BY JOHN SHERIDAN
I love ghosts. I don’t necessarily believe that ghosts as we think of them exist, but I really wish they did. I find hauntings, especially the really terrifying ones, to be absolutely awesome in a morbidly satisfying way.
So when I found the paranormal section in Simpson Library, I had to check out what records of hauntings in Fredericksburg exist. I found the appropriately titled “The Ghosts of Fredericksburg…and nearby Environs” by L.B. Taylor, Jr., published in 1991. These are my top five creepiest of the thoroughly reported and time-tested hauntings of the Fredericksburg area. I really encourage checking these out, if you’re into that sort of thing.
1. The Murder in Aquia Belfry
Aquia Church in Stafford County, approximately 20 miles north of Fredericksburg has had some serious action for the past 200 years. During the American Revolution a woman was murdered in the chapel by a band of highwaymen, and they hid her body in the belfry. No one found her until years later, and allegedly blood stains from where she died remained “clearly visible” on the stone floor until the mid-19 century, when a new cement floor was laid. Reportedly, with great frequency and little variation, phenomena that can be observed include footsteps running up and down the belfry stairs, the distinct sounds of a heavy struggle, and the apparition of a terrified female figure standing in the belfry window.
2. A Headless Lady on Charlotte Street.
Three houses on Charlotte Street “within a stone’s throw of Federal Hill” that suffered three intense paranormal manifestations in May 1974. No paranormal activity had ever been recorded in the area before, and never since has anything recurred. It is completely unclear as to why these happened when they did. Two of the cases involved completely separate accounts, describing the same hazy blue apparition of a headless woman. A woman at 511 Charlotte St saw her hanging around the foot of Federal Hill. A man at 513 allegedly saw her standing in the doorway of the room he was watching television in, staring at him (if she had a head, that is) before she ran out.
3. A Spectrum of Hauntings at Old Mansion
Old Mansion on the outskirts of Bowling Green is so old nobody is certain how old it is, but historians seem to agree it was built before 1675. Needless to say, throughout the wars and multiple owners this manor has weathered, activity includes and is not limited to: an alleged horseman apparition that rides around where the race track used to be, a returning former owner that signals death in the presiding family, random screams, footsteps, wailing and singing, repeated slamming of windows, lights turning on and off.
The best part is the vengeful ghost of an invalid woman who found out her husband was cheating with the maid, and was eventually killed by her husband, and now groans loudly in the night and rings the servant bell.
4. Poltergeist at Lake Acres
In an odd twist, a modern home in Lake Acres
of Spotsylvania, not a creaky old pre-war manor, had a slew of three-week activity in 1986 so severe the Free Lance-Star ran a lengthy article chronicling it. A couple and their 11-year-old daughter had a female houseguest visiting at the time. One room in the upstairs had allegedly always been strangely cold, and no one ever stayed in it, so the two women attempted to exorcise it with a rosary which they hung on the wall. The room allegedly warmed up.
Their daughter, while playing outside, claimed to later see in the window of the room something “big and red” moving around within. When the women attempted to investigate, the door was locked from the inside. Upon jimmying it open, it was again icy cold in the room, with the rosary allegedly embedded in the wall opposite where it had been hung.
The women then tried using holy water. This incurred the wrath of whatever it was, and malevolent manifestations included: books being thrown, a closet door which on two occasions flew off its hinges so hard the hinge pins were driven into the wall, and smudges and handprints appearing on walls and windows.
Eventually they contacted a woman who claimed to be a psychic, and allegedly contacted the spirit. She claimed it was a young confederate soldier, grievously and fatally wounded, who died nearby and was hiding in the closet because he believed the war was still going on.
The woman claims the spirit was so confused and upset by the attempts at his forceful eviction that he reacted violently. Allegedly she and the spirit had a good heart-to-heart over a Ouija board, as the occurrences never returned.
5. The White Woman at Fredericksburg National Cemetery
This tale I did not find in the book, but I have been compelled to include it by the vivid evidence I have received from friends who experienced it personally.
As freshmen, my friends and I would often venture into the cemetery at night for some tomfoolery. That year two different friends described a glowing white female full-bodied apparition who walks the perimeter of the graveyard at times, supposedly emanating from the large historic house on the hill not 100 yards away.
While researching for this article, I was telling this tale to two friends one night. Upon hearing it, both of them became teary-eyed with shock and disbelief, as they had seen the exact apparition I described on multiple occasions and never knew it wasn’t a living, breathing human.
As historic and battle-ravaged as Fredericksburg is, it is not at all surprising that it is hot spot for all manners of the paranormal