It may have taken a few weeks, but we finally found out exactly who, or what, has been haunting our house. As it turns out, the entity is not human at all, but a cat. Yes, that’s right: we have ourselves a ghost cat. Now, this may come as a surprise to those who are not heavily involved with the paranormal, but let me tell you, I really was not that shocked when my mom told me what she saw one afternoon. Then when I saw it along with a friend the next day, I was completely sold. So anyway, yes, cats can have spirits. We actually have one at the Proprietary House. It came out one time during a séance, when people sitting around the table felt a cat curling up against their legs, winding in and out, one at a time. It also shows up every now and then, as one of our trustees, who has a severe allergy to cats, begins to cough and sneeze out of nowhere, before the fit goes away as quickly as it came.
I first came into contact with producer and screenwriter Michael Frost Beckner a few months ago, due to his work with the highly anticipated upcoming mini-series To Appomattox. Having written for their unofficial fan blog since August now, and knowing that MFB, as we call him, is very hands on, I thought I would ask him if he had any history-related ghost stories, during my quest to bring you some of the best from filmmakers and historians around the country. He agreed, and actually sent me two, the first of which occurred in historic Lexington, Virginia while on a research trip. It entails a very creepy encounter with what he believes was the ghost of a Civil War soldier. The second story involves the war as well, but has a slightly different twist. I hope you will enjoy these!
First story—Lexington, Virginia
In 2005, my wife accompanied me on a research trip for To Appomattox. We came into Lexington late one night (about 10pm) without reservations. No hotels available. We called all the Bed and Breakfasts…nothing in town. We found one way up on the Lee Highway. They had been under construction and weren’t reopening for another week, but I explained our predicament and they said they would give us a room for the night. We drove from town up that highway. My wife and I have been on windy, dark roads all over the world many times. Something about this one spooked her. Before we were even to this place, she said she refused to get out of the car, that something “bad” awaited us. I gently told her it was late, there was nowhere else, we were tired, the couple who owned the place were elderly and were opening their home to us late at night…and were waiting.
We arrived up the long dirt driveway (it still needed to be re-paved) and she refused to get out of the car. We argued for a moment. The couple was waiting on the porch and my wife wouldn’t budge. Embarrassed, I got out of the car, walked to the porch and lied that on the way my wife and begun throwing up and might have a stomach flu and we didn’t want to bring germs into their home. They didn’t really believe me, but that was that. Got back in the car. My wife said, “Get out of here as fast as you can. This is a bad place.” (By the way, that was a sweet, old couple and I still feel bad about lying; Anne wasn’t talking about them–just to be straight.)
The rental car was an Infiniti and had a rear-viewing camera with a monitor in the dash. A little more common now, but back then that was the first I’d driven with one of those and I was into the technology of it all. So I put the car in reverse and didn’t look over my shoulder, opting to use the cool camera/monitor. Anne did look over her shoulder though. Suddenly, I saw a figure (in the monitor) loom up directly behind me. It was a bearded man in Civil War officer’s uniform and slouch hat. Reenactor, I thought at the second it happened. Anne, looking back through rear window glass, shouted, “Stop! You’ll hit him!” I was already slamming my brake. I hit him. I must have. Yet he remained as though embedded in the bumper—I was still looking at the display, Anne still over her shoulder, then he “became” exhaust and dissolved. It was exhaust. I distinctly remember knowing, somehow, in the moment I saw him that he wasn’t “solid.” The exhaust dissipated in wisps.
Anne asked, “Did you see him? Was it someone?”
I answered, ”Where was his hand?”
She said, “Holding the top of his sword.”
He had been—his hand resting on the guard of his sword in his scabbard. When I asked Anne to describe him she gave me the same details: beard, long Civil War coat with two rows of buttons, and a “cowboy” hat. A few years later, I remembered the event and went online to see if anyone else had seen him. There are LOTS of reports of a Confederate officer/spirit who harasses cars along that road.
Second story—Richmond, Virginia
Here’s another one…We were in Richmond (again, another research trip). Staying at small “historic” hotel—I don’t remember the name. The rooms were unchanged since the 1800′s. Bedroom, big living room, high ceiling, original/period furniture. Anne woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me “someone was in the room” with us. I looked around both rooms. No one there. I didn’t feel anything creepy. She said, there had been a woman who woke her up. I told her she had a nightmare, and went back to bed.
