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.