Sure, people dressed up in crazy costumes jumping out at you at a haunted house’s every twist and turn can be scary. But where these these Northern Virginia venues are concerned, rumors of ghosts are far more frightening. We spoke to local paranormal enthusiasts to find out which area locations have a history of reported spirits.
Editor’s note: This story was updated on October 1, 2021.
“This was the first place we started doing investigations in, maybe six or seven years ago. Me, my brother, and our friend were just messing around upstairs, and then someone’s car pulled up, and they ran downstairs to see who it was while I looked out the window. Then I felt someone put their hand on my hip and asked my friend what he was doing, but when I turned around, my friend was all the way across the room … What they say about spirits is that, when they talk, it goes in the same category of radio waves, so when you scan through channels it’s really easy to tell when it’s a spirit because it will be audible through a bunch of channels—we’ve heard the last name of a woman who died up the road from this place coming through while tuning into different channels.” –Bull Run Paranormal
“The Winery at LaGrange is haunted by its past owner, Benoni Harrison, and his daughter Mary, who died from some kind of disease. Gen. Mosby and his troops used to hide out at the top of Bull Run Mountain, and apparently when there were no Federal troops around Mary was always the one to light a candle in the window so that they knew it was OK to come down, and then they would feed them and all that. So they have an electronic candle in that same room, and every now and then the owners will come down in the morning and see that the candle has been switched on—but nobody had turned it on. It’s also tradition to leave a glass of wine on the hearth for Benoni, and supposedly he gets very angry if you move his wineglass.” –Bull Run Paranormal
“For most of the 1800s, Brentsville served as the county seat for Prince William County. Today Brentsville Courthouse Historic Centre contains five historic buildings including the 1820s courthouse and jail, 1850s farmhouse, 1870s church, and 1920s schoolhouse. Over the years, local residents have experienced and passed along ghost stories associated with the courthouse and jail. Many individuals have claimed to see the face of a young African-American woman looking outside from either the courthouse or the jail. The belief is that the face is that of an enslaved woman named Agness convicted of murder and executed at the site, even though she argued that her actions were in self-defense. Other locals have related unusual experiences in one of the downstairs rooms in the historic jail. In that particular room in 1872 the Commonwealth Attorney of Prince William County was mortally wounded while awaiting trial in the courthouse. Many believe that his spirit is still in the building.” –Bill Brackus, historic site manager
107 N. Fairfax St., Old Town Alexandria
“This building is near the starting point of and is a big part of the Alexandria ghost tours, and the story goes all the way back to when they didn’t have electricity, when they just had oil lamps, and a young lady who lived there went upstairs with an oil lamp that she was carrying for her grandmother who lived in a back room of their building. The oil lamp spilled on her dress and caught it on fire, so she went running down the steps and into the street where other people tried to help her, but she was already burned very badly and ended up dying a few days later. Her fiance, they say, was around the corner at the time at a bar and was there for the whole thing, and the two of them are now buried together nearby. There have been reports of the smell of burned flesh or apparitions in old-fashioned dress here and nearby … and I’ve been in the basement of the building because the storeowner at the time was afraid to go down there, and I’ll tell you there’s a lot more going on down there than just those two spirits.” –Northern Virginia Paranormal
108 N. Fairfax St., Old Town Alexandria
“At the building that’s right next door to what was once Candi’s Candies, people have seen Civil War soldiers going in the basement of this other building—like, crossing the street in period dress and walking around. So I got into the storage room, which is really small and crowded, and as soon as I got in I picked up the sound on my recorder of a woman saying “Help me” and a lower, gruff, male voice saying “Quiet!” … There’s bathrooms down there that the public go to and use, and those are usually the people who see the ghosts in period dress and all that.” –Northern Virginia Paranormal
“Ben Lomond was a military hospital during the Civil War; it’s like a little plantation, and it has slave quarters made out of brick that I think the slaves built. They’re really tiny—each room is barely 12 by 14. Each room has a loft where the slaves slept, and in that slave quarter, a spirit tugged the back of my jacket while I was inches away from the door and the wall and really freaked me out! Even my daughter said she’d never seen me that scared over a spirit, but that was the first time I really got touched … I did get EVPs on the recorder of a male spirit admitting to tugging on my jacket, and there was also a female who said her name was Kat who was there as well. So anyway, the back of Ben Lomond is a rose garden, and when the house was a hospital and they were amputating legs and arms, they would throw the body parts out the window, and someone out there would take them and bury them in the rose garden, so the garden itself is probably filled with body parts. Even the floorboards, when seen from the basement, have been verified by the fire department to be stained with the blood from patients that had seeped through the floor.” –Northern Virginia Paranormal
“Leesburg, to me, is a lot like Old Town Alexandria, in that it’s an area with a lot of old history; you’ve got old wood that has absorbed a lot of energy and deceased people that sometimes don’t even know they’re dead … So I’ve done a lot of investigation in Carradoc Hall, which is a manor house going into Leesburg on Route 7; John Harper and his family, who were Quakers, owned it for almost 200 years. Right in the corner of the property is a spring-fed pond, and we never knew it was there because it was all overgrown with shrubs, but during investigating the spirits there, we always heard them speak about ‘the pond,’ so that was how we first even knew it existed. The spirits have also mentioned to me that someone was at one point buried on the property. The people who certify historic locations won’t certify Caradoc Hall only because it’s part of a hotel now. But guests kept being touched, and servers were quitting at the time because they were seeing things that they couldn’t explain. There’s only four bedrooms upstairs, and there’s a male spirit there that’ll go ‘whoop-whoopideedoo’ whenever I would walk upstairs. One medium I brought with me once saw him, and he affirmed he was responsible for the ‘whoop-whoopideedoo’ noises. … They also kept the bathroom doors locked at all times, and right before I was about to turn on my spirit box, which allows spirits to speak, a woman’s voice went ‘Hold on’ and then told someone else to ‘go out through the bathroom.’” –Northern Virginia Paranormal