Friday, January 02, 2015

Supernatural Friday: Top Ten Haunted Spots of Richmond, Virginia and Its Surrounding Counties

For the first Friday of 2015, here are top ten haunted spots in Richmond, Virginia and its counties. Whether you agree with me or not, it is about time one of Virginia’s most haunted region have a top ten. (The photos are copyrighted-most from my Haunted Richmond II book, so please just share the link to this blog.)

1. Henricus Historical Park, 251 Henricus Park Road, Chester, Virginia: Not only will you find history about the English settlement of Henricus in Chesterfield County, but spirits haunting the area, too. It started as an island that Native American tribes hunted on and later, lived on. In 1611, Sir Thomas Dale came up river from Jamestown to make a settlement here. Responsible for enforcing the laws, determining punishment and leading military expeditions, Sir Thomas also punished severely those who transgress in the colony. Governing Virginia by brutal martial law, Dale did not hesitate to impose the severe penalties specified by the codes. This included forced labor, capital punishment, and condemning a man who stole food to be tied to a tree and left to starve to death as a warning to others. Henricus was also the site of the first American hospital called Mount Malady.  One famous Native American, Pocahontas, is a part of Henricus’s story. After being captured by Captain Samual Argall in 1613, she was taken to Jamestown, to insure peace between the Indians and English settlers. She met John Rolfe at Henricus and married him in April 1614. Two years later, she traveled to England with her husband and infant son Thomas. Still, Opechancanough, Powhatan’s younger brother and successor, led a raid against English settlements up and down the James River March 22, 1622.  The Citie of Henricus was one of them.  The Civil War was fought here too. Fifty Yankee soldiers died here, from Confederate sharpshooters and artillery. They were from black regiments. Many obviously died from the bullets, while others succumbed to fever and disease.

2. Hollywood Cemetery, 412 Cherry Street, Richmond, Virginia: “You’re going to Hollywood” meant you were dying or had passed away. And yet, the dead still hang around here, making Hollywood, “the most haunted cemetery in Richmond.” Still a working cemetery, there many Virginians buried here, famous and not famous. The famous lying deep in the ground there include Presidents James Monroe and James Tyler, along with Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his family, General J. E. B Stuart, author Ellen Glasgow, and John Randolph, to name a few. One of the true but bizarre stories told are that families used to picnic there by the graves of loved ones. Now there's a stipulation in the contract for those who seek to buy a grave there that no one is allowed to picnic there.

Stories of soft moans rising from these graves on nights when the moon is full, and even in the daytime, voices have been heard. Orbs and other weird phenomena floating above tombstones have been captured in photographs and people complain of feeling chilling cold spots. Paranormal investigators have gotten EVPs of voices. There are those of the living whose energy has been drained, leaving them feeling ill the next day. Author Ellen Glasgow was able to have her two dogs buried with her at Hollywood. It is said that the two dogs run around and whine at the gravesite, late at night.

A statue of a cast iron dog not far from the pyramid stands over some children’s graves. It came originally from the front of a store on Broad Street in the 19th century. The story goes that a  little girl would drop by the store and pet it, talking to it and showing her love for it as if it were a real dog. One day though, she didn’t come. The little girl had perished from scarlet fever in an epidemic in 1892 and was buried in Hollywood Cemetery. Because of her affection for the cast iron dog, though, it was placed at her grave site. Eerily, it stands there to this very day, as if guarding her. There have been those who say that it moves occasionally, that they would pass it pointing in one direction and come back to find it staring the opposite way. The true story behind the dog states that the cast iron dog belonged to one Charles R. Reese. Reese’s children would walk by the cast iron dog on Broad Street every day and they loved it. He bought it for his children and it became a treasured family possession until it was placed in the cemetery to prevent it from being confiscated and reduced to bullets for Confederate soldiers.

Lore surrounds Thomas Branch, who in 1865 moved his family and business interests from Petersburg to Richmond. He established the Merchants Bank, now the Bank of America. He and his sons were such successful financiers that he is considered the “father of Virginia banking.” He has the statue of a lady sitting above his grave. Lore maintains that once a year she comes to life on the anniversary of his death and sheds tears.

The daughter of President Davis, Winnie, is rumored to have died from a broken heart, caused by her falling in love with Alfred Wilkinson, a Yankee and grandson of an abolitionist. President Davis rejected his suit to marry Winnie. Her health failed not long after that and she died at age 34. There’s a statue of an angel in mourning hovering over her grave. Lore has that from time to time it sheds tears, perhaps because even in death Winnie and her lover are still parted.

