Witches, cats, trees oh my…Ghost hunting with Coastal Virginia Paranormal

Witches, cats, trees on my…

So it would seem as I sit here writing this Ms. Scaredy Cat survived her exciting night of adventure with the Coastal Virginia Paranormal group. I gotta tell ya, I really didn’t know what to expect and I truly was a little apprehensive even though I talked good game leading up to my debut night of meeting said ghosts. Well that quickly diminished as I walked inside the beautiful home that is the Ferry Plantation House. Before I tell you about this historical home  that sits on the list of the top most haunted places in Virginia, I should tell you more about the history of Virginia and how this home might have found its way on such a list.

Virginia is one of the oldest original colonies. It is the home of Jamestown, the first English settlement in America where Captain John Smith and his crew landed. Before they came however it was the home of many Native American tribes.  As a result make shift burial grounds are scattered about along with a vast amount of artifacts. Virginia claims to have one hundred and seventy haunted places and the Ferry Plantation House is within the top twenty-five most haunted.

 

Located in Virginia Beach, the Ferry Plantation house dates back to 1642 when Virginian Savill Gaskin started the second ferry service along the Lynnhaven River thus Ferry Farm as it was called, got its name. This welcomed many aristocrats and their families and slaves to the area creating the Old Donation Farm neighborhood. Many of the homes were built from remnants of prior structures. The Second Princess Anne Courthouse stood on the site of Ferry Farm from 1730 to 1751. It is here I’ll mention a well-known trial that occurred at the courthouse. Grace Sherwood or The Witch of Pungo went on trial here. Likely jealous of her beauty and preferring to wear pants over dresses she was accused of witchcraft by her neighbors. She was a skilled herbalist and known animal lover but unfortunately was convicted resulting in the only witch to be tried and convicted in Virginia.  I’ll get back to her in a minute.

In the 1770’s Walke’s tavern owned by the Walke’s family stood on the Ferry Farm property as well as the family’s mansion.  In 1828 their home unfortunately burned down and two years after that George and Elizabeth Macintosh built from its foundation the farmhouse as it is at present.

Inside the house today you’ll find time period furnishings some being owned by its occupants over the years. The house itself, a three-story brick, federal style home has a parlor, an attic (Henry’s room aka where the slaves were housed aka the jury room above the old courtroom) Who’s Henry you’re asking. Hold on I’m getting there. The home also has a library and multiple bedrooms one being the nursery where my new friend Eric is known to hang out.

So now that we got that out-of-the-way, on to the good stuff. So it was around 7:30 pm that I arrived at the house and met the infamous group that my friend and member Rocki had been talking about non-stop. I met with Tom who for lack of a better word is the head honcho, as well as Wayne, Heather and Mike, head investigators for the Coastal Virginia Paranormal group.  Heather is also the Director of the house which regularly conducts historical tours.  Knowing that, I knew off jump street she was in the know of all the good stuff. These guys were very welcoming and I could tell right away they knew their shit. I spied two black cases filled with research equipment aka the goodies needed for a proper ghost haunt and right away the goose bumps started. I was totally feeling like I was in an episode of Taps. Alas, no Jason Hawes was around but meh, I was already high on all the seemingly knowledge in the air. These guys between all of them have over 20 years of experience in paranormal investigation. That’s pretty impressive. And here I am wondering what that thingie is with all the pretty lights…

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one of the members case of investigative tools

I got a quick history run down of the house and then Wayne entrusted me with the said thingie with the pretty lights. It is here I learned it is called a K II EMF Meter, an electromagnetic field meter aka the ghost tracker I’ll hence forth call it. So having done a little of my own research before coming to the house I read that eleven ghosts supposedly have been documented here. One of them being Henry. See I told you I was coming back to him. Lead the way Wayne. Bring on the ghosts.

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one of the members case of investigative tools
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one of the members in a past investigation using the K II meter in the old courtroom at the Ferry Plantation House

Henry is thought to be a slave that is normally lingering upstairs also referred to as the attic and jury room  of the courthouse which happens to be the oldest part of the house. So of course that’s where we head first.  It is here I’ll mention that upon entering the house, the courthouse room is the room you will enter first and I immediately got a weird, heavy feeling about it. I didn’t see nor hear anything to give me the creeps but it was just something about it that didn’t bode well with me.

Walking up the narrow steep steps to the attic with only the light of a flashlight to guide us into the waiting darkness, I can’t lie I got a rush of excitement and then a thought of what the hell are you doing Jen. But I forged on, curiosity getting the best of me. Upon getting to the top of the stairs I walk into what is probably a 20×20 room with a single bed in the middle and a low wood ceiling. Wayne had told me to look up at the ceiling where handprints can been seen. It is thought those of slaves. It was easy for me to spot them randomly across the ceiling when I peered up.

