Tis the season for giving and sometimes a simple idea can turn into a beautiful display of humanity. Such is the case with the launch this month of Cayla’s Sweet, a non-profit organization started by eleven year old Cayla. The premise behind her idea: to help the homeless. Her idea is to make and sell sweet treats and in turn all profits will go towards herself preparing warm care packages for the homeless.
And so it began…
A friend of her mother’s, I’ve been watching from the start as her little pint size mason jars filled with sugary goodness have been selling out. Nobody can resist sweets right? Right! Each week she has offered something different such as banana pudding, Oreo cheesecake and pumpkin cheesecake and priced at only $2.00 they have all hit the door running. Some people, with a desire to help, have opted to simply donate to her plight, their willpower to avoid the sweet treat obviously in check. Ahem. Cough. Cough.
Her idea was small. She thought she’d sell enough jars to make at least twenty care packages but as of to date with nearly 10 dozen sold, she’s well surpassed that and is overjoyed at being able to prepare more. Her plan, along with the guidance of her parents, is to deliver the first batch of care packages on Thanksgiving Day and continuing throughout the winter. Inside each package will be a blanket, scarf, gloves, socks, hat and hand warmers.
According to the 2016 report by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development Virginia alone has 6,268 homeless people and 2,309 of those are people in families with children and further, 322 of those are unaccompanied youth. The report shed good news however as the rate is down from 2015 when it was estimated Virginia had 7,001 homeless individuals and even more so since 2010. After further research according to an article from Huffington Post in 2015, Virginia became the first state in the nation to “functionally” end veteran homelessness, meaning every veteran has a home, except those who were offered shelter, but declined. That being said, in that same article it was sighted that on a single night in January, there were 49,993 homeless veterans across the United States.
In this season of giving, as a parent it is such a joy to see a child such as Cayla become passionate about a cause. To not only have a vision but to create that vision, follow it through and be so successful at it. As adults we can be guilty at times of thinking poorly of our youth overall. Little Miss Cayla is a shining example that our children are much more than selfies, snapchat and trips to the mall. That they want to make a difference in their community and their future. Thank you Miss Cayla for your warm heart and creative mind!
no act of kindess, no matter how small, is ever wasted….Aesop
It’s taken me over three years thus far to travel up and down the East Coast in search of the places entwined with the history of poet and writer, Edgar Allan Poe. His works have been such an inspiration to my own pen and he birthed my love of poetry. And since I’m OCD about everything, it makes perfect sense to divulge in every place Mr. Poe once lived, visited or has some historical tie to. Right? Right.
Edgar was born in Boston, Massachusetts to David and Elizabeth Poe. He had two siblings, older brother Henry and sister Rosalie. The children at a young age found themselves parentless as their father abandoned them and at the age of three, Edgar’s mother, a then actress in Richmond, Virginia, died of tuberculosis. The children were then separated. Henry was sent to live with his paternal grandparents in Boston, Rosalie to the McKenzie’s of Richmond and Edgar was adopted by John and Frances Allan, also of Richmond, Virginia.
While the places I have visited thus far are all of importance and have their own individual connection to Poe, they are not in historical order and notably the states of New York and Massachusetts I have yet to visit which I hope to do in the future.
This stop brings me to the city of Richmond in Virginia. Edgar spent most of his life here and even though he was born in Boston he always considered Richmond to be his home when asked. This city bleeds the history of the macabre master and it just so happens my nearest and dearest friend lives here so she was able to share the day with me as I dragged her around the city streets and a few cemeteries (we’re talking me here) searching for remnants of his life.
My first stop was that of St, John’s Episcopal Church It boasts the recognition of being the oldest church in Richmond and happens to be the place of a famous speech in history. “Give me liberty or give me death!” Sound familiar? Yeah it does to me. I had to memorize that damn thing in fifth grade from beginning to end. Pretty sure I could still recite it on point. I’ll spare you the test….
So yeah, none other than patriot, Patrick Henry delivered his speech here right before the start of the Revolutionary War. Side note here..when I was fourteen I was honored by the Daughters of the American Revolution with a piece I wrote. Just thought I’d add that, clearly on a factual basis bordering I know any sort of significance to this. Not looking for cool points at all. Nope.
So even though me and Patrick go back, wayyyy back, that’s not what brought me here. The graveyard does. Duh. Of course. It just so happens that it is the final resting place of Edgars’s mother, Elizabeth Arnold Poe. His mother, while performing in Richmond with a theatre company, took ill and died. Now much like Edgar’s original unmarked grave, his mother in death wasn’t respected very well either. Because she was an actress, a thought tawdry profession for a woman of that time, and although she was rightfully respected for her talent, she was placed in the back of the graveyard, in an unmarked grave and the service, held at midnight. And they wonder why Edgar was so dark….
Thankfully a memorial was placed at the back of the churchyard, although it is uncertain as to exactly where her remains are located.
memorial marker for Elizabeth Arnold Poe, mother of Edgar Allan Poe as seen at St. John Episcopal Church, Richmond, Virginia
My next stop was a home located just across the street from the church. A home that was thought Edgar would frequent after visiting his mother’s grave. The home of a known love interest, a girlfriend and later in life a fiance. The home of Sarah Elmira Royster Shelton. In the picture below it is the large brick building to the right.
As a teen, Edgar would find love with Elmira but unfortunately her father did not approve and sought to keep them apart. The two were a couple at the time Edgar left to study at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville but by the time he’d gotten back, two years later, Elmira was married to another. Later in life however when Poe returned to Richmond after the death of his beloved Virginia, fate found them together once again. Elmira,now a widow, renewed her relationship with Edgar and soon agreed to marriage. Unfortunately they never married as he died shortly after her acceptance to his proposal. It can not go unsaid that Elmira joins the fairly long list of love interests for the poet and she is believed to be the inspiration behind “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee” although there is a bit of a controversy with the true inspiration behind Annabel Lee, which will take me to a small island off the coast of South Carolina in another journey.
