he would run. But when he was alive, this was all flat ground. So when his ghost is seen, it is seen running up in the air where he ran when he was alive, in a wide-­‐open area. This is why he is the most popular and commonly seen ghost on campus. He is seen running wearing only a cloth skirt. Students have a tradition called the William and Mary triathlon that involves streaking through the garden, similarly to the Indian boy’s ghost running through the area. But, there is more to the sunken garden! From 1775 to 1781, this area was known as The College Camp, where volunteers gathered to join the Virginia Regiment commanded by Colonel Patrick Henry, the same Patrick Henry who made the famous “give me liberty give me death” speech. The volunteers who met here left their homes and made their final goodbyes to their families, many of them for the last time, and would then travel north to reinforce General Washington’s Northern Army. Sometimes, a thick fog will slowly roll through the area, confined to the sunken garden area. Within this fog, faint images of men are seen walking through the air in what was the colonial encampment, with the sounds of voices heard coming from the fog, rolling through the empty field, as the lights on either side of the garden flicker, change colors, and dim out. The Sunken garden is host to both the ghost of the Indian running boy and the college encampment.

2. Steam Tunnels


With the College Camp came underground tunnels used to store and hide important supplies from the British if they came to Williamsburg, which they did in 1781 when General Cornwallis’s army camped in Williamsburg for ten days on their way to the neighboring port at Yorktown. These underground tunnels were dug from underneath the crypt in the Wren Building, and were forgotten until the campus was expanded in the 20th century when steam tunnels were built underground to deliver steam to heat many of the campus buildings. The steam tunnels incorporated parts of the old underground tunnels from the revolutionary war and were very expansive, stretching down the sunken garden to buildings on both sides, and even across the street. The tunnels were easily accessible, as students could walk in through the sunken garden or from one of many college buildings. This became a problem for three reasons. First, homeless would use areas of the tunnels for shelter. Second, some terrible crimes were committed in the tunnels, including murder.

Finally, fraternities and secret societies would force their pledges to enter the steam tunnels and enter the Wren Crypt, where they were tasked with stealing a bone from one of the graves and presenting it in order to be initiated. In response, the College closed off most of the entrances to the steam tunnels and added a policy stating that any student caught in the steam tunnels would be automatically expelled from campus. Now, of course there is a reason why the fraternities would make their pledges enter the steam tunnels: because of the things they would experience inside! Those inside the tunnels would hear voices coming from in the tunnels: cursing, screaming, and sinister laughter. Once the students made their way to where they heard the voices, there was no one there.

They would also feel as if someone was grabbing or breathing on them. Take a look down into the tunnel, and you’ll notice it’s actually a nice cobblestone walkway. During a tour one night while we were looking down the tunnel, there was about an inch of water in the tunnel. While the group was looking at it, they saw distinct footprints walk across the water on the right, left, and right side, making impressions of a boot or shoe that appeared that something was walking on the water. Nothing was moving across the top of the water and no one was dropping anything down on top of the water. The tour guide looked up, not believing what he saw and asked the others if they saw that. They had seen it, and asked the tour guide how he made that happen! Others who walk over the steam tunnel will hear sounds and voices coming from inside the tunnel.

3. Tucker Hall


The most controversial story on the tour is what happened here, at Tucker Hall. In addition to being a sensitive subject, William and Mary does not want you to hear this story. There’s another name to this building, a name that was twice given by the campus newspaper. That name is Suicide Hall. William and Mary has a reputation as a place where many suicides occur. With Tucker Hall, it began in 1980 when a girl studying for final exams begged her parents to let her leave and return home. Her parents refused, telling her to finish her studies first. Instead, the girl hanged herself from the girl’s restroom in the top left of the building. Two yeas later, another girl took her life in the building, but left a note behind. This note said, “she made me do it.” Since then, many others have taken their lives in the building, the last one we know of for sure was an alumnus of the college who shot himself in the head in 2004.

It is difficult to know how and where each suicide occurred, but many have happened here in this building, believed to be the result of one of the girls who first took their lives in the building. During several years of renovations in the building from 2009 to 2013, students would still see the apparition of a girl standing looking out of the window in the top left of the deserted building, which had a large green fence surrounding it. When it reopened, a student and friend of a Williamsburg Ghost Tour guide was studying inside in 2014 when suddenly all of the books and materials on her table were thrown across the room. It is said that if you study in this building during finals, you will be approached by the ghost of a girl. She will ask you how your exams are going. If you say they are going well, she will become angry, yell, throw things around, and disappear. But if you say that they are not going well, she will try to convince you to take your own life.

