Posted on August 15, 2017
Learn about #13 and #14 on our list of Virginia’s most haunted places covering the Major Graham Mansion and The Boxwood Inn!
14. MAJOR GRAHAM’S MANSION – WYTHE COUNTY, VIRGINIA
Where the spirits of murderers, a mad woman, and a smelly professor reside.
Image Source: Legends of Graham Mansion
If SyFy’s team of Ghost Hunters deems a house worthy enough to be featured on an episode, then you know it must be haunted. Season 5’s eighth episode, “Moonshine & Madness”1 took them to the Major Graham Mansion, in Max Meadows, Virginia. Other paranormal teams (Virginia Paranormal Society, Proof Positive, Black Diamond Paranormal Society, to list just a few) have conducted investigations there as well. This is because the house is equal parts historic2 and “officially haunted”3, and everyone wants to see if they can connect the two. “What’s causing all of Major Graham Mansion’s supernatural activity?” A look at the house’s dark past reveals that there are multiple possibilities to answer this question.
The year is 1826, and Squire David Graham, a prominent figure in Wythe County’s iron industry, has just bought 2,000 acres of land from the Crockett family. Though shrewd in business, the Squire appears quite ignorant of local lore. In the 1700s, the property’s previous tenant, Joseph Baker, was murdered by two of his slaves, Bob and Sam. And it was not a pretty assassination; the slaves are said to have taken an ax to Joseph’s skull, then submerged his grisly remains in a barrel of moonshine. Or perhaps Squire Graham, a rumored alcoholic, was simply too busy drinking and dealing with his depressed wife, Martha Bell, to care.
Image Source: Major Graham Mansion
Slowly but surely, Squire David Graham’s Cedar Run estate began to take shape: slave quarters and barns were erected, lawns were outlined and groomed, iron forges were installed… but of course the most attention was given to where the family would live. In fact, it took four phases to get the mansion to look as it appears today. Named after the Squire’s first-born son, Major David Pierce Graham, this spectacular 11,000 square foot antebellum home includes elements from the late Federal and early Greek Revival architectural movements. The current mansion’s rear section was the first to be made; the next major addition, about forty-five square feet of brick, occurred around 1855. Expansion was necessary; since Major Graham’s birth in 1838, Martha had produced four other children, so things were getting quite crowded.
Image Source: Major Graham Mansion
Now it is the 1860s, and Major Graham has returned home after an impressive three year stint as a Lieutenant of the Confederacy. He devotes his time to building his father’s booming iron business, running the family’s forge store with his brother-in-law, and further renovating his childhood home. On the property, he installs brick paths and fish ponds; to the house, he adds dormers, towers, and more elaborate furnishings. The result is a structure that’s part dwelling, part officer meeting place, part Confederate recovery center. It’s no big surprise, then, that many claim to have encountered ghosts of soldiers in the aptly dubbed “Confederate Room.”4
But the apparition most frequently seen at the house has to be Clara, one of the little girls who Major Graham’s sister, Bettie, secretly tutored in one of the mansion’s bedrooms. It was in this makeshift classroom that Bettie presumably wrapped and stored Clara’s body after her beloved student died from illness one winter.
Image Source: HeraldCourier.com
Mother Martha Graham, whose depression ultimately led to insanity, also continues to lurk in the mansion. When her husband could no longer put up with her fits of madness, Martha’s home became more of her prison. Evidence of her domestic incarceration can be found scattered throughout the house. Her signature and initials are etched into a window in one of the bedrooms; scribbles discovered in the basement are believed to have been made by her.
Image Source: Major Graham Mansion
Of course, the house’s tenancy didn’t end with the Graham family. Plenty of other odd and interesting characters have made the Major Graham Mansion their home, adding to its current cast of ghosts. There’s Reid Fulton, an eccentric law professor who moved in back in the 1940s; his cravings for buzzard eggs and preference for Cedar Run Creek over the bathtub make him quite the stinky spirit to encounter. Then there’s the unidentified woman, known as the Lady in the Veil or the Weeping Bride, who hasn’t let death pull her away from her close vigil at one of the bedroom’s windows; perhaps she’s still hoping to catch a glimpse of her betrothed, marching back from war.
Auditory remnants of these two people, among many others, have been well documented. When the Virginia Paranormal Society conducted an investigation at the house in 2007, for example, they recorded several electronic voice phenomena5:
“A male voice says “Connor” in the Slave Quarters when asked for his name.
A male voice says “No” when after Lisa asks if they’re going to get the ball. This is in Clara’s Room.
A female voice answers “Yes” when asked if there is a lady here in this room. This was in the bedroom (the bride’s room) in the front of the house.
