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.