4. Wren Building


Welcome to the Wren Building, the iconic and original building of the College of William and Mary. Named after Sir Christopher Wren (believed to be the building’s architect), was built between 1695 and 1700 and is the oldest academic building still in use in the United States. The students learned, slept and ate here. The Wren has a long and turbulent history. It was first destroyed by fire in 1705 and rebuilt by funds from Queen Anne, financed by Privateers and Pirates in 1716. During the revolutionary war, it was used as a hospital for French soldiers wounded while fighting at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781. Now look behind the archway on the far right, and you will see a plaque on the wall. The plaque lists the names of more than 120 French soldiers who died while being treated for their wounds inside the Wren Building. In 1859, the Wren was destroyed by fire again and was rebuilt that year. When Virginia seceded from the Union during the Civil War, the College closed down and invested its entire endowment into Confederate bonds, which became worthless by the end of the war. The President and all faculty members, as well as 68 of the 70 students joined the Confederate Army. The Wren was used as a confederate barracks, and later as a hospital for the wounded. After the Battle of Williamsburg, the Union army occupied the Wren and also used it as a hospital.

Surrounding the Wren and in the College Yard were rows upon rows of wounded and dead soldiers, as the Wren building was overcrowded. Surgeons performed amputations in the yard, as piles of amputated limbs piled up in the blood soaked field. The screams of wounded soldiers and those undergoing surgery permeated through the college grounds. William and Mary was on the frontlines of the Civil War, as Williamsburg was under martial law. In September of 1862, following a Confederate cavalry raid through the college that killed 11 union soldiers, members of the union army retaliated by burning down the Wren Building. It was rebuilt in 1868, and remodeled to represent its colonial version in 1929. As the oldest academic building still in continuous use in the US, you will notice that some bricks towards the base of the building are more cracked, grayed, and worn than the others. This is because the later fires didn’t destroy the building’s foundation. To your right you will see holes in the base of the building.

These lead into the Wren Crypt, beneath the Chapel’s floor, where the remains of Sir Randolph, Peyton Randolph, and Lord Botetourt lie. Classes held in this building are often interrupted by the terrifying screams of someone in agony. When someone will check to see where the screams are coming from, they find no one. The sounds of mysterious footsteps throughout the building, screams, objects moving on their own, and sightings of a French soldier walking through the halls make the Wren Building one of the haunted places on campus. Hundreds of men died painful, agonizing deaths both inside the building and on its grounds during two major wars, in addition to many others who were killed in battle on the college yard, already serving as a makeshift field hospital.

Brafferton House

Welcome to the College of William and Mary! William and Mary was founded by royal charter in 1693, making it the second oldest college in the US after Harvard, pre-­dating Williamsburg as the capital of the Virginia colony. But long before 1693 in the second surviving English settlement after Jamestown, Henricus, the settlers were very prosperous and so the Virginia Company of London proposed building a college in 1619.

However, the first Indian massacre in 1622 killed about one-­‐third of the colonial population, and the plans for opening a college were cancelled. Once William and Mary was finally chartered in 1693, the charter contained a section that said the college would also operate a school for Indian boys, to train them to be Christian ministers and to show them the virtues of English culture, so that when they returned to their tribes they would serve as missionaries to convert the Indians to the English way of life, preventing any further wars and helping the English to expand their territory more rapidly. However, this plan did not work well. The College could not get any volunteers for their school until 1707, when six boys were taken as prisoners of war from a warring tribe and given to the colony as tribute. This first class stayed with local residents in town, much like a foreign exchange program. Many students were abused by their colonial guests, and died of disease. Many of the boys did not speak the same language and would fight, as they were from warring tribes. To create a better atmosphere for the students, a dedicated house for the boys was built in 1723 after a wealthy donor in England left a large sum for the school’s operation in his will.

That house was the Brafferton House, also known as the Indian School. The boys slept on the second and third floors, but were still catching diseases from the colonists. Many of them escaped to return to their tribes in an attempt to be cured or healed. In response, the college barred the doors so the boys could not escape. As a result, many Indian boys died inside the building. At times, students would come up to the steps to sit, and from behind them they would hear the doorknob turn. They would also hear the door shake, the sounds of voices behind the door, and hands pressing and scratching from the inside of the door. These are the ghosts of the boys who died inside the building, unable to escape.

A visiting professor who once stayed on the top floor of the building for a semester remarked that twice during his stay he was awakned in the middle of the night by the sounds of footsteps, voices, and a tom tom drum beating in the room with him, as he lay in bed petrified with fear. The Brafferton House is the oldest and most original building on the William and Mary campus, and the second most original in Williamsburg after the Bruton Parish Church. The Brafferton house is home to the most famous ghost at William and Mary, one Indian boy who is still seen on campus. He created a makeshift rope, threw it out the window from the second floor and climbed down so he could be free and run around campus. He would return to the room to resume his studies the next day.

One morning, faculty discovered the window open and a rope out the window. They discovered one of the students was unaccounted for, and searched for the boy. They found his body in what is today called the sunken gardens, the place where he was known to run. No reason was given for his death, but it is believed that a rival Indian student killed him. Despite his death, the boy is still seen running through campus, usually over the sunken gardens. Now, lets make our way to the Sunken Garden to see the place where they found his body and where his ghost is commonly spotted today.

