Top 5 Haunted Places in Virginia
Many of the most haunted places in Virginia have recently been lost, whether to redevelopment or ruin. The Lorton Reformatory prison complex is becoming apartments and homes. The Western State Hospital, once a grim asylum, is being turned into condominiums. And the Natural Bridge Wax Museum, a favorite creepy-kitsch destination, has closed. Still, there are plenty of horrors to explore…
Do You Dare Visit The Five Most Scariest Places in Virginia?
5. Old House Woods in Mathews, Va.
What lurks in the Old House Woods? That depends on who you talk to. In this fifty-acre tract of pines and marshland, according to Haunted Virginia, people have seen skeletons in armor; a flying witch in a long nightgown; and even ghostly horses and cows. The most common story, according to students who collected local oral histories, involves “an old ship creaking through the foggy sky to the edge of the woods, filled with ghostly figures clambering out of the ship to search for lost treasure they buried hundreds of years ago but never recovered.”
Whatever the truth is, the Old House Woods are one of the creepiest and most haunted places in Virginia.
4. Paxton Manor in Leesburg
Every October, Paxton Manor draws thousands as a haunted-house Halloween attraction. But the ghosts at Paxton Manor aren’t all fake; the haunted-house organizers have reported unseen hands grabbing scissors and even pushing a performer. Not only that, but the mansion sits atop an enormous limestone cavern and an underground lake.
The manor, also known as Carlheim, was built in 1872 by the Paxton family. It was inhabited for many years by Rachel Paxton, who outlived both her husband and her daughter. Upon her death in 1921, she willed that the property be used to benefit children. It served as an orphanage for years and now is the Paxton Campus, which supports children with disabilities and their families.
3. Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Va.
Hollywood Cemetery is a pensive place on the banks of the James River that invites visitors to stroll past the graves of two American presidents, six Virginia governors, two Supreme Court justices and other notable Virginians. As pretty as the cemetery is, with rolling hills and elaborate monuments, it’s not a place you want to spend the night. Don’t miss the 90-foot granite pyramid that honors the 18,000 Confederate dead buried in Hollywood.
Another beautiful but less-visited cemetery is Evergreen Cemetery, a historic African-American cemetery that fell into neglect for decades. The resting place of famous people such as banker Maggie L. Walker and civic leader John Mitchell Jr., much of Evergreen is choked with trees and vines, and some stones are broken and vandalized. Volunteers are working hard to restore it.
2. The DeJarnette Sanatorium in Staunton, Va.
A collection of crumbling and abandoned brick buildings in Staunton represent a horrific time in Virginia history. This institution, which was open from 1932 until 2001, was named for Dr. Joseph S. DeJarnette, director of nearby Western State Hospital. DeJarnette experimented on his young patients and was a staunch proponent of eugenics: the forced sterilization of people who suffered from mental illness, intellectual disability, epilepsy and other conditions. “Today, one can almost hear the lingering screams of fear and oppression echoing through the sanatorium’s hallways,” write the authors of Weird Virginia. While the buildings are abandoned and not open to the public, you can see some haunting photographs of the DeJarnette Sanatorium here.
1. The Great Dismal Swamp in Suffolk, Va.
The Great Dismal Swamp is aptly named. It’s great, measuring 112,000 acres — the largest remaining piece of a vast swamp that once covered more than one million acres. And it can seem pretty dismal, with swirling mists, mucky ground and a huge, dark-tinted lake. If you wander too far off the trail, the growth is so thick you may not find your way back.
It’s not just the landscape that makes the Great Dismal Swamp one of the creepiest places in Virginia, but the spirits that inhabit it. Swamp legends tell of a man who pursued his ghostly lover into the lake, never to return; and when a party of 17th-century explorers ventured in, only one came out. Escaped slaves made the swamp their home as well, braving its discomforts in order to claim their freedom. The Great Dismal Swamp Wildlife Refuge is open daily from sunrise to sunset.
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