Shortly after, about 3am, about to fall back asleep, as we were lying there we began to hear children laughing and chattering and playing outside. It went on for about 30 minutes. It was very irritating. The next morning I complained to the management. They swore that there was no group of children staying there and that no one else had heard anything—the proprietors stay there as well. We checked around and, sure enough there were no children staying there; only two other couples, and I asked them—they didn’t hear any children.
A day later, at another hotel, I found an old Readers’ Digest magazine. There was an article in it about the place where we had stayed. Don’t remember the details, as in names, but it told the story of a young Richmond woman (with a “wild” reputation) who had a love affair with a Civil War officer that was somewhat scandalous—they would race horses up and down the streets. They got married the day before he went to the front. Lee gave her permission to visit him, but battle intervened. By the time she got to the front to see her new husband…he was dead.
The woman who’s husband died returned to Richmond and locked herself in her room for a year. Her house was the hotel we had stayed in–though not the room she’d locked herself in. When she ended her mourning, she converted the home into a school for war orphans.
I would like to thank Michael for taking the time to share these two fascinating stories with me. As we get closer and closer to Halloween, sometimes we do not realize how often history and the paranormal intersect with each other.
Ah, another day, another ghost hunt!
Last night, I finally got a chance to meet up with my friend who sent me these two ghostly images from the Gettysburg battlefield a few weeks ago, Tommy Zilinski, a fifteen year old Civil War reenactor from Bridgewater. While we are pretty much able to prove that one of them is a tree, the other image still holds up as a legitimate possibility. Regardless of what you see there, I invited him and his friends to come with me on a ghost hunt at my normal stomping grounds at the Proprietary House. He came with his mother and his friend Jack, who brought his mother as well, and she would end up taking two of the best pictures I have ever seen of a potential spirit inside the house. The funny this is, I had just finished telling them that I had personally never captured anything in an image there, but usually get decent EVP recordings on my digital camera and tape recorder. Sure enough, within minutes, Terry Perhach snapped these two shots, which show some kind of shadowy figure, in a different location each time. This is the first image, which you can see a large shadow on the right side of the doorway:
The shadow here does not have a clear and defined shape, but what was so strange is that just seconds before she knelt down and took this picture, I saw a shadow move in the hallway out of the corner of my eye. I did not even have the chance to say anything, when Terry, with a surprised tone in her voice, said that something was wrong with her image. To fully explain the scenario, we were in the basement servant’s quarters, with her camera aimed into the Tea Room across the hallway. Her lens was on zoom, meaning that it is showing past the doorway of the room we were actually in. Our shadows were visible on the walls of the doorway of the quarters, but not the Tea Room. From where we were standing, after close examination after this and the next picture were taken, it would have been physically impossible for our shadows to have reached so far as to appear on the wall across the hallway. This next picture, though, shows a pretty clear image of what looks like a human figure, that has now changed position:
This almost looks like a headless apparition, as you can see shoulders, a body, and where someone’s arms would be resting if they were standing at attention. The outline then continues down a little bit to the floor, which would be the legs. Once again, there was no way for this image to appear, and she snapped several more pictures from the same spot, and this shadow would never appear again in any form. There have been many reports, including instances that I have actually witnessed myself, of shadows moving in the hallway. Their other location is the staircase leading up to the attic, and according to a psychic at the house last year, one of the figure’s names is Byron (take that for what it’s worth). As for my pictures, many of them yielded orbs, which many paranormal researchers are still on the fence about. Are they the spectral remnants of a spirit manifestation, or just dust in the air or on the lens? We will never be sure, but one thing is definite, they never appear in two straight pictures. Between the four of us last night, we had three cameras, and every time someone got an orb, the others would take pictures of the same spot and it could never be repeated. This was one of mine:
Like I have said earlier and many times over on this blog, I am not trying to sell you anything. You either believe in spirits or you do not. However, unless someone can provide me with a clear explanation for those two shadow figures, then I will go with my gut and say that we captured something paranormal. For the people I brought with me last night, it was their first time on a real ghost hunt (Tommy’s pictures from Gettysburg were an accident), and they are very lucky to have witnessed as much as they did. I have conducted all-nighters at this same house for ten hours or more that have yielded not even so much as a knock on the wall. Terry’s son Jack, who was also with us, felt something touch his hair as we were walking up the steps of the staircase, and while Terry and I were outside taking pictures, the group inside heard footsteps. This would constitute a very active [and ultra-rare] night at the Proprietary House. Ghosts are not parlor tricks—if it was so easy to capture them, we would have pictures like this every time.