The Tale of the Burning Bride

October 25, 2006


The Christmas Attic – House in the Country is a charming shop on Fairfax Street with an added attraction — the ghost of a young woman is said to visit from time to time.

In the mid-1860s, this building was the home of the Schaeffer family. Young Laura was upstairs in her wedding gown, preparing for her special day. It is speculated that she stepped too close to the fireplace, and the long train of her wedding dress caught fire. The guests were down in the garden, unable to hear her screams. The next day Laura died of her burns. A few weeks later, her fiance committed suicide.

Laura’s ghost is said to visit the shop occasionally. Some people have even reported her presence in the restroom.

While the tale told by the ghost tour guide is embellished, and they freely admit it, there is a kernel of truth in this story. A young woman did live here and died of burns before her wedding. As for the presence of spirits, that I cannot confirm. I guess Laura wasn’t in the mood to receive visitors the day I visited the shop.

Carlyle House Hauntings

October 23, 2006


There are several tales of strange deaths and hauntings in this place. Three men are known to have fallen to their deaths at different times but in a similar manner from an upstairs balcony.

In the basement, a cat was found entombed in a wall by archeologists while renovating the house in the 1970s. It was fully documented, then the mummified cat was returned to the wall, where it still remains. Some say it is an ancient Scottish tradition for good luck. Others say it is to ward off evil spirits. But the spirits of the dead are said to still be heard from time to time in the Carlyle House. This is what the docents at the Carlyle House don’t talk about or deny if asked.

A local paranormal investigations team investigated the Carlyle House in February 2004. They did record some paranormal activity that cannot be fully disregarded, including orb photographs, a sound recording and an inexplicable knock on the door when there was no one around. The lead investigator says, “Therefore it’s my belief that the Carlyle House has something unusual happening either in the house or on the grounds, but it’s a subtle haunting that may make his presence known from time to time but tends to keep to himself unless he’s searched out, and even then he’ll keep to himself after a possible walk down the hall or stroll of the gardens.” The full report can be found here.

Could that be one of the ghosts, in the upstairs window on the right?

Tale of the Female Stranger

October 17, 2006


One of several local legends involving hauntings takes place in Gadsby’s Tavern. It is the Tale of the Female Stranger.

As the story goes, late one night in September 1816, a very ill young woman was brought to the tavern by her distraught husband. They brought her upstairs, and a doctor was summoned. She died after several days. The man had an elaborate gravestone made for her and swore everyone at the tavern to secrecy as to both of their identities. The man disappeared shortly thereafter, leaving unpaid bills behind. All hotel records that might have borne his name were erased, and neither of their identities has ever been known. It is speculated that the woman may have been a member of the English royal family.

It has been said that the ghost of the female stranger has been seen at an upstairs window from time to time, holding a candle. Another story says that a man on a tour of the building saw a lit candle in an upstairs room. He went to get the manager and together they entered the room. The candle wick had never been burned, but when the manager touched the glass shade, it burned his hand.

A very good and detailed retelling of the full story can be found here. The author, Michael Pope, writes for one of the local papers.

Haunted Alexandria

October 16, 2006


Tales of ghostly spirits and haunted buildings abound in Alexandria, and it’s something we like to encourage. Alexandria Colonial Tours offer inexpensive walking tours of Old Town, one of the most popular being the Ghost & Graveyard Tour.

Colonial costumed guides tell tales of mysterious deaths, inexplicable events and strange sightings in some of the buildings of Old Town. More fun than scary, the ghost tours are a great way to spend an hour or so on an October evening.