One of Virginia’s Famous Ghosts (we have a lot)

Six years ago when my mother and I visited 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 portrait of Aunt Pratt which has been the subject of odd occurrences at Shirley, and elsewhere, depending on where the painting is hung. It seems ‘Aunt Pratt’ prefers a certain back bedroom, though the guide wasn’t sure why.

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
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!

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

15 responses to “One of Virginia’s Famous Ghosts (we have a lot)

  1. Interesting story, Beth. Gee, wonder if we’ll leave a ghost behind to carry on our wishes? Yours would probably stay in your garden, pulling out weeds around your beloved herbs. Mine would tap at computer keys.


  2. I once rented a house that had a mirror that looked rusty. If you washed it with a wet rag the rag would look as if it had fresh blood on it. My mother-in-law and her sisters refused to walk past it. They didn’t know why, they would just traverse the house on the opposite side. My kids wouldn’t pass the mirror after the lights were out for the night.

    Pamela K Kinney who wrote Haunted Richmond, which I have and Haunted Virginia say she has met you at a writers conference.


  3. I love ghost stories. I have encountered a lot of ghosts, especially when I worked in an art gallery situated in a corner bar building from the 1849 gold rush era. It was built over a creek so ‘they’ think that is why ghosts are drawn to the easy entrance. None have been scary, though.


  4. Very interesting post. I couldn’t help thinking, however, how much she looks like the young Queen Elizabeth II! Anyone else see the resemblance?


  5. Fascinating and great inspiration for storytelling. I’ve only seen one ghost in my whole life and it wasn’t very exciting.


  6. Very cool post, Beth. I swear my grandfather visits my home. I say he’s walking the old farm, checking to make sure all is right.


  7. Very interesting Beth. I have been to Shirley Plantation and heard the story. And I long ago decided I believe in ghost. If we are to believe in a God who is a spirit, how can we discount the possibility? Besides, there are just too many incidents that can’t be explained any other way! Even animals…remember my cat. Really enjoyed this post dear Beth!


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