Haunted Virginia and History

Posted on August 15, 2017


Haunted Virginia?  Is Virginia truly haunted? It seems there is not one city or county that doesn’t have one or more places with paranormal activity. Is it the long reaching history of the commonwealth?

I am sure much of the hauntings began with the Native Americans, who lived and hunted on the land. When the white man arrived in Virginia, three big groups of Woodland Indians lived there. These were the Siouan, Algonquian, and the Iroquois. This would be before 1607.

The Monacans (members of the Sioux) who had not much to do with the white men, had an interesting legend connected to Natural Bridge. Higher than Niagara Falls, Natural Bridge is one of the oldest tourist destinations in the United States. It has been included in several “Seven Natural Wonders of the New World” lists, mainly in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It is a National Historic Landmark, a Virginia Historic Landmark, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

According to legend, the Monacan Indians discovered the Natural Bridge while under attack by Algonquin tribes. When they reached the chasm of Cedar Creek and discovered no visible way to cross over, they prayed for the Great Spirit to protect them. Just as they arose from praying a 215-foot-tall bridge appeared. Women and children crossed to safety. The men followed but not until after they met and defeated the Algonquins.

As for the Powhatan, there were thirty different tribes of Indians in the Powhatan Confederacy, 10,000 when the colonists arrived in Virginia. The Algonquian lived mainly around the Chesapeake Bay and its surrounding rivers. The Powhatan built their homes out of saplings, with a hole at the top of the frame to allow smoke from their fires to escape. They kept a fire going all of the time. Most people would imagine that this was for cooking or warmth, but they did this due to a superstition. They believed that evil spirits would come into their homes if they let their fires die.

Another tale of the Algonquian tribes is about a curse by three Algonquin women that apparently seems to still work today. This curse concerns three large granite rocks that rise out of the water between Virginia’s shoreline and Washington D.C. The story takes place a hundred years before Jamestown had been settled by the white man.

Though the land was rich with farmland and game and everyone did well, peace did not reign here. To the north were the Iroquois and Susquehannocks and they would raid the Algonquin tribes of the Powhatan Confederacy in the Virginia area, the battles fierce and bloody.

After a long siege, one Powhatan chief felt it was safe enough for his warriors and him to hunt for food. He forbidden though, three of his young sons to go with them, feeling they were not old enough to defend themselves if trouble came.

The young men decided to show their father how well they could go out and bring enough fresh fish to feed the women, children, and old men in the village. They did this after the hunting party left.

Now the greatest abundance of fish lived in the waters near the northern shore where the Susquehannocks warriors might still be. Using a canoe, they pushed it into the river and struck out. Not long after, a Susquehannock scouting party captured them and they were brought before the village, tortured, and killed. Of the villagers, three young daughters of the village shaman who were in loved with the young men watched with horror and growing anger.

They devised among themselves that they would cross the river to the village of the Susquehannocks to demand the warriors that killed the men they loved. They would take them back to their village to beguile them with their beauty and their fathers’ medicine. But afterwards, they would kill them by a long, agonizing death.

The sisters lashed several logs into a raft and pushed it from shore. But the current from the river proved too strong and fast and soon, they found themselves racing downstream. Still angry over the senseless deaths of the men they loved, the sisters cursed the river and said if they couldn’t cross it, no one would ever be able to do so.

The raft broke up and they sank to their deaths. The curse became true as one flash from a lightening struck the spot where they went down. That night the storm continued and the river’s waters went crazy. The following morning all grew calm as the sun rose into the sky. But three boulders had risen out of the spot where the sisters drowned, boulders that hadn’t been there before.

From that time on, the rocks take their toll on those who dare to try and cross the river there. A growing list of those victims who died is added to a growing list by local law enforcement—many fishermen, swimmers, and boaters. Old-timers claim that you can hear moaning over the Potomac during a storm, warning of another impending drowning.

In 1972, when they tried to construct a bridge to span the river, it became interrupted by one of the worse storms ever. Whitecaps surged on the water and lightening struck the spot where the bridge supports were starting to be built. The water surged and swept away the construction framework. Funny thing, the bridge was to be called “Three Sisters Bridge.”

I assume this may be another Algonquian tale. There is another local Indian tale— tragic love story— that is connected to the Great Dismal Swamp of the Tidewater region. There had been an Indian maiden, Wa-Cheagles, who happened to be daughter of the chief of one of two warring tribes in the area. For years she had an interesting relationship with a doe that she called Cin-Co, which meant guiding friend. It was believed that Cin-Co brought deer into the swamp each autumn.

The doe would always lead her current fawn up to Wa-Cheagles to show her, at the edge of the forest near a pool of dark brown water. This was the only way for the squaw to meet with the doe.  Squaws were not allowed into the forest because the tribes believed this to be an evil omen.

