Saturday, April 11, 2015

William and Mary: The First Most Haunted College In America

Photo courtesy of Flickr - Mobilus in Mobili

A Step Into the Past

Williamsburg, Virginia should be a familiar city to nearly everyone. If you have ever spent any time in a history class - be it high school, college or even middle school - you will know that this town was one of the hot spots of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Here soldiers fought side by side, brother against brother, for the cause of securing what each person believed was their own personal freedoms and rights in this new America. Tens of thousands of soldiers died in some of the most harshest conditions imaginable to the human mind.

When an area is subjected to such massive death and psychic conflict it will naturally be a very active location when it comes to the paranormal. This is why any war site in the country is a great place for investigators to research the spirit realm. My wife and I had great success in Alton, Illinois when we investigated the Alton Civil War Cemetery there years ago. It is simply amazing how strong the paranormal energies are in and around the grave sites even though the war ended nearly 200 years ago.

Courtesy Flickr - Humberto Moreno
The College of William and Mary

Within the town of Williamsburg lies an enchanted college campus that is wrought with paranormal activity. This site was not only a central location for the Civil War, but it was also very strategic in the Revolutionary War as well. For a location to be the grounds of two major colonial wars, this may very well make William and Mary one of the top haunted sites in the country. And the reports over the centuries confirm this possibility.

It is unknown how much religious value this land had to the Native Americans, however; when we consider the sacred ground factor into the paranormal equation, it increases the activity exponentially. In fact, the College, America's second oldest, dates back all the way to 1618 - before Williamsburg even existed and before the establishment of the first American college, Harvard University. "The Indian uprising of 1622 and the revocation of the Virginia Company charter in 1624 caused this initial attempt [at building the college] to be abandoned" ( The struggle by the Indians to maintain the land suggests a deep connection which inherently strengthens the level of paranormal events possible. The Cahokia Mounds in Illinois are another example of Native American influence on a once sacred location and it further attests to that fact that their continued spiritual presence has a direct impact on paranormal activity.

The soldiers who died in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War still haunt the college grounds. One of the fascinating things I learned when we did the investigations in Alton, Illinois is that the fighting soldiers still believe the war is going on and they must continue to fight, not only to protect themselves, but also to possibly kill their fellow brother/enemy. This residual energy, filled with intelligence, remains frightfully intact well over 200 years later. The men who haunt the campus of William and Mary should have that same residual intensity, and according to the stories, it does.

"A soldier who fought in the Revolutionary War met his death in a small room that is to the back of the college due to a gunshot injury he received while fighting. This occurred on the third floor of the college. Several students and individuals who work at the school have claimed that they have seen a soldier in spirit form walking in a mist-like state around the area where he reportedly passed." - delayedreactionlounge

Courtesy Flickr - Jerry Gammon
The Wren Building

The Wren Building is perhaps the most plagued site on the William and Mary campus. It was "designed by the famed English architect Sir Christopher Wren who [also] designed St. Paul's Cathedral in London." It is "the oldest college building still standing in the United States and the oldest of the restored public buildings of Williamsburg." It was "constructed between 1695 and 1700, before Williamsburg was founded, when the capitol of the colony was still located at Jamestown." Today, the Wren Building is considered to be "the soul of the College".

This "soul" has been susceptible to three different fires, each time being rebuilt inside the original walls. The first one gutted the building in 1705 "and was rebuilt by 1716 with funds provided by Queen Anne of England." After reconstruction it burned again in 1859. "A third fire ravaged the building in 1862 when Union soldiers quartered in Williamsburg set fire to it."

This cycle of burning and reconstruction has wreaked havoc on the paranormal energies of this site. It is well-known that any site that undergoes construction will generate intense paranormal activity. Entities who have grown accustomed to their physical surroundings do not like it when they are altered. Oftentimes they respond with menacing activity which can border on the realm of poltergeist. If you add in the fact that:

 "[d]uring the time of the Revolutionary War, the Wren building was used as a hospital for soldiers...because the main means for dealing with significant injury at the time was amputation, the courtyard was often filled with amputated limbs." - flathatnews

Wren Chapelburial Vault courtesy of Flickr - Creative Commons
What you have as a result is an intense mish mash of paranormal activity which is certainly reflected in the stories that have been told about the Wren Building.

If you have read last month's post on this site, then you would have learned about poltergeist fires, erupting from very strange origins. Could the poltergeist-like activity in the Wren building been the cause of the other two mysterious fires? As was suggested in the previous article, could it be a possible portal opening?

Unexplained sounds have been heard coming from the building and footsteps can be heard walking down the hallways, contributing even more to the mysterious nature of this location.

It is believed that the entities are either Revolutionary soldiers who died in the building from miserable death or that it is Sir Christopher Wren himself who still inhabits the very building he designed.

