Friday, July 01, 2011

Supernatural Friday: Ghostly Tales of the American Revolution, At Least in Virginia!

Some Revolutionary ghostly tales direct from my upcoming “Virginia's Haunted Historic Triangle: Williamsburg, Yorktown, Jamestown, and Other Haunted Locations.” These are three chapters of places from Colonial times plus during the American Revolution. The book will be released July 28, 2011.

Happy haunting 4th of July, and enjoy!

Surrender Field-Yorktown

Surrender Field is where the English and German armies threw their weapons down at the feet of the American Continental Army and the French. Yorktown residents also came to watch the formal surrender. Though bitter about it all, the losing side had to do this, as the terms of surrender had been signed at Moore House on October 19, 1781. Today this historic area is a national park. Tourists walk where soldiers had marched in defeat and where others who had triumphed stood and cheered.

In 1984, one visitor to the park found the place filled with crowds. He heard drums and fifes. A familiar melody was being played. He and other tourists searched for the musicians playing it, but couldn’t find them. Even stranger, they heard laughter and cheers from out of nowhere. He later learned that this has happened over and over for many years. Is this a residual of what happened that day back in 1781? Does what was felt that day manage to reach through time and space to those who stroll the park? Good question.

You can find Surrender Field and maybe experience this yourself by driving along Moore House Road (Route 288) to Surrender Road. And if you hear the faint sound of drums that day and see a specter of an English soldier marching in sadness, don’t be surprised. After all, sometimes history lives on even after death.

Cornwallis Cave-Yorktown

Lord Cornwallis occupied Yorktown, staying in the Nelson House. It was something he always did; occupy the best house in areas he and his army invaded. Unfortunately, this time, it would be his last stand. This was 1781, and the Continental army would battle the English and German forces here.

It took the combined American and French armies and a battle between the French and British fleets in the Chesapeake Bay to seal the fate of General Cornwallis and his British troops at Yorktown. From September 5th through 9th, the French forced the British navy to retreat to New York. General Cornwallis became stranded.

During the siege, people fled to a cave off the shores of the York River to hide from bombardment from the Continental army. According to legend, Lord Cornwallis himself took shelter here; legend also says he cowered in a corner for most of the siege. Is this true? Whether this is so or not, this place is called Cornwallis’s Cave to this day.

Interesting note, trapped against the York River, many of the English soldiers tried to escape by swimming across its waters. Suddenly, a squall came up and swept them away, drowning many of the soldiers. How strange something like this appeared at this time, wouldn’t you think? As for others of the English and German forces, they perished by artillery fire that kept coming and coming. Cornwallis had no choice but to surrender.

The English army left, and Yorktown grew quiet for the rest of its life. Except for the legends of voices heard coming from the cave—frantic, frightened voices. It is hard for any group of people, much less one, to get inside due to metal bars across the entrance. Yet, there are those who claim to hear these voices coming from inside the cave. For some spirits, the war is still happening. Other phenomena are orbs captured in photos taken of the place.

My husband, Bill, and I were there, met by a friend, Mark Layne. We had walked through the town, pausing at Nelson House and couple of other places, and then we went down to the shore to find the cave. We found it. I took some photographs of it, and then drew close with my digital recorder, hoping to catch some of these spectral voices. I didn’t. As for peering into the cave itself through the bars, I saw some trash inside, but not phantoms. For me that day, the voices were silent.

The next time you stroll along the river and hear frantic voices coming from Cornwallis’s Cave, ignore them and keep walking. No doubt these are people long past in need of any help.

Party On at Raleigh Tavern-Colonial Williamsburg

If you feel the need to get a bite to eat, but don’t want to eat inside if it’s a nice day, then Raleigh Tavern has a bakery behind it. There are ham biscuits, Sally Lunn bread, rolls, queen’s cake, ginger ale, cider, root beer, and even mouthwatering gingerbread can be gotten there. Then you can find a spot somewhere in the backyard of the tavern and enjoy a quick lunch in pleasant surroundings.

Built around 1717, the tavern was popular. Many came, including important people of the day. Local gossip and current events set the scene here.

Besides good food and drink, gambling seemed to be another pastime here. When the ground was excavated here, dice boxes had been found. One man who also was a butcher, John Custis, had lost heavily at gambling and was discovered dead, his throat cut. Important decisions about the Patriots’ revolt against the British also took place here, and many balls were also held here. In the Apollo Room, George Washington received a surprise birthday party. Night after night, gala parties happened, with the last one to do with Marquis de Lafayette. Not long after that, in December 1859, fire raged through the tavern and it burned to the ground. When Colonial Williamsburg began restoration of the Historic Area, the tavern was rebuilt on the foundations of the original one.

Three years before the fire and after the place had closed for the night, one man wrote a letter to a friend, talking about something strange that happened to him. Samuel Armistead walked his dog on an evening in January. When he drew close to the tavern, he heard laughter and sounds of merriment going on in the building. He knew that the place had been quiet for years and it was dark that night. A hint of tobacco wafted to his nose. Curious, he peeked through a window and found it empty of life!

Modern times were no exception to the ghostly goings-on of the tavern. A custodian for Colonial Williamsburg heard laughter and music himself one night as he was cleaning up in back of the building. He drew closer and smelled pipe tobacco. All noises ended when he peeked inside.

If you chance to walk past Raleigh’s Tavern when it is already dark and happened to spy a light coming from its windows and heard laughter, just keep on going. The only parties being held there are only for the dead, and not the living.

Check out the book when it is released, or preorder it now:
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