Colonial Williamsburg, home to one of the oldest British settlements in the United States, has a long, and sometimes not-so-pretty, past. Founded as the capital of the Virginia Colony in 1699, it was one of the first planned cities in America. Past presidents, such as Thomas Jefferson, frequented Williamsburg, and it served as the Continental Army’s staging ground for the decisive Revolutionary War battle in Yorktown.
During the day, tourists and students can be seen ambling on Colonial Williamsburg’s historic brick streets, getting a bite at The Cheese Shop or marveling at the exhibits. At nighttime, however, there have been many claims that both Colonial Williamsburg and William & Mary are home to more than a few ghosts. Chris Hennessey, a ghost interpreter with Haunted Williamsburg, has been giving tourists their chance to hear tales of hauntings since 2017. “I always start a tour with is the fact that people have been telling each other stories since we figured out spoken language,” Hennessy said.
During the ghost tour, the interpreter takes the tourists on a walk around Colonial Williamsburg, stopping at various locations and recounting stories about their possibly being haunted. Although Hennessey isn’t sure whether or not ghosts are real, he noted that, “Williamsburg is one of the oldest English speaking settlements on the continent. If anywhere were haunted, it’d be here.” Hennessy identified a couple of locations in Colonial Williamsburg that he believes could be haunted, if ghosts are real.
The first is the Peyton Randolph House. The house is named after its owner, Peyton Randolph, the first President of the Continental Congress. “It is one of the oldest houses in town, the original part first built in 1717,” Hennessy said. During the Revolutionary War, the house was used as a hospital, with many soldiers likely having passed away inside the house. There have also been other odd deaths at the house, from Confederate soldiers to a little girl who died from falling from the second-story window. According to Hennessy, “[p]eople get odd feelings in that house, and colleagues have been chased by shadows in the house. The Randolph House definitely ranks as number one.”
The second location Hennessy named is the George Wythe House. The house was owned by George Wythe, the first law professor in the United States. The house is supposedly haunted by Ann Skipwith, who was friends with the Wythe family. Ann died in the house, and she is buried at nearby Bruton Parish Church cemetery. Believers say that Ann’s spirit is visible in the room in which she would stay. “Sometimes it’s an 18th century woman, sometimes it’s someone in a white suit,” Hennessy said. “Doors will just open when you’re in the house or trying to get into the house.” He noted that his godmother, herself a former interpreter, insists it is the most haunted house in Colonial Williamsburg.
Although Hennessy has never had any ghostly encounters himself, he has heard about encounters from his colleagues. He has had creepy experiences, however. One time, just as he was about to start a story about ghost children, a child on the tour interrupted Hennessy to ask if there would be any ghost stories about children. Whether or not you believe in the paranormal, there are many unexplained happenings in Colonial Williamsburg.
If you’re interested in hearing more about the spirits of Colonial Williamsburg, tickets for Haunted Williamsburg can be purchased here: https://www.colonialwilliamsburg.org/