News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
Unleash your inner Ghostbuster with Discover Haunted Fredericksburg weekends
BY ADELE UPHAUS–CONNER
Living in Fredericksburg, you can’t really get away from history. From Founding Fathers to Civil War soldiers, people from all of the major historical eras have walked our streets—and some of them are walking on them still.
This Friday and Saturday, you can get up close and personal with a few of the many ghosts of Fredericksburg at the “Discover Haunted Fredericksburg” weekend led by investigative medium Laine Crosby, paranormal investigator Carol Nesbitt, and author and historian Mark Nesbitt.
With the Fredericksburg Courtyard Marriott as a base for two nights, Crosby and the Nesbitts, who conduct the popular “Ghosts of Fredericksburg” tours, will offer an introduction to ghost investigation and then lead the group on several ghost hunts through downtown.
“In some cases, this can be a life-changing experience,” Mark Nesbitt said. “Lots of people don’t really believe this stuff can actually happen. But we’ve had everyone from sitting judges to high school principals to college professors come to these, and they’ve all had a good time and been impressed.”
GHOST HUNTING 101
The weekend will begin on Friday night with an overview of paranormal investigation—what to look for, what to expect and how to use the equipment. Nesbitt recommends participants bring their own cameras and recorders, so that they can take home any recordings they make, but the team will provide some of the other useful tools, such as dowsing rods and pendulums that can be used to detect spirit energy.
Keep in mind, though, that the best ghost discovery tool could be you.
“Laine Crosby, our investigative medium, is of the theory that the instruments are nice, but the most sensitive ones are ourselves—our skin, our feelings, our psychic abilities,” said Nesbitt.
After Ghost Hunting 101, the team will lead an investigation of the Marriott itself, which has seen significant ghost activity of its own. The hotel was built on the site of the old Indian Queen Tavern, which dates to the Colonial period. Participants will stay in first-floor rooms that are closest to the original footprint.
“People are surprised that a modern place can be haunted, but it depends on the site on which you built it,” Nesbitt explained. “When there is building activity, or renovations, it stirs the spirits up.”
Saturday’s activities will include an introduction to electronic voice phenomenon, or EVP—voices that are recorded on digital recorders even though nothing was audible at the time. The theory is that ghostly voices are behind EVP.
Nesbitt will lead a “Ghosts of Fredericksburg” tour in the afternoon, and in the evening the team will conduct an investigation of the downtown area. Sunday will conclude with an overview of ghost photography.
Those who might be scared of spirits should keep in mind that they are almost never harmful.
“That’s the biggest misconception about ghosts,” Nesbitt said. “Mostly it seems as if they’re just mischievous.”
Nesbitt’s interest in the paranormal began 20 years ago when he worked as a ranger at Gettysburg National Military Park. He collected ghost stories of the battlefield and published them in his first book.
Gettysburg is so rich in ghostly activity that the first book spawned five more.
Eventually, he visited Fredericksburg and found it similarly spine-tingling. In 2006, he and Carol started their “Ghosts of Fredericksburg” tours, and in 2009 they held the first “Discover Haunted Fredericksburg” weekend.
The event has become so popular that this year they are offering a follow-up
“Psychic Discovery” weekend March 17–18. Think of it as a graduate-level course in ghost investigation.
LEAVING THEIR MARK
Nesbitt said Fredericksburg’s ghosts are evenly split between Colonial and Civil War times. Mid-19th-century residents reported encountering ghosts of earlier times, and the trauma of the Civil War yielded many restless spirits.
The experiences of escaped slaves also left their mark on the psyche of the town. One of Nesbitt’s most vivid personal encounters occurred in the cellar of the building known today as The Chimneys, where he and a medium made contact with the spirit of former slave named Nicodemus.
Smythe’s Cottage (now Pinkadilly Tea), the Kenmore Inn and St. George’s Episcopal Church also have ghost stories associated with them.
“There was a great deal of death and suffering and expenditure of emotional energy throughout the town and buildings during the Civil War period, between civilians whose homes were devastated and the soldiers who died in the houses,” Nesbitt explained.
Spirits linger when they experienced a youthful or unexpected death, or a death that happened so quickly they don’t even know they’re dead, according to Nesbitt. They also have a difficult time moving on when the living hold onto them too tightly or mourn them for too long.
“In a sense, that’s what we’re doing when we visit battlefields such as Fredericksburg,” said Nesbitt. “We’re mourning. We’re in awe of what these fellows did for us.”
What: Discover Haunted Fredericksburg and Psychic Discovery weekends
When: Feb. 16–18 and March 17–18
Where: Fredericksburg Courtyard Marriott, 620 Caroline St.
Info: Contact Sharon Blanchard at the Courtyard Marriott (540/369-9321) for costs and reservations. ghostsoffredericksburg .com/Home_Page.php
Adele Uphaus–Conner is a Fredericksburg-area writer.