Staunton Virginia, History And Ghosts

downtown_staunton_1The small Southern city of Staunton Virginia, my birthplace and prominent in my time travel romance Somewhere My Lass,  is very historic and the site of a ghost tour.

To quote The Shenandoah Vally Paranormal Society website:

“Staunton, Virginia known as “The Queen City” of the Shenandoah Valley was founded in 1747 and named after Lady Rebecca Staunton, wife of the colonial governor of Virginia, William Gooch.   Staunton is located in the heart of the beautiful Shenandoah Valley and is rich in history, some prosperous and some tragic.   Often times with history, left behind are many ghost stories and hauntings that still exist to this day.   From civil war haunts, a train wreck disaster of 1890, to unsolved murders, Staunton has had its share of traumatic events that continue to haunt us.”

For more about the ghost tour visit:

“The first stop on the tour is the train station where (Myrtle) Knox was fatally wounded after the sleeper car where her opera troupe was napping derailed. One of Knox’s legs was cut off below the knee, her left arm broken, her right shoulder dislocated and a piece of wood was buried in her thigh, severing the femoral artery and causing her to bleed to death. Knox’s spirit reputedly haunts the tracks and many eyewitnesses have reported seeing her peer in through the windows at the now-closed Pullman Restaurant, which also is an alleged paranormal hot spot.”

For more pics and info on the haunted train station:

The Staunton Train Station

I’ve dined with my husband in the Pullman Restaurant and didn’t see any ghosts, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t overlook someone.  Haven’t noticed anything unusual on the train tracks either, but there is an odd feel to the place, difficult to put my finger on it.  Let’s just say Staunton came naturally to mind when looking around me for the ideal Virginia town to set my next light paranormal in.

The historic train station is picturesque and home to quaint businesses and The Depot Grille, a fabulous dining establishment.

When you enter the Grille you see an old brick wall covered with drawings torn from their paper tablecloths.

Patrons are given crayons to doodle with while they await their food and the best drawings left on the paper tablecloths are displayed in the entryway.  Not only childrens’ drawings, I might add.  Our friend Ed Keens once drew a fabulous castle that was chosen for such an honor.  We were proud. 🙂 An interesting aside; Ed went on to build his very own castle, seriously.  My son in law, Diron and his brother Ben (Trost Custom Homes) built it for him.  The castle isn’t in Staunton, but nearby Rockingham County. I’ve included a pic below but the castle is another story.

Back to the Depot Grille: I set one dynamic scene in Somewhere My Lass at the Grille and had a lot of fun with it.  The Depot Grille is one of my favorite places to visit so I know it well.  I hope those of you who read this suspenseful, light paranormal romance will enjoy this scene too.

The Depot Grille’s outstanding attraction is a 40 foot Victorian bar from a turn-of-the century luxury hotel.

The bar truly is spectacular.  The photograph doesn’t fully capture its magnificence, but it comes close.

Several movies have been filmed at the train station, among them the 1998 HallMark Hall of Fame production, The Love Letter.  My husband Dennis and I were both extras in it, but I alone am barely visible.  I was dressed as a humble country woman wearing a poke bonnet and waving while standing behind the hero and heroine as they kiss goodbye .

Being in that film was a hoot and we learned a lot about movie making.  Fascinating!  Our only objection is that the scene filmed at the train station supposedly takes place in Boston and we’re playing Northerners which goes against the grain of any true Southerner.

More on the movie below, back to historic Staunton, a very southern town:

The present Trinity Episcopal Church, built during the mid-1850s, has an extraordinary collection of stained glass windows; many created by Tiffany Studios.  It’s lofty architecture and striking spire soars above the other old buildings.

“Staunton has one architectural advantage over most of other small towns in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia: it escaped the Civil War unscathed. Many of its 18th and early 19th century homes and buildings still stand and are wonderfully preserved.

Scottish-Irish immigrant John Lewis and his family built the area’s first homestead in 1732, and most of Staunton’s early settlers were Scots-Irish.”

“The area of Staunton surrounding the railroad station is known as The Wharf, a curious name for a neighborhood that is nowhere near a wharf! In fact, the name is an historical one dating to the 19th century.

