With the commercialization of Halloween, there has been a shift from spooking stories and hauntings to dressing up and eating candy. In an attempt to bring some of the fright back to the night, I did a little research about some potential haunted areas in the New River Valley. I provided a fright rating out of four for each location to help you gauge the true potential.
Location: The Lyric Theater, Blacksburg
History: The Lyric was opened in 1909. Rumors probably stem from the story of a laborer who died during construction of the theater.
Hauntings: Reports seem to center mostly around the theater’s balcony. Employees and customers have reported feeling a cold breeze on the stairs to the balcony, as well as hearing loud footsteps and a man talking to himself. There has also been mention of hearing a woman shrieking.
Verdict: Whether or not you believe in ghosts, the stories are persistent and there have been several paranormal investigation groups that have spent time in the theater and "confirmed" paranormal activity. Footsteps and voices aren’t that bad, but a lady shrieking would have me running.
Location: Holiday Inn & Attitudes Bar, Blacksburg
History: The land that the Holiday Inn sits on was once a plantation known as “Jacob’s Lantern.”
Hauntings: Management of the Attitudes Bar report hearing sounds of laughter and voices after the club is closed and empty. There’s also the story of the staff of the Holiday Inn calling Attitudes to ask them to turn the loud music down, but the club was quiet and had no music playing.
Verdict: The area around Holiday Inn can get loud at night, so it’s likely some of these reports result from amplified sound. And with no gruesome back-story about the plantation to provoke fear, I wouldn’t worry about this location.
Location: Smithfield Plantation grounds, Blacksburg
History: During the French & Indian War in 1755, there was a raid by the Shawnee on a settlers' camp known as Draper’s Meadow. Five settlers were killed and five more taken as captives. The area of Draper’s Meadow was later obtained by William Preston, who turned it into the Smithfield Plantation.
Hauntings: There are few hard cases of hauntings here, mainly just requisite strange sounds and shadowy figures.
Verdict: There isn’t much to go on, so this location would seem to be safe — but the location’s bloody history makes you wonder.
Location: Christiansburg Middle School, Christiansburg
History: In the early 1900s, a woman named Virginia Wardlaw ran the Montgomery Female Academy with her sisters Mary Snead and Caroline Martin. Nicknamed “the black sisters” for their habit of wearing all black attire, the trio had a poor reputation in Christiansburg. After Snead’s son’s highly suspicious suicide and the death of Martin’s daughter Ocey, they were eventually tried for murder. The land where Montgomery Female Academy once stood is now the home of Christiansburg Middle School.
Hauntings: Staff and students of the middle school have reported lights turning on and off inexplicably. Creepier are the stories of people seeing the figures of three women standing in the hallway and hearing the anguished cries of a baby, allegedly the murdered infant of Ocey.
Verdict: Lights flickering aren’t so bad, but I wouldn’t like to meet these three women in a dark hallway. This is one place I’ll be staying far away from.
Location: St. Alban’s Sanatorium, Radford
History: The St. Alban’s Lutheran Boys School was founded in 1892. Although nothing is confirmed, there are several stories of students who died at the school. In 1916 the building was converted into a hospital for the mentally ill. Although the treatment here was apparently superior in quality to that of many other sanatoriums, there are still a few documented deaths and suicides of patients.
Hauntings: St. Alban’s is probably the most widely-known haunted building in the area, and for good reason. There have been the typical reports of voices and shadows, but also the more sinister experiences such as full-body apparitions, strange shouts and moans and moving objects.
Verdict: The idea of an abandoned insane asylum is creepy enough; the numerous ghost sightings are merely an added bonus.