Governor’s Palace

The Governor’s Palace, built in the late 1930s. The original building was destroyed by fire in 1781 while it was used as a hospital for American soldiers wounded at the Battle of Yorktown. Before its final days as a hospital, the Governor’s Palace, originally constructed in 1710, held the largest and most extravagant parties in the Colony of Virginia. During the reconstruction, they discovered hundreds of skeletons. Buried with them were musket balls with bite marks on them. Wounded soldiers would be given a musket ball to bite on for the pain during amputation or surgery. This is where the phrase “to bite the bullet” comes from. Along with a memorial to the fallen soldiers is a beautiful winding hedge maze. One evening after the Palace was rebuilt, two William and Mary students out on a romantic stroll decided to be adventurous and jump the Palace wall and make their way through the romantic gardens and winding hedge maze. The man helped his date over the wall, and as she made her way down on the other side, he heard her let out a terrifying scream. As he was making his way over the wall, he saw a man with a large scythe cut the girl’s neck open, killing her instantly. The killer, a crazed escaped patient from the Eastern State Lunatic Asylum, dropped the weapon and fled.

A William and Mary tradition involves jumping the wall of the governor’s palace late at night and making your way through the winding hedge maze. It is the scariest thing you can do in Williamsburg. Colonial Williamsburg security knows this, and so a cat and mouse game ensues between students and security. To catch the younger, faster, and numerically superior students, the guards would often work in pairs, with one at each end of the maze to flush the students out.   One night, one of the guards heard footsteps coming from around the corner of the maze’s exit, as he waited to apprehend them. When he heard they were close enough, he turned around the corner, shouted, “come on out lets get this over with” and turned on his light. When he turned on his light, there was no one there. Yet, he still heard the footsteps making their way close and closer in front of them, until they were right in front of him. And then, they continued walking directly behind him. He radioed to his partner, who, although hearing footsteps himself, could not find anyone. The two ran out of the Palace, and knew that whatever was in there, it wasn’t a person. Students who make their way through the ominous maze also report that there is something else in the maze with them. Some claim they have seen the ghost of the murdered girl who had her throat cut open. Others say they see black shadows moving around the maze with them, as well as footsteps and whispering. Security also responded to reports someone was walking through the third floor with a flashlight or candle. When they made their way inside they smelled a strong scent of a candle, but could not find anyone. They do not leave candles lying around in the building, and the security system did not detect anyone entering the palace. When they closed up and went back to their car, one of them looked up and saw a light moving through the second floor. They rushed back inside, and each man ran up each side to the second floor. Again, they smelled a strong candle scent as if it had just been lit. But, they found no one.

Bruton Parish Church

The Bruton Parish Church is the oldest building in Colonial Williamsburg; construction on the building was completed in 1683. It served as a hospital during the Civil War, and later as a mass burial site for about 100 confederate soldiers killed during the Battle of Williamsburg. Surrounding the church you will find a beautiful cemetery with graves marked from the 17th century to the 20th century. Each grave has its own story, from the unknown confederate soldiers to one of the church’s colonial reverends, by the name of Scervant Jones who is buried here with his first wife here. Reverend Jones and his wife were expecting their first child. Sadly, there were complications during labor and the doctor informed him that she was not going to survive. While she was on her deathbed, he proclaimed his undying love for her. He told her how he could never imagine life without her, nor could he ever be with another woman, and asked her to wait for him so they could reunite in heaven. He had her buried in the church cemetery. Shortly after her death, he left town for a while.

Just three months after her death, Reverend Jones rode back into town in a carriage, with his dead wife’s tombstone. During this time, witnesses saw the wife, who had died and was buried, roaming the church cemetery grounds, and even sitting in the church pew. It is said that she was patiently waiting to reunite with her husband. But once he returned three months later, he brought something else with him… it was his new wife! Almost immediately upon the arrival of Reverend Jones and his new wife, people continued to see the apparition of the original Mrs. Jones throughout the church building and the graveyard, only now. she was very upset by the new wife and was seen crying and wailing, angry over his broken oath.

To add insult to injury, Rev. Jones had his new wife’s grave plot placed in between him and his first wife. Not only did Rev. Jones find a new wife, his resting place is separated from his first wife by another woman. The Joneses are still buried here in Bruton Parish Church’s graveyard. Sometimes, late at night, the church organ can be heard playing on its own when nobody is inside. People still hear the anguished cries of Reverend Jones’ broken-­‐ hearted first wife and see her roaming the graveyard. Additionally, the curtains inside the church flutter and move without explanation.

A second story comes from the side entrance to the church from two security guards. Late one night, two Colonial Williamsburg Security guards were sitting in their patrol car, and saw a man walking up from the palace green along the road towards the church. He was described as a tall, shadowy figure dressed in cardboard black suit with a vest. He had a strangely elongated neck, but what surprised them most was that he had red, glowing eyes. (It is often thought that ghosts with elongated necks were likely hanged in life… we have not been able to find any historical evidence to point to someone having been hanged near this place at all – the gallows were actually located some distance away from here on Capitol Landing Road. It is still interesting; nonetheless, to wonder why this apparition appeared the way he did…). As security was watching, they saw him duck behind this tree and the brick wall.

