Lights 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.
McCaffrey 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.