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Haunted Hampton Roads | The legends of Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg was one of America’s first planned cities, dating back to the 17th century. With that much history comes an awful lot of ghost stories.

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — Colonial Williamsburg was one of America’s first planned cities. 

Gov. Francis Nicholson laid out plans for the city in 1699, and it was the capital of the Virginia Colony until 1780. 

As you can imagine, with that much history, the city is host to a lot of ghost stories.

“This area has been inhabited for hundreds and hundreds of years, which means people have lived and died here for hundreds and hundreds of years,” said Dr. Kelly Brennan, a research historian at Colonial Williamsburg and the creative lead of Haunted Williamsburg.

Brennan has worked for Colonial Williamsburg in a variety of roles for about 12 years. She even has a few ghost stories of her own.

“I used to live in the historic area, and I used to live in a house that was haunted,” Brennan said.

Brennan lived in a house on Duke of Gloucester Street with three other people: a roommate and her roommate's two children. Brennan said one day, her roommates saw something unexplainable. 

“All three of them saw, clear as day, a man… leaning against the wall behind them watching the TV. You want to know what they were watching? A TV show about ghosts. And when the show was over, he was gone,” she said.

But this isn't the only paranormal experience Brennan's heard with a historic home in Colonial Williamsburg. One home in particular, the George Wythe Home on Palace Green, has quite a few legends attached to it. 

According to Brennan, one day, a tour guide was giving a tour of the house when he said, "Is anybody here?"

Just then, the tour guide and group all heard a reply of "yes."

"He looked around at the people and they all said, "We heard it too,'" Brennan laughed. 

According to Brennan, 40-odd years ago, Colonial Williamsburg began a "spooky program," leaning into the haunted tales that surrounded the area. Since then, the stories have taken a life of their own.

“There’s the legends that circulate and then there’s the core of the history in it,” Brennan said.

Brennan said the haunted programs at Colonial Williamsburg are unique because they challenge some of the myths. Brennan said tour guides also have an extensive "reading list," to ensure each tour is historically accurate.

While many of the legends aren’t based in fact, there’s something spooky in the air in Colonial Williamsburg.

“I think it’s one of these things that the world is a big place full of things we do not understand,” she said.

Colonial Williamsburg hosts ghost tours throughout most of the year. Their main attraction is "Haunted Williamsburg," which is the only ghost tour in the city that allows you to walk inside the historic houses. However, there's also a tour for children called "Ghost Walk Junior." To find out more about these programs, click here.

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