Haunted Historic Spaces and Places

With the ability to be both awe-inspiring and formidable, architecture has the power to conjure the memory, and possibly the spirits, of yesteryear. While many are familiar with our work designing future-forward Higher Education, Science + Technology, and Civic and Community environments and experiences, it's our award-winning historic renovation and preservation projects that provide the unique opportunity to understand and unlock the potential of an existing building, while also respecting what – and oftentimes who – came before us.

We consider our work an offering so the presence of specters may be felt in the spaces we restore. We believe Haunts Matter. So, if you’re looking for a spooky time in Hampton Roads this Halloween, here’s more on a few of the eeriest and most picturesque locations along Virginia’s Eastern Seaboard.

The Cavalier Hotel

Once touted as the 5th most haunted place in Virginia, the newly renovated Cavalier Hotel in Virginia Beach is as commanding and elegant as she was when she was built. After nearly a century and an all-encompassing historic preservation endeavor led by our team, she has no shortage of stories to tell, with the ghosts of Cavalier-past seemingly undisturbed by the recent renovations.

A ghostly long-lost cat can be heard scratching, and sometimes even seen roaming the grounds, with mysterious feline paw prints repeatedly emerging in the freshly laid foundation during renovations. The piano in the grand Raleigh Room is known to start playing with no one around to push the keys and the front desk often receives mysterious calls from the sixth floor in the dead of night, only to be met with the distant hum of jazz on the other end. Guests have reported sightings of apparitions of a forlorn World War II soldier wandering the halls and a female visitor with her dog at the hotel’s restaurant, Becca.

Perhaps the most notorious tale is that of Coors Brewing Company founder, Adolph Coors, whose lifeless body was discovered on the hotel grounds after having checked into his sixth-floor room. Since that fateful night, the front desk has received numerous reports of hair-raising occurrences from inside the room; unexplained cold spots, windows opening in the middle of the night, and even voices and footsteps coming from the corner of the room. Maybe that is why on many occasions, a kindly, older bellman has been seen on the stairs leading to the sixth floor, warning of ghosts ahead. However, The Cavalier hasn’t employed any bellmen that match his description in decades.

Whether they remain to deal with some unfinished business or simply because they weren’t quite ready for the party to end, our team can attest firsthand, that some of the guests seemed to have never truly checked out.

The Historical Village at the Dismal Swamp

Undeniably beautiful but wildly dangerous, the Great Dismal Swamp sprawls defiantly across the borders of Virginia and North Carolina. With a storied history dating back to the days of George Washington, the swamp holds a complex history of human settlement and exploitation, making it one of Virginia’s most haunted natural features. It also happens to be the site of our latest undertaking: The Historical Village at the Dismal Swamp.

Dismal Swamp Canal Company’s Superintendent’s Quarters

On the horizon are a new visitor center and city park our team has been charged with helping bring to life, which will highlight stories of the Maroon Society, native peoples, the Underground Railroad, and how harvesting natural resources became a major source of regional commerce. Restoration of the relocated Cornland School will celebrate the resilience of African American education in the early 1900s and the restored Dismal Swamp Canal Company’s Superintendent’s Quarters will recognize the important link of Norfolk to the North Carolina Sounds.

But those aren’t the only stories emanating from this place. The swamp remains shrouded in mist and mystery, folklore telling us of hauntings from centuries past.

An English writer once described the swamp as "a place in which the imagination plays tricks on the victim." There are dangerous animals and geography along with deceptively deep waters, and over the years people have been lost, never to be heard from again. Perhaps that is why there seems to be an air of mystery enveloping the swamp.

Local legend maintains that a Native American bride-to-be dubbed “Lady of the Lake,” who died just before her wedding day can be seen paddling across the murky waters of Lake Drummond. It’s said that her ghostly white canoe and lantern can be spotted from miles away when night falls. There are more recent reports of two young colonial-era lovers whose apparitions have been reported walking the Washington Ditch Trail trying to get back home to Dismal town, however, they never reach their destination. There is a legend that speaks of an elusive, traveling graveyard that can't be found when you're looking for it, and will only appear to warn someone that they've lost their way. Shape-shifting witches that lure hunters and their dogs deep into the swamp and to exhaustion, phantom figures dancing in the woods inhabit the expansive peat bog teasing their victims with fleeting glimpses they exist.

Are these natural phenomena playing with our imagination, or is the Great Dismal Swamp inhabited by spirits shrouded in fog? Either way, the swamp, in all its splendor, remains an object of fascination. While the lines of truth and embellishment remain uncertain, some things about the swamp remain unexplained.

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