On Thursday, as you watch for little ghosties and listen for ringing doorbells and laughing children’s voices, be attentive. For on that night, you might hear other sounds as well — strange noises that are out of place in today’s bustling world. And ask yourself: Is that mournful keening really just the wind or is it something else — the wail of a lost soul seeking refuge, perhaps?
If indeed such spirits do wander the Earth, alone and adrift, Halloween night is their chance to mingle among the living. All Hallows’ Eve, the evening before All Saints Day, has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. The 2,000-year-old harvest observance marked the end of the summer season of light and the beginning of the cold, dark winter. It was on this night, the Celts believed, that the veil between our world and the eternal world was at its thinnest and spirits everywhere — both good and evil — could easily pass through.
Richmond is an old city. Dozens of buildings predate the Revolutionary War and hundreds more the Civil War. Over the passage of time, countless people have lived and died within those old walls. It is said that some of the residents never left — even after death came for them.
Like every old city with a storied past, Richmond has its share of ghostly tales and sightings — specters that have lived here far longer than any mortal. And on Halloween, they too might be wandering among us. Here are just of few of Richmond’s revenant residents:
There’s the young boy who reportedly plays alone at night on the lawn of the Capitol. Frightened citizens have reported hearing the lad’s childish laughter — sounding eerily out of place on a cold, dark night. No one knows who he is or where he came from. And who doesn’t know of the cast-iron dog in Hollywood Cemetery ever standing guard over a young girl’s grave? It is said that the dog sometimes moves about at night. No one knows if he is protecting the little girl or the cemetery’s living visitors from the Richmond Vampire rumored to reside in a hillside mausoleum.
Historic Church Hill is home to hordes of ghostly beings that move things about, slam doors and glide slowly down staircases. The Byrd Theatre has a resident ghost, an old manager who sits in the balcony and watches over the movie house. At Henrico’s Tuckahoe Plantation, visitors have claimed to see a distraught bride walking about, wringing her hands and wailing. And don’t forget the two young children observed by many playing in the garden at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum.
Nowadays, while we lightheartedly observe many of the ancient practices of All Hallows’ Eve and enjoy the evening’s shivers and scares, most of us do so in the spirit of good fun rather than fear. But even so, remain alert. Happy Halloween.
— Robin Beres