My next stop takes me to the spot where one of Edgar’s childhood homes once stood. The home of his foster-father John Allan. He, along with his wife, Francis took Edgar in to their home upon his mother’s untimely death when Edgar was just barely three years old. The home, much like many of the other homes and buildings significant to Edgar’s life has been demolished. What remains is a plaque commemorating the spot in 1907.
There is another home that is of significance to the Poe fan that actually still stands. It is the childhood home of who is believed to be Edgar’s first love. That of Jane Stith Craig Stanard. She was the mother of a school friend of Edgar’s and it’s believed his poem “To Helen” was dedicated to her. Of course this love was thought to be more a “puppy love” perhaps finding in her what he never had, a mother. Unfortunately she joined the list of women that left him early in his life. She died when Poe was just fifteen and upon her death he is noted saying “she was the first purely ideal love of my soul” and “the truest, tenderest of this world’s most womanly souls, and an angelt o my forlorn and darkened nature.” La sigh…
Of course if you are a fan of Edgar Allan Poe and you are in Richmond, Virginia then you know about the Poe Museum. The museum that boasts the world’s largest and finest of Poe memorabilia, manuscripts, letters, first editions and personal belongings. Also known as…the jackpot baby!
This by far is where I spent most of my time during my traipsing through the streets of Richmond. Located in the Old Stone House, the museum is just blocks away from another childhood home of Edgar’s. And this stone house is the oldest building in Richmond. Where’s my ghost equipment when I need it….
Even upon first walking in its as if you step back in time. Poe’s time. If the model of the entire city of Richmond during Poe’s time doesn’t stop you in your tracks, then perhaps Poe’s walking stick he accidentally left behind at a friend’s home, or the key found in his pocket when he died that later was discovered unlocked his travelling truck that held what few possessions he had. Or maybe his clothing, or wait maybe a lock of his hair! The collection is endless nearly and quite certainly took me quite a while to peruse with absolute pleasure. I’m not going to lie. I was like a kid in a candy store!
Walking the streets of Richmond I made my next stop at what is now Monumental Episcopal Church erected as a memorial at the site of the tragic fire at the Richmond Theatre where it just so happens Edgar’s mother Elizabeth performed at. The Allan’s, Edgar’s foster parents, were members of the church and would sit at Pew number 80 which has been memorialized for them. Unfortunately the church was not open to the public at the time of my visit, therefore I was only able to snap a picture.
Continuing on my journey, I found myself at the grounds of Virginia’s Capitol Building. It is here that a sitting statue of Edgar rests in Capitol Square, erected in 1958.
Of course at some point I had to eat right? Now because my dearest friend lives in Richmond, I often frequent the city and it was on a separate occasion that we stopped at a little family owned restaurant that the locals love. A place quite fitting for any Poe fan. Poe’s Pub. Unfortunately I’d find that while the restaurant bares the poets name, that is where the connection ends. Other than a single framed picture of Poe on the wall and “Raven Fries” on the menu, there is nothing else about this place that was reminiscent of the macabre master. However the food was excellent. I recommend the salmon and shrimp with fried green tomatoes and spinach. Most divine!
My final stop this day would be that of Shockoe Hill Cemetary. It is here many of Edgar’s loved ones found their final resting places.
Richmond by far holds the most history in its homes, in its streets and I’m certain in the hearts of its people of Edgar Allan Poe. I intend on going back to the few places I wasn’t able to cover this day to make this visit complete.
Thanks for reading and please make sure to check out my other installments of Poe Places on my blog.
It’s taken me over three years thus far to travel up and down the East Coast in search of the places entwined with the history of poet and writer, Edgar Allan Poe. His works have been such an inspiration to my own pen muse and he birthed my love of poetry. And since I’m OCD about everything, it makes perfect sense to divulge in every place Mr. Poe once lived, visited or has some historical tie to. Right? Right.
Edgar was born in Boston, Massachusetts to David and Elizabeth Poe. He had two siblings, older brother Henry and sister Rosalie. The children at a young age found themselves parentless as their father abandoned them and at the age of three, Edgar’s mother, a then actress in Richmond, Virginia, died of tuberculosis. The children were then separated. Henry was sent to live with his paternal grandparents in Boston, Rosalie to the McKenzie’s of Richmond and Edgar was adopted by John and Frances Allan, also of Richmond, Virginia.
While the places I have visited thus far are all of importance and have their own individual connection to Poe, they are not in historical order and notably the states of New York and Massachusetts I have yet to be visited which I hope to do in the future.
This stop brings me to the home of the Ravens…Baltimore, Maryland. Poe left quite a legacy to this bustling city so much so they honor his memory by naming their NFL team after one of his most popular poems. Poe spent a lot of his life here and fate it seemed was deemed the place for him to die.
My first stop had to be the most notable place that Baltimore offers. His grave.
What more fitting a place for Poe’s final resting place than that of Westminster Hall, a converted gothic style church built above Westminster Burying Ground, creating catacombs. Upon discovering them I was disappointed that time wasn’t allowing me the opportunity to take one of the tours that the church offers.
Not only is Poe buried here but his wife Virginia and her mother Maria Clemm as well. Historically however Poe originally was buried in the back of the church grounds in an unmarked grave that today has a stone memorializing his original resting place. However just like all things Poe, rumors grew of the accuracy of the move. To read more about it, check out http://www.eapoe.org.
Because I’m a geek when it comes to Poe, I already knew this upon entering the church yard and knew exactly where to go hunting for the original memorial. Some other fans that happened to be there at the same time as myself, clearly weren’t as obsessed….errrr prepared as I was and didn’t have this little tid bit of information so naturally I offered to show them. My daughter took a picture of me guiding the tourists so as to memorialize my Poe geek status reaching its all time high. And no, I will not share it. Grrrrr. But I will show you where I took them.
Because I have a natural love for cemeteries, not only was I snapping multiple pictures of the grounds but I found words brewing and wrote this as I came upon this corner with the broken stones.
The church and the grounds were quite lovely and offered a moment of solitude amidst the extremely busy streets of downtown Baltimore that pretty much nearly swallow it.
Located on the same street as the church just a short drive up the road is what is left of the home that Edgar lived in along with his Aunt and wife while in Baltimore.