3. Cold Harbor Civil War Battlefield, 5515 Anderson-Wright Drive, five miles southeast of Mechanicsville on route 156. : Cold Harbor Battlefield had one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. Located in what is Mechanicsville, a section of Richmond, today it is a National Battlefield Park, generally open except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.  The Federal army lost twelve thousand men—dead, wounded, missing, or captured. The Confederates suffered almost four thousand in casualties. Cold Harbor proved to be Lee's last major field victory. This battle also changed the course of the war from one of maneuver to one of entrenchment. Park map:

There are stories of apparitions seen, voices heard, gunfire and cannon fire heard, along with many people capturing orbs or spectral figures in photos. There’s even a legend that tells of a thick fog that rolls in around 1:00 a.m. on the battlefield and no where else. I myself have seen shadows in human shapes moving, got cannon fire as an EVP, heard footsteps following my late at night when no one is allowed in the park (two investigators and I had permission and they paid for a ranger to take us around), and other things.

Two legends are connected to Cold Harbor. One has nothing to do with the Civil War, except that it supposedly took place at Cold Harbor, but it’s still a neat little story. The story goes that a sailor courted the lady of his dreams here. When she brushed him off, he is said to have exclaimed, “Now that really was a cold harbor!” Of course, historians discount this colorful legend.  The other one is connected to the Cohoke Light in West Point. There is a story that wounded Confederate soldiers were loaded onto a train that took off toward the Tidewater Region, but when it got to West Point the entire train vanished! 

4. Belle Isle, 300 Tredegar Street, Richmond, Virginia: Located as a 54-acre island in the James River, you can only get to it by walking or bicycling across a suspension bridge that runs under the Robert E. Lee Bridge from the northern shore of the James. Alternate access is by wooden bridge near 22nd Street, or by rock-hopping from the south shore. Once a prisoner of war camp, today it is a city park of great natural beauty owned by the city of Richmond.  Known as Broad Rock Island, it was first explored by Captain John Smith in 1607. In the 18th century a fishery occupied it. In 1814, the Old Dominion Iron and Nail Company had a nail factory on it. During the 1860's, the island was inhabited by a village complete with a school, church, and general store. The Virginia Electric Power Company built and operated a hydroelectric power plant on the island between 1904 and 1963. Between 1862 and 1865, the island served as a prison for Union soldiers during the War Between the States, around  30,000 POW's, with as many as 1,000 perished. Holding only a few small shacks, the island afforded no protection from the elements to the Union soldiers who were captured and taken there. Prisoners were given tents to sleep in, but the tents numbered 3000, while the soldiers numbered almost 10,000 by 1863. Prisoners were allowed to swim in the James River. The rapid water was perilous, but some men dared to brave the rapids and rifle fire, attempting to escape.  Most died of these, though, drowned or were shot, but some did escaped. Most of the deaths that occurred came from continuous exposure to the weather.

Stories are told of ghostly voices heard when no one is there, people being touched, chills, and spirits that have been seen. One story is told about some people walking all around Belle Isle from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. On the way back, they heard what sounded like horse hooves on the ground, dragging something behind it.  Another tale makes claims to a sighting of a woman apparition. When I was there with a paranormal group, a voice answered yes over my ghost box. When I asked for a name, I got Victor. And when another investigator asked if he would come closer to get a temperature, her equipment lit up as if someone had!

5. Parker’s Battery: Located off Ware Bottom Church Spring Road in Chester, Virginia, these ten acres of land had a battle on it during the War Between the States. It is owned by the National Battlefield Park, open from dawn until dusk. The site was manned by Parker’s “Boy Company” comprised of men from the City of Richmond. Infantry trenches ran from the James River south to the Appomattox River, supported by artillery positions along the line. From mid-June 1864 forward, Parker’s Battery artillerymen were involved in frequent duels with Federal positions located less than one mile east. Confederate forces occupied this site until the fall of Petersburg in April 2, 1865.

Voices have been heard here and occasionally a figure may have been seen. But I discovered best time to see or hear paranormal activity is during the anniversary of the battle. In 2014, I heard footsteps, had voices of men talk to me over my ghost box and even captured one f them in a photo. All this will be in my new upcoming book released August 2015. So I won’t tell more of mine. You can find out more about that book at

6. Byrd Theater, 2908 West Cary Street, Richmond, Virginia: Movie theaters have movies, popcorn, sodas, and snacks. But a second-run movie theater in Carytown has more: It’s haunted! The main ghost of choice there is the theater’s first manager, Robert Coulter. But from paranormal groups that had investigated the theater, it seems he’s not the only one to hang around. A female voice has been heard in the women’s restroom and even a cat’s meowing captured in an EVP in the theater auditorium.  Current manager Todd Schall-Vess said they’d always gotten EMF meters going off from past groups that investigated there.  Three members of one group had a light turned in hallway outside projection booth one night when no others in the group said they did it. Had Coulter been concerned that they might get hurt? Vess also has said that a man had died from a heart attack in the theater in either 1937 or ’38. There have been EVPs of other male voices, so maybe this person still hanging around where he died? Coulter has been seen by works off duty allowed with friends to use the balcony off limits to the public to watch a movie and would later tell him, “I thought you said others aren’t allowed up there. Who’s the old dude in a seat up there?” Bone-chilling cold is sometimes felt up in the balcony by paranormal groups. The person who plays the organ  late Friday and Saturday nights, stayed late one night to practice and around 3 a.m. heard voices when he knew he was the only one in the theater,

7. Evergreen Cemetery: Evergreen Cemetery is a historic African-American cemetery in the East End of Richmond, dating from 1891. There are notable African-Americans buried there including Maggie L. Walker, John Mitchell, Jr., A. D. Price, and Rev. J. Andrew Bowler.

