Visit any historic town and you’re bound to hear a ghost story or two. Williamsburg is home to its fair share, and rightfully so — the city is coming up on its 380th birthday. A window of almost four centuries leaves plenty of opportunity for ghostly spirits to settle in.
On any given night in Colonial Williamsburg — particularly during the warmer months — you’ll see tour groups taking to the streets as the sun sets below the horizon. With a lantern as their guiding light, these groups walk the historic streets and hear tales of the haunted buildings that line them. While many guides have a line up of their favorite stories to tell, in the spirit of Halloween, here are a few of our favorites that aren’t often told:
1 Lucy Ludwell-Paradise — On the north side of Duke of Gloucester Street stands the Ludwell-Paradise house, which was inherited by Lucy when her father passed away in 1767. Lucy and her husband, John, lived in London, and rented the home for several years. Lucy didn’t occupy the house herself until 1805, after her husband had died and people in their former social circle grew less tolerable of her eccentricities. It wasn’t long before she lost her status with the social elite. Upon her arrival in Williamsburg, people quickly noticed her odd behaviors, which included compulsive bathing and an inexplicably inflated ego. People also suspected her of being a thief. In 1812 she was committed to the Public Hospital for Persons of Insane and Disordered Minds for two years. While it’s unknown exactly what kinds of treatment she received, we all know history books don’t speak kindly of how mental patients were treated in the days of yore. Lucy committed suicide two years after her admittance and is now said to haunt the upper level of her family’s home, where visitors have reported hearing the sounds of water dripping… as if a ghost was upstairs bathing.
The old Matthew Whaley school which was torn down during the reconstruction of the Governor’s Palace
2 Matthew Whaley — When Matthew Whaley died in 1705 at the young age of nine, his mother, Mary, honored her son by building a school in his name. The school name is still in use today, just in a new location and much larger footprint— in fact, Fife and Drum Inn owner Billy Scruggs attended Matthew Whaley School for high school in the 1970s and all four of his children are alumnus of the elementary school it later became. But anyway, back to our story. In all three of the school’s locations, students and teachers alike have whispered about ghost sightings. In the current building, a massive, four story brick structure, the most haunted areas are rumored to be the auditorium and the attic — which is off-limits to students. Reports of footsteps in empty hallways and other mysterious bumps in the night keep little Matthew Whaley’s story alive.
Matthew Whaley as it stands today.
3 Bruton Parish — While this story isn’t exactly about a ghost, it does tell the tale of a rumored buried treasure on the grounds of Bruton Parish. According to local legend, there is a secret vault on the property that is alleged to contain original Shakespeare plays, writings from Francis Bacon and other valuable artifacts. There have been several digs done at the site over the years, including treasure hunters who in the last century would jump the wall to conduct their own unlawful searches, but so far no treasure has actually been found!
Do you have a favorite Colonial Williamsburg ghost story? If you can’t think of a favorite, it just may be time to sign up for a tour!
Planning to visit Williamsburg and The Fife and Drum Inn during October / November? You must take a Ghost Tour! Ask your Innkeeper for recommendations and book your room by clicking below.