Operating now as a museum by the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, the home was built around 1830 and was originally rented by Edgar’s aunt, Maria Clemm along with her mother, her daughter Virginia and Edgar. Poe left his family here however around August of 1835 moving to Richmond, Virginia where he’d been taken on as editor for the Southern Literary Messenger. Around this same time Ms. Clemm’s mother died resulting in a shortage of money and the family was faced with being unable to cover rent. Another family member having heard of their circumstances offered to take her and Virginia in but Edgar hearing the news and perhaps fearing he would lose his family, wrote a heartfelt letter proposing to Virginia at which she accepted and the family was rejoined in Richmond. Check out the emotional letters here. Good stuff. You won’t be disappointed.
The tour of the house includes poems and short stories that Poe wrote while in Baltimore, facts about his life and death and features Poe’s chair, lap desk and telescope. The room in which the items are set up is thought to be the room that he would have slept in so yeah of course, I was needing my salts. To think I was in the same room as the macabre master had once laid his head and no doubt dreamt up who knows how many of his short stories humbled me. It was surreal. Well, for me. And yeah, I stood there for a bit soaking the moment in.
Upon leaving his home I went next to the Edgar Allan Poe Room at The Enoch Pratt Free Library and to say I was blown away by the appearance of the library itself is an understatement. The architecture geek in me was bleeding a smile. But I’ll refrain from getting sidetracked and sharing the gazillion pictures I took once inside.
Dedicated to Poe on the 125th anniversary of his birth, The Edgar Allan Poe Room is in essence an exhibit of letters, memorabilia, and a copy of a daguerreotype of Poe by Thomas Corner. It is used as a meeting room and this is where my OCD kicked in when upon arriving I discovered it remained locked unless it was being used and was not typically open to the public. Obviously that wasn’t acceptable. I mean hello. So the determined five foot three inches Poe fiend went searching until I found the biggest security guard I’d ever seen. I smiled and told him without using said words such as geek or stalking or obsessed that I would like to see inside the Poe Room. He gave me a look over, grinned and said “for a just few minutes, follow me.” Ahhhhh and the rebel wins again!
After snapping pictures like a bat out of hell and speed rushing through my oooooh’s and ahhhhh’s I thanked the very kind giant and continued my journey. I couldn’t help but think he was probably saying “another crazy white girl.” under his breath. I giggled. Yep. No doubt I fit that bill.
Although Poe lived quite some time in Baltimore, many of the places that had a connection with him have over the years been demolished, so those places I skipped this trip as their quite a few. But I got them written down in my trusty notebook aka Poe app. Yes. Poe app. Nevermind that. So lots of pictures of what now might be Taco Bell’s and laundry mats is in my future next trip.
I saved the saddest for last. The site where he died. Such a shame I didn’t have any of my paranormal investigation tools back then. Just saying. At his time this was the location of Washington College Hospital where he was brought after being found near dead on a street nearby. Four days later he was dead. Many stories surround the hospital including kidnapping and body snatching. Of course. You can read an in-depth article about it here. http://www.eapoe.org/balt/poechh.htm
Thanks so much for reading and please make sure to check out my other write ups as I journey up and down the East Coast to feed my need. The struggle is real…
Just south of me in the state of North Carolina rests the town of Littleton. Located in Halifax County and once known as Little People Town, it historically has a population just under one thousand. Well that is, living.
This quaint little southern has become known more so as “Haunted Littleton” as many places within the town have had reports of paranormal activity. Of course me and the crew were already packing our equipment….
Founded some time before the Revolutionary War by William Little, Littleton spans just at a mile. The townsfolk survive mostly on lumber manufacturing and farming.
Upon arriving we were greeted by our host, Stephen Barcelo, who owns and operates the Cryptozoology and Paranormal Museum within the 1895 Alston House. More on it in a moment….
Stephen was gracious enough to take us on a tour of the town offering a history lesson on what little is known about the town and directing us to the reported “hot spots” where townsfolk and visitors have reported possible paranormal activity.
Our first stop was that of Person’s Ordinary, as it’s simply called and was built in 1739 and owned by Thomas Person, known for his anti-federalist leadership. One of the last surviving Colonial-era inns in North Carolina, Person’s Ordinary operated as a tavern, servicing weary travelers along the stage-coach line where they could get a meal and a night’s rest. It remained a tavern until the 1830’s at which time it was converted as the town’s first post office.
Today it owns a spot on the list of historical landmarks and has been returned to look as it did during its tavern days.
Many reports of activity have come from the tavern including flickering lights and faces peering from windows but the most telling was that of a murder. As the story goes, two travelers whom were staying on the second floor, began to brawl resulting in one killing the other. Remnants of this act remain decades later with traces of blood still on the original floor within the tavern. Easily seen under a UV light, the adrenaline was quickly pumping in here. And even though it wasn’t what we came for, we wanted in. And we’d get our chance….
Stephen then told us about Lakeland Theatre, the once working school that was closed in 1977 and later converted into the towns only theatre for performing arts. Multiple apparitions have been reported here as well as members within the audience seemingly being pushed by “ghost hands” as when they turned around to complain, no one was there. Unfortunately the building has demolition plans in its future to make way for new construction and can no longer be toured or investigated.
Continuing on our tour, Stephen led us to the house that we came to investigate. The Dollhouse. A two-story home filled to the brim with antique and modern-day dolls and collectibles. Are the wheels already churning. Antiques? Creepy dolls? You got it. We were thinking the same thing and even cooler we had the honor of being the first paranormal group allowed inside to investigate.
After getting a proper tour of the home and stumbling upon childhood dolls, we were led outside and directed down a dirt path along the property that led to a cemetery. In the middle of the woods. Oh yeah.
The extraordinary fact about this cemetery however is that it dates back to 1637. Unfortunately most of the headstones have been reduced to rubble. Walking along as Tom and I took pictures and video, the air was heavy and the moment was surreal. I was undoubtedly in my element, albeit the bugs were sharing it with me but I in no way shape or form rushed this part of the tour.
Reluctantly we left, returning back to the museum where Stephen began to tell us more about the items he had on display. The most intriguing would be the two dolls he had locked up in glass cases. He told us the story of how they were surrendered by families suspecting they were haunted.