One year, Cin-Co appeared alone, limping. She walked back into the forest, doing it two to three times, until Wa-Cheagles overcame her fear and followed her. The doe lead her to her fawn that had a hoof firmly on a barely living rattlesnake. No doubt this reptile had bitten Cin-Co and was the reason for her limp. The doe was telling the Indian maiden she wanted her to care for her fawn, since the doe was dying from the rattlesnake poison.

While there, Wa-Cheagles heard a moan and discovered an Indian brave from an enemy tribe with a swollen leg from a rattlesnake bite. If she attended to him, she must pledge herself to him. Both then would be hunted down, to be killed by arrows with tips laced with water moccasin venom.

But she went ahead and helped him, removing her beret and tying it around his leg. Using some snakeroot she found, she applied a poultice over the wound. Ready to leave, she saw that Cin-Co had died and the fawn had vanished. Upset, she went back to her tribe.

For three days, she would sneaked away to tend to the brave. On the third day, her father appeared in the clearing, finding not only her, but the brave too. He carried away Cin-Co’s carcass, giving them enough time to get away.

Wa-Cheagles and her lover stopped at Lake Drummond to rest. Just then three warriors from her tribe confronted them, determined to erase the curse from their tribe.

As the warriors drew back their bows to send their arrows flying, a dark cloud blotted out the sun and a loud rustling noise filled the air. A flock of wild geese flew around Wa-Cheagles and her lover. The geese settled en masse on the lake until not one inch of the water could be seen. Terrified, the braves dropped their bows and arrows and bolted.

Just then, the “swamp spirit” rose out of the lake and strolled over the backs of the geese, approaching the two lovers. It told them that Cin-Co’s spirit had saved them. That Wa-Cheagles must continue the doe’s good work. The spirit magicked the maiden into a white deer, a small crimson spot on her forehead. Her lover became a charmed hunter.

The spirit told them they would roam the swamp’s forest forever, side by side, protected from both animals and hunters by rattlesnakes.
To this day there are hunters and others who say they have seen the white deer and the Indian brave by her side. Whenever a hunter pursues them, a rattlesnake appears on the spot they had been sighted, hissing and rattling its rattle.

The first African slaves were brought to Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. The English settlers treated these captives as indentured servants and released them after a number of years. This practice was gradually replaced by a form race-based slavery used in the Caribbean. Freed, theses former slaves became competition for property and income. Even more so, released servants had to be replaced. But making others into forced servants led to bringing back Africans as slaves.

One ghostly story of a master and slave that happened in Virginia: It was after Robert Edward’s death, that parties after parties were held on his plantation. Loads of riotous living and money squandered like water through fingers. One night, the wine gave out so a slave was sent to the cellar to get some more. The slave saw a man pacing back and forth in the road.

Frightened, the slave bolted to the wine cellar. When he ran back to the house, the man followed him. And when the slave reached the steps of the Big House, the man caught up with him and grabbed him by the arm. The slave looked up into the face of the man and saw his old master. For years after that, it was said that anyone could see the marks left on the slave’s arm as proof that he saw his old master.

Jamestown is the first English settlement of Virginia, led by Captain John Smith, George Percy, and Gabriel Archer, along with others. The land was chosen by the Virginia Company, as no Indians lived there. Of course, the Indians did come later and eventually mounted an assault against the Englishmen. The colonists won the battle, but it taught them to fortify the fort for their own safety. Of course, some departed, and twenty-five of the men died by disease, wars, and for the most part from famine. It was Smith who later claimed sixty-five men actually died.

More immigrants arrived, including among these, some Germans and a Pole, and two women. In the winter of 1609-10, starvation came and where there had been 215 colonists, only sixty survived. Of course, we now know that many of the dead had been eaten by surviving colonists. So many reasons for the tings of supernatural seen and heard here today. Some years of peace and prosperity followed the wedding of Pocahontas.  The favored daughter of the Algonquian chief Powhatan wed tobacco entrepreneur John Rolfe at the Citie of Henricus.

The Algonquians attacked the plantations that lay outside of Jamestown in 1624, killing over three hundred settlers. More reasons for haunted spots. The American Revolution and War Between the States added more bloodshed and more spirits and legends to the land.

If you think that all of Virginia’s ghosts belong to history, think again. James County has a modern ghost. A phantom car with a rumble seat has been seen near the intersections of County Roads 631 and 610 in James City County. A man dressed in a dark suit bends over the engine, apparently checking it over. He has been honked at by people in vehicles driving by, but never looks up at them. As they pass him, the man and his car disappeared.

The legend goes on to say that he was struck down by a car in the 1930s while he was working on the engine. It appears that ghost is still trying to get that car running.

Next time you read articles with top 50 haunted spots and only one in Virginia is in the lists, take heart, Virginia has a long history of specters.