Norfolk traces its tales back to the early 17th century, soon after the first English settlers arrived in the new world. Since then, the city has seen its fair share of history (and even some haunts too). Want to learn about some of Norfolk’s eerie legends? Read about some below, and then get the full experience of visiting historic haunts and hearing the stories firsthand during one of Norfolk Tour Company’s Haunted Tours.
Businessman Moses Myers built this house in the late 18th century, and until it was donated to the city in the 1930s, five generations inhabited the home. Moses’ son Sam took on a major role in the family business before things took an unexpected turn. Richard Bowden, a former business partner of Moses, beat Moses in the market square in May 1811. Following the altercation, Sam, the second eldest Myers son, shot and killed Bowden at the house. Today, the house is speculated to be haunted by a figure wearing a top hat and cloak (presumably Bowden), who paces back and forth through the garden relentlessly to give his last word.
The Wells Theatre
Opened in 1913 as the crown jewel of the Wells Brothers’ Beaux Arts theaters, the historic Wells has gone from stage to cinema to stage again, with some unsettling members of the cast and crew (or former audience members) tagging along. The spirit of a crew member who fell to his death while working on the fly system is said to roam backstage and is often blamed for missing props or doors being locked. During rehearsals, crew and cast will often be heard shouting “Stop it, Ned!” The theater’s second balcony is said to be the home of a mischievous child that can be heard laughing and running, detected by the squeak of his shoes. Finally, the Wells’ leading lady, the Woman in White, wanders the lobby, dressing rooms and a hallway while performing arias, quite the show stealer indeed.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Built in 1739, the church is the only colonial-era building in Norfolk to survive the British destruction of the city on New Year’s Day 1776. The building still carries a centuries-old cannonball embedded in its bricks, a memento from Lord Dunmore of the British Fleet. There are also said to be spiritual reminders of the past within and around its walls. The most prevalent sighting is a figure that appears in the graveyard, thought to be the ghost of Dr. Nicholas Albertson Okeson who tragically died of malaria in 1882. and was buried at St. Paul’s.
The Battleship Wisconsin
The famous battleship, largest ever operated by the U.S. Navy, is now a museum in Downtown Norfolk, a symbol of the city’s proud naval history. But one crew member has apparently stayed behind when all others left. He was working on the air conditioning system during an overhaul during the Korean War when someone turned on the unit, ending his life. Among the reports of his presence on the ship is testimony from a quartermaster 2nd class serving on board during Operation Desert Storm. Included in his report is this:
“I’m walking past the Harpoon launchers [port side] and you get that feeling that you’re being watched. That there’s somebody behind you. So, I turn around thinking it’s the aft lookout coming to me for something, so I stop and turn around and look and there’s this bright, white, wispy shadow there behind me. Now, it’s the midwatch and there was no moon that night. It was pitch black. You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face it was so black. And there is now this billowy, white, shadowy sort of thing floating behind me. It sort of freaked me out. The story about the electrician—at the time I didn’t know, but I went “OK, that’s enough of that’—I turn around and start making my way forward and boom—there it is again right in front of me. And this billowy, white, shadowy thing is right in front of me, so I turn around and walked aft again towards the aft lookout and there it is again, behind me. So this time, I turn around and facing forward, I just took off running as fast as I can, back forward.”
One of Norfolk’s long loved restaurants, Freemason Abbey was originally a church built in 1873 in the city’s Freemason neighborhood. There have been numerous paranormal accounts, particularly in the kitchen and bar area where items move around, sometimes falling off shelves, cupboards open on their own, and doors either won’t not stay open or closed. There are also those who claim to have seen a dark wandering figure and the sound of a woman weeping. And to this day, employees still end the evenings by saying “Goodnight, Mr. B,” a nod to a former owner of the restaurant who apparently still takes smoke breaks in the dry goods storeroom long after he has passed.
The Norfolk Pagoda
The Blessing Gate arch is a landmark that promises good fortune to all who pass under it. However, when the Downtown section was part of the bustling port, the arch’s concrete slab foundation held the weight of a 5,000-gallon molasses storage drum, a sticky grave for many industrial accident victims from many years ago. To this day, many visitors comment on the smell of molasses around the gate. Could it be a message from beyond?
The Ghost of Willoughby Spit
Along the beach of Willoughby Spit, there are countless stories of ghosts, which are usually intertwined with lost loves and those waiting for their return. One local legend is of a man who yearns to keep us safe. It is said that this ghost only appears as an omen that a hurricane is near. Stories of a mysterious dark figure on the beach were reported just before Hurricane Isabel in 2003.
Please note: The stories depicted here have been gleaned from shared accounts, postings and collected news features. These stories have not been validated for accuracy in all cases and are meant to be shared for entertainment purposes only.