Friday, August 03, 2012

Supernatural Friday: Are Ghosts Still Fighting War at Polegreen Church?

With Haunted Richmond II soon to be released later this month, I thought not only shared a chapter from it--the one on Polegreen Church in Mechanicsville, but a photo of a spirit in a tree that I captured when I went back there to investigate it with Richmond Paranormal Society. I suspect that it is a Civil War spirit, maybe an officer due to the wide brim hat. Though as a friend pointed out, could be from another era, and yes, this area was also concerned with 1700s. Since the ghost is small in a small tree between two bigger ones in the background, the only way I saw it was using my laptop to bring the picture closer to me. But thanks to a friend, he fixed it so others can see it, too. So you know, but during the time I was there in January 2010 for the book, I got nothing.

Polegreen Church

Ghosts are a metaphor for memory and remembrance and metaphorically connect our world to the world we cannot know about.”

Leslie What

Is This the Most Haunted Church in Richmond?

Churches are places of worship, but sometimes they can be haunted too, such as Polegreen Church in Mechanicsville in Hanover County. Richmond Investigators of the Paranormal did an investigation there, capturing what appeared to be a pair of small eyes or even orbs in a video, appearing, leaving and then coming back later. There is even a clicking noise, but I couldn’t tell. Was it that noise I thought I heard when the investigator was speaking?

In 1743, the Governor's Council in Williamsburg licensed four dissenter "reading houses," three of them in Hanover County and one in Henrico. They were all named "Morris Reading Houses." The reading house built on Samuel Morris' land was named after George Polegreen, a land grant recipient from the previous century.

In the late 1730s, a powerful religious movement, which became known as the "Great Awakening," took hold in the middle colonies of America. It was initially energized by the preaching of George Whitefield, the itinerating British Methodist evangelist, and soon followed by a noticeable number of Presbyterian clergy. In 1739, Whitefield preached in Williamsburg. His sermon was published and widely read throughout Virginia. Shortly thereafter a Hanover County brick mason named Samuel Morris gathered his family and some neighbors into his home regularly on Sunday afternoons to read the Bible and religious tracts, including Whitefield's sermons. This was the beginning of the dissenter movement in Virginia.

The church stood for a long time, but, in 1864, General Grant made an attempt to break through General Lee's lines along the Totopotomoy Creek. Polegreen Church was stuck dab in the middle of this battle. During an attack, the Union forces overran the Confederate outer positions and occupied the church. Confederate artillery kept firing on the church to dislodge the Yankees. According to the diary of William S. White, a gunner with the Richmond Howitzers, it was his gun that fired the shot that set the church ablaze. More likely in my opinion, they just tossed burning brush into the church to burn it down with the snipers inside.

Unable able to afford to, the church was not rebuilt. Today, only plastic poles the Historic Polegreen Church Foundation put up marks where the church had stood. There is an historical marker marking the Totopotomoy Creek battle fought on and around the grounds of the church.

I contacted by e-mail Ray Rucker of Richmond Investigators of Paranormal and we arranged to meet at the church on Saturday, January 8, 2010, at 10 a.m. I would interview him on his team’s investigation and then I would do my own and take pictures. Well, I woke up to snow falling and called Ray. He said it was fine on the roads in Mechanicsville, but we went ahead and reset the time to meet at noon.

At noon, I drove into the parking lot of the church. Ray wasn’t there yet, so I parked the car and, grabbing my camera, went to take a picture of the historic marker telling about the place. Then I ambled back to the parking lot to snap a couple of shots of the frame Polegreen Church, page 27, third paragraph, sentence 3, on left side—Delete the part in bold: Then I ambled back to the parking lot to snap a couple of shots of the frame the historic society had put up to show where the church had stood until the fire during the Civil War. (This was mentioned earlier, so redundant)

Just then I realized how chilly it was. It was also at that time that I saw a truck turn left onto the street and pull up into the parking lot. I assumed this was Ray. It was.

After he parked his car and we shook hands, introducing ourselves to each other, I grabbed my equipment in my backpack and turned on the recorder as he talked about what happened the two nights he and RIP checked out the place. Ray said that when they had gotten there and started to take pictures, they noticed a unique effect.

The place isn’t big. There’s a house across the street from the parking lot. When you walk to where the British flag flutters in the breeze from a pole, you see yourself stepping over names of ministers of the church. Snow covered most of the area and on trees, giving it a lovely postcard look. Too bad the original church isn’t standing there instead of this fake skeleton. Then the look would be complete, but wars happen and so do fires.

Ray talked about how the first night he was there with a fellow investigator taking pictures when the other person mentioned about the sparkling effect. He wasn’t sure about that and looked through the camera, when his friend told him to look at the place with his own eyes. To his shock, he saw the whole place covered in this effect.

We started walking, pausing for me to take pictures. Ray even pointed out that under the snow there may be some graves. Are these the ones who haunt the church? Or is it those who died in the Civil War battle fought in the area? For those who may have died in the burning's such a terrible way to die.

I got the itchy feeling of being watched, but nothing ended up on any of my photos. Nor did I catch a voice or sound out of the ordinary on my recording. It was just that feeling.

Even churches can be haunted. There are two in the Richmond area. In life, Polegreen was a place of worship. Now, it’s a place where ghosts gather. Next time you come to tour the place, don’t be surprised if you hear a voice and you’re all alone. It’s only the phantoms of what is possibly Richmond’s most haunted church.

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