They assumed that he must have used the tree to jump over the wall, and entered the cemetery in search of him. When they entered the church cemetery, he had vanished. They looked all around, but couldn’t find him. They thought they heard the sound of the church door closing, and believed the man somehow made his way inside the church. When they arrived at the main entrance, it was locked. Determined to catch this intruder, they unlocked the door and entered the church. As they allowed their eyes a chance to adjust to the dark, they heard a strange sound: it was described as being sort of a whoosh-­‐thud, whoosh-­‐thud. Once they turned on their flashlights, they could clearly see what was causing the noise: the hymnals were seen to levitate up from the church pews, fly across the room, and hit the wall. Needless to say, they decided to flee the church! You can certainly imagine that working for security in a town like Williamsburg, they definitely have to know when they have gone beyond their jurisdiction and into that of the strange things that “go bump in the night”.


“Confederate Soldier” unknown soldier tombstones, above, are the resting places of two Confederate Soldiers who died near or in the Church on May 5, 1862 during the Battle of Williamsburg. More than 50 other Civil War soldiers were laid to rest in a mass burial site in the Cemetery.

Merchants Square

This story takes place shortly after the Civil War in the late 1860s near South Henry Street in Colonial Williamsburg’s Merchants Square. Along Henry Street was a small white house that belonged to the Moore family. Young Thomas Moore, a handsome man in his 20s sporting a thick mustache, inherited the home from his older brother who was killed in the Civil War. Thomas had a reputation in town as a ladies man, or a womanizer. One day, he met a beautiful woman named Constance Hall. Constance and Thomas spent nearly every day together. They were seen walking together in town, and Thomas’s neighbors would often spot the girl entering into the Moore house in broad daylight. The couple made no attempt to conceal their relationship and affections. This continued for three months until something happened… Can you guess what happened? Her husband found out!

Mr. Hall, believed to have been away during these three months, found out upon his return to Williamsburg. He was furious. He stormed into the Moore Home, killed Thomas, and left. The neighbors then saw him return to the home with Constance, whom he had threatened and forced to help him hide the body. The couple hid Thomas’s body in the basement and were seen exiting the front of the home. Neighbors knew something was wrong when they had not seen Thomas Moore for several days. The police entered and searched for Thomas in his home. They eventually found his body in the basement. The Hall couple were the immediate suspects and placed under arrest.

Mr. Hall confessed to the murder in exchange for setting his wife Constance free. Mr. Hall spent the rest of his life behind bars. Constance, ostracized and whose reputation was tarnished, immediately fled Williamsburg and was never heard from or seen again. As for Thomas Moore, he spends the rest of his afterlife roaming the streets and stores in Merchants Square. Some say he’s looking for Constance, still deep in love with her. Others say he’s simply looking for another female companion. His tall ghostly figure and pale face roams the darkened streets of Williamsburg and in its shops. One of Thomas’ appearances occurred in a bookstore. The store manager was working on receipts after all the other employees had gone home for the night.

She said, “I was in my office in the back, when I heard a noise coming from the front area. I was sure I was the only person left inside, because I checked the store thoroughly before I locked up. I peeked around the corner and saw a man standing by one of the registers. I had no idea how he could have gotten in. He was dressed in black from head to toe, and his skin was a pale shade of white. I ducked back into my office to call 911. When the police arrived, I told them all the doors were locked, so the intruder still had to be inside. They searched the store, but couldn’t find him.”

An employee of a local jewelry store was also frightened by the spirit of the murdered man. “That evening, I stayed late to do inventory. I was sitting in the middle of the floor counting stock, when I heard a light tapping sound. As I stood up I saw a man with a dark mustache, peering in through the window. I noticed he was incredibly pale. He scanned the room as if he was looking for something in particular. As I watched him, he faded away before my eyes!” Other occurrences have been spotted in Merchants Square Colonial Williamsburg. At the Tea and Spice Exchange, the mortar and pestle and other heavier objects on a table have been known to levitate and then thrown off the table on more than one occasion. The Kimball Theater is also known to be haunted by the ghosts of two Civil War soldiers, brothers who fought on opposing sides. In addition, the graves of those who died of the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1919 were buried in the Merchant’s Square area.

Source of interviews and quotes may be purchased at: http://www.amazon.com/The-Hauntings-Williamsburg-Yorktown-Jamestown/dp/0895872102

Matthew Whaley Elementary School

We’ve all hated school at one point or another in our life, but have you ever been terrified of the school you were restrained in? Of course massive exams and strict teachers rattle our bones every now and then, but at Matthew Whaley Elementary School, there loiters a playful shadow of a boy, snickering and amusing himself around the school grounds.

