Walking through Williamsburg, Virginia is like stepping back in time to colonial America. Most of the city’s structures are original to its inception over 300 years ago.

From the American Revolution to the Civil War to the unsavory activities of the Prohibition era, Williamsburg has seen it all, and stood largely unchanged through it all.

Perhaps it is the community’s commitment to preserving its history that has fostered such a ripe environment for paranormal activity, earning it the title of one of the most haunted places in the country.

In this article, we will explore some of the most notorious locations in this spirited city.

1. The Public Hospital

Public hospitals were the country’s first iterations of asylums, caring for those that needed extensive psychiatric care. Hundreds of patients, doctors, and families passed through these institutions, and Williamsburg’s was no different.

Unfortunately, as was common at the time, the patients of the hospital were wildly mistreated. They were subjected to cruel punishments, including being shackled to the walls of tiny, barred cells and forced to sleep on cold floors or dirty mattresses. They endured long periods of isolation and were forced to take obscene amounts of medications.

The treatments that patients underwent at the hospital were experimental at best, and inhumane at worst. Hydrotherapy involved patients being dunked into freezing cold water, with their hands and feet bound together.

Electroshock therapy was also common, which saw patients jolted with electricity in the belief that it would relieve them of the “negative energy” plaguing them. Many patients ultimately died as a result of their treatment.

In 1841, a new superintendent took over the hospital. John Minson Galt II believed that his patients should be treated with care and respect, and worked tirelessly for 21 years to genuinely improve the lives of those in his care.

When the Battle of Williamsburg ravaged the town, Union soldiers commandeered the hospital and forced Galt out. He was later found deceased in his home on the hospital grounds. He had overdosed on an opiate known as laudanum, ingesting so much that blood vessels in his brain burst and left a large pool of blood on the wooden floor beneath him.

After Galt’s death, a new family moved into the house. Mrs. Lee, the new matriarch of the home, claimed that no matter how much she scrubbed the floor, the bloodstain simply would not be cleaned.

Ultimately, the family decided to pull up that section of floor and replace it with brand new wood. The next morning, however, the stain had reappeared on the new floor. The Lee children also fearfully reported to their mother that each night, the apparition of Galt would appear in the room where he died.

After the Lee family moved out of the home, the structure was torn down. After the loss of his house, it is believed that Galt’s spirit moved into his beloved hospital, where sightings of him continue to this day.

2. The Bruton Parish Church

Bruton Parish Episcopal Church on a gloomy autumn day in Williamsburg, Virginia
Location: 201 W Duke of Gloucester St, Williamsburg, VA 23185

The Bruton Parish Church was established in 1674 as a consolidation of two separate parishes in the colony. In 1710, the original building was declared unsafe, and construction was started on a newer, larger church. This new building was finished in December of 1715.

The church is surrounded by a cemetery with graves marked from the 17th to the 20th century. Among these graves, you can find the burial site of Reverend Scervant Jones, and his two wives.

According to legend, when the reverend’s first wife, Ann, was on her deathbed, Jones proclaimed his undying love and begged her to wait for him so they could be buried together in the church yard.

However, only three months later, Jones placed Ann’s tombstone at her grave… with his new wife at his side. To make matters worse, Reverend Jones had his new wife’s grave placed between his and Ann’s, dividing them for all eternity.

Ann’s heartbroken spirit can now be seen wandering the cemetery grounds and sitting in the pews inside the church. The organ can often be heard playing late into the night, accompanied by disembodied cries of sorrow.

3. The Ludwell-Paradise House

The Ludwell House, also known as the Ludwell-Paradise House, was built in 1755 for Philip Ludwell.  Philip was a well-respected resident of Williamsburg.  He had earned his wealth from the Green Spring Plantation in James City County and was a very well-traveled man.  He frequented London, England, where he ultimately passed away in 1767.  He left his Williamsburg home to his second daughter, Lucy.  

At the time, Lucy was living a lavish life in London with her husband, John Paradise.  The couple rented out the home to long-term visitors while they were in England.  However, when John passed away in 1795 and left Lucy destitute, the woman had to return to her childhood home in Williamsburg.  She had grown accustomed to a certain way of life in London, where even among the social elite, she had been regarded as eccentric and a bit odd. 

As time went on, the people of Williamsburg grew more and more unhappy with Lucy’s behavior.  They suspected her of being a thief, and frowned upon the way she wandered the streets with servants as though she were royalty.  Williamsburg residents decided something must be done about Lucy.  In 1812, Lucy Ludwell-Paradise was ripped from her home and committed to the Public Hospital.  After two years enduring “treatment” at the hospital, Lucy took her own life. 

