Tis my season, y’all! Bring on the bonfires, cozy sweaters, and the revolving door of fall classics such as practical magic, night of the living dead, and house on haunted hill (sorry, personal favorites!) I’m all for a good scare and event better… a good haunt!
When it comes to haunted places, sign me up for the ghost tours and visiting sites with dark histories. One city brimming with haunts, four centuries worth—dating back to when the first settlers arrived, is Norfolk, Virginia!
-Norfolk City Jail: Considered the most haunted place in Norfolk, terror lurks within these cell walls. Every prisoner who is assigned to one particular 9’ x 9’ cell is said to have been provoked by a former prisoner who hung himself there. A prisoner reported seeing a distorted figure of a man’s face every time he went to look at his reflection, both incidents occurred within this cell.
-Battleship Wisconsin: The Battleship Wisconsin is an important city landmark but is also said that this vessel is also home to the poor soul of a crew member who lost his life in an air conditioning malfunction during the Korean War.
-Freemason Abbey: Built in 1873 in Norfolk’s Freemason section, this building now serves as a restaurant. Supernatural activity has been documented for years, especially in the kitchen and bar areas where cupboards mysteriously open and objects are moved. Superstitious employees always close the restaurant by saying goodnight to the deceased restaurant owner who still appears to take smoke breaks in the storage room.·
-St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Built in 1739, St. Paul’s (above) is the only colonial-era building in Norfolk to survive its many wars. There is still a centuries-old cannon ball imbedded in its bricks, a memento of Lord Dunmore. And, if the stories are to be believed, there are other reminders of a more spiritual nature in and around the old church. The most prevalent ghost is a phantom figure, believed to be the spirit of Dr. Nicholas Albertson Okeson, that appears in the graveyard. Okeson, who died of malaria in 1882, served the community for 26 years.
-The Wells Theatre. Opened in 1913 as the crown jewel of the Wells Brothers’ Beaux Arts theaters, the historic Wells has gone from stage to cinema and back to stage, with some supernatural members of the cast tagging along. When there isn’t a lot of noise and lights in the theater, people have seen a little girl fall from the balcony, repeating an event that occurred during the building’s movie days. Employees have also reported hearing phantom laughter and theatergoers have seen people in old-fashioned attire. Another ghost is that of a sailor, who fell while working on the fly system, became entangled in the rigging and strangled to death. His unhappy spirit is usually seen roaming around backstage and he is often blamed for missing props and locked doors. Sometime during the years following his death, this wraith acquired the name “Ned” and it’s not unusual to hear cast and crew members shout, “Stop it, Ned!” during rehearsals.
And if you’re near Coastal Virginia this season and are up for a little spooky fun, there’s a host of attractions and events to get you and your family in the spirit for Halloween! Check for events at the Nauticus, Norfolk Botanical Gardens, Norfolk Zoo, Hampton Roads Naval Museum, The Wells Theatre, the Spirit of Norfolk, and more!