Ghost Walk attracts UMW students and returning alumni
By JANAYE EVANS
The 32nd Annual Ghost Walk took place on Friday, Oct. 21 and Saturday Oct. 22 in downtown Fredericksburg. Hosted by University of Mary Washington’s Historic Preservation Club, the haunted tours took participants on a journey through 18th century Fredericksburg. Members of the club and volunteers took on roles as tour guides, historical figures and ghostly characters to bring the experience to life.
“The rain on Friday caused some difficulties,” said senior Maddie Quick, co-chair of the event, “but everyone was extremely flexible and willing to wait it out.”
Despite the rain, the Fredericksburg community continued to show up and experience the beloved event both nights. UMW alumni continue to come back to Ghost Walk year after year to revisit their favorite sites and see how the current students reinterpret old familiar roles.
“The alumni who come to support us truly make this event,” said senior Courtney Kuzemchak. “This year we had an alum from 1991, Whitney Hall, who was a chair of Ghost Walk during her time at Mary Washington.”
The Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop and Masonic Cemetery continue to be crowd favorites. The former was occupied by Dr. Mercer who served the citizens of Fredericksburg with medicines and treatments of the time. Remedies included leeches, snakeroot and crab claws. During Ghost Walk student actors reenact a leg amputation that occurred after a horse and buggy accident.
The Masonic Cemetery is the last stop on the tour. The cemetery is right next to the James Monroe Museum and always brings the most the chills. The ghosts of the cemetery scare the visitors and talk about how their headstones may have been moved. Their bodies potentially remain elsewhere. The ghosts cry out to visitors that they still “need bodies under these gravestones”.
It is not all ghost stories, however, the tour guides manage to insert pieces of Fredericksburg history into the mix. They tell stories about the house that George Washington built his mother, Mary, and the garden path that leads from Mary Washington’s house to Kenmore. Kenmore was the residence of her daughter Betty Washington Lewis, wife to Fielding Lewis, and once the center of an enormous working plantation.
Ghost Walk does not only show off the architecture from the 1700s, but also tells the tale of the Great Fire of 1807, through the Wheeler House. Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler were attending a wake when their two cooks allegedly started a grease fire in the kitchen that began the Great Fire.
Prior to the fire majority of Fredericksburg’s structures were made of wood frame construction. This fire inspired the change to masonry construction we know and love today.
Unlike many other haunted tours, the Ghost Walk is based on history and what has been passed down from generation after generation as actual ghost stories of Fredericksburg. The city’s rich history and ties to many Civil War battles encourages one to reconsider the many sites here within our historic district as places with paranormal pasts.