Thursday, June 15, 2017

...a haunted tavern tour & ambiance...

Last night I attended the Haunted Hanover Tavern tour that the Historic Hanover Tavern hosts once a month. While I’ve known about the tour for some time now, this is the first time that my schedule worked out so that I could attend.

Hanover Tavern is one of a few surviving colonial era taverns in the nation. While this tavern is not the original one on the property, there has been a tavern in the location since the 1730s. The earliest section of the present tavern was built in 1791. This is the area between the two chimneys, which you can see in the picture.
The earliest section of the tavern is between the two chimneys pictured above
George Washington, Lord Cornwallis, and Patrick Henry all have connections to the Hanover Tavern. George Washington wrote in his diary about the lodging; and, Lord Cornwallis stayed at the tavern but per the tour guide, Tom, he did not pay his bill. Patrick Henry’s wife’s parents owned the Tavern from 1750-1764.  When P. Henry and his wife, Sarah, whom I have written about in a previous post, were married they lived at Hanover Tavern for several years.

In 1763, Henry was called to the courthouse just across the street from Hanover Tavern to argue the Parson’s Cause case, which helped spark the American Revolution.   

Speaking of the courthouse, my tour guide explained that beside the courthouse building stands the Old Stone Jail where public hangings used to be held both outside and inside of the building. I’m going to file this post under dark tourism as well. Not surprisingly, investigators have heard ghostly whistling in the stairwell of the jail.

Much later, in the 1950s, a group of actors bought the tavern and established the Barksdale Theatre, the nation’s first dinner theatre. 

What was not mentioned in the tour but what I found on the Hanover Tavern website:
In defiance of Jim Crow laws, Barksdale was Virginia’s first performing arts organization to open its doors to integrated audiences. Later, in 1973, Barksdale produced Virginia’s first professional play based on the African American experience, Lorraine Hansberry’s To Be Young, Gifted and Black.[1]
Toward the courthouse
My tour guide, Tom, explained that one of the most frequently spotted apparitions is the lady in black who is often seen wearing a Victorian mourning gown.*** 

Visitors have also heard footsteps when no one was supposed to be in the location, and they often smell perfume. 

While taking the tour, one of the guests near me continued to say that she could smell cigar smoke. I, however, only smelled *old house* but y’all know I’m a bit of a skeptic.   

Tom explained that they (and they meaning the members of the Transcend Paranormal team[2] who come out to do investigations) had a theory about this ghost. A woman named Margaret Wight, a diarist who lived at the tavern during the American Civil war, held a clue.[3] Her writing documented that a widow with the last name of Mitchell had two young children. It is believed that she could be the ghost who haunts the tavern today. Now, Hanover Tavern has published a book about the diaries so could this be an elaborate book marketing technique? Hmmm. You can find a copy of Wight's book on Amazon. Click the picture at the bottom of the post to be linked to the page.

Another ghostly encounter included one of the actors hearing a loud bang. When he entered the room, he discovered that no one was present but the table had been completely turned over and was sitting upside down.

And, finally, in the “Bride’s Room,” named because this is the location where brides get ready for the wedding, there is a male spirit who is reported to have a good memory. During one of the sessions, the spirit called each of the investigators by name.

doesn't this look like a spooky alien's shadow?
I captured a rather ominous alien-like shadow on the wall but it was only another light fixture. Still spooky though!

The window where you might see a ghost child peep
Aside from the reports of gentle ghostly touches on the shoulder, eerie sounds, and even a ghost child peeping out the window, my favorite part of the tour was the ambiance. 

Literally, it was a dark and stormy night. We  started the tour outside but only remained for a few minutes before the rain was much too heavy. Flashes of lightning and loud thunder only added to the ghostly tour delight. I really hoped that the power would go out (preferably while I was not descending  the historic staircase!)

Nevertheless, Haunted Hanover Tavern tours takes the spooky tour business quite seriously. Dimming the lights and having our guide in period attire added to an already creepy setting. For a small cost, visitors get to learn the history of the tavern while lavishing in a ghostly atmosphere.

[1] “The Hanover Tavern is a historic 18th century landmark in Hanover Virginia.” Hanover Tavern, Accessed 15 June 2017.
[2] Interestingly enough, the director of this group used to be one of my neighbors. He gave a great Halloween party!
[3] Haas, Shirley A, and Dale Paige Talley, editors. A Refugee at Hanover Tavern: The Civil War Diary of Margaret Wight . Charleston, SC, The History Press, 2013.
*** Please someone needs to catch the quote and ghostly reference. It cannot be for my own amusement.


  1. Sounds very interesting and to it looks like a lovely colonial building.

  2. Sounds spooky! I'm more sceptical in daylight than at night in a haunted place!