Stephen continued and told us of how he’d discovered antique children’s toys in the attic of the museum. He also told us of how he and his family had experienced several unexplained occurences within the museum which doubles as their home. He described the smell of cigarette smoke, things disappearing and reappearing at random, convincing them spirits were about.
Upon meeting up with the rest of the members of the team, we made our way back to the dollhouse to set up our equipment and get started investigating. It can’t go unsaid that the night was off to a great start as a fury of thunderstorms met us during the tour and remnants remained. Storms are often thought to enable spirits to obtain energy, increasing their chances of making contact.
And so it began….
We separated into teams, one taking the upstairs, one the downstairs and one outside. Our group took the upstairs first and I armed with my new toy, an IR light that enabled me to capture pics in the dark, settled down amongst the creepy doll faces staring back at us. To our dismay, the rooms on the second floor proved to be quiet for us and as we rotated downstairs for the most part it remained quiet. It wasn’t until we had rotated outside that I had my first experience of the night.
Walking along the gravel driveway that leads back to the graveyard, we were busy taking pictures and truly admiring the peaceful night. I had lingered off a bit from the pack and was busy snapping pictures when I heard most clearly the sound of a man’s voice next to my ear and whisper “hey” in a quick fashion, jolting my attention. I knew no one was around me but by instinct I turned to yell at whichever team member it was. But of course, there was no one there and when I yelled across the yard to my team members if they had heard anything, they all shook their heads confirming they hadn’t.
That unfortunately I’m learning happens a lot with ghost hunting. We often have group experiences but more often than not we each have our own individual experiences that we are left trying to evaluate as to whether it really happened or simply a figment of a tired mind after countless hours of experiencing nothing. It’s not easy. And let me tell you, ghost hunting offers so much opportunity for scrutiny. So a good investigator, is a skeptical investigator.
That incident outside was unfortunately my only experience this night at the dollhouse but I did however hear something with the group as a whole. We always carry walkie talkies in part for safety and simply because well they are big kid toys we never get enough of. This night however they decided to take on a mind of their own. Another thing I’ve learned is that it is thought that spirits, entities, ghosts, whatever you fashion calling them, have the power to manipulate electronic equipment. Throughout the night the walkie talkies were going off on their own. At one point a child’s laughter came through the tiny speakers which made all of us question as to where the child was. Alas, no child was on the property. Just us.
Now the Person’s Ordinary. That was a bit of a different story, at least for me. This is where in the night Je nay nay as my team members call me, got a little brave. I convinced two other female team members to go along with me to investigate the tavern. Initially we were joined by Stephen’s daughter who much like her father was very knowledgeable about not only the tavern but the town as well.
We settled initially in the upstairs room where the alleged murder took place and within ten minutes of the session starting I saw from my peripheral view a cast of white light floating across the room across the hall. Naturally my camera was positioned on the room that we were in and instinctively I adjusted it but was disappointed when the disturbance did not occur again. I only bring this up even without documented proof because the next morning I walked in on a team member describing the same exact experience upon his session with other team members prior to mine. One of those things that’s frustrating as hell because you know what you saw but you don’t have a damn thing to show the world. Just your voice. And boy is that small.
We decided to move over obviously to that room continuing the session and within minutes again to my dismay I saw movement but my camera was facing the opposite side of the room so again..I got nothing. It’s discouraging to say the least to have nothing to show but it certainly keeps me eager to continue investigating.
Not much else happened after that so within twenty minutes or so we decided to finish the night downstairs in what would have been the dining area at the time of its tavern days. We unfortunately did not experience anything here either that is until I tried to turn off the recording device I was using that I had borrowed from a team member simply because it was shinier than mine. It seemingly went haywire on me, as when I’d shut it off it would immediately turn back on again or the buttons would freeze all together. I went back and forth a few times fighting with it until I gave up, deciding to just leave it recording until I got outside. The minute I walked outside, down the steps and away from the building, I attempted to turn it off again and much to my surprise I had no problems. Just as the walkie talkies had done earlier, it was as if something or someone had manipulated it to malfuncting.
Aside from that, this lovely town proved to be quiet for us this night. It was fun to get the tour, visit the museum and learn of the history of this little country paradise. But sadly we walked away with no solid evidence of a haunting. We were honored to have the pleasure of investigating the dollhouse and perhaps have the opportunity to do it again. If you decide to go for a visit, find Stephen and tell him CVP sent ya!
Please check out the video footage of the town we captured as well as a short interview I did with Stephen and lastly our flight footage of the dollhouse. Thanks for reading!
It is sometimes, no scratch that, most times hard for me to come to terms with the sincerity of a cold mind. The inability to have a conscious that has the power to strike you at any given time into a vulnerable coma.
I’ll never understand the capability of one such soul perhaps because of the way I see the world. The way my heart starts and stops again at all the beauty of what in truth God or science has given us. The way my heart bleeds at another’s misfortune. The way I smile at another’s triumphant battles. The way I feel when I hear a baby cry. The way my heart warms when I see an old couple hold hands. The compassion I have for an addict. The need to advocate for the mentally ill. The desire to adopt every single stray animal. The moment I capture the most breathtaking image.
I’m no angel. Far from it. I’ve made some fucked up choices. Many things I regret, resent and still haunt me. But you see I have the ability to recognize my own faults, to own them, to learn from them and most importantly to be apologetic when I should be and unapologetic for simply being me. The remorse I carry for poor decisions. The weight that burdens me from a broken spirit over and over again. Those are things I cannot push away. They own me. Every waking, breathing dirty broken moment. So how is it that others can go numb to any semblance of humanity?
Is it possible that somewhere even in those darkest of souls there lives good? Could it be possible that for every dark soul there is an equal darkness that covets enough light for the other to see? That somewhere, somehow goodness overcomes evil? Or does evil make everyone its whore? The older I get my hope is fading. I see now why my Grams had such hard lines upon her face yet did the best she could rearing me and my sister. She struggled with the same reality of humanity. I think there comes a time when all of us have to grow up out of the perfect world we paint it to be. Yet still, its hard to stomach. Even with every roadblock life has given me, it always will be. For those of us holding on to the pretty side of this fucked up world.
