My son (Cooper) and I enjoy visiting Civil War battle sites. We just returned from Fredericksburg, Manassas and Antietam. This represents our third year of visiting such sites. In the past, we visited Gettysburg, Cold Harbour, Sailor's Creek, Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Petersburg, etc. The term we use for these entertaining and educative ventures is "edutainment".
Two years ago, my son experienced an unnatural occurrence while visiting the Sailor's Creek Battle Site Center. For your hungry eyes, please see the following details:
A Spectral Encounter
Of all the battle sites we visited in December 2015, the Sailor's Creek, Virginia visiting centre was the last one. Sailor's Creek represented the undoing of the Confederacy Army. The Confederates lost one-third of their remaining army there.
Anyway, Cooper and I entered the battle site visiting centre and there was a bus load of people inside viewing the various exhibits. After a short period of time, the bus left and took the visitors away. As a result, Cooper and I were the only ones left viewing the exhibits.
When viewing Civil War exhibits, I take my sweet time; whereas my 15 year old impatient son literally whips through the exhibit displays.
After an hour of viewing the exhibits, Cooper approaches me and inquires as to when we can leave. I assured Cooper that just 15 more minutes was needed to complete the exhibit cycle. Cooper said okay and returned to where he was seated.
The padded bench that Cooper was sitting at was a tight squeeze for two people and the bench was facing a video monitor that wasn't working.
Within ten minutes of returning back to the bench, Cooper hurriedly came up to me and stated, "Dad, we have to go now!" I replied with, "Just 5 more minutes, Coops." Cooper snapped back with, "No, dad, now!"
While running out of the battle site centre, I asked Cooper what happened. Coops said, "I'll tell you in the car." Once we were in the car driving away, Cooper explained the following to me:
When you said 15 more minutes, I returned to the small bench.
While waiting for you, I was thinking about the video game "Call of Duty" and various ways that I can play this game better.
After 5 minutes of thinking about Call of Duty, I heard some footsteps walk up to me. Thinking it was you, I turned, but no one was there.
I thought that I was just hearing things so I returned back to my thoughts of Call of Duty.
5 minutes after hearing the footsteps, I then heard, "Move over." And no one was there.
That's when I bolted over to see you again.
Cooper was quite spooked and didn't want to discuss this experience much. However, I did ask him the following, "What kind of male voice did you hear?" "Did the voice have a distinct accent; was it deep, regular or high-pitched?" Cooper explained that it wasn't a man's voice, it was a woman.
Astonished, I probed, "Nearly 20, 000 soldiers lost their lives at Sailor's Creek, are you sure it wasn't a man with a soprano voice?" Cooper's deadpanned response was as follows, "Not only was it a woman's voice, but I sensed her." Cooper then said to me that he felt that the lady was really nice (?). I asked my son how he knew that the female apparition was nice and Cooper responded by saying that he sensed this as well.
We are not alone.
Eventually, Cooper got over this strange encounter and would discuss it with me more readily. With this in mind, I asked Cooper this year (2018) if he would mind staying for three nights at a Fredericksburg Bed & Breakfast (Richard Johnston Inn) that's allegedly haunted. Cooper was game and inquired as to why the Inn is haunted.
What we learned is that the Richard Johnston Inn has three unearthly inhabitants. One of which is a Confederate Sharpshooter by the name of Private Ron who was shot by Union troops in the upper bedroom window. The second non-paying tenant is a black slave by the name of Toby. Toby was hung by the neck on a front yard tree for stealing a side of bacon. The third apparition is a little 4 to 5 year old unnamed girl. The little girl was brought to the Inn by her mother from a rural area so that the town doctor could administer to the girl's ill-health. Obviously, the doctor was unsuccessful at saving the little girl and she died in the Inn.
We further learned that Private Ron likes to make appearances in the Inn's kitchen (must be a foodie). Toby's passion is to playfully move the silverware around on the dining room table. Apparently, Toby didn't take his untimely death personally. As for the little girl, guests have heard her lively footsteps scampering throughout the Inn.
