Aunt Pratt, Shirley Plantation’s Famous Ghost

ShirleySeveral years ago when my mother and I were visiting old Virginia homes, we went to Shirley Plantation along the James River.  Beautifully preserved, Shirley is well worth a visit.  While there, we saw the painting of Aunt Pratt which has been the subject of odd occurrences at Shirley, and elsewhere, depending on where the portrait is hung. It seems ‘Aunt Pratt’ prefers a certain back bedroom, though the guide wasn’t certain why.

Shirley Plantation and the story of Aunt Pratt were part of the inspiration behind my light paranormal romance Somewhere My Love, released a year ago this month.  In honor of the anniversary of Somewhere My Love, I am reposting that most interesting piece.


SomewhereMyLove_WRP_2024_300Shirley Plantation is home to a famous ghost called “Aunt Pratt.” To quote their website: “Aunt Pratt” was Martha Hill Pratt, the daughter of early Shirley ancestor Edward Hill III. Her portrait in the bed chamber of Shirley’s Great House is the subject of intriguing stories which have been retold by noted author L.B.Taylor, Jr. in his book, Ghosts of Virginia, Volume I. Mr. Taylor is also author of Haunted Houses, published by Simon and Schuster, as well as five regional Virginia ghost books, including Civil War Ghosts of Virginia.

The story of “Aunt Pratt” is included in Lori Haskin’s Book – Spooky America: Four Real Ghost Stories

A reviewer of the book describes the tale:
Picky Aunt Pratt
Shirley Plantation, Charles City, Virginia
January 2002

Martha Hill Pratt must have been an extremely strong woman when she was alive, that’s the only way she could have a ghost that could command so much attention. Martha Pratt was born at the plantation but married and moved to England, the portrait of her hung in the first floor gallery for years, overlooking the family cemetery. In the mid 1800’s the family decided to redecorate and moved the painting to the attic.

Night after night, family members could hear a tapping noise coming from the attic, puzzled they realized the only thing that was moved to the attic was the painting so they decided to move it to the third floor. The tapping continued so they tried the second floor.

That didn’t seem to work either so they returned the painting to the first floor where it originally hung. After that, everything was quiet again. That is until 1974 when family members shipped the painting to New York City for a display of haunted goods. Martha didn’t like it, not at all; the painting rumbled and rattled until they decided to put it in a closet for the night. The family decided that Aunt Pratt had enough, they had the frame fixed [it was damaged when it was in the closet] and hung it back in it’s original location where it still hangs a little crooked to this very day. The last line sums it up perfectly: It’s just a friendly reminder from Aunt Pratt…leave me alone!

For more on Shirley Plantation and Aunt Pratt visit:

To explore other historic ‘haunts’ in Virginia check out:

To purchase Pamela Kinney’s non-fiction book, Haunted Richmond, Virginia or her newest book, Haunted Virginia, visit


For more on my work please visit:

5 responses to “Aunt Pratt, Shirley Plantation’s Famous Ghost

  1. Can’t wait to read it!!


  2. Pingback: Virginia, My Rich Inspiration « One Writer's Way

  3. i am in third grade i read the book bylori haskin spooky america


  4. Good for you Lauren. Was it scary?


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