Always it seems with me. I never do things in baby steps. I just go right in hard-core, full throttle. Hence why I’m no longer allowed to drive a V8….Grrrr…So when I let a friend beguile me to a certain group of ghost hunters and I meet said ghost hunters and they instantly feel like home, why the hell wouldn’t I join. Even more so, why the hell wouldn’t I let my very first investigation with them be at one of the scariest, most haunted places on the East Coast. Pfft. I got this.
Of course I’m talking about my kick ass friends and team members of Coastal Virginia Paranormal. And the big and bad scary place, the uniquely eery, where spirits have run amuck, the notorious St. Albans Sanitorium. And of course I wasn’t quite ready for what I was about to experience. Hell no.
Most people, you know the sane ones, they’d see this sign and peace out.
Yeah, my Daddy always said I didn’t have much common sense.
The six-hour drive to Radford, Virginia where this paranormal playground sits is a pretty one. A scenic drive taking us across mountains into this quaint little town. But then, as one of my team members points towards a hill saying “there she is over there” I turn to get my first glimpse of the asylum and it’s as if the theme song to Psycho starts playing full blast in my head. The weeks of anticipation for getting here was now over and here I was, just minutes away from the creep show starting. I gulped down quietly as we inched closer to the large dilapidated three story abandoned brick building that looked straight up like the perfect backdrop for a horror movie. And let me tell ya, I like horror movies but I ain’t trying to be in one yo…..
Upon arriving and signing waivers (yes waivers) we each were required to sign, one of the co-founders of our group, who had been there once before, said “come on guys I know a short cut in.” Note to self, don’t let him lead me anywhere short ever never again. (just kidding you know I love ya) “Come this way,” he says. “It’s cool,” he says. “They say a spirit likes to hang out just on the other side of this door” he says. He forgot to mention on the other side of that door was the bottom floor, the basement. Pitch black. As in no windows. As in dude, I couldn’t see nuttin. I gulped down hard when he opened that door and the burst of cold air hit my innocent little non ghost conversationalist self. Armed with my tiny flashlight (because the big ones just ain’t cool) I stepped forward as the door slammed behind me into this now nothingness that was once full of life. A long long sordid history of life….
Before it became notorious for being one of the most active locations for paranormal activity on the east coast, it started off from the ground up, literally. The land from which it sits was once occupied by the Powhatan, Shawnee and Cherokee Indian tribes. Overlooking the New River, this land was host to the infamous Draper’s Meadow Massacre in 1775 where many pioneers suffered tribulations at the hands of the Shawnees. Further in history, during the Civil War, the hill from which the asylum sits was host to several battles.
It wasn’t until 1892 that the building was erected and became the St. Albans Lutheran Boys School, named after the famous St. Albans school in London. Meant to be one of the most prestigious schools on the east coast, it soon inherited a terrible reputation for bullying and suicides.
like a twisted disguise
how it rears its three faced eyes,
dancing on them all
the souls of unsuspecting hosts
taunting with fire and brew
whispering callous words
giving them no choice
to rage within
and decide war their only course
-Fragments of Chaos, poetry by Jenny Hayut
The students it seems were separated into two very distinctive groups, the athletic and the worthless. Those that were not worthy of playing a sport on one of the highly competitive teams within the school were often bullied resulting in many suicides and unexplained deaths. After the death of its founder, George W. Miles, in 1903, the school because of its dark reputation suffered a great loss in enrollment and as a result closed its doors in 1911. It sat vacant until 1916 at which time Dr. John C. King acquired the property and opened the doors again to what he’d hoped would be the nation’s first advanced psychiatric hospital….
Much like Miles, King set his expectations high. He wanted a hospital that would not only cure the mentally ill but change the near barbaric living conditions as was the standard practice with other facilities at that time. He’d hoped to have patients live as normal a life as possible, curing them of their sickness. Unfortunately armed only with what was the standard procedures of his time, he wasn’t very successful.
The methods of treatment in the 1900’s were, pardon the pun, insane. Things like insulin-induced comas, lobotomies and shock therapy were not just something you’d see in a horror movie, they were the real deal. And these procedures would leave most patients either brain-dead or literally kill them.
Another horrific treatment was that of hydrotherapy. Patients were made to soak in bathtubs…for days at a time. Or perhaps strapped with ice-cold towels, or naked bodies hosed down with blasts of freezing water.
These various treatments leaving patients in a mummified state or only making their illness worse and wanting to end their suffering, committed suicide. One bathroom on the third floor, where it was known the most ill and dangerous patients were housed, has been nicknamed the “Suicide Bathroom.” It is here that many attempted and or were successful in taking their life. At least four suicides are documented as occurring in this bathroom. On a side note here, this is by far the one room in the whole building that I felt the most uneasy in. While assisting a team member setting up a camera and motion sensor, my chest became heavy and I had a hard time breathing. I would not enter the room again until the end of the night when I assisted again with removing our equipment.
did you know with a delicate grasp you held me there,
hanging by an endless memory,
among the fragments of midnight,
among the white noise,
absorbing this me that I have become that floats between
the jagged edges of sanity
and a chaos that I covet
as if my final infusion
-Fragments of Chaos, poetry by Jenny Hayut
By the 1960’s the hospital had over 3,500 patients to an astounding staff of just forty-five. It was impossible to give everyone equally proper care and struggled remaining open until 2004. It was left untouched for years, faced threats of being demolished, suffered vandalism and then the paranormal world began investigating. Countless groups have toured, investigated, made claims, presented evidence and it continues today to be one of the most astounding places to visit….
Five dollar flash light don’t fail me now I silently prayed as I tried to keep up with two of my adrenaline charged team members weaving corners in the dark. That initial moment I seriously was having second thoughts as to whether or not I could do this. The fear was very much present but so was the adrenaline. It was already slowly charging through my veins. I could almost feel it as I looked behind me, beside me, squinting in the darkness. After getting lost weaving around corner after corner into this dark abyss, I silently cursed myself, -something is gonna snatch you Jen and these guys are gonna be so far gone they won’t even realize it-
Thankfully, we finally managed to find the stairs leading up to the first floor to our now waiting team members and I breathed a sigh of relief at sunlight. That is until I began to walk the corridor leading to the main entry. I discovered real quick, even with the daylight, it wasn’t much better up here. I seriously was going to give myself cool points by way of a bottle of booze if I made it through this night.
