Trick or Treat?

It is hard to imagine, but there was once a time when Halloween was not about pillow cases full of candy and hanging fake spider webs on your porch. I know, this is a shocking statement to hear, but it is true. In a time long before we watched Sarah Jessica Parker turn to dust in Hocus Pocus and Linus wait for the Great Pumpkin’s arrival Halloween had a very different meaning. The origin of Halloween is a little unclear but many believe the holiday derives from a combination of Samhain, a Celtic holiday, and All Saints Day, a Christian holiday.

The Celts believed that on Samhain the spirits of the dead could walk among the living. Some of the Celts would wear costumes to disguise themselves from the spirits. On Samhain bonfires could be seen throughout Celtic lands to keep the spirits away from the living. As the Christian presence in Celtic communities grew, and took over, the two cultures began to merge and absorb certain traditions. November first was designated All Saints Day. All Saints Day, or Hallowmas, was created to honor Saints, especially those without their own holidays.

Many of the traditions we follow today are rooted in the original traditions of Samhain and All Saints Day. In Ireland people would carve into potatoes or turnips, and put a candle in them to ward off spirits, much like the Celtic bonfires. When Irish immigrants came to the United States they started using pumpkins instead of turnips due to the large size of some pumpkins. There is an Irish Folktale about a man named Stingy Jack who tricked the Devil several times, trapping him a tree once and as a coin in his pocket another time. When Jack died God would not let him into heaven because of his sneaky ways. The Devil would not let Jack into hell because he had tricked him too many times. So the Devil cast Jack out into the world, left to wander for the rest of time with only a lit coal to light his way. Jack placed this coal in a turnip, we now call this a Jack-O-Lantern.

Sneaky neighborhood pranks became Trick or Treating. As time progressed pranks became more common on Halloween. In the nineteenth century children would wear masks to disguise themselves as they played pranks on their neighbors.  The pranks became so unnerving the neighbors and shop owners would bribe the children to stop the pranks with candy and other treats. The saying ‘Trick or Treat’ was a very real threat.

Another origin story of Trick or Treating is the practice of Souling. In Britain and Ireland people would go door to door saying prayers for the dead in exchange for food.

It does not matter which origin story you believe one thing is certain, Halloween has come a long way. If you wish to survive this haunted night make sure you’ve got your jack-o-lanterns lit to ward off the spirits and a bowl of candy ready to ward off the pranksters. If you follow these steps you’re certain to make it through the night.

If you have taken all of the proper precautions and are ready to settle in for the night put on your finest witch hat, start the popcorn, push play on your favorite horror movie, and have a happy Halloween!

jackolantern

History Channel:History of Halloween!

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Virtual Haunted Tour- The Martha Washington Hotel & Spa

The Martha Washington Hotel & Spa located in Abingdon, VA is reportedly one of the most haunted sites in Virginia. The Inn a historic landmark was constructed in 1832 by General Francis Preston for his wife, Sarah Buchanan Preston, and their nine children. In 1858 the home was sold and became Martha Washington College, an institute of higher education for women. Like many southern educational institutions during the Civil War the structure was used for military purposes acting as a confederate training ground for the Washington Mounted Rifles and a hospital for the wounded of both the Union and Confederate Armies. After the Civil War the schools years were numbered. At the turn of the century the school suffered a typhoid outbreak and in the 1930s it was hit hard by the depression. In 1932 the college closed for good. The building stood abandoned until 1935 when it became the Martha Washington Inn.

With such a rich history it is no surprise that there are many haunted stories associated with the Martha Washington Inn. Here are a few of our favorites:

During the Civil War it was reported that a scout for Robert E. Lee attempted to visit his sweetheart at Martha Washington College, which at the time was occupied by the Union Army. The love struck soldier secretly gained entrance to the building. Unfortunately, upon locating his love he was discovered by two Union Soldiers and was immediately shot falling lifelessly at her feet. It is now said that the bloodstain resulting from the gunshot continues to reappear on the floor, despite repeated efforts to clean and cover the site.

Love seems to be a theme for the ghost stories surrounding the Martha Washington Hotel. Our second story also takes place during the Civil War.  A young injured Union soldier by the name of John Stove was taken to the Hospital at the then Martha Washington College. He was placed in what is now room 403 and looked after by a one of the students Beth.  Of course John and Beth fell in love. As John lay suffering from his fatal wounds Beth tried to comfort him by playing the violin. Beth played for John until he finally succumbed to his injuries.  Not long after Beth caught Typhoid Fever and join her love. Visitors report that they can still hear Beth’s spirit playing for her love even in death.

