The George Wythe House

Posted on August 15, 2017

The George Wythe House – Williamsburg, Virginia

George Wythe House Lady Skipwith

The George Wythe house was built for the colonial elite in 1753 and given as a gift to George Wythe from his father in law. George Wythe was America’s first law professor and mentor to Thomas Jefferson. The house served as headquarters to General Washington and the French Lafayette before the Battle of Yorktown.

The haunting of the Wythe House involves its one time resident, Ann Skipwith and her husband, Sir Peyton Skipwith, who were friends of the Wythes. During the late 1770s, the Skipwiths often enjoyed extended visits with the Wythes until 1779 when Lady Ann Skipwith died. Her body was put to rest in the Bruton Parish graveyard. Of the many rumors behind her death at the time, there were three prominent stories behind Ann’s mysterious death.

Three Prominent Stories

The first says that Ann died of a miscarriage and spent her last moments in her husband’s arms. The second is more tragic and claims that Ann took her own life in the bedroom that she shared with her husband. It paints Sir Peyton Skipwith as a womanizer. One night at an elegant ball down the street at the Governor’s Palace, the couple had a heated argument, in which Ann Skipwith accused her husband of having an affair with her sister. She ran home in hysterics and committed suicide in her room.

After Ann’s death, Sir Skipwith married her sister, and many believe Ann’s jealous soul remains in the house to this day. The other story says that Ann’s husband left her side at the ball and was flirting with other women. Ann ran from the ballroom, slowing as she reached the carriage when she heard her husband calling her name and trying to reconcile with her.

Strange Occurences

She ignored him and left the Palace. Sir Skipwith decided to return to the party and did not follow his wife. Storming into the carriage, she lost one of her red shoes and returned to the Wythe house with one shoe, where she ran up the stairs and slammed the door. At the Wythe House you may hear the sound of a woman running up the stairs, the sharp clack of a heel followed by the sound of a dull thud as from a bare foot. Or, you may see the ghost of Ann herself lingering near the stairs in her ball gown from that night, or in the bedroom where she spent her final tormented moments.

The closet in the room where she stayed occasionally swings open, and at times the room is filled with a faint lavender scent. She has been seen to exit the closet in her cream-­colored satin dress and single red shoe blankly gazing into the mirror before vanishing without acknowledging any visitors. For those that dare provoke a reaction out of the spirit, one must slowly walk to the closet door where her soul resides, kneel, and loudly proclaim “Lady Skipwith, Lady Skipwith, I found your red shoe!”

George Sweeney

There have been Williamsburg Ghost Adventure Tour Guide Training Manual Fall 2013 reports of a loud rushing noise as she comes to take back the red shoe that she lost on that fateful night. There is yet another spirit that haunts the Wythe House, and it may be George Wythe himself. In 1806, when George Wythe was nearly 80 years of age, he was poisoned by his greedy grandnephew, George Sweeney, who was the primary beneficiary in Wythe’s will.

Sweeney was deep in gambling debt and near financial ruin and thought that he could solve his financial problems by killing his elderly great uncle by poisoning his cereal. However, the plot was foiled by one of Wythe’s loyal slaves, Lydia, who witnessed the treacherous act. Wythe died a slow and painful death over two weeks in Richmond, but his last act was to remove Sweeney from his will. Although Sweeney was charged with murder, Lydia, the only witness, could not testify against him because slaves were not permitted to testify against whites.

His Spirit Remains

Although Wythe did not die in his house, many believe that he his spirit remains in his Williamsburg home, angry over the injustice of having been robbed of life. It is said that he returns to visit each year on June 8, the day of his death. Guests sleeping in his room report feeling a firm and cold hand press down on their foreheads.