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view of old courthouse room, the oldest part of the Ferry Plantation House

Standing there in the dark the four of us, I proceeded to watch my very first EVP session begin.  This is where not only are the K II’s being monitored which I had death’s grip on mine, but also recorders were set as Rocki and Wayne began asking the room, with its now heavy air, questions. “Henry are you here?” Wayne asks. “If you are, make the lights light up for us. We have some new people here tonight with us that just want to know you’re here.” The room is silent but for the outside wind stirring creaks here and there in this old monarch of a home. “Will you come and talk to us Henry,” Rocki asks. The room to my surprising dismay continues to remain silent.

views looking up and down from the steps leading up to attic/jury room

I cannot lie here, my heart was racing a bit and I continued staring into the dark corners of the room and behind me. I silently thanked my Daddy for instilling in me the importance of keeping check of your surroundings. But cursing him for never telling me what to do if a ghost rolls up on me.

It’s important for me to tell you here that a proper ghost hunt is not as exciting as its portrayed on television. Hours of no activity could be waiting for you.  Seasoned investigators such as these guys know this and accept the long stretches of nothingness as part of the job. But me, not so much. The adrenaline was pumping and I was ready for my close up.  After about twenty minutes or so of continued silence, Wayne wanting to give me a full experience of every area, in this informal investigation,  suggested we continue on to outside the home where the hanging tree is. The whaaaa?

The land of the plantation at its prime stretched for miles and miles. Over time that changed leaving it now as it stands part of a cul-de-sac, surrounded by private homes and a large grassy field. I noticed a tennis court in the middle of the field and asked what’s up with that. Rocki said “oh that’s where the Indian burial ground is” and then pointed across the darkness to a large patch of shrubbery. “Over there too.” He continued explaining that the tennis court was built in order to protect the land from robbers searching for relics. “Oh okay”, I say, cool like while thinking oh shit.

Seeing it off in the distance this tree was quite beautiful. Me being the nature lover I was already planning on coming back during the day to take pics of it. Its bare sloping branches in near perfect symmetry was impressive. Of course this is what made it perfect for its name sake. Remembering that this at one time was the site of a courthouse it is said that this tree was used for hangings for those convicted as well as the demise of slaves. Heather, had told me that it was known that at least three slaves had been hung from its branches. Approaching it I discovered the huge tree hollow at its base. I’ve always thought these were pretty cool and this instance was no different. When Rocki said why don’t you go inside it, I didn’t hesitate. What was I thinking…

Armed with a mini flashlight and my ghost tracker, I leaned in and positioned my body inside the tree. Much to my surprise the hollow expanded at least a hundred feet up giving me plenty of room to maneuver around. My own private oasis. It’s important for me to add here that the size of a tree’s hollow is a significant indication of its age. With this being as large as it was, it was obvious that I was standing inside  what possibly could be over 220 years of history.

Alone in the darkness, this is where things got weird. It’s not easy for me to explain in words but I began to get this overwhelming feeling of sadness and the tree seemingly was pulling me, almost in a hypnotic kind of way. I know it sounds crazy. I know. But it’s what happened. I stood there with a sense of being anchored within the tree circling my flashlight above me peering at the empty space that was beginning to make my chest heavy. After a few minutes the voices of the guys outside grabbed my attention and its as if I came out of my trance. Upon maneuvering myself out of the tree I’m hit with a second wave of emotion. The sudden need to cry. I didn’t actually cry but the feeling hit me and hard. I stood there a moment longer just leaning back staring up at its beauty while the guys showed me a picture they’d snapped of me while I was inside. We slowly make our way then back to the house and I walk away with a sense of confusion but notice the further we distance ourselves from the tree, the heaviness of my chest slowly diminishes.

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The hanging tree at Ferry Plantation House
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standing in the hollow of the hanging tree

Entering back into the house our next stop is the parlor. It is here Heather began telling me about the history of parlors and it’s uses. In short, it wasn’t just for chilling with your peeps. Back then diseases spread quickly and were relentless resulting in many deaths. Well medicine and technology obviously wasn’t at its prime so family and loved ones had their own practices for determining whether or not someone was dead. How, you ask? Well they’d lay the suspected dead person out on a table in the parlor and family members cloaked in black from head to toe in mourning would watch the body round the clock,  until they were satisfied that the person was not going to wake. Once the determination had been made that they were in fact dead, the body was then removed from the home and prepared for burial.

At this point all the members of the group joined together and we set up chairs circling the room and another piece of equipment was set out to investigate, an EDI Research device. This acts the same as the K II meters but also monitors change in temperature in the room as well as senses motion and vibration. The mother load of devices was my thought.   With the lights out and the parlor doors being shut, another EVP session begins. Sitting around each member took turns asking questions aloud of the room in attempts to evoke a spirit to make contact with us. The ghost trackers had much activity off and on as the members of the group continued to sit and ask questions of who might be in the room. At one point we all began to hear what sounded like a woman humming coming from above. Eventually as the sound continued it progressed to muffled words as if the voice were singing. After about thirty minutes or so the session ended and it was decided our next stop would be upstairs to the nursery and the Nanny’s rooms.

views of parlor in Ferry Plantation House

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authentic mourning garb displayed in the parlor at the Ferry Plantation House

Walking up the steps to the third floor I was hit with a sense of apprehension but I brushed it off still left feeling a little wary from the sounds of the humming woman. Upon getting to the top of the steps I turned to my left and peered into the room which clearly had the furnishings of a nursery and then glanced to my right which I was told was the Nanny’s room.