Upon arriving we had arranged for a proper tour of the building with the docent who relayed the history of how the asylum came to be and of its demise. Taking nearly an hour, we were shown from the third floor where the most disturbed patients were housed as well as an outside caged area the “birdcage” as it is called by some, where they could get limited outside activity.
dare to imagine a walk beyond this terrace of hopeless hearts,
beyond this bruised sky
where burning tides tease of the devil’s water
that lulls a nefarious thirst without remorse
-Fragments of Chaos-poetry by Jenny Hayut
We also toured the nurses quarters where many reports of laughter, talking, walking, pretty much everyday activity has occurred. Making our way back down to the basement, we toured the areas that were used for electroshock therapy and hydrotherapy. Because the hospital had so many deaths it even had its own morgue which we toured as well. Much activity has been reported in these areas due I imagine to the horrors experienced here and death.
In the daylight walking the halls wasn’t THAT bad. But, beyond the light, turning darkened corners, I felt the presence. We all did. You could almost smell it in the air. These walls were watching us. And we would soon discover they had a lot to say.
Below are images taken by myself as well as my team members as we toured. I have always flocked to abandoned buildings with a certain aura about them so naturally I was beyond excited at the opportunity to photograph St. Albans. Capturing the spirit of the building. The history that seems to remain in remnants here and there, telling us a silent story. From the people who inhabited this place decades ago, refusing to be forgotten, to the history of how far medical technology has taken us with treating the mentally ill, it’s all here and it’s quite a beauty.
Upon ending the tour, we had decided that we wanted to fuel up on food before offering our energy to Casper. Smart thinking I found from my experienced team members. As we returned and daylight was already starting to diminish,it was time to set up all of our equipment.
We as a group discussed where we wanted to set up cameras and investigate, strategically making sure wires would get where we needed them to be and make the best use out of where we could get equipment in. We organized groups as to who would investigate where and when first. A lot was going on all at once and I was in complete yowza mode. We knew the two places that we all unequivocally wanted to investigate were the bowling alley and the boiler room which of course naturally were both down in the basement. But then aren’t all sinister places after all?
Taking about an hour, we ended up setting up seven cameras in various areas of the building and it was then lights out. (that’s just what we say cuz um psssst there wasn’t any lights in this place to begin with)
the silence that shall inevitably creep in the darkness,
it digs its nails deep,
fading into a fraction of her soul,
succumbing to the truth
as it slowly unfolds
-Fragments of Chaos, poetry by Jenny Hayut
Naturally I was sent off to the basement first to the bowling alley. But of course! Now the bowling alley. A little bit of history and reported activity first. Quite a few spirits have been reported down in this area. The bowling alley itself came to be by way of a reward for patients. So in all accounts it was a fun place to be I imagined. But they had to put in the basement….
Virginia is home to a legally historical murder trial. The first conviction of a murder without a body. And guess where the suspected murder happened? Right outside the property that led up to the sanitorium. Yep. It is thought that the spirit of that victim, Gina Renee Hall killed by Stephen Epperly lingers in the basement between the bowling alley and boiler room. Other reports of a demonic spirit named “Goat Man” attacks people here as well as “Smokey” the once maintenance man of the facility who would drag women to the boiler room and rape them. He got his nickname as it is thought and reported that he was a smoker and if visitors offer him a cigarette then he will interact with them. Because of his disrespect, women are warned not to investigate the boiler room alone (Of course that didn’t stop us). Disembodied voices, shadow people, bursts of coldness, growling, all these have also been reported between these two rooms within the basement.
Entering the bowling alley, we started our audio recorders, digital video recorders (DVR’S) and settled in for the first EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) session of the night. I should mention that we chose to set up not only an IR (infrared) camera here but an audio recorder as well because of the abundance of activity that has been reported occurring down here.
Now see this is the first thing I learned about ghost hunting. It feels weird as hell initially sitting there in the dark talking to yourself and as my team members would tell you it took me a few times investigating with them before I could get over that weird feeling and once I did it was game the hell on. This particular session included myself, Rocki and Wayne, one of our co-founders. Rocki lead the session while Wayne armed with a DVR was recording and I was recording audio. I will say right now as I learned early on, paranormal investigating is hours and hours of sometimes nothing. Yeah, that wasn’t the case this night. Below is what we captured in that first session. (you will need headphones with the volume turned all the way up for this and all the audio and video evidence I’ve attached)
hear that knock? after I ask that it come closer..
hear the whispering?
What we hear is a “no” a direct answer to Rocki’s question….
I can personally recall throughout our time down there that there were unexplained noises repeatedly coming from the hallway between the bowling alley and the boiler room. We undoubtedly heard disembodied voices and unexplained knocking. The most significant noise I recall however, was the sound of shuffling feet. One particular instance I recall shifting myself away from the doorway onto the other side of my team member as I was certain someone was about to walk in on us from the darkness. The whole time I was down there I was uneasy, of that I’m certain. And it wasn’t going to get any better as the boiler room was next.
Throughout the night my other team members had sessions as well and had their own personal experiences. One being with Mike and Tom, the other co-founder of our team. Upon going through a series of questions it would seem they were getting interaction as with each question that was asked a knock was heard signaling an understanding. They as well distinctively heard a woman’s voice as well as scratching as if someone was trailing their nails along the pipes. The following is their evidence.
The following is what was picked up on the audio that we had set in the bowling alley. No one was down there investigating at this time.
To all of us it sounds like the ball return functioning. Obviously it wasn’t working nor in working order.
To the boiler room we went….
All of us throughout the night had our own individual experiences with the boiler room. I myself did two separate investigations. One this initial time with Rocki and Wayne and the second time with just the women of our group. It without a doubt lives up to its reputation as being the most sinister place in the building. The sordid history of it hits you as soon as you walk in. Bursts of coldness come and go leaving you chilled to the bone. That itself happened several times to many of our team members, myself included.
