Tag Archives: civil war

Fort Monroe – Confederate ghost stories

(1) The informant’s father’s family had just moved into Fort Monroe — her father was visiting from his undergrad (Purdue) and was almost 20 at the time. The night he came home, everyone in the family heard the sound of heavy chains dragging across the floor of the upstairs attic. The next day, her dad and his dad went to investigate. They saw nothing, and it never happened again, but everybody agreed on the sound.

(2) One time, a bunch of the army wives got together and they were talking about their houses. They ended up comparing ghost stories. One of them was saying that she walked into the kitchen with her husband and there was a cat there — they didn’t have a cat. The cat looked at them, and then turned away and walks through a wall. Eventually, the family looked up the plans for the building in the engineer’s office and originally there’d been a door in the space the ghost cat walked through.

The informant’s ethnicity is half-white, half-Filipino American. Her father, who is white, was in the army, and his father flew helicopters in Korea and Vietnam — their family grew up moving from army base to army base.

Fort Monroe, in Hampton, Virginia, was where they kept the really important POWs from the Civil War, like Jefferson Davis. For those POWs, they would build quarters for their wives. It was widely understood that the town ghost was the ghost of a woman whose face sometimes appears in the widow at Mrs. Davis’s old quarters, waiting for her husband to come back.

The informant, who is one of my housemates, told me the stories, which originated from her father, in conversation. Her father actually recently visited her (4/30/14), and later corroborated details of her stories with him, the primary source.

Whenever people live in older areas, or areas with a lot of history, it seems much more common to encounter ghost legends, and for people to be more comfortable with the idea of ghosts. This is of course helped along by my informant’s father’s religious upbringing. His family was Catholic — it was totally normal to talk about ghosts, and nobody talked about them as if they’re inherently scary.

Additionally, Fort Monroe is an area so closely tied to the Civil War, the bloodiest and one of the most traumatic events in American history. The distance in time between then and the modern day isn’t as far as people might think, and one way to tie these two eras together is by passing on legends about local history.

For more information about Fort Monroe’s ghost sightings, click here.

Haunted Civil War House

“Okay, so when I was a kid growing up in Fairfax, Virginia, there was a house about a half-mile away from the house I grew up in and, uh, it’s a very old house – very well maintained, people do live there – but, uh, legend has it that it served as a hospital during the Civil War and, uh, obviously, injured soldiers would go there and, of course, some of the soldiers died. The legend is that, um, the house is haunted with the ghosts of the dead soldiers from the Civil War and this was well-known throughout my neighborhood among the children, and whenever we passed by the house, we’d always get a little nervous or scared or excited, and, um, we would also play in the front yard. The front yard was quite large – a few acres – and it had beautiful boxwood plants, all around the front yard and we would, uh, play hide-and-seek in the front yard, and it had a creek that ran through the front yard along with trees, and it was a lot of fun to play in the front yard. We also played in the backyard, which consisted of grass and, uh, thick woods. We played in the woods. We didn’t play in the grass area of the backyard, and there were times when I had met other adults my age who had grown up in the same city and, uh, for whatever reason, once in a while we would, uh, talk about that haunted house and the other people would remember that as well – that they had grown up believing it was a haunted house as well.”

The informant describes a childhood folk belief about a haunted neighborhood house. He heard about this folk belief from his peers. They would play in the yards of the haunted house. Though they believed in the spooky legend, it seems as though they played in the surrounding areas to taunt the “ghosts” residing in the house. The neighborhood children freely played outside in nature and allowed their imaginations to consider the possibility of the existence of Civil War soldiers’ ghosts. However, context is important. The children played near the well-maintained house presumably during the daytime. So, the idea of ghosts probably seemed less scary. In addition, the house was not considered taboo or forbidden. In bright daylight they were able to entertain the thought of ghosts and treat it as a subject that was not so serious. Had they met up at the woods around a dilapidated house at nighttime, maybe their attitudes toward the legend would have changed.

Through this pastime of playing in the woods, the children were able to share the story of a neighborhood house. The legend of the house and their playing near it affected the young children so much so that later, they were able to recall this story in their adulthood. This memorable pastime seems to be a defining, shared characteristic of their respective childhoods. Thus, the story holds significance in intertwining personal, regional, and national histories.