By ELIZABETH BEAUCHAMP
University of Mary Washington’s Historic Preservation Club hosted its annual ghost walk throughout downtown Fredericksburg. The student- run event took place at the James Monroe Museum.
According to the club’s website, the reenacted stories are from a book by L. B. Taylor, a Virginian author who was fascinated by paranormal phenomena, titled “The Ghosts of Fredericksburg and Nearby Environs.” With a slight chill in the air, and a rising moon, the scene was set for my ghost tour of Fredericksburg.
The walk covered several famous sites in Fredericksburg such as the Mary Washington house, Kenmore Plantation and the Free Lance-Star building. We began our tour with frightening stories of a headless blue woman who roams the halls of the Smithsonian on the corner of Charles and Amelia Street, a former orphanage for girls.
The tour continued as the sun set and the chill grew more intense. At the Free Lance-Star building, the ghost of a rebel soldier burst through the bushes, just one of the minor scares we experienced during the tour. Next, it was time to visit the ghosts at the Kenmore Plantation.
At Kenmore Plantation, we were visited by the ghost of Fielding Lewis, a rifle maker during the Revolutionary War who was the son in law of Mary Ball Washington. We continued the tour with the Mary Washington House, where the ghost of Mary Washington visited us, chasing us away from her home.
According to the Linton Research Fund, Washington died in her home on August 26, 1789 and was buried on her property next to her mediation rock.
In 1807, the Great Fire destroyed property in the downtown area and left ghosts haunting side streets and old homes. We arrived at the Wheeler home to try and catch a glimpse of the cooks who were reportedly blamed for starting the fire, after breaking into their master’s liquor cabinet. Rumors now would lead you to believe they still inhabit the kitchen.
At the Willis home, Yip, the ghost of a slain Yankee soldier, refused to leave the property where he was shot in the kitchen of the home. His ghost lingers behind, refusing to leave even when commanded by Nanny, the caretaker of the home.
St. George’s Episcopal Church was our next stop, where a weeping bride was seen crying over her lost husband. The cemetery next to the church provided an eerie setting for the ghostly bride, whose dress moved with the chilly fall breeze.
The Presbyterian Church at the corner of Princess Anne and George Street, which had once served as a hospital during the Civil War, Clara Barton, a famous nurse, was seen tending to dying soldiers.
Our final and most terrifying stop was that of the Masonic cemetery, just behind the James Monroe Museum. In the cemetery we learned about the displacement of bodies and their headstones in order to build a carpet store downtown.
The ghosts at this site wander the cemetery in search of their headstones to this day, or so the story goes. Overall, the Ghost Walk gave tourists an extensive overview of the rich and haunted history of Fredericksburg, in a humorous way, thanks to the superb acting from UMW students.