Matthew Whaley Elementary School sits in Williamsburg, VA, adjacent from the elegant Governor’s Palace. Part of the Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools, the school used to belong to the family of Matthew Whaley. Matthew, who gained the nickname “Mattey” by his mother, was born to the parents of James Whaley and Mary Page Whaley in 1696. Matthew died in 1705, at the age of nine, due to a disease that was plaguing young children all over Williamsburg. Today he is buried at the Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg, not far from the original school, alongside his father. After her son and husband died, Mary Whaley decided to create a school for the poor, where tuition would be free, in honor of her late son who believed in equality for all children. The school soon became popular with several children attending and enjoying the classes. Mary Whaley eventually left for England and when she did, she gave the ownership of the school to the Bruton Parish Church-the church she attended. After she died in 1742, the school became somewhat of a hassle due to no longer having a loving and passionate supporter. The school was torn down around the Civil War due to the wishes of William & Mary President, Benjamin S. Ewell. Years past and soon the school was put under discussion. The English court talked to the Bruton Parish Church about re-starting the school, upon which the church directed the English Court to the College of William & Mary, whom was responsible for the disappearance of the school. The college did not rebuild the school building, however they started up a grammar school in honor of the Whaley family and called the teachings “Grammar and Mattey School” after Matthew’s loveable nickname. Classes were held in the in the Brafferton House on the campus in 1867, which used to be the site of the Indian school. It wasn’t long before the college decided to rebuild the school over by the existing Governor’s Palace, close to where it once originally stood. Over the years, the college has changed the name of the school and reorganized its’ purpose, but in 1919 the school, in honor of Matthew Whaley, was turned over to the School Board of Williamsburg in interest of the local students. Reverend W.A.R. Goodwin, during the reconstruction of Colonial Williamsburg gave $50,000 to the school for remodeling and upgrading the building, in which bricks of the old Governor’s Palace were placed on the foundation and walls of the now remodeled Matthew Whaley School which sits on Scotland Street.

Matthew Whaley was known to not have many friends, which upset his mother for she feared he might grow up lonesome. As he neared the age of adolescence, Matthew befriended a slave boy. The two were seen playing in the grass of the Governor’s Palace day and evening. The two shared a bond closer than that of companionship. Their neighbors were shocked to see such a well brought up boy to be playing with a slave, but that subject never bothered Matthew’s parents, as Mary Whaley saw no difference between the poor and the wealthy, and so Matthew never saw the difference either. When Matthew’s friend grew ill and passed away, it was said that Matthew soon died of a broken heart, but it was most likely the disease of pneumonia that took his friend that also later consumed him. Where the original school stood, it is said that there Matthew Whaley is seen the most, often with his slave friend. The two will play in the palace green late at night, laughing loudly, their voices reverberating around the desolate green.

The new school, built in honor of Matthew Whaley, has some strange happenings as well. The elementary schools kids have dozens of stories where they have noticed little Matthew around the halls. Whether these tales are just that-tales, or of real occurrences, they still strike wonder in all who hear them. Young students admit to seeing Matthew most often in the school’s attic. Ones will say that Matthew will be slumping around the school and will approach children, leading them up into the attic to play games with them. Others say that if the child is being bad, Matthew will punish them by pushing them through the floor of the attic. Most often, his mischievous laughter is heard booming from the attic, or through the bare halls, as if he is still playing a game even when everyone has left.

There are still a few other creeping ghosts that haunt the school today. Several have reported of seeing two slave boys lurking around the schoolyard late at night. Rumors have been passed around that those two boys are ghosts of slaves that were killed by assailants during the anti-desegregation period in the 1960s. The boys hide around the schoolyard and pop up late at night to continue wandering around, as if they are still skittish even after death. The wind will blow, chilling late visitors who dare to venture around the schoolyard late at night, and they will spot the two boys drifting around the school, or perhaps hear the unsettling laughter of Matthew Whaley.

It is known that these four ghosts are not mean and do not inflict harm on students or faculty, but still today the young students will insist that Matthew likes to play the occasional practical joke, whether stealing textbooks or writing on the chalkboard, which are now dry-erase boards. Few students claim that Matthew Whaley stays around in order to make life fun at the school, for when he died, he was still just a spirited and irresponsible child.

Why Matthew decides to hang around, the reason is uncertain, but what is known is that he does hang around, leaving behind a joyous and suspicious aura of feeling.

Fort Magruder

Williamsburg is famous for history, particularly the Unites States’ beginnings. It is in the same James County as Jamestown (the first permanent English settlement on the East Coast—the first Spanish settlement was in St Augustine, Florida, a Spanish fort in 1565).

Williamsburg is also famous for its paranormal activity. One of the more haunted spots in Virginia, most people assumed it is due to the Colonists and the Revolutionary War. But a battle of the War Between the States happened there too—the Battle of Williamsburg.

The Battle of Williamsburg was fought on May 5, 1862. Also known as the Battle of Fort Magruder, it took place as part of the Peninsula Campaign. Casualties that included the cavalry skirmishing on May 4 were 1,682 Confederates and 2, 283 Union of the nearly 41,000 Federals and 32,000 Confederates. A steady downpour of rain in the thick woods did not help much for either side. Ten hours of combat raged on. One wounded Union soldier managed to get three Rebel officers to a local prison. Townspeople under cover of umbrellas watched the battle.
When the Rebels retreated, they got caught up with civilians. Then civilians panicked and retreated. By nightfall, the Union won and General Joseph Johnston led the Confederates out of town to Richmond. Major General George McClellan telegraphed to Washington, “The victory is complete.”

