Tales of the Super-natural In County Parks

Accotink Creek TresselLights that mysteriously flicker off and on, empty chairs rocking on their own, footsteps being heard on abandoned floors, and specters dressed in stovepipe hats — these are among the creepy tales from Park Authority staff to make your spine tingle on Halloween.

Hidden Pond Manager Mike McCaffrey is a master of the spooky campfire story, and the site has given him plenty of material over the years. In his first weekend on the job at Hidden Pond Nature Center, a family complained to him about a woman who had glared at them from the house. The complaints have continued over the years, and staff members have seen the woman in the window after the doors have been locked and the alarm set for the night.

Hidden PondMcCaffrey once contacted the former owner of the house that is now Hidden Pond’s administration building. She told him about a night when she thought she heard her ailing mother’s rocking chair. But when she went to check on her, she instead found a man in a stovepipe hat sitting comfortably in the chair. She quickly turned the lights on and the man faded away, but the rocker kept rocking.

During a Hidden Pond Halloween program, a group of students saw a man in the shadows watching them. As he moved toward them from the darkness, they noticed he wore a stovepipe hat. But when they shined their flashlight on him the beam went right through him. The sighting occurred on the exact same spot where a family had seen a similar man five years earlier.

Tawny Hammond has stories to tell about mysterious happenings during her 12 years at Lake Accotink Park. She says she was pretty good at dismissing or explaining away sudden shadows, glowing balls of light in the air, breezes on windless evenings, and doors that seemingly shut themselves, but there is one episode that defies her explanation.

As she was doing some research at the Library of Congress in 2003, she came across a Civil War era photo of the train trestle in the park. She thought it looked just like the photo hanging in her office back at the park, but this photo had a man in the foreground wearing a long black coat and stovepipe hat. She thought about purchasing a copy of the photo but wanted to make sure it was different from the one already hanging on her wall. So, she called the office and had staff check to make sure there was not a figure in a stovepipe hat in the park photo. After being assured the photo was different, she made her purchase. When Hammond got back to the office, she was surprised to see this same tall man hanging on her office wall. She called the staff together to ask why they misled her. Hammond says they stared at the photo in disbelief and thought she was playing a trick on them because the figure in the stovepipe hat had not been in the photo the last time they looked.

Years earlier, a watchman abruptly quit at Lake Accotink after being frightened by a man apparently walking with half his legs beneath the soil. He was tall, dressed in a long black coat and wore a stovepipe hat. Another past worker told a similar tale about the distinctly dressed man.

In 2001, Chrissy Mead thought she was working alone at Lewinsville House when she heard footsteps in the house. The parking lot was empty, but she looked around to see if someone had returned. She even called out to whoever it might be, but she didn’t see anyone or hear anything but the footfalls. When she later shared her story with her Cultural Resources coworkers, they weren’t surprised. Seems others had heard the footsteps in the past, too.

Over the years, many people have reported seeing a 1940s era limousine parked on Stoneybrooke Mansion’s front lawn. A police unit that was sent to investigate one such limo sighting claimed to have seen the car with a steaming exhaust pipe, but then it disappeared right before their eyes.

Closing managers at Hunter House in Nottoway Park have stories to tell about mysterious footsteps, and one night Park Specialist Matt Devor says that each time he locked the front door, the lights in the small front room would turn back on.

In Round Tree park, people have told stories about a lady who walks the creek bed looking for her kids.

Ellanor C. Lawrence Park sits on Walney Road in Chantilly, and Northern Virginia Magazine puts Walney Road on its list of “5 Best Places in NoVa to pick up…Ghosts.” The magazine reports that before the road was paved, a pedestrian out for nighttime walk was hit and killed by a car. As the tale goes, if you now drive down the road around midnight, you’ll come across his ghost. If you drive past him twice without giving him a ride, he may cause an accident by materializing in your car.

So, keep your eyes and ears open this Halloween. You might be in for a spooky treat.

Story compiled by Carol Ochs.  Contributions from Matthew Kaiser.

 

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About Fairfax County Park Authority

HISTORY: • On December 6, 1950, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority was authorized to make decisions concerning land acquisition, park development and operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. • To date, 11 park bond referenda have been approved between 1959 and 2008. Another Park Bond Referendum will be held in November 2012. Today, the Park Authority has 420 parks on approximately 23,168 acres of land. We offer 371 miles of trails, our most popular amenity. FACILITIES: The Park System is the primary public mechanism in Fairfax County for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land and resources, areas of historic significance and the provision of recreational facilities and services including: o Nine indoor RECenters with swimming pools, fitness rooms, gyms and class spaces. Cub Run features an indoor water park and on-site naturalist. o Eight golf courses including Laurel Hill, our newest, upscale course and clubhouse located in Southern Fairfax County o Five nature and visitor centers. Also seven Off-Leash Dog Activity areas o Several lakes including Lake Fairfax, Lake Accotink and Burke Lake, with campgrounds at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax o The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, Our Special Harbor Sprayground at Lee as well as an indoor water park at Cub Run RECenter o Clemyjontri Park, a fully accessible playground in Great Falls featuring two acres of family friendly fun and a carousel o An ice skating rink at Mount Vernon RECenter and the Skate Park in Wakefield Park adjacent to Audrey Moore RECenter o Kidwell Farm, a working farm of the 1930s era at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, now with historic carousel o Eight distinctive historic properties available for rent o A working grist mill at Colvin Run in Great Falls and a restored 18th century home at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly o A horticulture center at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale o Natural and cultural resources protected by the Natural Resource Management Plan and Cultural Resource Plans, plus an Invasive Management Area program that targets alien plants and utilizes volunteers in restoring native vegetation throughout our community o Picnic shelters, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, disc golf courses, off-leash dog parks, amphitheaters, a marina, kayaking/canoeing center o Provides 274 athletic fields, including 30 synthetic turf fields, and manages athletic field maintenance services at 500 school athletic fields PARK AUTHORITY BOARD: • A 12-member citizen board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, sets policies and priorities for the Fairfax County Park Authority. %

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