Whether it’s the onset of chilly air or the origins of Halloween, October and scary stories go hand in hand.
Hampton Roads has more than its fair share of historical locations, many of which are centered around battles won and lives lost. In daylight, many of these sites appear to be harmless buildings, representing a time long gone.
But as each night sets, unseen characters have been reported at some of the most recognizable sites in town.
A team of ghost hunters, who met while attending Old Dominion University, have investigated several well-known haunts. And even a few that are far less whispered about.
What sites have scared the crew the most? Some of its members recently sat down to share their most frightening finds.
Ferry Plantation House, Virginia Beach
In 1642, a ferry service took early Virginia residents, goods and animals down the Lynnhaven River. Its launching point was the plantation grounds, located at 4136 Cheswick Lane.
As many as three courthouses were built on the grounds since then, one of which held the trial of the infamous Grace Sherwood – a woman accused of witchcraft in 1706.
According to the plantation’s website, the original manor home was destroyed by a fire in 1828. Two years later, using salvaged bricks from the home, the house that stands today was built for Charles Fleming McIntosh, who was commissioned as Captain of the Confederate Navy’s CSS Louisiana.
Now, the 187-year-old farmhouse is a museum.
Over the years, the Old Dominion Ghost Hunters have visited the property three times, reporting several brushes with otherworldly beings.
“Ferry has always been a good spot for us,” said Alex McGinnis, one of the group’s lead investigators. “It’s why we always go back.”
From shadowy apparitions with tails seen in bedrooms to phantom scents of holiday feasts baking in the kitchen, the team says they have experienced more than a few disturbing incidents while investigation the plantation.
The most notable, said founder Andrew Patchan, have stopped them in their tracks.
It was the group’s second overnight trip to Ferry, Patchan said, when they asked a few questions aloud with recorders rolling to pick up any spirit responses – called electronic voice phenomena or EVP.
It was only when they listened to the recordings, they got their responses.
Field notes from the night indicated that it was around 12:30 a.m. that a resident of the home gave them permission to stay.
“Do you want us to leave?”
Nothing – but the tape revealed the answer.
“No,” the group heard when it was played back.
An hour later, a recording uncovered another voice in the parlor room.
“I’m here,” a woman’s voice can be heard saying.
On another visit, two team members were in the backyard when a shadowy figure in a long, white dress suddenly moved from behind a tree.
“We used an electromagnetic meter around the tree to test the magnetic field,” Patchan said. “It just started going off. But there were no power lines nearby, so there wasn’t a reasonable explanation for it to have gone off.”
Back inside the house, the team gathered in a room known to have hosted funerals and wakes. Their focus was broken when a series of loud bangs erupted in the room.
Quickly, Patchan said they looked outside to see if someone was just pulling a prank, but there was no one in sight.
“The noises were coming at us – like it was coming down the wall,” Patchan explained. “Stuff like that really gets your heart rate going.”
USS Wisconsin, Norfolk
The first and only group to investigate the battleship now nestled in the Elizabeth River, McGinnis calls it the “most active” location they’ve investigated on the Southside.
Construction of the 45-ton ship began in 1941, and it was active during World War II, the Korean War and Operation Desert Storm.
For nine hours on a September night, team members had full reign over the ship’s halls. Patchan said they thought they were alone, but quickly realized they had some visitors.
Standing in the crew mess hall, Patchan and another investigator were just getting the night started. Sounds from a nearby room startled the two, and they quickly ran towards the noise to search for its cause.
“It sounded like someone slammed a tray down on the table,” Patchan said. “And as we walked underneath a stairway going to the floor above us, the railing began to shake.”
Walking into an adjoining room where higher-ranking officials ate their meals, a pale figure in what resembled a mid-century sailor’s uniform was spotted.
Seconds later, Patchan said, it was gone.
“I really thought it was someone down there on the team and then he was gone,” Patchan said. “I took off towards that area to see if there was anyone down there but no one else was around and we didn’t hear anything or see anything else.”
Later in the evening, another investigator reported what felt like a hand brushing over the top of his head while stepping through a doorway. McGinnis said the investigator, named Justin, was the group’s resident skeptic.
“He was genuinely freaked out,” McGinnis said. “So when he said that it had happened, we just believed him.”
But why the haunts one of the Navy’s most beloved ship? Patchan said he’s unsure, but when the team wrapped up their investigation, a Wisconsin employee told them that it wasn’t uncommon for bodies of fallen soldiers to have been kept in the ship’s freezer when returning from overseas.
“After hearing that, it made what happened a little more creepy,” Patchan said.
In a town that’s more than 300 years old, ghost stories are not uncommon. McGinnis said that sightings and sounds are so routine, they use the grounds to train new investigators.
Of course, some happenings leave more of a lasting impression than others.
While touring the grounds on a ghost walk, investigator Rahat Hossain saw something outside of an old armory building so strange that he didn’t want to alert others who might not have been as excited as he was.
“He said he saw a pair of legs running across a field,” Patchan said. “They just disappeared halfway through.”
After the shops and museums had closed for the night, McGinnis said another new recruit approached the front door of the Peyton Randolph House – its windows dark just before midnight.
Josh Lucatto stood in front of the house and saw what he described as a maid moving in the shadows inside.
“He called out and asked if we could come inside, not expecting a response of any kind,” McGinnis said. “But as he turned around to leave, a loud bang hit the door.”
Lucatto spun around, McGinnis said, in disbelief at what had just happened.
The following year, McGinnis revisited the house in the late evening hours. Again, its windows were dark and the house unoccupied. Curious, McGinnis put his ear up to the door.
The sounds of dinner parties of years past, cups clinking and movement, echoed inside.
“You can always hear it,” he said. “Every time we’ve gone to listen, we can hear it.”
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This article was published in partnership with WYDaily’s sister publication, Southside Daily.