Wounded Confederate soldiers still found by the third day, the dead half buried in mud or piled up high. Fire blazed on the third day in the woods, and those still alive died terribly.


A hotel on Pocahontas Trail that tourists stay at while visiting Williamsburg, Fort Magruder Hotel and Conference Center, is the center of some of the most intense combat during the Battle of Williamsburg. During construction to add more parking spaces at the left side of the hotel, construction workers stumbled upon skulls, bones, and artifacts from the battle. As what was common after most Civil War battles, there were mass burial pits dug for the fallen soldiers. However, the soldiers still remain to haunt the grounds and hotel and neighboring area.

Once a year, a science fiction, fantasy and horror convention, Marscon is held at the Fort Magruder hotel, due to its reputation as a paranormal hotspot. Apparently, the event causes a sharp uptick in paranormal phenomena at the hotel for weeks following its conclusion. The hotel has its typical and normal hauntings. For example, key sets will vanish from staff’s possession. Maids who would stay in the hotel rooms at Fort Magruder would report would see apparitions and witness furniture moving on their own.

One maid returned into the room she had stayed in the night before where she lost her keys, and asked the ‘ghost’- which was believed to be of a gentleman who had died from a heart attack on the toilet in the room, to kindly return the keys. She then found the keys lying on the floor behind the toilet. But she had just searched there minutes before, and they weren’t there. One night, a couple staying at the Ft Magruder Hotel had a big argument as the woman’s expensive necklace had disappeared. The couple had searched for the piece, but didn’t find a trace of it anywhere in the room. During the next search, the husband found the necklace in the drawer he had just looked in.

Other stories provided by those working in the hotel involved tourists who awaken in the middle of the night to gaze upon a Civil War soldier standing in their room, or even sitting on their bed. One woman saw a red-headed Confederate officer in her hotel room one evening, who promptly vanished before her eyes. She was so scared, she demand to get out of the hotel and into a new room. There is a lounge in the hotel where one can get a drink after a long day of walking through Colonial Williamsburg. One morning, the doors were unlocked and broken glasses strewn about the place.


One employee who used to work at night told of an encounter she witnessed one night, when a Civil War soldier entered the lobby, walked across the room, and simply walked through a glass window. She was relieved when she was finally transferred to the day shift. But, hauntings also occur during the day, but at least she had company! 


One room on the second floor is haunted by a spirit of a 12-year-old girl who died from an asthma attack. Sometimes when the maids prepare her room, they would enter it the next morning to find it has been completely rearranged. Ghost hunts have picked up voices believed to be Civil War soldiers, the man who died on the toilet, and an unknown woman. One manager reported that he’d seen a woman dressed in a while gown from the Civil War era. Or perhaps it could have been a woman who was recently found dead on a bench in the lobby?

Most of the phantoms behind the hauntings at Ft Magruder are the Confederates and Union soldiers who were killed in action during the Battle of Williamsburg. The head of Sales remarked that something kept shifting the arcade games on the first floor to a crooked position. A man who was sent to check them over each month would find them like that and with help, set them straight. It is believed that the ghosts in Fort Magruder move the machines.

Next time you need a place to sty the night in Williamsburg, check out the Fort Magruder hotel. You’ll either sleep well, or you’ll encounter something that may make you want to keep your eyes open.

Peyton Randolph House

Over the last few years, the entertainment industry has really gone horror happy. These days, zombies, circus freaks, and vampires hog the camera more than television stars, and plenty of fright flicks (Paranormal Activity, for example) have picked up their own cultish followings. So from a wider cultural standpoint, you can’t deny it: fear is in. But for trend extremists, a horror binge on Netflix is not enough to satisfy goose bump cravings. What they want is the real, raw deal. The best place in America to experience this? Williamsburg, Virginia.

If you are no history buff, here is why Colonial Williamsburg is a ghost hunter’s ultimate paradise. Step back in time, to the 1700s, and you will find the city bustling with commercial and political activity alike. As one of first planned cities in the United States, Williamsburg, Virginia was where the likes of George Washington, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Jefferson convened to blueprint democracy; where the seeds of American freedom were first planted; where plantations bloomed and big businesses flourished. But it was also where injured troops found refuge, the mentally ill sought treatment, and slaves fought for freedom.

So with a history riddled in the pains and struggles of others, you can be sure that Williamsburg is a site that is bubbling with poltergeists and paranormal activity.

That’s why what fans of the supernatural have bookmarked on their desktops is Colonial Ghosts – it offers guided ghost tours to multiple haunted destinations in Colonial Williamsburg, including the infamous Peyton Randolph House, located at the corner of Nicholson and North England Streets.

An idea conceived in 1715 by Sir William Robertson1, this two story, L-shaped, Georgian-style structure (also known as the Peachy-Randolph House) spent its early years in the hands of the bureaucratic elite, of which the revolutionary leader, Peyton Randolph, is one of the most notable.

