When you think of haunted places, you probably think of older dilapidated buildings. But it is rare to hear of a whole haunted town. However, Staunton Virginia (pronounced STAN ton), is just such a town. Dubbed the most haunted town in Virginia, some even claim it is the most haunted town in the eastern United States. And it has a pretty dark history to make it so.
Steeped in Civil War lore and one of the earliest settled towns in the Shenandoah Valley, it is known as the Queen City of the Valley. But despite its regal claim, it exudes small-town charm. Home to approximately 25,000 people, Staunton is also home to a haunted hotel, a haunted town hall, a haunted sanatarium, a haunted train depot, a haunted restaurant and pub, a haunted church, a haunted college, a haunted inn, and even a haunted creek. In fact, there isn’t much that isn’t haunted here.
Some say even a walk down its quaint southern streets provokes ghostly responses from beyond the grave. So, it’s easy to see why Staunton is one of Virginia’s five most haunted places. That said, there are so many haunted places within the town that we can cover only a few extensively here. Others will simply be mentioned.
A Brief Look at Staunton’s History
Staunton was settled in 1732, served as the county seat for the largest territory of its time, and boasted having more land mass than either Germany or France. It became the capital of the Northwest Territory from 1738-1770 and was quickly transformed into a transportation hub for the south when the Virginia Central Railroad arrived in 1854.
Many of the buildings here date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Although it is rich in Civil War history, it’s one of the few towns that escaped destruction, leaving many buildings from that era intact, thus preserving the paranormal energies within them.
The Clocktower Restaurant and Bar
Peering down West Beverley Street, you’ll see Staunton’s town clock towering above the other buildings. Built in 1890 by S.W. Foulke, it was first designed to house the YMCA. The tower was remodeled in 1916 in the Queen Anne style with four-bayed arch windows, then finished with brickwork and ornamental turrets.
Since then, the clocktower has had a few more incarnations. The last renovation changed the building from a department store into apartments on the upper levels with retail space, including the restaurant, on the ground floor—Staunton’s signature clock, manufactured by E. Howard Clock Company of Massachusetts and from which the restaurant derives its name, has continued to tick away faithfully for the last 130 years.
Known as the most haunted restaurant in the Shenandoah Valley, The Clocktower Restaurant has been a paranormal destination for decades. Both patrons and employees have noticed activity, and investigators have documented this activity using voice recorders, video, spirit boxes, flashlights, and thermal cameras.
The present owners have witnessed glasses breaking for no apparent reason and wine glasses wobbling in mid-air, then coming out of their cases and breaking.
The most profound observation occurred during a supplier delivery. While unloading inside the walk-in cooler, the delivery man noticed a large soup ladle dangling in mid-air, unattached to anything. He became so frightened he ran out of the cooler and refused to deliver to the restaurant anymore.
Another disturbing experience witnessed by both owners and employees concerned the decorative pictures hanging on the restaurant’s walls. When the owners and staff came in in the morning, the images would be sitting on the floor amidst shards of broken glass as if someone had thrown them to the floor. This ghostly misbehavior continued until the owners decided to hang the pictures without the glass and solved the issue.
According to a local paranormal group, the basement of The Clocktower is the paranormal hot spot in the restaurant. Documented activity here includes lights turning off and on, orbs, and the report of a man chased by a floating spirit lady.
Thermal imaging was used here to detect ghostly activity. In addition, numerous spirits use spirit boxes to communicate with investigators, while others have been reported to use flashlights to answer binary questions.
The amount and intensity of the paranormal activity at this establishment easily thrust Staunton into Virginia’s top five haunted places.
The Staunton Train Depot
Throughout this train depot’s 150-year history, it has suffered the ravages of war, been swallowed up in flames, and smashed by derailed trains. There’s evidence the victims of these fires, wars, and crashes still haunt the depot.
A local paranormal group that has researched the depot for the past seven years has gathered EVP’s through spirit boxes and seen strange lights and shadows.
Around eight different ghosts of victims have been contacted here via investigative equipment. For example, the apparition of the young opera singer Myrtle Ruth Knox, who bled to death after her lege were severed when her train crashed into the depot, has been seen here wandering around the station’s platform. D.C. McLewry, who was reportedly drunk, was struck and killed by the train in 1861. Some have witnessed his ghost still drunkenly stumbling along the tracks.
The American Hotel
Built in 1855, the American Hotel was one of the most luxurious hotels in Virginia. Then, during the Civil War, it was commandeered by Confederate troops and used as a hospital and quickly filled up with sick and wounded soldiers. Then in a twist of fate, Union soldiers took over the town and hotel, throwing the Confederate soldiers out and replacing them with their own sick and wounded. Amputations and surgeries were performed here without anesthesia, and broken bones were reset without anything to dull the pain but strong liquor. Many soldiers died. It was a place of agony.
Paranormal activity has been reported here by both employees and guests. Shadow figures can be seen upstairs, computers refuse to work, and footsteps can be heard when no one is in the building.
A local paranormal investigative team has confirmed the basement to be the most active location in the hotel. Once used as a morgue when the hotel was a hospital during the Civil War, children’s voices can be heard here. Spirit boxes have been used to communicate with a number of reportedly male ghosts at this location.
Other Haunted Points of Interest in Staunton Virginia
There are many points of interest in Staunton with documented paranormal activity including the following locations:
- Western State Hospital
- Lewis Creek
- Augusta County Courthouse
- Trinity Church
- Belle Grae Inn
- Mary Baldwin College
Paranormal investigators have long said that the combination of limestone and water creates an environment where the limestone can absorb and release electromagnetic energies and is the reason for increased paranormal activity in certain areas. Timothy Yohe has made a convincing scientific case for this theory in his book, Limestone and Its Paranormal Properties: A Comprehensive Approach to the Possibilities.
Since Staunton Virginia is built upon limestone with a river running underneath, this undoubtedly accounts for the extraordinary amount of paranormal activity experienced here and why a whole town is among the five most haunted places in Virginia.