The Ghosts of Virginia Volume IV
By L. B. Taylor, Jr.
L. B. Taylor Jr., Williamsburg, VA, 1998, 468 pp., paper, $15.95.
Reviewed by Douglas Chapman
L. B. Taylor, Jr. has quite a thing going with ghosts. Not only has he put together many volumes on haunting occurrences in various areas of Virginia, his book Haunted Houses was published by the major publishing house Simon and Schuster. The Ghosts of Williamsburg even provided the basis for a ghost tour at night there.
The present work is his fourth book on ghosts statewide. In the Author's Note, Taylor comments that whenever he believes he has exhausted the available material, he is proven to be in error.
Virginia, one of the early colonies, has as much history behind it as any part of America, and many of its homes are left over from the old days. What is inside these and other houses has meaning too. In this volume, there is an entire section on clocks that strike death.
One from circa 1937 tells of a clock that had not been working but which started up only to strike five times and stop again. The young woman who had been babysitting heard the sound and fled the house. She was soon notified that her brother and five other people had been in a car when a train hit it. Her brother survived, but the other five died. For the rest of her life, she was afraid of the clock. For whom doth the bell toll, indeed?
Visuals can be unnerving too. If one enjoys photos that seem to show ghosts, the chapter entitled Virginia's Angelic Photographer will surely fascinate. As in Volume Three, the photographs of Francine Rosenberg of Alexandria come in for discussion. The best of those reproduced here is an apparitional image taken at Gunston Hall in northern Virginia.
Rosenberg apparently gets on film the same bell-shaped images -- which she takes to be angels -- no matter what camera she uses. No one she has talked to has been entirely able to explain them, she claims. There is an interesting photographic close-up of her own eyes, with the bell shapes visible in her pupils.
While this is weird, if likely explainable, one of the stranger things in the volume is non-ghostly: the Tombstone House of Petersburg. In 1934, the bottom portions of some tombstones were taken from graves at Poplar Grove National Cemetery, facilitating maintenance. In 1935, Charles O'Hara used these discards in the construction of his house. Regrettably or not, no ghostly phenomena have been reported in the abode, even though its creation may have involved the desecration of graves.
But the spooky and psychic predominate the book, including in such items as The Librarian Who Will Not Leave, Revelations of Psychic Dreams, The Man Who Outdrank the Devil, and The Spectral Return(s) of James Monroe.
Since this well-done series continues to grow at a healthy rate, one would not be too surprised to discover that Virginia now has more ghosts than people.