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view walking up to the third floor of Ferry Plantation House

Walking into the nursery the four of us sat down on the floor forming a circle putting the K-II meters in the center on the floor. I began to stare around the room looking at all the period clothing adorning the room and even stepping into the walk in closet full of children’s clothing. Mike, one of the head investigators began telling me about the child that’s known to make his presence known in the room. A seven-year old boy that they have named Eric. Not long after Mike and Rocki started calling out to him the meters began lighting up. I sat in silence listening for any movement, or sounds but nothing. And then….a sudden upward tug at the waist band of my leggings. I jumped and immediately shouted out an expletive. My instinct was to get up and run but I was the only chick in the room and there was no way in hell I was showing my chicken shit side. So I continued to sit describing to them what it felt like and we watched as the meters continued to stay lit.

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view of nursery from Nanny’s room in Ferry Plantation House
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nursery on third floor of Ferry Plantation House

This is where I have to say even though I was in shock, not expecting such a thing and I will say it absolutely without a shadow of doubt in my mind happened. But even though my initial response was that of fear, it wasn’t a I’m in danger kind of fear. It was more a fear of the unknown. Because truly, not only while I was in that room, but the whole time I was touring the house with CVP I never felt threatened. So I think that’s what kept me in place too. That and being a Mom myself to an eight year old boy, my mom genes kicked in.

Within five minutes or so my fear was tested again as I then began to feel a finger drag across the base of my back directly on my flesh. Again, I was shocked from it but the feeling of fear was still not present. I suppose I was imagining my own son when he hugs me and loves on his Mommy. And then I thought, he sees my tattoo back there, not knowing what it is thinking he was helping by trying to wipe it off. This second time experiencing physical contact, Rocki immediately holds the meter up behind me and the lights grow stronger. At the same time, another newbie touring with us, Josh, snaps a picture of me focusing on the area behind me, hoping to capture Eric.

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After being rocked by those two encounters I was reminded the night was only getting started. We still had the Nanny’s room to check out and the room where the courthouse stood, the one that gave me the creeps a little. So reluctantly I left with the group walking and me and Josh walked into the dark room of what was the Nanny’s. At this point he was feeling a little uneasy with a feeling of being in trouble. We had been told while in the nursery that the Nanny seems to grow angry if anyone comes into the nursery after 10pm as to not wake the children. It was well past ten. We walked around a bit more finally making our way back downstairs headed to the old courthouse room.

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looking into Nanny’s room from the nursery
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picture on display in nursery. could Eric be the little boy in this?

We all meet back up in the dark room of the old courthouse which again is along with the jury room/attic upstairs is the oldest part of the house. You’d think courthouse, inmate, angry, haunting in that order right? Nope. This room is popular for decades of  ghost cat sightings. We all stood again with our meters and the EDI monitoring the temperature in the room. We didn’t spot any cats but it is now that some of the members start asking if Grace Sherwood is around. Now I have formed an interesting thought having learned that Grace aka the Witch of Pungo, was a huge animal lover. What if maybe this cat, what if it’s actually Grace? Or what if when the cat is seen it is because Grace is around, the cat sensing her comes inside? Just my spin on things. If you want to learn more about Ms. Sherwood you can check it out here. http://ferryplantation.org/history/grace-sherwood/

It’s at this point that Tom invited me to ask my own questions and well simply put I discovered I was very much ghost shy. An introvert with the dead too. But of course! The meters randomly showed signs of lighting up but not enough to get us excited and so after a short while we flipped the lights back on and pretty much called it a night.

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Tom and Mike asking questions of Grace Sherwood in the old courtroom at Ferry Plantation House

Having been there from about 8pm until 3am when we finished I was finding myself still on an adrenaline rush. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy meeting the members of Coastal Virginia Paranormal group, but I discovered just how rewarding paranormal investigating can be. Pairing that with my own personal experiences I was ready to come back before I’d even left. I should mention here again that this evening was made possible for me to meet the group. It was a very informal investigation as they advised me cameras are normally set up as well and monitored during a normal investigation. I walked away educated more in paranormal experience and investigation and a more sense of acknowledgement that spirits are out there. Demonic I’m not so sure but everyday folks just acting out their life as if they were still alive. Pretty dang profound stuff if you ask me….

J

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CVP member and friend Rocki, me and Josh in front of the hanging tree on the grounds of Ferry Plantation House

 

For more information about Coastal Virginia Paranormal group visit their website here: http://www.cvparanormal.org/index.html

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Also if you’d like to read more about the history of the Ferry Plantation House or perhaps schedule a tour, visit their website here: http://ferryplantation.org/

Panoramic Ferry

Thanks for reading!

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