The son of Sir John Randolph2, who served as the Speaker of the House of Burgesses, Peyton Randolph3 followed in his father’s footsteps and became a prominent political figure in colonial Williamsburg, though he is most famous for his position as the first president of the Continental Congress. When his mother, Lady Susannah Beverley Randolph4, passed away in 1754, Peyton finally became the true patriarch of his childhood home.

To be the home of a family with such a strong presence in the political realm of Colonial Williamsburg meant that the Peyton Randolph House attended to many distinguished guests, including Peyton’s cousin, Thomas Jefferson, and French nobleman Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau. Hence, if Sir William Robertson were alive to see how it presently stands, he would be amazed by how it has grown in both size and extravagance.

What modern tourists can experience today is a lavish structure composed of three distinct units. The first section that was built, the western wing, contains a total of eight rooms (four on each of its two levels), as well as an impressive central chimney and two-story porch. The eastern wing and middle portion were then added to it by John and Peyton Randolph, respectively, with construction beginning in 1724. Of these three parts, the east wing is the smallest. Interestingly, though, when the site was named a National Historic Landmark in 1970, it was the only portion which remained off limits to the public5, as its owner at the time, Mr. Carlisle H. Humelsine, stipulated that it was to stay as a private residence.

So besides ghost sightings, the house’s impeccable design is what also draws in flocks of visitors. Restoration of the house, similar to its construction, underwent several phases, but much of its original elements lie well intact – an exterior façade of exposed red brick, marble mantels crowning corner fireplaces, interior panels carved expertly from walnut wood, locks of fine brass, and so on.

But behind all this opulence, lurks plenty of pain. Betty Randolph, wife of Peyton, may have appeared quite refined in public, but was not so ladylike when it came to treating her slaves. Some believe that one of her mistreated attendants, Eve, cursed the house when she was cruelly separated from her son.

Other families who occupied the Randolph house have left their blemishes on the property as well. When the Peachy family took over, for instance, not only did the building moonlight as a hospital for wounded soldiers, but also became where multiple people met their tragic ends. Colonial Ghosts6 rehashes:

One of the Peachy boys was climbing a tree in the 19th century, when the branch broke and he fell to his death. A young girl living on the second floor fell out of her window to her death. A confederate veteran attending the College of William and Mary suddenly and mysteriously fell ill and died in the house. Later in the 18th century, two men staying at the house entered a heated argument and shot and killed each other.”

But ghostly encounters were reported at the mansion even earlier. A stop on his 1824 tour of the United States, the Peyton Randolph House was where French General of the American Revolution, Marquis de Lafayette, experienced much more than Mary Monroe Peach’s hospitality. The general left with stories of being awoken by voices in the middle of the night, of sensing a hand rest eerily on his shoulder. Other colonists on the house’s guest list departed with similar tales of unexplainable occurrences: coming across a glowing male figure in one of the bedrooms; hearing heavy boots stomping through the halls; discovering furniture mysteriously moved. And visitors have met spirits ever since, with plenty of Colonial Ghosts’ guests actually documenting their spooky encounters7.

“My friend shined his flashlight into the window on the first floor on the left side and we were looking around. I guess I was the only one who saw it, but there was a small ball like the size of two fists and it started at the top left corner of the door and went to the bottom of the upper flight of stairs and then to the ceiling and disappeared.”

-Ryan, January 31, 2015, at the Peyton Randolph House.

Some people have been lucky enough to only hear the activities of poltergeists – mirrors shattering, children giggling, a woman singing to herself, etc. But many have been less fortunate. One of the property’s security guards, for instance, was held down by some angry force8 as it proceeded to trap him in the basement.

There are plenty of politics and poltergeists in the Peyton Randolph House. Whether it’s from a slave’s hateful jinx, or from a past well stained with the deaths and agony of the insane, the enslaved, and the wounded, the Peyton Randolph House is undoubtedly one of the most haunted places in Colonial Williamsburg.


Works Cited

  1. “Peyton Randolph House.” The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2015. Web. 22 July 2015.
  2. “Sir John Randolph.” The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2015. Web. 22 July 2015.
  3. “Peyton Randolph.” The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2015. Web. 22 July 2015.
  4. “Lady Susannah Beverley Randolph.” The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2015. Web. 22 July 2015.
  5. “Peyton Randolph House; Randolph-Peachy House.” National Register of Historic Places Inventory – Nomination Form. The United States Department of the Interior National Park Service. Last updated 2 November 2013. Web. 22 July 2015.
  6. “Peyton Randolph House Haunting Solved.” Colonial Ghosts. Colonial Ghosts. 10 July 2015. Web. 22 July 2015.
  7. “Hauntings Reported on Tours.” Colonial Ghosts. Colonial Ghosts, 2015. Web. 22 July 2015.
  8. “Peyton Randolph House Haunting Solved.” Colonial Ghosts. Colonial Ghosts. 10 July 2015. Web. 22 July 2015.

