Chesterfield's historic Castlewood property
Chesterfield, as it turns out, is something of a hotbed for paranormal activity. That’s not surprising to Bryan Truzzie, historic sites and programs manager for the county’s Parks and Recreation Department.
“When you look at the rich history we have here in the county, the historic buildings, but also the number of Revolutionary War battles that were fought here and Civil War sites we preserve, it’s easy to see why some spirits are still connected to various facilities -- particularly people who may have died tragic deaths,” he said.
The Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia works closely with a group called RTL Paranormal, which has conducted paranormal investigations at several historic county buildings: Magnolia Grange, Castlewood, the 1892 Jail and Trinity Church.
Multiple visitors to Magnolia Grange have reported to county staff that they saw a lady dressed in Victorian attire on the landing of the second floor of the house.
Back when Magnolia Grange used to host weddings, multiple attendees remarked about how they enjoyed having a staff member in period attire to enhance the authenticity of the ceremony. Only one problem with that … there weren’t any staff in costume at those weddings.
“If it happened once, we might blow it off as a bizarre occurrence," Truzzie said. "When it happens two or three times, documented by members of the public, I think there’s some credibility to spirits of family members who have lingered there and have a connection to the site.”
Many years ago, a medium visited Magnolia Grange and reported observing a man downstairs in the first-floor parlor, dressed in a black suit and brooding as if he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. It was believed to be the spirit of William Winfrey, who built the house in 1822 and was found murdered while doing business in Richmond in the 1840s.
One of the documented accounts at Castlewood involves the late son of Parke Poindexter, a county clerk who built the house in 1817. The boy died of severe burns after his clothing caught fire from live candles on the family Christmas tree.
There has been documentation of children’s laughter and footsteps coming from the second floor in the evening. Also, several years ago, a reporter and photographer from the Progress-Index newspaper were doing a cover story on one of the exhibits the historical society had set up at Castlewood; when their film was developed, there appeared to be an image of a child’s face in the glass exhibit case.
“Castlewood and Magnolia Grange seem to have the most activity people have experienced in Chesterfield,” said Ray Savino, founder of RTL Paranormal, noting it’s commonly observed in places where sudden, premature deaths and other tragedies have occurred. “The spirits aren’t at peace so their energy is going to be stuck there.”
Employees at the Defense Supply Center Richmond on Route 1 have reported encountering various ghostly presences over the years. In 2017, the founders of the Fishersville-based Twisted Paranormal Society, Lyle and Tonna Lotts, visited the installation and eventually produced a documentary about what they saw: “The Twisted Realm – The Historic Bellwood Club 2017.”
Along with a film crew, the Lotts spent a couple of days and nights in the Bellwood Manor House, a Georgian-style structure built between 1797 and 1804. One of the oldest buildings in Chesterfield, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
They returned to film the house and other locations at DSCR in August, further investigating reports of paranormal or unexplained activity.
“When we left the last time, we felt like we had barely touched the surface of the activity that is taking place,” said Lyle Lotts.
Of all the spooky places in Chesterfield, one of the most popular is Henricus Historical Park. Yet another paranormal group, Transcend Paranormal, has held several public events there – including one where participants stay overnight in the living history museum.
“Skeptics are my favorite people,” Savino said. “We’ve had people who would scoff at us during events until they experienced something -- then their opinion quickly changed.”
Are you looking to have a paranormal experience yourself? Check out some of the events happening in the coming weeks.
This Friday, Oct. 20, at Magnolia Grange, the Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia is hosting a “Paranormal Poe” program. Join Chris Semtner, curator of Richmond’s Poe Museum, for an evening of discovery and discussion of Edgar Allen Poe’s connection with the Spiritualism movement of the 19th century and learn how he inadvertently influenced their beliefs.
On Oct. 29 and 30 from 6:45-8:45 p.m., you can take a guided tour through Henricus in the dark as interpreters dramatically demonstrate and perform old English folklore stories of witches, ghosts, goblins, shucks, and all “things that go bump in the night.” Come see what colonial Virginians thought were spooky, scary, or mysterious in our early history.
Then on Saturday, Nov. 4, RTL Paranormal will host a paranormal event at Magnolia Grange from 6 p.m. to midnight. You can learn the “how” and “why” of using paranormal equipment accompanied by RTL’s experienced investigators.