Initially with that first session in the boiler room I personally experienced a tug upon the bottom of my pants leg. It was sudden but there was no doubt I felt it. Much like while when we were in the bowling alley, shuffling of feet, and knocking continued outside the hallway leading into the boiler room. So much so that we decided to walk outside and stand within the hallway and begin recording. It’s at that time that my team member was knocked with a massive sense of coldness. Below is the recordings from our experiences.
Returning with the women was just as revealing if not more chilling. In trying to provoke “Smokey” we taunted him asking if he just simply couldn’t handle all of us women together in the room. If it pissed him off or turned him on. It didn’t take long for us to get activity from him as you’ll hear below when my team member Heather, captures what she believes a shadowy presence hiding within the corner of the room then suddenly disappears. I waste no time and begin questioning him. What my audio picks up as I listen to much later sends chills down my spine. Listen for yourself…
what we hear amidst me channeling my inner leprechaun, is just before I say “it’s just us girls” is a faint whisper saying “oh yeah” acknowledging he is in fact hiding from us. Now…I took my interpretation a bit further with this one thanks to the erotic writer in me. It’s a bit x-rated so I’ll refrain from mentioning it here but if you are curious drop me a message, I’ll tell you.
Two of my team members, Krystal and Tracey were using K2’s (EMF-electro-magnetic field-detectors) during this session and repeatedly it was as if Smokey or some thing was pacing back and forth around us as they both would continue to light up, as if he was taunting us. A friend of the group investigating with us, Marie, was using a thermal image device and even she was detecting energy aside from us.
Upon hearing what we believed was the sound of a young woman’s voice we decided to begin using the spirit box. (also known as a “ghost box” is a device used to contact spirits through radio frequency) It didn’t take long for us to begin getting interaction but seemed as if the spirits were fighting amongst each other. As if the room was full with entities. One most obvious battle was what we believed the ghost of Gina perhaps with Smokey. She would answer questions that we posed such as “what is your favorite color” and we got the definitive answer “wine” As the questions continued we suddenly heard a male voice and then the sound of the female voice “I have to go” at which time silence ensued. The continued bursts of coldness affected all of us up until we left to return upstairs.
I need to mention here that while we were having a session in the boiler room, all the men had decided to do their own investigation in the room on the second floor known as Donald’s room. The story of Donald as we know it is he was a janitor of the asylum and lived on site. He was a known homosexual and not an all around nice guy but I’ll get to that in a second. So the guys in all their gander decided they may get more activity if they all went into the room together. Activity was especially reported within the closet of Donald’s room. So naturally they pretty much tried to seduce a spirit in to coming out to play, taking turns in the closet. While none of them got felt up they did manage to get a pretty amazing EVP recording.
what we hear is perhaps Donald acknowledging Mike’s question with a “uh huh”
Upon returning upstairs we paired up differently and went off into what was the nurse’s wing where much activity had been reported as well. Armed still with our audio recorders and digital video recorders we walked the dark halls with flashlights in hand. I personally did not experience anything while here however some of my team members picked up talking and laughing along the empty corridors.
Below are various images that Rocki took throughout the wing as well as other various places within the asylum that after reviewing have questionable orbs within them. They could very well be nothing but it certainly made some of us go hmmmm.
Another team member, Mike, had an interesting experience in the room we pegged the “knocking door” room. It is here that a door that remains padlocked for whatever reason gets a lot of activity as reported by other groups. Mike decided to go and check it out by knocking and even though he didn’t get what he hoped was a knock back, he did hear the distinct sound of shuffling feet just on the other side.
Because of all the activity that had been going on in the bowling alley all night, including what I hadn’t mentioned yet, initially when some of our team members were setting up the camera, Mike was trying to summon the spirit known as “Goatman.” An EVP was picked up very clearly calling him a “dumb ass” which became the joke of the night. So we made our way back down to the dreaded basement where I once again went back into “gotta watch my back” mode. While down here which turned out to be our last time, we continued to hear several sounds, banging, shuffling of feet. There was no doubt in my mind that there was a presence down there. And not all friendly. While none of us ever experienced any kind of attack, it had been reported over and over again that other groups investigating had. But the voices, the banging, the walking, yeah, I was and still am convinced we were not alone down there.
Returning back upstairs nearing 3am our night of investigating was coming to an end. So they always say save the best for last. Seems not of my doing but that is exactly what happened.
Just at the top of the staircase leading to the second floor, is a room scattered with toys about and the shadow of a child painted on the hardwood floor. This is Jacob’s room. As the story goes, Jacob was abandoned just outside the doors of the asylum. The staff decided to take him in, giving him his own bedroom within the staff quarters, across the hall from Donald. I think you may already sense where this is going. Yeah. Turns out Donald had a thing for little boys. Repeatedly raping him to his death.
I really had no intentions of going into this room at all but for the fact that one of our team members, Tracy, really wanted to do a session in it. So I as well as Rocki were asked to go along. Remember that tour I mentioned at the beginning of our visit? I snapped some pictures of Jacob’s room then during the daylight…
The toys and dolls were brought in from various different researchers over the years in hopes of interaction with Jacob as it had been reported that a new toy would excite him, as it would any child. As we filed into the room, each of us armed with a flashlight and recorder, two of us leaned against the wall and begin attempting to summon Jacob. Asking questions like “Jacob are you here?” and “can you sit down and play with us?” When Rocki asked him “show us your favorite toy” that’s when it got very very interesting.
As we leaned against Tracy was crouched to the floor. Within seconds we heard the sound of a coin dropping onto the floor directly behind her. I quickly shined my light at her just as she was picking up a penny off the floor. As you’ll hear in the recording below I ask her if it had perhaps fallen out of her pocket as I shifted my eyes to what she was wearing, and the position of her pockets. From the position she was in there was no way anything could have fallen out of her pockets and she was adamant that she didn’t have any coins in her pocket, adding that she’d being using her bank card the entire day. Obviously we were dumbfounded trying to come up with a logical solution but we couldn’t find one so we were left to believe that it was in fact Jacob. Jacob showing us his “favorite toy”.