What makes this site even more intriguing is that there are underground steam tunnels that run throughout the campus. They are said to be connected to the Wren Chapelburial vault located in the basement of the Wren Building. This, of course, would add even more fuel to the paranormal fire in that the vault and connecting tunnels would act in much the same way that a cemetery would above ground. Referring back to my Alton, Illinois investigation, we found that Civil War cemetery was extremely active and so it would not be any stretch of the imagination to say that the Revolutionary War events of the Wren Building would make it just as active, probably more so considering the multiplicity of powerful residual psychic energy events on the property.

Courtesy Flickr - benuski
The Crim Dell

When it comes to bridges, many folks may first think of the Golden Gate or Brooklyn bridges in America. Or perhaps London's Tower Bridge or Australia's Sydney Harbor Bridge may also come to mind. But here in Williamsburg, bridges can be just as awe-striking, not for their size and architecture, but more so for their artistic flare and the paranormal stories tied to their wooden planks.

One such bridge, very well-known to the inhabitants and visitors of the William and Mary College, is the Crim Dell. The Crim Dell is actually the stagnant pond that lies south of the Zable Sports Stadium and is west of the Wren Building. The bridge, with its plaque shown above, has simply taken on the name, since it is a very beautiful site to be seen. The Crim Dell is considered to be one of the most romantic spots on any college campus.

"The legend behind the Crim Dell is that if you walk across it's bridge with your significant other and kiss at the top, you are destined to marry that person and be in love forever. If you break up, however, you will remain cursed unless one member of the hopeless couple pushes the other into the Crim Dell." - delayedreactionlounge

No one is certain how this legend came into being. One of the possibilities was that a Civil War soldier's wife was very disgruntled with her husband - it is suspected for infidelity. As a result of her response to him, she essentially placed an ultimatum curse onto the bridge as a way to either straighten out her husband or instill revenge. During the Civil wartime, and any wartime for that matter, documentation of such events can be extremely difficult to obtain, if it ever existed. Survival of these tales can only be preserved and recovered from word of mouth

Tucker Hall

Another very active site on the William and Mary campus is the St. George Tucker Hall. It is "located along the north side of the Sunken Garden near the Wren Building." It was the "first dedicated library building and served as such until the opening of the Earl Gregg Swem Library."

This hall has had multiple paranormal episodes during its existence since 1909. The first incident is said to have happened on the third floor. A ghost will visit students who may be pulling all-nighters in the classroom up here. The identity of the entity is unknown, but one of the possible explanations is that it is a resident of Colonial Williamsburg during the American Revolution. The other possibility, and this one has a long story behind it, is that it is the ghost of someone who committed suicide in Tucker Hall. This haunting moves us almost 200 years into the future, from the Revolutionary War to the 20th century.

Dorothea Sullivan '13, a tour guide for the campus, recounts the story of these events:

Courtesy Flickr 

"During exams in the mid 1980's, a female student is believed to have [hanged] herself in the upstairs bathroom while studying. A few years later, another female student [hanged] herself in the same spot, with a note that said, 'She made me do it.' Then again, in October of 2004, a College alumni killed himself in Tucker Hall.

Sullivan explain[s] further [the] sightings of a white female student in Tucker Hall who would ask studying students how their exams were going. If they responded that they felt good about their exams, she would pitch a fit and slam her hands on walls and windows until they left." - flathatnews

Multiple suicides on any location many times will leave the victims' spirits roaming on the property where the deaths occurred. A soul who is in unrest in life will remain so in the afterlife and it is these kinds of events that lead to residual hauntings. Many times these hauntings can be intelligent, like the next story.

A student, by the name of Erica Fredericks, posted an article about her experience in Tucker Hall that leaves her and her colleague scratching their heads. They were in the basement of this hall, in the Xanadu suite. They had been burning copies of their documentary onto DVD and were having some strange computer issues whereby it kept crashing on them. Frustrated, they left the building to take a break from the intensity and the returned an hour later. The computer finally was working and so they began copying again.

Here is where the story gets interesting. After burning 15 DVDs, they decided to take a look at one of them to check the quality. In it they found the material mysteriously altered.

"The most memorable 'ghost effects' were some black-and-white footage of children reading, the image of a Spanish dancer in a long dress and extreme close-ups of some of our classmates' mouths." -

In this case there is a poltergeist effect performed on their film. How this is even possible remains a mystery. It is very fascinating that in some way an entity was able to place physical imprints of external paranormal events onto film. It has me scratching my head as well.

Concluding Thoughts

Colonial Williamsburg is a great place to research, explore, and document paranormal activity. There are so many events that have occurred on this property that this one article just begins to scratch the surface. Both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars have left a deep impact, not only on the history of this country, but it has also left very strong residual paranormal energies within our historical environments.

It is through investigating, recording, and deciphering all of the information whereby we can finally begin to understand what is really happening on the other side of the spiritual veil. God bless all of those brave people who died for our country.

Works Cited


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