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Lynchburg-area ghost stories and urban legends to get you in the Halloween spirit

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With Halloween quickly approaching, we’ve been digging into our area’s ghost stories and weird urban legends — including tales of buried treasure — to get you into the holiday spirit.

Here are some we’ve tracked down, divided up by locality:

Appomattox County

On the morning of April 8, 1865, Lieutenant Colonel Augustus Root led the 15th Regiment New York Volunteer Cavalry on a charge into the village of Appomattox Court House. During the battle, Root was shot through the neck and killed instantly. The New Yorker was buried in the nearby yard of a home owned by Lewis Isbell until his family came to retrieve his body.

Now Isbell’s home acts as the park headquarters for Appomattox Court House National Historical Park.

According to a postcard from 1939, the house was dubbed by locals as “The Haunted House of Appomattox.”

According to park historian Patrick Schroeder, Root seemed to have stuck around after his death, but no one is exactly sure why.

“Supposedly it’s haunted but there hasn’t been any activity in the last few years,” Schroeder said. “I haven’t had any experiences and usually I’m the one who’s here the most.”

Museum technician David Wooldridge said the story he’s heard about Root appearing on the grounds happened back in the late 1980s during a living history weekend at the park. Wooldridge said a reenactor escorted his wife into the headquarters to find the restroom when a man dressed as a Union soldier passed them on the stairs.

“He said the [soldier] was kind of rash and rude,” Wooldridge said. “[The soldier] almost knocked his wife over.”

Wooldridge said when the couple went back outside, the man asked a park official who the Union soldier was and why he was so rude to his wife.

“Everyone gave him a puzzled look,” Wooldridge said. “They said no one was [portraying] a Union soldier.”

Eventually the couple found a picture of Root and realized the man on the stairs was the soldier himself.

Wooldridge said he hasn’t seen Root himself, but thinks he may have heard him wandering around the grounds during his late nights at the office.

“I’ve always decided it’s either someone else at the park or it’s [Root],” he said. “But I think it’s best if I don’t try to find out.”


Campbell County

Though no one has proven Altavista’s Avoca Museum is haunted, producers from Syfy’s “Ghost Hunters” certainly thought it was. Executive director Mike Hudson said the museum was approached by the show to appear on the final season last year.

The historical home was built in 1901 by architect J.M.B. Lewis and has been designated as a Virginia Historical Landmark.

“I looked at the caller ID on my phone and it said Beverly Hills,” Hudson said about receiving the phone call.

Hudson said they declined to be on the show, but as for the museum being haunted?

“If there were ghosts here, they’ve been quiet over the last few years,” Hudson said. “Maybe they’re happy with the work we’ve been doing on the museum.”

While Hudson couldn’t confirm any ghost sightings, a quick Google search shows there are a few tales about the house — including mysterious stains appearing on furniture and tiles stacking against the door when construction crews would leave during the remodeling.


Amherst County

Though Daisy Williams died in 1884, the daughter of Sweet Briar College founder Indiana Fletcher Williams has lived on well after her death.

Sweet Briar Museum Director Karol Lawson said many stories about Daisy’s ghost were documented in stories written by college students in the 1900s.

Lawson said they aren’t typical ghost stories, but rather sweet stories of Daisy watching over students.

“I think with the remote location and people’s imaginations taking off along with having a founder whose daughter died at a young age sets itself up for stories like that,” Lawson said.

After a fire in the Sweet Briar House in the late 1920s, Lawson said there was a story in the student newspaper about reports of faculty and students spotting a woman and a child enter the house and then leave again

Sweet Briar was even featured in SyFy’s “School Spirits” in 2012. The episode featured student Dani Humphrey, who talked about her ghostly experience while attending Sweet Briar.

Humphrey told The News & Advance in July 2012 she had an encounter not with Daisy, but Indiana Fletcher Williams’ brother Lucien.

“It started off as random things happening in my dorm room. Certain things moving, scratching noises from a room that no one lived in,” she said. “Sophomore year, my roommate and I … woke up in the middle of the night to see a man sitting on the edge of our air mattress. It was freaky.”

Humphrey said she had encounters with the ghost for years.

“For me, personally, I figure that it’s just him trying to kick out as many people as possible,” she said. “You can’t run away from something that you don’t know. It’s just a negative energy, and the more positive energy you put out, it cancels it out. Why not just stick it to him? Like, yo, I’m not leaving.”

As for Lawson herself, she said she’s never had any encounters with Daisy or Lucien.

But Sweet Briar does have a Halloween connection. Lawson said Indiana Fletcher Williams died Oct. 29, 1900 and was buried on Oct. 31.


Bedford County

In the mid-1800s, a man by the name of Thomas Jefferson Beale was said to have buried $20 million worth of gold somewhere near Montvale in Bedford County. To find its location, Beale left behind three coded letters with a Lynchburg innkeeper, Robert Moriss.

The tale has been the subject of many television specials, including NBC’s “Unsolved Mysteries” and BBC’s show “Mysteries.” The codes are said to have inspired the movie “National Treasure.”

“Definitely, it’s real,” Montvale resident and author Ed Easterling said.

Easterling has been researching the treasure for many years and even wrote a book in 1995 called “In Search of a Golden Vault: The Beale Treasure Mystery.”

“I’ve looked for the treasure about six to seven times,” Easterling said.

Since Beale never gave Moriss the key to the code, the location of the treasure remains a mystery, if it exists at all. Johnson’s Orchard in Bedford County has been suggested as one possible location and even developed an apple called the “Gold Nugget,” according to the orchard’s website.

Easterling said he believes the tale has generated interest because people love treasure stories.

“Everyone wants to get rich quick,” he said. “It’s like the lottery.”

Easterling said he believes he knows where the treasure is buried, though that location is something he plans on keeping to himself.


Lynchburg

If you’ve ever Googled “things to do in Lynchburg,” you’ve probably stumbled across a website called “Little Known Attractions of Lynchburg and Central Virginia.” The list includes tall tales such as The Dreaming Creek Troll, Mags the headless cat and the world’s only church of Star Trek.

Kipp Teague, co-creator of the website, said in an email it’s up to the readers to decide if the tales are true or not, though many of them are only referenced on Teague’s site. The website even tells readers to email the site administrators with questions, rather than ask their local tourist information center.

Teague said in an email the idea for creating the site came up on a trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway about 15 years ago. “From there it became an exercise in creative writing with a mix of satire and absurdity inspired by the likes of The Onion.”

Teague said he, along with co-creator Owen Grubbs, never expected the site to become as popular as it did.

“… After taking it down for a brief period … I soon resurrected it due to popular demand,” he said.

But Lynchburg does have a number of real ghost stories.

The Rocking Cradle House on Jackson Street, for instance, drew big crowds after reports surfaced of a cradle that would rock on its own. The home was built in 1834 by Bishop John Early, who loaned it to a young minister. According to The News in 1978, when Early discovered what was happening, he told the devil to leave the home. Though the rocking stopped, Early had the rockers cut off the cradle just in case.

The house still stands with a plaque that references its history.

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