Upon enduring three airplane flights and a one and half hour rental car trip from the Washington DC airport to Fredericksburg, Cooper and I arrived to the Richard Johnston Inn at 1am on Tuesday, March 27, 2018.
Isabella's Suite at the Inn was magnificently spacious, adorned with eighteen century furniture, art and fixtures that were augmented by modern day conveniences (Wi-Fi, two televisions, telephone, mini-fridge, wet bar and a coffee maker). Quite simply, the suite was beyond ideal.
With casual thoughts of the Inn's three spiritual forms, Cooper hopped into his Queen bed and I retired to my Queen bed at approximately 1:45am. Because of the extensiveness of that day's journey, I was extremely tired. However, sleep didn't come easily as my mind was still racing with thoughts of our upcoming Civil War explorations.
Nearly drifting off to snoozeville at 2:30am, I was suddenly alerted to the faint smell of smoke. Knowing that the suite's fireplace was not in operation, I sensed that the smoke smell resembled clothes that became smoky after being near a source of fire.
To confirm my suspicions, I smelt the bed covers and sheets for signs of smoke. There were no smoke smells emitting from the blankets or sheets. Yet, my nostrils were distinctly filled with smoke.
Not really understanding why there were whiffs of smoke in the air, I started to get uncomfortably frightened. Within two minutes of breathing in smoke, it suddenly stopped.
At this point in time, sleep was utterly impossible. With the thought of smoke resonating in my mind, the reflections of our ensuing Civil War adventure quickly disappeared.
Pondering the smoke scenario for several moments, my senses were put on guard once again when the aroma of smoke reappeared. If one thought I was shaken upon the first sign of smoke, I was now petrified.
The second bout of smoke lingered around my bed for a couple of moments, and sure enough, it went away. With the scent of smoke on the third occasion, my skin went prickly when I perceived a presence directly behind me in bed.
Shuddering and not willing to turn around to confront this strongly felt bed-sharing companion, the odour of smoke surfaced for a third time. Not only that, but my unwelcomed bed companion's presence became even more apparent. I figuratively jumped out of my skin with fear. With tingling goose bumps larger than skittles, body hair standing at full attention and the breakout of a cold sweat, I steadfastly refused to turn around in bed to meet this uncharacteristic apparition.
After two minutes of non-stop quivering like a full-bodied bobble head, the malignant sensations suddenly ceased. The smoke completely dissipated and the ghostly bed guest impression was not felt any longer.
Do you think that this moment of reprieve brought me any sleep? You can forget about that notion. With a radiating fear that there should be an uninvited return of who knows what, sleep might have finally been greeted at 6am.
With three hours of disturbed on and off sleep, I awoke to check up on Cooper. Not wanting to wake Cooper from his deep sleep, I slipped off to the Inn's dining area for breakfast.
Meeting the Innkeeper, Cheryl, for the first time, I was impressed with her friendly demeanour. In addition to being kind and personable, Cheryl is a kitchen wizard and prepared a palate pleasing breakfast for me.
Once her kitchen chores were over, Cheryl joined me at the table for a cup of tea. After last night's extravaganza, my inquiries for the Innkeeper were spilling over. The first question out of my mouth was, "Cheryl, have you ever encountered anything untoward in this Inn?" Cheryl briefly reflected upon this question and replied, "I have only been working at this Inn for one and a half years, but I have experienced some unexplainable occurrences." Begging the Innkeeper to continue, she shared the following with me, "On a number of occasions, I overhear little prancing footsteps gracing the upper floors of this Inn. At the time, I knew that there were no tenants in the Inn so I naturally thought it was the spirit of the little girl scampering about this seventeenth century facility."
"Did you happen upon any other questionable episodes, Cheryl?" I asked.
"Yes, but I do not tell this tale too often." said Cheryl in a solemn manner.
Inquisitive as all hell, I implored her for the narrative by promising Cheryl with my story of an unnatural involvement last night. Now curious, Cheryl was pleased to inform me of her experience relating to an elderly tenant who suddenly screamed and grabbed his right shoulder while ascending the main floor's stairs to the top suite. Luckily, the elderly man's wife and Cheryl were there to catch him as he was falling backwards from the fourth step at the bottom of the landing.
