With its cobblestone streets and historically-preserved homes, to say that Greater Williamsburg is steeped in history would be an understatement. A place this filled with stories from the past is bound to be haunted by a few spirits.
Dr. Kelly Brennan Arehart, Historian with Colonial Williamsburg, has twelve years of experience working with the area's haunted history. Dr. Arehart has been locked inside buildings when no one was around. She’s heard unexplained footsteps, seen flickering lights, and watched doors open on their own. However, no experience scared her as much as the one at Shields Tavern.
It began like any other night; Dr. Arehart was kicking off a tour of the historic tavern at Colonial Williamsburg, as she regularly did. Meanwhile, other staff members decided to use an otherwise quiet night to have some fun, so they gathered on the tavern's second floor and built a makeshift Ouija board.
They planned to contact Frances Shields, daughter of the tavern’s owner, James Shields (spoiler: Frances was not written into James’s will). The group started moving the Ouija board around and asked, “Frances, are you here?”
The planchette slid to yes.
“Frances, are you willing to talk?”
“Frances, were you written out of your father’s will?"
At that point, the group heard footsteps, which they assumed were Dr. Arehart's distinctive footsteps. When the group called out to her, they realized that Dr. Arehart was not in the building. She was outside with her tour.
Thereafter, it wasn’t uncommon for staff members to hear Dr. Arehart’s footsteps, or her voice, in places where she wasn’t present. Frances, it appeared, still wanted to talk!
One evening, Dr. Arehart was on a closing shift. She was tasked with going down to the basement to pick something up. From a corner of the room, she heard a voice, a familiar voice, her own voice. Startled, she asked, “Who’s there?”
Her voice responded, “I thought you would have known by now.”
Dr. Arehart gave other examples of paranormal visitors in Colonial Williamsburg; a man in white is frequently seen in and around the Wythe House, home to prominent attorney George Wythe.
Many guests have taken photographs of unexplainable figures at the Peyton Randolph House, reportedly one of the most haunted places on the east coast. One night, for example, a security guard heard sounds of children after he locked up, which could have been the ghosts of the Peachy children (Sally and Mary T.G. Peachy owned the home after the Randolphs).
Another person familiar with spirits in Colonial Williamsburg is Daniel Hard. Daniel has had his fair share of encounters, having worked there for the past 32 years, primarily as a coach driver. There was one night at Chownings Tavern that he still cannot explain. Daniel was having a drink while his friend, John -- who worked at the tavern -- was rearranging the dining furniture on the second floor for the next day’s shift. Daniel heard John's footsteps coming to meet him downstairs, but then the furniture moved again.
He heard it move again, then again four more times.
John called Daniel up to make sure he wasn’t seeing things, then went to work, arranging everything all over again. Daniel watched as John -- once more -- set the room for the next day’s shift. As the two men left the room, they began to hear rustling. When they reentered the room, the furniture was moved back to its original place.
Feeling spooked yet?