...on near shelves of books. Heavy doors open and close on their own, and a "thud" can often be heard between two and three o'clock in the morning.The house is a non-smoking environment, yet cigarette smoke can often be smelled in a bathroom in the back hallway.
Botetourt County is home to "the Ragman." Centuries ago, gypsy-like old men traveled from town to town gathering rats to make paper, giving them the name "ragmen." Parents would tell bad children that the Ragman would get them if they didn't behave. One account in a 19th century Betetourt newspaper tells the story of young Priscilla of Fincastle on Halloween. Pricilla accidentlly spilled her father's supper and let the dog eat it. When her mother left to go shopping, she told Priscilla that she was going to give her to the Ragman if she didn't behave. Priscilla went to her room and nodded off to sleep. She was awakened be a loud rapping at the door. Assuming it was her mother, she answered it, only to find a filthy old man standing over her. According to the article Priscilla died of fright "certain that her mother had sent the Ragman after her."
"The Black Sisters" have been part of Christiansburg's history for many years. They were called the "black" sisters because they dressed in mourning-type clothes and wore heavy dark veils. The story tied to the Montgomery Female Academy, which opened in 1852.
In 1859, the school moved to a building on the land where the Christiansburg Middle School now stands. Around the turn of the century, ownership passed from Mrs. O. S. Polluck to her sister, Martha Wardlaw, and her three daughters, Mary Snead, Caroline Martin, and Virginia Wardlaw.
The terror began. The sisters wanted Mary's son, John, to join the faculty. Caroline went to his Tennessee home and convinced John to leave his wife and return with her on the next train. A string of incidents surrounded John, including a fall from the tarin which resulted in injury, and almost drowning in the school's cistern. He finally did die from injuries sustained when he was found burning in a kerosene-soaked bed. Foul play was suspected when it was discovered that John had been heavily insured by his aunts with them as the sole beneficiaries.
Fletcher, John's brother, was then brought to the academy, where he married his first cousin, Ocey. Meanwhile, the sisters had piled enormous debt and refused to pay. One by one, the sisters left town. By 1908, they were gone.
In 1909, a newspaper report from New Jersey brought the fear back to Christiansburg. Ocey had been found dead in a half-filled bathtub, head under the faucet. A suicide note was pinned on her robe speaking of being despondent over the loss of "loved ones." Neighbors reported that Flethcer and Ocey had moved there a year earlier. All was happy until two women in black moved in. Then Fletcher mysteriously disappeared.
Virginia Wardlaw's answer aroused suspicion. The coroner's examination found that Ocey had been dead for at least 24 hours before the call. There was only one bathroom in the house, no towels in the bathroom, and no pens or aper to write a note with.
Circumstantial evidence bought the sisters to trial in January 1911. Virginia Wardlaw starved herself to death before the trial began. She is buried in Christiansburg's Sunset Cemetery. Mary Snead pled guilty to manslaughter and was placed in her son's custody. Caroline Martin, was sent to New Jersey's State Prison, but was moved to the State Hospital for the insane and died soon after.
Reports of moving lights seen in the windows of the Middle School at night are commonplace. Could be the spirits of the Black Sisters returned to Christiansburg?
Blacksburg's historic Lyric Theater, like most great threaters, is home to at least one ghost. To read more, look for The Ghost of the Lyric by Joel Furr on the internet (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Rumors abound that a workman was killed when the Lyric was being built. The theater also houses a screaming lady. Sometimes she even cries to be let out. The scream seems to come from the direction of the ticket booth, or at least from above it.
Employees have reported hearing faint mutterings and seeing shadows in the balcony when standing on the stairs. One story tells of an employee closing up and hearing a man and woman talking in the balcony. When he went to the balconly, it was empty. Another time, an employee was up in the balcony and heard a voice speacking quietly to itself down in the main seating area. No one else was in the theater, and yet the voice spoke.
People assciated with the Lyric assume the incidents are caused by a ghost. There is no way for a patron who might have hidden to "scare" employees to get out of the threater. An employee would have to unlock the doors with a key for anyone to leave.
Probably one of the best known nearby haunts is Caamberly's Martha Washington Inn of Abingdon. Built in the 1830's, the Inn served as the Martha Washington College for girls at one time. No one is sure just how many ghosts roam the halls of the hotel, but most of the activity stems from incidents which occured during the Civil War.
Employees have seen wispy figures floating around, walked through cold spots in the middle of summer and have seen door knobs turn on their own. A bloodstain from a mortally wounded Confederate soldier reappears on the floor outside of the Chamberley Suite. A couple who stayed in room 403 experienced the violent shaking of the bed upon which they were sitting.
The most memorable story involves room 403. Captain John Stoves, a Yankee spy, was gravely wounded and carried to the room. "Beth" was a student at the college who cared for and fell in love with the captain. She would play her violin to put him at ease. One day, she was summoned to his room where he lay near death. He asked her to play her violin, and as she did, he passed on. She never got over the shock and died within a few weeks.
People have seen a milky-like figure with long flowing hair on the stairs. Others have seen a slim young girl sitting in a chair by the bed. Sometimes the refrains of a violin can be heard. One security guard passed a lady in a dress and high-button shoes in the hal near the dining room around four o'clock in the morning. She turned into a swirl and took off for the stairs. He followed up the stairs and saw a "whitish vapor" go through the door of room 403.
Betty Holbrook "Strange Happenings: Virginia Division Safety News" 1998.