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Virginia’s Most Haunted

Colonial Ghosts

Guest post by Allison Michelle Dienstman

From Indian massacres to Civil War battles, Virginia has plenty of ghost stories hidden within its cities and backwoods. It comes as no surprise considering all of the history that has taken place within this state. Virginia was one of the thirteen original colonies. It also joined the Confederacy during the Civil War, during which Richmond served as the capital city.  Touring through Virginia’s many historical locations, one will likely run into a few of its haunted inhabitants.

Colonial Ghosts

Possibly Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia has the highest concentration of haunted locations in Virginia. After all, Williamsburg dates back to 1639 when it served as the capital of the Virginia colony. Today, locals and tourists visit the city to watch reenactors dressed in eighteenth century clothing or walk through the restored colonial-era buildings. One of the oldest, The Peyton Randolph house has a reputation for its many hauntings.


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Erected in 1715, The Peyton Randolph house was built by the first president of the Continental Congress for which the house was named after. The Georgian-style mansion had many prominent guests including Randolph’s cousin, Thomas Jefferson. During the American Revolution, it also served as a hospital for wounded soldiers. Quite possibly many young men drew their last breath inside the home after fighting for the independence of the United States.

Since then, the home seemed to attract many tragedies. Two men fought to their deaths on its grounds after falling into a heated argument. A former Confederate soldier died of illness in the house while attending the nearby College of William and Mary.

Later, in the 19th century, a small boy passed away after falling from a high limb on a tree in the yard of the Peyton Randolph House. In a strange sequence of events, a young girl fell to death from a window on the second floor of the house not long after. People walking by the home today often spot strange movement from the window. Sometimes the curtains will move on their own as though a little child stands peering out of the window.

Some visitors have seen a glowing figure of a man dressed in eighteenth century clothing floating through the corridors. Others have heard the distinct sound of boots stomping throughout the house. Do the former residents of the Peyton-Randolph house continue to wander inside its halls?

The Lightfoot House

Just nearby the Peyton Randolph House, sits the Lightfoot House, another of the 88 original buildings in Colonial Williamsburg. The Lightfoot family first built the house in 1740 where they remained until 1838.  Since its restoration in 1940, guests can stay overnight in the nearly 300 year old house.

However, many of the guests seem to have a difficult time resting during their stay. Housekeeping often reports a playful ghost that enjoys messing up freshly made bed sheets. On one such occasion, a maid turned around to see the apparition of a man dressed in colonial era clothing. She turned in her resignation on the same day refusing to spend another moment inside the house. Perhaps members of the Lightfoot family continue to reside in their former home.

The Haunted Sanatorium

Places where many souls have suffered seem to attract the most paranormal activity. It comes as no surprise that a former mental institution would develop a reputation as one of the most haunted places in Virginia. Located in a small town called Radford in western Virginia, St. Albans Sanatorium has appeared on several ghost hunting shows and continues to lure investigators looking for proof of the paranormal.

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Constructed in 1892, the building first served as a Lutheran school for boys. It became a hospital for the mentally insane in 1916. Similar to other mental institutions of the period, patients received horrible mistreatment that resembled torture more than therapy.

The hospital had a staff to patient ratio of 48 to 6,509, leaving many without proper medical attention. Those who did receive “treatment” endured electroshock therapy or lobotomies. Doctors also strapped patients into steaming hot baths for days or blast patients with fire hoses. Tragically, at least four people committed suicide inside the hospital.

The hospital eventually shut down. In 2003, one of the former patients purchased the property and turned it into a haunted attraction open to the public including an annual Halloween haunted house.

Paranormal investigators often explore St. Albans Sanatorium including from TV shows like SyFy’s Haunted Collector, The RIP Files, and Travel Channel’s The Dead Files. Investigators have videotaped a dark figure of a man in the stairway. Another investigator felt an icy cold hand on her shoulder. Many attest to spotting the spirits of two girls in the sanatorium basement. Almost everyone who enters feels an immediate sense of despair and unease when they first walk into the building.

With so many accounts of unexplained paranormal activity, it seems certain that those who lived and died still have a presence in Virginia. Come visit these historical places to find out for yourself… if you dare!


Colonial Ghosts is a Williamsburg ghost walk tour ranked as one of the Top 10 Ghost Tours in the US by US City Traveler in 2014 and the Best Tour Operator Award in Williamsburg in 2015! Discover the ghosts of Williamsburg during one of our ghost tours at7:30PM, 9PM, or 11PM! Tours are one hour, with the option of making it an extended tour to nearly 2 hours.

Our tours include Indian burial grounds, witches, stories of murder, tragedies of war, and bitter betrayal across hundreds of years. If you want to experience a ghost tour that you’ll never forget, join us on our nightly walk through haunted Williamsburg, VA with our licensed guides!

About the Author:

American born, but a citizen of the world, with a commitment to life experience, Allison Michelle Dienstman is a lover of language, travel, music, cooking, dance, and spirituality. Allison graduated from the College of William & Mary with a B.A. in Chinese Language and Literature and minor studies in Spanish and Italian. Currently, she works as a freelance writer for various projects. For more of her work, please visit:



1 Comment

  1. I’m visiting Virginia right now, but even with a tour of a plantation and walking around historic small towns—not hauntings! Oh, well…

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