Looking for a story of your own? Book your stay today. You might stay longer than you ever expected.

MarthaWashingtonInn

Virtual Haunted Tour-The Patrick Henry

The Patrick Henry, located in downtown Roanoke was initially built in 1925. The 300 room hotel operated until 1968 at which point some of the hotel rooms were converted into apartments, making the structure 121 units. By 2007 all tenants had moved out and the hotel closed it’s doors for good. Good fortune then smiled upon the Patrick Henry and 2011 the building opened again as an 134 room apartment complex after a $20 million renovation. But, of course, a building does not hang around for the better half of a century without a few ghostly encounters.

There have been reports of three men in the ballroom. These men watch the guests in ballroom, possibly wishing they could join the party goers. Another ghostly gentlemen has been spotted sitting at a table, smoking a pipe. Some even say he has been known to kick the tablecloth to let his presence be known.

While the hotel sat empty residents of Roanoke reported hearing a piano from inside the old hotel. There is a rumor that an elderly woman passed away in one of the rooms and her spirit still lingers in the room. She has been known to wake the guests and is sometimes seen near the bathroom.

If you’re interested in checking out the ghosts at the Patrick Henry there will be a new restaurant in the building. Henry’s Public House will be opening soon! Bring a few friends for dinner, maybe you’ll leave with a few more.

patrick henry

Virtual Haunted Tour- Sweet Briar College

There are few places that are as proud of their ghost stories as Sweet Briar College in Amherst, VA. Founded in 1901 on the estate of Indiana  Fletcher Williams and her daughter who passed away at the age of 16. The Williams Plantation was transformed into a private college for women, officially opening in 1906.

Many people believe the spirit of Indiana’s daughter, Daisy, remains in the Sweet Briar House. A professor who was staying in the house reported that the lights flickered on and off several times while the professor was reading alone in the house. After calling out to Daisy to stop playing with the lights the flickering stopped and the lights remained on. Others have reported seeing a cloud-like figure dancing in a large mirror in the Sweet Briar House. According to friends and family Daisy loved to dance in front of the mirrors with her friends.  Is the spirit of young Daisy still playing in her childhood home?

Others have reported interactions with Indiana Williams. For many years it was believed that there were no pictures of Indiana Williams.  While assessing antiques on the property a young woman discovered a box of photographs. The photographs were numbered but the key page was missing so the subjects and years were not identifiable. After some investigating all of the subjects were identified. One of the faces was linked to a photograph that hung in the library that was believed to be Daisy Williams. After comparing the photos and the descriptions it was discovered that the photos could not be of Daisy. One of the photos was taken in Paris, Daisy had never been to Paris, and the other subject was much to old to be Daisy. The young woman called in excitement to her companion that she had discovered who was in the photographs, Indiana Williams! The woman heard a laugh from behind her and turned to her companion. No one was there. The other woman had left the house earlier, she was completely alone in the house.

In 1999, a few students were riding in an elevator in a residence hall when the elevator suddenly stopped. The students waited a few minutes for the elevator to start again but were startled when they heard a laugh from outside the elevator. Eventually the students called for help and the police came to let them out. To the students surprise they were in the attic of the building. The attic door was locked when the police arrived and an elevator key is required to access the attic on the elevator. The students have no idea how the elevator accessed the attic or who was laughing outside the elevator door. Could Daisy have been playing a little practical joke on the students?

There certainly have been numerous accounts of ghostly encounters at Sweet Briar. The spirits that are believed to roam the grounds seem pretty friendly, aside from the occasional joke or two.

sbc

Find these stories and more at: http://ghosts.sbc.edu/

Virtual Haunted Tour-Natural Bridge Hotel

If you have ever ventured through Rockbridge County you’ve probably stumbled upon the Natural Bridge and the Natural Bridge Hotel. The hotel is quite a sight. It sits on a hill high above the bridge and with tall arches and columns. It is difficult to decide whether the hotel is beautiful or creepy. In 1890 the original hotel, the Appledore, opened nearby. Eventually the name was changed to the Natural Bridge Hotel. The hotel became a center for relaxation and vacations in the area. In 1963 a mysterious fire broke out and the entire building burned. The origin of the fire was never determined but many believe it began in the kitchen.

The hotel was rebuilt in 1964 and thrived for many years. In recent years the hotel has seen a down turn in business but the property was recently purchased and new renovations seem to be giving the property a new chance.