Again as you’ll hear in the recording, we thank Jacob and place the coin back on the floor for him. Moments later both my team members experience an overwhelming sense of discomfort resulting in Tracy turning on her light. Walking about her light then shines on a series of pennies in a perfect row to my left, about five feet from Rocki standing next to me. None of us can be certain that those pennies were there when we entered the room. In all honesty they very well could have been. However all three of us heard and saw the penny that dropped. That much we have no doubt about and remains with no explanation.
The session lasted just under twelve minutes and nearing the end it was decided we’d attempt a quick session in Donald’s room as neither of us girls had done so. Within moments of myself entering the room, I was hit with a wave of anxiety. It’s not something that I can easily explain unlike the bowling alley and boiler rooms where I was scared the whole walk down and for the most part the whole time I was investigating. With Jacob’s however my disposition was relatively calm. I truly was relaxed the whole time I was in Jacob’s room unlike my team members. However the moment I entered Donald’s room I tensed up and immediately wanted out. As a result we decided to finish up and return downstairs. Now this is where it gets really interesting…
Upon returning downstairs we discovered that it was time to begin packing up. We were calling it a night. Because the three of us were still standing on that side of the building we offered to return upstairs and pull the cameras and wires from both Jacob and Donald’s rooms. Immediately returning to Jacob’s room Rocki sat his light on the floor while pulling the wires up to break down the tripod and camera. When I heard him say “they’re gone” I was puzzled. “What” I asked him. Pointing into the room he said again “they’re gone, the pennies, all of them, go look.” Now I knew for certain that the three of us remained together from the time we walked out of Jacob’s room until the time we walked downstairs until present and I knew for a fact that no one else had been up the stairs since we’d walked down. Of course my immediate reaction was yeah right so naturally I had to see for myself. I was beyond shocked when I discovered he was absolutely right. Not only was the coin gone that Tracy had tucked just under a toy in the room but the coins that had been perfectly lined up were gone as well. This to me was the most perplexing event of the entire night for me there and still baffles me. Simply because there is no explanation for it. None. It wasn’t until we returned home and the three of us started listening to our evidence that we heard it. I’ll let you listen for yourself to see if you can place it. Just before the penny drops. Listen….
You hear it? That little faint sound just before the penny drops? Yeah. We did too….
So in short, after spending six plus hours investigating St. Albans Sanitorium I am absolutely convinced that it is haunted. From the decades of history, horror and tragedy it has even before this building was erected. This building is dead yet so very much alive. From the countless EVP’s we recorded, to the images that we captured, to the first hand experiences of sounds and hints of being touched, there is no doubt. This place is the real deal. No friggin doubt. And I’m beyond ready to go back. It’s kind of in my veins now….
Thanks for reading and please check out the video below that shows off an amazing flight view of St. Albans as well as our evidence collected.
So there has been quite a lot of talk about this secluded winding road amidst the many historical battlefields of Yorktown that were center stage for the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. On this road sits a bridge. The bridge itself is on the path of Historical Tour Road which is a driving tour of the memorialized battlegrounds of both the Revolutionary War and Civil War. But this bridge, it has nothing to do with any battles. Nothing but a living urban legend most say, others say they’ve witnessed unexplained events in the dark of the night.
Some say the bridge was used by members of the KKK to hang African-Americans. Others say a woman who found herself in an unfortunate arranged marriage could not bear it and ran from her wedding in her dress and hung herself from the bridge. Others say a “ghost car” haunts the winding road leading up to the bridge. Then yet others talk about once driving under the bridge cars are reported to suffer some sort of mechanical malfunction, shutting off. Others report a disruption in their radio. And as the stories continue, another claims that if your name is spray painted on the bridge then you will die. Then there is yet another story about an abandoned house off the path in the wooded area that people have witnessed “red eyes” staring back at them from within the shadows. That one got my attention…a little. So of course I had to go check it out for myself. Of course!
On a rainy Sunday afternoon I drove down this Crawford Road noting it was in fact quite secluded with only a few houses at the beginning of the turn off. A long winding road with copious amounts of trees allowing for the nature girl in me to pull off and take pictures. I love curvy roads in the middle of nowhere leading up to a scary bridge what can I say.
Continuing my journey about two miles up the road I spot the infamous bridge. Now I had been told from other locals to beware of the still present KKK members in the area as well that the police repeatedly patrol the area because well I forgot to mention this part. Because of its seclusion and the sense of fear that the area has brought over the years it seems to be a hot spot for real life murders. Many have occurred along this road over the years and that’s a documented fact. So I knew I had to work fast and taking it all in, getting pics and getting a feel for it all.
Stopping my car about one hundred feet from the bridge I get out and decide to walk the rest of the way. The closer I got the more I saw just how much graffiti it had. That’s a lot of dead people I chuckled to myself.
So the brave newbie of a ghost hunter I’ve become I plowed right through to walk under it which is when it’s said crazy stuff happens. I heard some birds chirping. That was cool. Read some of the graffiti that covers the street as well. Now I’m not discounting other reports of experiences along this road and surrounding this bridge but for me, I got nothing. So after taking a few more pictures I walked back to my car and sought out the directions to get atop the bridge. Maybe something cool will happen up there?
It did take me a few frustrating turns to finally find the right way towards the bridge which is how I discovered it’s along the Historical Tour Road route which Waze aka my normally kick ass GPS totally didn’t come through for me with.
So once again, I pull up towards the bridge and stop about one hundred feet. Getting out I take more pics, still loving all the scenic beauty. Never mind that this could be the home of brutal killings and despair. If it’s pretty, it’s pretty.
Well…again I was disappointed. But I got some really cool shots of the bridge.
and then there is this that I loved. The behind you just captivated me. I played around with the exposure with this one and like the way it came out.
And then there was this little guy which to be perfectly honest was the most exciting thing for me to see while I was here.
In all, my trip having proven not much of anything I can see myself venturing back in the midnight hour to see what there is to see. Maybe I will. Maybe I won’t….And this bridge and all the legends surrounding it, the events of in history that unfolded before it, and the real life crimes that it witnessed, it absolutely has inspired a story…or two.