George Wythe House

The Wythe House was the home of George Wythe, the first signer of the declaration of Independence from Virginia, friend of George Washington, first law professor in the United States, and friend and mentor to Thomas Jefferson, who studied law under Wythe for five years starting in 1762 after leaving William and Mary. While some claim George Wythe haunts the house due to his gruesome murder in 1805 at the hands of his grand-­‐nephew, we have no evidence to suggest this is true. The whole story of his murder and nationally publicized trial are available on our blog. But, the house is known to be haunted by the most famous ghost in Williamsburg, Lady Ann Skipwith. The wealthy Peyton and Ann Skipwith visited George Wythe one week, and accompanied him to a party at the Governor’s Palace. During the event, witnesses saw her in tears and fighting with her husband. The distraught Ann fled the Palace and ran down the street back to the Wythe home.

Along the way, she lost one of her beautiful red shoes. As she ran up the stairs, she made a distinct sound as reported by one of the servants, a clank-­‐step sound that one would make if they were wearing only one heel. This is where the versions of the story differ. While some claim that she dies in the home the next day, was murdered or committed suicide, or that she was buried in the Bruton Parish Cemetery, none of this is true. Ann died three months later. Historical records state she died during childbirth, and not in the Wythe House. However, her ghost is known to haunt the Wythe House in force, and the circumstances surrounding that night at the Palace and her death are scandalous. It is believed that she became so upset at the party because she discovered her husband was cheating on her with her sister. In fact, immediately after her death, her husband, Peyton Skipwith, married her sister.

We know Ann was miserable in her marriage, and as a colonial woman, had no escape from her situation. It is possible that taking her life would provide the only true freedom from life with her husband, in which case suicides were underreported during colonial times as it brought dishonor on a family. It is also possible that Ann’s husband killed her and attempted to cover it up with childbirth as cause, to marry her sister. A popular tradition among locals and William and Mary students is to summon the ghost of Ann Skipwith. They bring a red shoe to the door, knock three times, and declare, “Lady Ann Skipwith, Lady Ann Skipwith, Lady Ann Skipwith, we’ve found your red shoe!” Then, they hear the sound of her making her way down the stairs with her signature clank-­‐step sound. Sometimes, the security guards happen to be inside on their nightly patrol.

One night, a group of college boys boldly walked up to the door, with the girls scared behind them. The security guards decided to frighten the students by rattling the door in front of them. The boys turned around and ran, knocking the girls down on the steps. The boys were already running through the palace green before the girls had made their way off of the steps. But right after, the security guards would hear something themselves. Sometimes they will hear the sound of Ann walking down the stairs or footsteps in the house. Other times, they will hear a woman singing happily in the house with them. Employees shared that they would arrange the furniture in a room, and return a couple of minutes later to find the furniture rearranged in a strange way. One evening during a special dinner held in the home, the sound of Ann on the stairs interrupted their otherwise uneventful dinner.

One person went to check what or who was causing the footsteps, and found no one. One of our tour guides had two parents who worked in Colonial Williamsburg for 30 years. She visited her father in the Wythe House one day, and they heard footsteps and furniture moving in the unoccupied floor above them. Others have seen the apparition of a woman, believed to be Ann Skipwith, walking through the house’s backyard. Some guests on the tour will see the shutters open and close on their own. Come back with a red shoe, and maybe you will get a chance to summon Ann Skipwith!

The Kimball Theater

The small and quaint Kimball Theater here in Colonial Williamsburg’s Merchants Square did not always occupy this space, and is not a historically recreated colonial building like the rest of Colonial Williamsburg. During the Civil War, this space was the Ware house, owned by a recently widowed Mrs. Ware. In the aftermath of the Battle of Williamsburg in May 5, 1862, the once peaceful streets of Williamsburg were riddled with wounded men and corpses. The combined loss suffered by both sides exceeded 4,000. Mrs. Ware took in a wounded Confederate soldier found outside of her home and did her best to care for the man, but the man died in her house that day. She covered his body with a blanket and awaited the arrival of Union Forces. When a Union contingent arrived at Mrs. Wares home, they commandeered her house as a hospital.

The Ware home was one of 15 private residences used as a hospital in the aftermath of the Battle of Williamsburg. Mrs. Ware welcomed the men in and informed the officer that she had a dead Confederate soldier in her home. As the commanding officer inspected the body, he slowly peeled back the blanket covering the man’s face to find the mangled remains of his younger brother. The two Virginia men had joined opposing sides at the outbreak of the war. The surviving brother was shocked and heartbroken to discover that his brother was cut down in the same battle. The surviving officer was later killed in the war. To this day, two men wearing Civil War uniforms are seen wandering through the grounds that was once the former Ware house and Civil War hospital.

One appears in blueish clothing with gold trim, and other more wearing more rag tag grey clothing. The men are seen walking through solid objects like walls and vanishing into the air as they walk. Toilets in the women’s restroom flush on their own and water faucets turn on and off on their own, which has been witnessed by both tour guides and those attending the tour. At other times, staff inside will be closing and spot a man walking inside the theater from a distance. They’ll ask the man to leave, but it continues walking and vanishes. The Kimball Theater is a great example of Williamsburg’s hidden past. There’s much more to Williamsburg and its buildings than what you can see here today.