A male voice answers “Yes” when asked if he would like to move the table. This was in the Confederate Room.”
In more recent decades, the estate got some much needed relief from pain and tragedy. Doctor James Chitwood took over the house (and its impressive library of rare books Fulton had amassed) in the 1970s, and arranged for it to be listed as a National Historic landmark in 1984. Today, it is owned by Josiah Cephas Weaver6, a native to the rolling hills of southern Virginia. As a young man, Weaver found success in the tile industry in Florida, where this Weaver Enterprises currently flourishes.
Weaver added Cedar Run to his already extensive portfolio of property holdings in 1989. Since then, the estate has hosted numerous events, tours, and festivals, celebrating both its haunted past and Weaver’s passion for songwriting and music. In fact, this year marks the ninth annual GrahamFest Music Festival, which includes the ever popularHaunted Graham Mansion Halloween attraction7. Attendees get to experience all the horrors (staged, and real) Cedar Run has to offer.
Image Source: Haunted Graham Mansion
Although the Ghost Hunters team “can’t say who or what is haunting the mansion,”8they were able to separate some fact from fiction:
“The reports of a tall 7-foot phantom on the road was found to be an optical illusion as the Ghost Hunters drove several times along the road while a member stood by the old slave quarters holding a flashlight. The apparition of a gowned woman did not appear in the Confederate Room, although the team thought they heard the rustle of skirts and the sounds of footsteps going down the staircase. The Ghost Hunters didn’t find any evidence of the ghost slaves.”9
So get tickets to GrahamFest, to do some serious debunking yourself!
- “Moonshine & Madness.” Season 8, Episode 5 Recap. Ghost Hunters. SyFy, a Division of NBCUniversal, 2015. Web. 12 August 2015.
- “Major Graham Mansion Historical Tours.” Historical Tours. Major Graham Mansion, n.d. Web. 12 August 2015.
- “Hauntings and Paranormal Investigations.” Paranormal. Major Graham Mansion, n.d. Web. 12 August 2015.
- “Mansion History.” History. Major Graham Mansion, n.d. Web. 12 August 2015. Para. 2.
- Marin, Patricia. “New Paranormal Evidence Captured at Major Graham’s Mansion.”Examiner.com. 30 June 2011. Web.
- “Josiah Cephas Weaver.” About. Major Graham Mansion, n.d. Web. 12 August 2015.
- “Haunted Graham Mansion Attraction.” Haunted Mansion. Major Graham Mansion, n.d. Web. 12 August 2015.
- “Moonshine & Madness.” Season 8, Episode 5 Recap. Ghost Hunters. SyFy, a Division of NBCUniversal, 2015. Web. 12 August 2015. Para. 8.
- Schure, Kimberly. “‘Ghost Hunters’ investigate Graham Mansion.” Examiner.com. 12 February 2012. Web. 13 August 2015. Para. 8.
13. BOXWOOD INN BED & BREAKFAST – NEWPORT NEWS, VIRGINIA
Spirit offers helping hand to present innkeepers.
Image Source: A Ghost Hunting We Will Go
Thanks to the Internet, it has never been easier to find more affordable alternatives to chain hotels and luxury resorts. But when it comes to lodging, price is often just a secondary consideration; what’s more important to travelers is the experience. And today, the experience that most travelers desire is “no place like home.” Just consider the success of Airbnb; the company’s made renting a room in some stranger’s houseway cooler than booking a stay at the Holiday Inn. Journalist Alyssa Abkowitzsummarizes the trend perfectly1: “The term “bed-and-breakfast” is no longer code for teddy bears, floral bedspreads and doilies.”
But sometimes, “doilies” are actually what travelers’ are looking for – they don’t merely want to experience local culture, but also be transported back in time. That’s why traditional B&B’s – the ones run by adorable old couples, in homes that date back to the 1800s – are irreplaceable. Nothing beats a home-cooked meal prepared only from what was grown in the backyard garden, or falling asleep surrounded by the odd knick-knacks your elderly host has collected over the years. Nothing, except for some ghosts joining you on the premises.
Image Source: Bed & Breakfast Stay
Slavery, warfare, and witchcraft – Virginia’s past brims with everything that’s conducive to supernatural activity. This explains why so many of its bed and breakfasts are known for being both hospitable and haunted. Guests at the Wayside Inn in Middletown, for example, are often disturbed in the middle of the night by spirits of Civil War soldiers; at Brick House Tavern, a woman had to fend off a kiss from a greasy male apparition. But if it’s friendly ghosts you’re looking for, then there’s only one bed and breakfast in Virginia for you: the Boxwood Inn in Newport News.
