Old Haunts in Alexandria

Old Haunts in Alexandria

Old Town, a part of Alexandria, Virginia, is certainly spirited.

T. Michael Miller, city historian, was house-sitting for Old Town Alexandria friends and heard footsteps down the hall as he lay still in bed. The dogs of the house, usually more forthright, cowered as well.

Things have been seen too. A large and untidy entity, with stringy dark hair and a tattered uniform, walked through the walls of adjacent town houses; three people claim to have observed this Civil War specter.

According to reports about one Old Town home, Mike McKinney, an investment bank senior vice-president, saw a chair flip over, and his wife Pat fought what was presumably the same ghost for a cleaning fluid bottle. But it does not always seem to be disruptive. Mrs. McKinney claimed that the ghost rescued her daughter at one point. Eighteen-month-old Casey was tumbling down the stairs when somehow she was picked up and flipped around so she landed on her bottom rather than her head.

These and other accounts are collected in Legends and Folk Tales of Old Alexandria by Ruth Lincoln Kaye. While publicizing the book, she opined that there is a ghost on every Old Town block. Edmund M. Kern has some insights about supernatural matters like these. He is a history professor at Wisconsin's Lawrence University and has great knowledge of the religious culture of early Europe (a.k.a. witchcraft). According to him, such stories pile up because people undergo experiences unexplained by current science. While he calls himself a skeptic, he admits that those who study witchcraft -- including the supernatural elements associated with it -- often talk among themselves about happenings "that they really can't explain." To him, it is sort "of a dirty little secret of the academic world."

Some people have suggested explanations, though. According to T. Michael Miller, if there are such things as ghosts, Alexandria's thirty Civil War hospitals could have had something to do with them.

Source: The Washington Post, 10/30/99