Friday, August 31, 2012

Supernatural Friday: Ghosts Are Here Now!

Summer is almost at an end as Labor Day weekend is upon us. Fall is not far away. Many of us think about spirits 365 days a year, but there are those who began to think of them as pumpkins start to appear in grocery stores and the cooler autumn breeze plays with the leaves changing color on the trees. They want to hear scary ghost stories, and if those tales have a basis in fact, well, that’s all the better.
Humankind has been fascinated since the time of the cavemen, their shaman telling them tales around a blazing campfire built to keep the dark and things away. Some cultures honor their dead and welcome their ancestors to come visit them, bringing them foods and gifts, like Mexico does with their Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos). More than 500 years ago, when the Spanish Conquistadors landed in what is now Mexico, they encountered natives practicing a ritual that seemed to mock death. It was a ritual the indigenous people had been practicing at least 3,000 years. A ritual the Spaniards would try unsuccessfully to eradicate. The Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations kept skulls as trophies and displayed them during the ritual. The skulls were used to symbolize death and rebirth. The skulls were used to honor the dead, whom the Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations believed came back to visit during the month long ritual. The Spaniards thought death of as the end, while the natives embraced it, as to them it was only the beginning. Not separating death from pain and wealth from poverty, unlike in Western cultures.
Not able to kill this barbaric ritual, the Spanish merged it with “All Saint’s Day” and “All Soul’s Day,” the first two days of November. When the natives celebrated it for a month, always falling on the ninth month of the Aztec Solar Calendar, approximately the beginning of August. Festivities were presided over by the goddess Mictecacihuatl, known as "Lady of the Dead.”
You can learn more about the Aztec calendar and see what it looks like at
Nowadays, people don wooden skull masks called calacas and dance in honor of their deceased relatives. They placed wooden skulls on altars dedicated to the dead. Sugar skulls, made with the names of the dead person on the forehead, are eaten by a relative or friend. Families would also visit the cemetery where their loved ones are buried. They decorate gravesites with marigold flowers and candles. They bring toys for dead children and bottles of tequila to adults. They sit on picnic blankets next to gravesites and eat the favorite food of their loved ones. Strangely enough, in Richmond, Virginia, families would come to town and visit their buried dead at Hollywood Cemetery, picnicking by the graves. Today, in the contract, it is stated that when you purchased a gravesite there, no picnics are allowed there!
Honestly, the dead may haunt the graveyards, but they don’t stop there, but paranormal activity has been cited in homes, schools, hospitals, prisons, amusement parks, so many places. And they don’t wait for Halloween or Day of the Dead or All Soul’s Day, but any day of the year works for those who passed away.
After all, the dead don’t stay dead anywhere you look!

Haunted Richmond II Book Blurb:
Return once more to Richmond’s haunted places and check out its interesting and sometimes scary legends, too. There may be no building safe in this town, as you may find that even a comic shop like Stories holds more than comics within its wall. Step back in time at Henricus Historical Park as the dead colonists, Civil War soldiers and other haunts welcome you to take a tour. Discover that not only is there the Richmond Vampire out for your blood, but the Werewolf of Henrico waits for you beneath the full moon. It seems that the War Between the States is still being fought between ghostly Confederates and Union soldiers at Cold Harbor, Sailor’s Creek, Parker’s Battery, Petersburg Battlefield, and other Civil War sites in Richmond and its surrounding counties.
All this, plus a sea serpent, a lost city, ghostly cats, Bigfoot, haunted churches, parks, colleges and more, await your visit to a very paranormal Richmond and its surrounding counties.
The dead don’t stay dead in this town!

Whichello Chapter:
There are ghostly tales told about Whichello. Also known as the “Tall House,” at 9602 River Road. Legend tells of a skeleton of a former owner buried seven feet beneath a large fireplace in a parlor to the right just as you entered the house. The other story concerns a treasure supposedly hidden within the house or somewhere on the grounds. The treasure is a reason that the wainscoting on the fireplace is no longer there—treasure hunters.

It is thought that the land it is on belonged to the Randolphs of Tuckahoe. That one of the family members gave the land to his barber, a Frenchman named Druin, who I turn, gave it to his daughter, Catherine Woodward. It was she who had Whichello built in 1827, though it is also said it may have been built by the next owner, Richard Whichello.