Paranormal investigators investigating the place, have consistently heard voices ranging from grown women and men talking (mostly mumbling) to children laughing and maybe even playing. At one point, during an EVP session, they asked “Is there anyone here?” Then they asked, “What is your name?” Right after the question, one of them swore he heard someone whisper “Jacob” in his left ear. At this same location, both he and another investigator had headaches at the same exact time. When they left that spot, the headaches went away. But as soon as they re-entered the area, the headaches returned.

8. Magnolia Grange, 10020 Iron Bridge Road, Chesterfield, Virginia: Magnolia Grange was a plantation house, with much land.  Nowadays, it is a historical museum on acreage of land, surrounded by buildings and Route 19 in front and a street behind it. It is taken care of by the Chesterfield Historical Society and you can take tours there.

Apparitions, disembodied voices, shadows and such have been observed there. Some people admitted to feeling oddness about the place. A psychic had visited with the George Lutz of Amityville Horror fame, and told the docent she’d seen white-covered tables in the back yard, with ladies in long gowns having tea there, a lady in a 1820s Empire style dress standing on the sixth step of the staircase, on the foyer. Besides the woman, she also noticed a man in the parlor, tall, dark, and brooding, and admitted to hearing children’s laughter drifting from a room on the second floor at the top of the stairs.  Once when I was there on a tour, and our tour guide took us upstairs and stood behind the case that held the map of the area to point out things, the glass doors of the bookcase beside her flew open. She looked at it with a puzzled gaze and said, “That’s never happened before.” One time, at after a wedding while the bride and groom were getting photos take of them, one of the male guests asked who the woman in period costume was standing there with the others. He said she had on a beautiful white dress with a necklace, which matches to a T what the psychic Mary had described of her female spirit.

9. Wrexham Hall, 10301 Old Wrexham Road, Chesterfield, Virginia: Now owned as a place one can rent for weddings, receptions and parties, this historical house is also haunted. The main spirit is the lady in red, Susanna Walthall , whose father, Archibald Walthall, owned the house. Her fiancĂ©e went away to fight in the War Between the States but never returned and Susanna lived there as a spinster until her death. And of course, she has never left, but remains around, no doubt checking out the weddings as she never had hers.  Others ghosts are Civil War soldiers, as the house had been a hospital during the war too. The house was moved from its original spot, but it is said that the graves remained where they were, cemented over to become a parking lots for Chesterfield Meadows Shopping Center. The ghosts also haunted the area, particularly the Martins Supermarket, as activity has been experienced there.  The slaves’ cemetery was across the street, where today a CVS stands. None of the employees there mention sseing or hearing anything.

My most interesting experience at Wrexham happened before I wrote the first book, Haunted Richmond, Virginia. After a meeting for a paranormal group, we were allowed to run upstairs and check the place out. I stood I the hallway outside the room the brides used when dressing for their weddings, while two others were in the restroom. Another person was inside the room, staring out the window. Suddenly, the door began to slowly close. 

10. Chimborazo Medical Museum 3215 E. Broad Street Richmond, Virginia: The museum is on the grounds of what had been one of the Civil War’s largest military hospitals. Inside the museum there are exhibits of original medical instruments and personal artifacts of Civil War doctors and surgeons. It has been operated as a park by the city since the 1870s.  Chimborazo became known as one of the best organized, largest, and most sophisticated hospitals of it kind in the Confederacy at the time. Taking its name from the hill it sat upon, it was on the eastern edge of the city of Richmond. According to local legend, Chimborazo Hill was named for Mount Chimborazo, an inactive volcano in Ecuador.  It is figured that approximately 75,000 patients passed through its doors over its three and a half years. The precise number of deaths is unknown. Estimates suggest somewhere in 6,500 to 8,000 died, resulting in a mortality rate of about 9 percent. Men who died at Chimborazo Hospital nearly always received burial in the Confederate section at Oakwood Cemetery, about one mile northeast of the hospital. Also in the area happened Bloody Run, a battle in 1656 where six to seven hundred members of the Shackoconian tribe of the Manahoac Confederacy fought English Colonists under Colonel Edward Hill and members of the Pamunkey tribe under Totopotomoi. So terrible was this battle that there’s a legend that so many were slain (Totopotomoi included) that their blood flooded the spring. In the end, Colonel Hill became disgusted with it and had to pay for the cost of the battle and was stripped of his rank.

There have been stories of voices heard when no one is there, along with apparitions seen. 

Like to read more about this haunted spots and other ones in Richmond. Find them in my Haunted Richmond, Virginia and Haunted Richmond II. Find out a lot more about Parker's Battery in Paranormal Petersburg, Virginia, and the Tri-Cities Area releasing in August 2015.  It is available for preorder now.


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