The warehouses in this neighborhood reminded people of buildings that you might see along a wharf. In Staunton’s case, the railroad acts in same manner as a wharf, and in fact, the neighborhood’s old warehouses really do look like those that one might see along the waterfront of a port city…since 1972 the Wharf Historic District has been on the National Register of Historic Places.”

Another little known tidbit about Staunton: “For 17 days in June of 1781, the Virginia State legislature met in Staunton, after being forced by British troops led by Major Tarleton to flee Richmond.

The building that served as Virginia’s capitol stood on the present site of Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Staunton. While meeting on this site, the legislature elected a new governor to replace Governor Thomas Jefferson. Members of the state legislature who were present included Patrick Henry and Daniel Boone.”


*The Wharf pictured above

*Staunton is the site of the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace, below.

*Ed’s Castle below, built by Diron and Ben Trost


I used to have YouTube clips from the  movie mentioned above, The Love Letter, that opened with a scene at the Staunton train station.  The old steam engine train pulled in, extras in period dress milling about.  The heroine, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, drove up in her carriage.  Beautiful shot. But YouTube took the videos down, so, oh well.

We actually missed this scene as Dennis and I were at costume in a trailer at a different location, but we heard all about it from other excited extras.  The clip I was in came later, as did the scene Dennis thought he was in, but for some weird reason, the director went with mostly close angle shots of the leads that left out many important local persons who made up the disappointed extras who later couldn’t find themselves in the movie.  Duh, dude, we were vital.

This next clip, that no longer exists, included the other train station scene where I appeared for a second behind the leads as they bid a sad farewell when the hero, played by Campbell Scott, dashed back to her.  That scene followed the part where he ran into the burning post office to mail a letter to her. He had a really good reason–thus the title of the film.

20 responses to “Staunton Virginia, History And Ghosts

  1. Hello from Russia!
    Can I quote a post in your blog with the link to you?


  2. Cool post, Beth! I love ghost stories!!
    Love the pics too, they’re absolutly beautiful!!


  3. Hi Beth: I just had to come and read about Staunton. My husband was from Waynesboro and he had family in Staunton. Of course, being from Fla., I pronouned it like the “au” in “staunch” . Got corrected right away and never forgot. I loved the town, and wish i’d known about the Pullman because I love old depots and anything to do with trains. Loved your post.


  4. What a great post! I feel as if I’ve walked the streets at your side. Thank you so much for sharing.


  5. Thanks Maeve. Good to hear.


  6. Beth,
    Beautiful blog…both words and photos. A really good friend of mine hails from Staunton, too, and I remember how gorgeous the area is.


  7. Thanks much Keena. It really is.


  8. This is incredibly weird, Beth, but last night I was talking to my CP about Campbell Scott and told her she just HAD to see this movie. I couldn’t budge the entire time it was on and was deeply moved by it and his performance. Now, here you are speaking about it as well. How fun that you were an extra. GO YOU!

    I also live in an old town that has many ghosts. It is Placerville which was built during the 1849 gold rush. My stories are written around the area. I encountered one of the ghosts in the Cary House Hotel. Stan loves women and rides the elevator every night and checks all the knobs of rooms with women inside to make sure they are locked. He didn’t want me on his elevator so I had to walk up the stairs but he let me ride the elevator down. There are others, too, and that is what makes it fun to live here in the mountains with the ghosts.

    Loved your accounting and pictures of such a beautiful and historic place.


  9. Thanks so much! And how very interesting that you just watched The Love Letter. It is a very good movie and I liked Campbell Scott too. I stood near enough to the couple that I could have reached out a hand and brushed her cheek. Love your ghost story. wow. What a kewl place you live in too.


  10. Love the tour of Staunton Virginia, History And Ghosts. Thanks for sharing.

    I saw that Hallmark movie a while back and remember really liking it.


  11. A lot of people liked that movie! Probably the extras made all the difference. 🙂 And thanks!


    • My grandmother has been there 50+ years and my entire life when I visit I feel something. We were there today and it was no different. There is something about the Selma Blvd area that just makes you feel differently I can’t explain it.


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