Several ghost stories circulate around the Natural Bridge Hotel. The first owner of the property was shot in nearby Clifton Forge only a few years after moving the hotel to the current location. Under Colonel Henry Parson’s management the hotel and bridge flourished, with guests coming from all over to see the resort. Parson loved the hotel and put everything he had into making the resort a mecca for tourists. Could Parson’s be lingering on his beloved property?

Another story revolves around another early owner of the hotel. After Parson’s death the hotel changed hands several times. It is rumored that one of the early owners killed his wife, child, and himself in the hotel. This story might come from the fact that the hotel’s grandeur reminds many of the hotel in The Shining. Little is known about the many owners of the hotel, could one of the owners of the hotel gone mad and killed is family? Guests have claimed to see the figures of a family on the grounds at night. Is the family still wandering the halls of the large hotel? We’ll let you draw your own conclusions on this one.

One guest reported seeing a ghost in her hotel room in the middle of the night. She awoke to see a glowing figure on the floor of her room. This was not the figure of an 1890’s gentlemen, but instead the figure of a Native American man. She claims the man sat on the floor for several minutes without moving.

Others have reported hearing children running and yelling in the halls throughout the night. When they open the door to quiet the children, no one is there. The halls are always completely empty.

If you’re interested in seeking out your own ghost story, or just having a relaxing vacation in Virginia, the hotel is always taking reservations.

NaturalBridgeHotel

Virtual Haunted Tour- Southern Virginia University

Founded in 1867, Southern Virginia University has certainly been around long enough to have a few spooky stories. The college began as a school for young girls in a private home. In 1900 the school moved to it’s current location, which was originally used as a hotel. In 1994 the school switched to a coeducational program and began admitting male students. The college changed hands many times before control was assumed by the Latter-Day Saints.

Several students, faculty, and guests have reported odd happenings throughout the 100+ year old campus. One ghostly sighting stands out among others at the small Liberal Arts college in Buena Vista, VA. The story of a young boy and his mother roaming through the main hall. Many students and faculty have reported seeing a young boy on the fourth floor. The boy is seen riding his bike and carrying a balloon. He does not speak to anyone or stop, he only rides his bike through the old halls. Several people have also reported also seeing a woman on the third floor of the same building calling after someone. The woman the looks throughout the halls and bathrooms. Could this woman be the young boy’s mother? What happened to them? Little is known about the pasts of the two apparitions. Were they guests staying at the hotel or possibly members of the college? We may never know who they were or how the ended up in the main hall of Southern Virginia University but maybe if you stop by and wait for a few minutes you’ll see them wander by.

SVU

Virtual Haunted Tour- The Homestead

In 1766 the original Homestead Resort was built in Hot Springs, Virginia. The resort consisted of 18 rooms and took 2 years from start to finish to clear the land and build the resort. The property changed hands several times until a fire broke out in July of 1901. Almost the entire building burned to the ground. Luckily, no guests or staff members were injured in the fire. In less than a year the hotel was rebuilt and open to the public.

In the early 1900s the newly rebuilt resort was a popular spot for relaxing and celebrating. Rumor has it that a wedding was set to take place at the resort but on the day of the wedding the groom was no where to be found. The bride searched and searched. The groom had gotten cold feet and left his bride on their wedding day. Stricken with grief the young bride took her own life in the hotel. Several guests and staff members have reported seeing a woman wandering the halls of the 14th floor. She often stops and anxiously asks what time it is. Could this be the bride waiting for her groom to return?

The resort has gone through many more additions and changes, including the completion of the iconic tower in 1929 and a lazy pool in 2012. Throughout these many changes the main building still stands, with the young bride possibly still there.

The numerous sightings have not stopped guests from booking their stays at the Homestead. In fact, some say the possibility of a ghost sighting is a big draw for the hotel. The woman is not mischievous or dangerous, she quietly wanders the halls, alone.

homestead

Virtual haunted Tour-Dejarnette Center

If you’ve ever driven through Virginia on Interstate 81 you’ve probably noticed two large, abandoned buildings near the highway outside Staunton. Those buildings were once the home of the Derjanette Center. The center served as a sanitarium for patients deemed mentally unfit for society for nearly 60 years. In the 1970s the center became strictly a children’s sanitarium and all adult patents were moved out. The center included over 100 beds and recreational sites such as tennis courts, a golf course, and a swimming pool. The large buildings are certainly an impressive site from the road, but behind the columns and sprawling grounds lies a much darker past.

