Shirley Plantation and the story of Aunt Pratt were part of the inspiration behind my ghostly murder mystery romance novel Somewhere My Love. As were other old portraits and homes…with that in mind, more on the ghost of Shirley Plantation.called “Aunt Pratt.”
To quote Shirley Plantation’s 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
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!”
To explore other historic ‘haunts’ in Virginia check out:
Author Pamela Kinney has done a series of non-fiction books about paranormal activity in Virginia, Haunted Virginia, Haunted Richmond, Virginia’s Haunted Historic Triangle, available at Amazon.
Author LB Taylor Jr. (cover pictured) also has an intriguing book about hauntings in the Old Dominion: Amazon link
Light Paranormal Romance novel Somewhere My Love:
Newly arrived at Foxleigh, the gracious old Wentworth home in Virginia, British born Julia Morrow is excited at the prospect of a summer working as a guide in the stately house and herb garden. She quickly discovers the historic plantation holds far more. She becomes obsessed with the portrait of handsome Cole Wentworth, killed in a quarrel over the lovely English lady, Julia Maury, two hundred years ago.
Then she meets his double, William, the only remaining Wentworth heir. Somehow, Julia must persuade Will that their fates are entwined with those of Cole Wentworth and Julia Maury, and that the man who killed his ancestor has returned to enact the deadly cycle again, or she will lose him twice. The blade is about to fall.
“As I read Somewhere My Love, I recalled the feelings I experienced the first time I read Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca.” ~Joysann, Publishers Weekly