It became a tavern, a stop on the way to Richmond or Charlottesville or Lynchburg for travelers. A few years later, Catherine’s daughter, Eliza Anne Woodward Winston, sold the place. Some say this was done in 1838 and yet, there is also a reference to a sale in 1845. Either way, an Englishman, Richard Whichello, bought it. Whichello gained wealth with the inn. Stories arose that he ran cock fighting there and gambling, neither supposedly honestly.

In 1850, there was a man from out west who drove cattle to Richmond to sell and afterwards, stopped on way back at the tavern. After having dinner, Whichello invited him to the ‘country store.’ This was a crossroads barroom, only a few steps from the inn. Both indulged in a game of poker. In the end, Whichello had winnings from what the drover earned for the sale and the other man was broke.

The tale doesn’t end here. Seems the next morning Whichello was found in his bedroom—dead—his head beaten in by an axe.  The money he’d won was missing. As for the drover, the man was gone. Of course, the drover was never found.

Friends of the deceased didn’t know where to bury the body. They worried if they planted him in the cemetery, his slaves out of anger from the mistreatment done to them, might dig him up and do unmentionable things to the remains. That’s where the body beneath the fireplace came into play. In secret, after digging a hole in the east chimney, they put him in there and walled it up. After that, stories arose that the murdered man’s phantom was seen, apparently guarding his treasure that the murderer never got.

Many tried to find this buried cache, including one old African-American called Uncle John in the 1930s. From what I heard, it sounded like he either used a drowsing rod or a metal detector. John never found a single coin. Uncle John claimed he had come closed to the box, but that the spirit booty vanished, as he told to the owner of a tea room ran in the place in the 1930s, Mrs. Joseph Crenshaw.

Even if the wealth did not exist (I feel the drover take off with the money), there was the paranormal activity seen and heard over the years. There was a mysterious clicking noise, like a telegraph key might make and yet, nothing ever found to prove what it was. Customers to the tea room complained of a strong feeling in the building. Mrs. Joseph Crenshaw had requests for a meeting or even a séance in it. One Richmonder who came told her she saw a little girl that was handing over a flower to one of the other visitors. The visitor admitted the description fit her niece.  Another ghost seemed was an old African-American woman that sounded like Mrs. Crenshaw’s nanny she has as a child. The medium did say she saw a man in hunting clothes and apparently lived in Whichello.

At one point Mrs. Crenshaw approached the owners of the horse that could predict things, Lady Wonder. When Mrs. Crenshaw asked the horse where the treasure might be, the animals typed out ‘chimney.’ When asked exactly where, the horse answered, ‘east.’  Mrs. Crenshaw asked for a more definite location and the hose typed 'up ten feet'. The woman went home and attempted to see if she could find the treasure, but never did.

By spirit writing, Mrs. Crenshaw was told by Richard, that his wealth was buried outside, about hundred feet from the house. Beneath earth about five feet and under a small board fence, she had to look toward the east when she left the back steps and count until told to stop, stepping back three steps. Did she take this advice and find the cache? There is no word one way or the other. The owner of the property in the middle-1930s says they never had any activity, nor the owners later, the DeVilbisses.

Though there are those in the area who say that activity still happens there, even if the current owners say no. Those driving along River Road claim to see a man in riding clothes standing near the woods, on the lawn.  Though I went that way on January 27, 2011, I saw no on as I drove past.

Does he still search for his treasure himself, or is all gone, maybe by his murderer himself? I believe this is so and that is why he haunts the property, for not being able to stop what happened to him.

Next time you pass Whichello, glance aside and maybe you will see a spectral figure in hunting clothes entering the house.
If you want to read more from Haunted Richmond II, you can now purchased it anywhere, inluding at your local indie bookstore and Barnes and Noble. If it is not in, the bookstore can order it in for you. Or find it online at Schiffer Publishing, Amazon, Books A Million Online and at Indiebound.orgAnd if you live in the Richmond, Virginia area, I will be doing a book release party for it at Book People in Richmond, Sunday, September 23rd, 3-5 p.m.
And the following Saturday, September 29th I will be speaking at the free paranormal conference event, Parscon at the Exchange, held at the Exchange Hotel Museum in Gordonsville, Virginia, plus have a table there to sell and sign copies of Haunted Richmond II and my other three ghost books 11 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

1 comment:

Janice Seagraves said...

Fascinating history. Thank you so much for sharing.