The agony stricken man was dragged to a chair in the dining lounge and as soon as he collapsed on the chair, the breathless man stuttered, "Did you see him?" The gent's wife and Innkeeper, Cheryl, inquired in unison, "See who?" The frightened man then firmly grabbed the chair handles, gazed awkwardly up and related the following story:
"A Confederate soldier by the name of Private Ron appeared at the top of the landing and through a series of flashbacks, he told me his story. Just seven days after his 15th birthday, Ron lied about his age and voluntarily joined the Confederate Army in Tupelo, Mississippi on January 10, 1862. Thanks to his father and grandfather, Ron was an avid hunter and very adept with his musket rifle. While training in Jackson, Mississippi, the officers were impressed with Private Ron's marksmanship and recruited him as a sharpshooter in a Brigade of Mississippians under General William Barksdale.
Private Ron and his Mississippian Brigade fought bravely from March through to September, 1862 in the Peninsula Campaign, the Seven Days Battles, the Charge at Malvern Hill and the Battle of Antietam.
Upon arriving to Fredericksburg in early November, 1862, Private Ron and his Brigade of Mississippians were given orders to slow General Ambrose Burnside's Union Army from crossing the Rappahannock River in the blue-bellies attempt to enter the City of Fredericksburg. After surviving a hellacious two hour Union Army cannon fire which reduced many of the Fredericksburg's riverside structures to rubble, Private Ron held steadfast at his upper window post within the unharmed Richard Johnston Inn.
After experiencing severe losses, the Union troops eventually managed to cross the Rappahannock to engage in a vicious building to building street fight battle with General Barksdale's Confederate Brigade. Inordinately outnumbered, Private Ron and his Mississippian sharpshooters managed to slow General Burnside's vast amount of advancing Union soldiers for several hours. While undertaking an exchange of fire with the enemy at street level, Private Ron was struck in the right shoulder with a musket ball. The pain Private Ron felt while lying on the bedroom floor was excruciating.
Seeing that the odds were insurmountable, General Barksdale had his bugler sound the retreat for the battered and bruised Mississippian Brigade. As Barksdale's Mississippi Brigade retreated to join General Robert E. Lee on Marye's Heights south of Fredericksburg, Private Ron was left for dead.
Because of his young age, the Union Army doctors earnestly administered medical treatment to Private Ron.However, like all upper body injuries to Civil War soldiers, Private Ron succumbed to his shoulder wound and died in that same bedroom's bed three agonizing days later on November 22, 1862."
Subsequent, to hearing this fascinating story from the slow to relax gent, his wife asked, "Dear, you were never interested in Civil War history; how can you now possibly be privy to this extensively detailed story." Nonchalantly, the husband stared unblinkingly at his wife and replied, "Private Ron informed me of all this while I was being struck in the shoulder with a mini-ball." With the conclusion of this tantalizing tale, the storyteller's spouse turned to the Innkeeper, Cheryl, and they cast a quizzical look at one another.
"It's your turn to regale me with your story." stated Cheryl. To Cheryl's patient ear, I described in every detail to what occurred during my unsettling sleep in the Inn that night. Once the story was finished, the Innkeeper matter of factly exclaimed, "Oh, you met the slave, Toby." Aware of the three ghostly forms that haunted the Inn, I asked Cheryl how she knew it was a visit from Toby. "It's a simple deduction." And Cheryl continued, "Before Toby met his unceremonious demise by the hangman's rope, he was tasked with the responsibility of maintaining the eleven fireplaces within the Inn. So that clearly explains why you smelt smoky clothing."
Alarmed, I asked Cheryl the following question, "I'm staying in the Inn for two more nights; what should I do?" Showcasing a wry grin, the sage Innkeeper quickly answered my nervous question with, "Let us hope that Toby doesn't feel lonely and hops under the bed covers with you." I left the dining area wondering if Fredericksburg's Holiday Inn Express had a vacant room for rent.