Indeed, Nannie Curtis, the woman believed to be the inn’s benevolent spirit, seems more interested in helping visitors than scaring them. After breaking a fingernail, Barbara Lucas, the house’s first innkeeper, remembers:
“I am standing there looking out the window, and there is a brand-new emery board – crisp, clean, and never used – in a house that has two layers of coal dust everywhere.”3
Nannie Cooke Curtis was the wife of Simon Reid Curtis, the wealthy businessman who built the house in 1897. Curtis had many goals for the structure; he directed architect A. Wagner to design it to support both his family and his business’s needs.
Once completed, the Simon Reid Curtis House became Lee Hall’s first true dwelling, though many of its sections (a dry goods store, a post office, a tax assessor’s office, etc.) were dedicated to commercial activities.
Image Source: Lee Hall Depot
The quaint little village of Lee Hall gets its name from Lee Hall Mansion4, another antebellum building rumored to have frequent supernatural visitors. The house, completed in 1859, served as the home of a wealthy planter, Richard Decauter Lee, and his family until Major General John B. Magruder and General Joseph E. Johnston made it their headquarters in 1862. Perhaps the whispers tourists have heard are the voices of these two Confederate officers, brainstorming ideas of how to defeat the Union Army.
Lee Hall’s evolution from a quiet suburban community to a hub of colonial commotion can thank the Lee Hall Depot5, the train station created in 1881 that became an important stop along the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway line. The earliest trains which stopped at its platform carried mostly just agricultural products, but the installation of several military outposts, such as Camp Eustis on Mulberry Island, near its tracks during the 1900s prompted the depot to witness activities beyond the commercial. The freight deliveries that were loaded and unloaded on its platform now included luggage and military equipment – the belongings of important government officials and weary soldiers who were traversing across Virginia’s central and southern regions. The Simon Reid Curtis House, located just a stone’s throw away from the station, thus became a popular destination for Confederate troops.
“During World War I6, [Simon Reid Curtis] rented rooms to Army officers and their wives […] He continued this practice during World War II. Among the prominent guests the “Curtis Hotel” accommodated were General “Blackjack” Pershing Camp and comedian W.C. Fields.”
It was thus quite easy for Barbara Lucas and her husband to transform the house into a true bed and breakfast establishment in 1995. Today, it is run by Kathy Hulick7 and her husband, Derek. The couple’s background in the catering and bartending businesses has made the Boxwood Inn a top choice for gourmands and wedding planners.
Image Source: Boxwood Inn
But when Virginia Paranormal Investigations took a trip to the B&B, its team of ghost hunters was less interested in good food and exciting celebrations. Besides Nannie, people had reported of seeing an old man with a cane wandering the inn. Some say that there are a total of seven ghosts haunting the premises, and so VPI wanted to see if there’s any proof to this theory. They taped their entire investigation, but the most telling piece of evidence occurs at the end of the video8. In the attic, an investigator gently pushes a ball away from him several times, and, in one instance, it rolls back! Perhaps Nannie was showing him her playful side, or the toy got in the way of the elderly gentleman’s walking stick. Or maybe General Magruder had given it a kick to get some inspiration.
So yes, there are many bed and breakfasts in Virginia which boast the presence of those who have yet to depart for the afterlife. But none are quite like the Boxwood Inn, because it has a ghost who’s as concerned for guests as its living keepers. The easiest way to enjoy some of Nannie’s haunted hospitality, Shiela Turnage offers, is to wake up early:
“Guests often report hearing a knock on their door before anyone is up. Lucas believes it may be Nannie rousing the house for work. (The general store, where Nannie sometimes helped out, opened at six in the morning.”9
- Abkowitz, Alyssa. “A New Crop of Bed and Breakfasts.” The Wall Street Journal. 27 November 2013. Web. 15 August 2015. Para. 1.
- Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winston-Salem: John F. Blair. 2001. Page 173.
- “History.” Lee Hall Mansion. Newport News, Virginia, 2015. Web. 15 August 2015.
- “Lee Hall Depot.” History. The Lee Hall Train Station Foundation, n.d. Web. 15 August 2015.
- “The Simon Reid Curtis House.” History. The Lee Hall Train Station Foundation, n.d. Web. 15 August 2015.
- “About the Family.” Boxwood Inn. Boxwood Inn Bed and Breakfast, n.d. 15 August 2015.
- “Virginia Paranormal Investigations at The Boxwood Inn Newport News, VA.” Virginia Paranormal Investigations. 21 February 2015. Web. 16 August 2015.
- Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winston-Salem: John F. Blair. 2001. Page 176.