Dr. Joseph Dejarnette, the superintend and namesake of the center was not only a doctor but a strong believer in eugenics. Dejarnette was known for his beliefs that sterilizing those deemed undesirable would help create a more perfect human race. Dejarnette testified that people with mental disorders should be sterilized against their will to keep them from reproducing more people with mental disorders. With a superintend with these beliefs one can only imagine what went on behind the closed doors of the center. There are few people who actually know what happened in the Dejarnette Center, and they are not taking about it. A lack of information has not stopped the curious from exploring and dreaming about the experiments that could have happened there.

When the center officially closed many of the beds, exam equipment, and supplies were left behind. The buildings look as if they just up and left one day, trying to forget the horrors that happened there. For many Virginians the center represents a dark era in medical history they would like to forget.

More than 8,000 patients were sterilized over a 50 year period in Virginia, many of them in Staunton. Many believe that the spirits of patients and employees may still wander the halls today. Maybe they are looking for revenge or maybe they are just lost in the maze-like buildings.

The Dajarnette Center is not open to the public. You may not enter the buildings. If you would like a tour of the grounds Black Raven Paranormal offers tours throughout October.

dejarnette

Virtual Haunted Tour- Warren Sipe House

Virginia is scattered with battlefields, hospitals, and camps from the Civil War, many of these have seen a lot of death and detestation. The Warren Sipe House, built in 1856, was the home of a local lawyer and his bride. When the war broke out the house was temporarily converted into a hospital for wounded soldiers. The area hospital could not support the large amount of wounded soldiers coming from battles and over spilled into local homes.

Civil War era medical practices were not like they are today. There was little understanding of bacteria and infections. Amputations were common, as were infections, and the spreading of diseases through dirty surgical tools. Death was common on battlefields and even more common in hospitals. In 1863, Joseph Latimer, a Virginia Military Academy graduate, was shot in the arm in battle. To avoid spreading any infections his arm was amputated in a field hospital. He was sent back home to heal. When he arrived in Augusta County the hospital was full and he was sent to the Warren Sipe House to recover. Despite the amputation and care during recovery the young soldier did not recover.

Today the Warren Sipe House is home to the Virginia Quilting Museum…and possibly Mr. Joseph Latimer. There have been several reports of a man in a military uniform in the house. The man is usually seen standing at the top of the staircase looking around the house. Occasionally the young soldier will slowly wander down the stairs, seemingly looking for something. Some believe that he may not realize he is dead. There have not been any reports of tricks or malicious activity from Mr. Latimer, only his presence.

Virtual Haunted Tour-Cork St. Tavern

The Cork St. Tavern, located in Winchester, Virginia opened in the 1980s in a newly renovated building on one of the oldest streets in Winchester. The original building was built in the 1830s and included several businesses, including the Rustic Tavern. The building stood through the Civil War the Great Depression, and Prohibition. The building has certainly stood through enough years to accumulate a few good ghost stories.

Several employees have reported eerie happenings in the restaurant. It is not uncommon at all for things to fall off of shelves or to hear voices when no one is around. One of the previous owners reported that he was in the kitchen one day and the hamburger buns repeatedly flew off the baking rack. Finally he called out in frustration for who ever was throwing the buns to please stop! The next thing he knew the rolls were on the floor. Several people have reported seeing the figure of a tall, thin man in the restaurant and hearing a young woman call out to him, calling him “John”. The original owner of the building was named John. The man worked and lived in the building. The staff have named the woman, Emily, and have occasionally  seen her behind the bar when the restaurant is empty. One woman reported that Emily took out a waitress’s earring and the piece of jewelry was seen floating in the room. The spirits will often lock women in the bathroom. Keeping the door shut no matter how hard someone pulls or pushes on it. More than a few times John and Emily have been known to relight the oil lamps in the restaurant. They seem to get enjoyment out of playing tricks on the staff and guests.

John and Emily might not be the only spirits in the Tavern. There have been many reports of women tripping when there is nothing in their path. The spirit tripping the women is believed to a man who dislikes women so he sticks his foot out to make them stumble. Perhaps the most intriguing stories about the Tavern originated during Prohibition. It was not uncommon for a death at a speakeasy to go unreported during those times. No one wanted to draw attention to the building so instead of reporting the death the man would be buried in the basement. All evidence of him being near the building would be quickly removed. Several psychics have refused to go into the basement because of the feeling of death that radiates from the old room. A group of paranormal investigators reported hearing someone yell to them to get out. One man even said a spirit grabbed his shoulder, but when he turned no one was there.

The Cork St. Tavern is still open and serving seven days a week. Stop by for a burger and a haunt…if you dare.

cork st