Now, her spirit is said to haunt her former home.  Her apparition is seen wandering the halls, and the sounds of footsteps and running water are frequently heard.  In life, Lucy was known to bathe several times a day, so perhaps her spirit is seeking out one last bath.

4. The Public Gaol

The Public Gaol
Location: 101 Visitor Center Drive, Williamsburg, VA 23185

When Williamsburg became Virginia’s capital in 1699, city officials identified a need for a jail.  The Public Gaol, or jail, was built with only three rooms; one for the jailer and two for inmates.  However, as the city grew, so did the jail.  An exercise yard was added in 1703, a debtor’s prison in 1711, and a separate brick building meant to house the jailer in 1722. 

As with many penitentiaries of the time, the Public Gaol was rife with disease and mistreatment.  Inmates were kept in freezing cold cells, served unhealthy and disgusting food, and suffered outbreaks of illnesses such as typhoid and “gaol fever.” 

Today, the apparitions of two women are frequently seen on the upper floor of the jailer’s quarters.  Visitors to the jail report hearing two female voices carrying on a lively conversation upstairs and hear heavy footsteps stomping around.  In the jail itself, guests often experience the overwhelming feeling of sadness. 

5. Merchants Square

Sometime shortly after the Civil War, Mr. Thomas Moore had earned himself quite the reputation around Williamsburg.  He was very popular with the ladies but was never faithful to one.  One day, he caught the attention of a beautiful woman named Constance Hall.  Constance and Thomas began spending nearly every day together.  They would stroll the square together, openly flirting and flaunting their relationship.  The only problem was that Constance was a married woman. 

When her husband, Mr. Hall, returned home after three months away, it didn’t take long for word of the affair to reach him.  He stormed into Thomas Moore’s home and killed him in a fit of rage.  He was spotted by neighbors returning later with Constance in tow.  Mr. Hall forced his wife to help him move her murdered lover’s body into the basement.  When Thomas wasn’t seen for a few days, neighbors sent for police to do a welfare check.  It was then that Thomas Moore’s body was discovered. 

As the couple had been the last seen leaving the home, the Halls were immediately arrested.  Mr. Hall agreed to confess to his crime in exchange for Constance’s freedom.  Mr. Hall spent the rest of his life behind bars, while his wife fled Williamsburg and was never seen or heard from again. 

Death doesn’t seem to have stopped the amorous Thomas from strolling the square around his home.  The apparition of a tall man with a pale face and a dark mustache, dressed all in black, has been reported on numerous occasions.  He has been seen inside the old Moore home, as well as in several of the businesses in the square.  Multiple employees have seen Thomas in their stores outside of business hours.  Others claim to have seen merchandise levitate and move on its own.

6. Peyton Randolph House

Peyton Randolf Home in Colonial Williamsburg
Location: 100 W Nicholson St, Williamsburg, VA 23185

The Peyton Randolph House is said to be the most haunted place in Williamsburg, which is nothing to scoff at in such a paranormally active town.  Since its construction in 1715, the home has been plagued by war, accidents, mysterious illnesses, and even murders.  It is estimated that about 30 lives have been lost in and around the house.  Many believe that the grounds are cursed, either by an angry enslaved person or simply by the bad energy of Betty Randolph’s mistreatment of her slaves. 

Whatever the reason, the Peyton Randolph House has no shortage of spirits.  Reports inside the home include disembodied voices calling out down empty halls and objects, including furniture, moving around of their own accord.  The sounds of children laughing and playing can be heard on the lower floors. 

The most frequent experience inside the house, though, is the touch of phantom hands.  Visitors frequently claim to have been stroked by invisible fingers or shoved away.  On more than one occasion, someone has even been pushed down the stairs when no one was near them.  Since the early 1800s, overnight guests would flee from the house in the middle of the night, citing shaking beds and apparitions hovering over them as they slept. 

One account of such activity comes from Marquis de Lafayette, famed French general of the American Revolution.  He wrote of his stay, “I considered myself fortunate to lodge in the home of a great man, Peyton Randolph.  Upon my arrival, as I entered through the foyer, I felt a hand on my shoulder.  It nudged me, as if intending to keep me from entering.  I quickly turned but found no one there.  The nights were not restful as the sounds of voices kept me awake for most of my stay.” 

As one of the oldest cities in the country, it comes as no surprise that Colonial Williamsburg is home to so many spirits.  The city’s history goes hand in hand with its hauntings, both of which are embraced and celebrated. 

Countless ghost tours and haunted pub crawls are offered, typically ranging between $15-$30.  “Haunted Williamsburg” is the only tour that takes you inside of the buildings it highlights.  This candlelit tour is an hour long and costs $19 per ticket.