The Ferry Plantation House is located in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The land was first cleared by Native Americans and they possibly used it as a burial ground. Artifacts, like arrowheads, were found on this property. As Jenni states in our podcast, anywhere in America was probably Native American land at some point.
In 1642, a second ferry boat was needed for the Lynnhaven River in Virginia. Ferries carried passengers to courthouses and plantations along the river. This ferry stopped at eleven stops on the river, and one was the Ferry Plantation.
The Ferry Plantation House started as a Princess Anne courthouse. The first Princess Anne courthouse was the county seat in this area. The second courthouse, a wooden building, was the courthouse used during the time of the witch trial of Grace Sherwood. More about her later in the post.
The third Princess Anne courthouse was built in 1735. It was a brick structure and located closer to the river. This courthouse was a part of the Ferry Plantation.
Finally, the courthouse was moved to Newtown and William Walke built the Walke Mansion on this property in 1751. The third courthouse building was used as the kitchen for the house because it was safer to cook outside of the main house. You certainly didn’t want a fire in the family home. Ironically, the main house was destroyed by fire in 1828.
The salvageable brick from this house was later used to build a new structure that incorporated the courthouse building. This new house was built for seventeen year old Charles Fleming McIntosh by his parents. He would soon move in with his wife.
People begin to refer to the building as Ferry Farm. The plantation has beautiful gardens. The rear of the house faces the river and provides a breathtaking view. The house is two and a half stories. Most of the hauntings take place in the southeast wing of the house-the old courthouse.
Over the years, the house was used as a courthouse, a school, a post office, and the plantation. It is currently a museum and an educational center.
Once the structure became a residence, it remained a home until 1986. At that time, the owner moved out and she turned the deed over to the city of Virginia Beach. The city decided, probably because of zoning, that the building could not be used as a residence and the house sat empty for ten years. It was about to be demolished until in stepped the Friends of the Ferry Plantation House. In conjunction with the city, the group renovated the house and it became the museum and educational center.
The house is said to be haunted by at least eleven separate spirits – at least. I found accounts of more than eleven.
Let’s start with the lady-in-white. As Jenni and I have podcasted over this last year, we learned that many, many hauntings have a lady-in-white. The story is that in 1826, this woman was at a party in the house and she fell down the stairs and died. Her ghost is seen in the house and around the property.
The next two hauntings are Captain Charles Fleming McIntosh and his wife, Isabella. While he was fighting in the Civil War, he was killed. His wife was at home, eight months pregnant, waiting for his return. A photograph of a mournful woman was taken near one of the windows in Ferry Plantation House. She is clearly pregnant and thought to be Isabella.
The fourth spirit is down by the river. He is heard screaming. This spirit is thought to be a slave who was working on a bridge building project in 1735. His grandmother said cypress wood logs fell and rolled onto his leg in the water. The logs held him under water. His leg had to be removed to save him from certain death. His great, great grandmother died at 96, but before she did, she told people at the plantation that she heard his screams down by the Lynnhaven. What a sad legacy for her.
The next phantom is Sally Rebecca Walke. Her ghost mourns the loss of her fiancé. Sally came to the house to wait for the return of her fiancé from the war. Her cousins lived in the house. She received the news that her beau was killed. In 1863, she planted a magnolia tree in his memory. It is alive today on the property. Sally is seen in the parlor. She is described as a tall, raven-haired beauty dressed in grey and black. Her apparition stands by the fireplace and leans her head on the mantle. A paranormal investigation group asked her, “Why do you stand by the fireplace?”. The recording they got back clearly says, “I am chilled.”
In 1810, a ferry accident happened on the river near the Ferry Plantation. Passengers from this wreck are said to haunt the plantation property.
Another ghost in the house is Thomas Williamson. He was an artist. His ghost is seen painting on the second floor landing. Belinda Nash, a director at the museum, brought her granddaughter to the museum. The little girl was a toddler. The girl described seeing a man with a beard, in a dirty shirt, painting a picture. When the child was shown a picture of Thomas Williamson, she verified that he was the painter on the second floor.
Ghosts eight and nine are the ghost of two young children. These two spirits are seen on the second floor landing. This area seems to be crowded with spirits. A docent, who saw the boy and girl spirits, said they press up against the wall and then disappear. Ms. Nash said one of the children saved her from falling on the stairs. She was walking up the stairs with her hands full and she lost her balance. She said she felt an invisible, little hand stop her from tumbling down the staircase.
The little boy is thought to be Eric. He died when he fell out of a window at the house. EVPs and voices are heard in the room where this window is located. Toys move around and a candy bar once flew across the room.
The little girl is thought to be the daughter of Charles and Isabella McIntosh. Bessie was five years old when she died. Her apparition has blonde ringlets and she wears Mary Jane shoes.
Ghost ten is Henry. Henry is the ghost I heard about most often. He lived his entire life on the plantation. Henry was a slave on the property and he stayed here after he was freed. The family gave him a room on the third floor of the main house. One reported sighting of Henry is a residual haunting. This means the same actions in the haunting happen over and over again. As the weather gets cold, the apparition of Henry comes up the basement stairs, walks over to the west wall in the kitchen and does something with his hands, and then goes back down the staircase. When restorations were done on the house, a fireplace was uncovered on that west wall. Many think Henry is warming himself by the fire. Henry’s spirit is also an interactive spirit. Tour guides at the house report that Henry talks to them.
The last haunting I’m going to discuss is the haunting by Grace Sherwood, also known as the Witch of Pungo. In the late 17th and early 18th century, Grace lived in the Virginia Beach area. After Grace’s husband died, Grace and her three sons took care of their large farm. She was also a midwife and an herbalist. I might add she was a beautiful woman and she was known to wear pants. Women at this time didn’t wear pants. Because of these two things, women in the community didn’t care for Grace. Before long allegations of witchcraft were made against Grace. She was blamed for bad crops, bad weather, and animal deaths.
The courts ignored these ridiculous stories until 1706. A lady named Elizabeth Hill blamed midwife Grace Sherwood for her miscarriage. This time Grace was found guilty of the charge of witchcraft and, for the first and only time, Virginia decided to subject Grace to Trial by Water. This is the no-win process where the accused is put in the water with their hands tied. If they float to the top of the water, they are guilty. If they drown, they are not a witch, but dead. Grace bobbed to the top of the water and she was determined to be a witch. She was jailed for seven to eight years. After that, she returned to her farm and died here.
Three hundred years after this injustice, Grace was exonerated and her name was restored. Sadly, it’s late in coming but maybe Grace knows. Her ghost, with dripping, wet hair, is seen by the river.
Some other hauntings are reported around the house. A ghost cat is seen and felt around the house. During the ten years when the house was abandoned, lights were said to dance on the roof of the house. These lights are still seen today. Orbs are spotted in the gift shop of the museum.
The house is open for tours. The volunteer guides would love to share their spooky stories with you.
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Don’t miss episode 66 of the podcast, Haunted Virginia-Dash Cams are the Bee’s Knees. Jenni discusses the tragedies at the Staunton Train Depot.
Turn the crooked key and join us.