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.