Does stone absorb memories? Ask anyone who lives near a castle.
Many times the residue of misdeeds and human drama are imprinted upon the stone face, making it possible to playback visions of the past, what we know as hauntings. Such is the case for Ft. Monroe, Virginia, where the infamous and the innocent are found.
This moated heptagonal stone fort faces the Chesapeake Bay on three sides, the water making escape remote and the isolation of its prisoners complete. It’s lonely casemates held one of the most illustrious prisoners of the Civil War, the President of the Confederate States, Jefferson Davis. Brought here in shackles after the war, Davis slowly grew weak within its walls. His wife, Varina, followed him here and pleaded to have him removed from the cell to a private apartment to die in peace. Both of their ghosts can be found at Ft. Monroe still, Davis in his cell and Varina is sometimes found gazing from a bedroom window towards her husband’s cell. Their imprints of dreams unrealized and the reality of war make their shades constant companions to the grief left behind. Other political figures make appearances too; the ghosts of Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant roam Old Quarters No. 1.
Edgar Allan Poe, known as Edgar A. Perry before selling his enlistment in 1829, served four months at Ft. Monroe. While here, he wrote, “The Cask of Amontillado,” based on a ghost story of a Virginian military man walled up inside an empty stone building (see, I told you stone had long memories.) Visiting the area a month before his death, Poe read poetry on the veranda of a nearby hotel. After his death, he has been believed to have been seen in his former barracks, which is now located at Building #5.
What’s a good haunting without a good love story? Camille Kirtz, or the “Light Lady,” was murdered by her husband on Matthew Lane within the fort. While meeting her French lover, Camille’s secret was discovered by her much older husband. Hot-blooded and fast-acting, Camille’s husband shot at the pair, intending to wound the man but killing his wife instead. The Frenchman ran off and Camille now wanders “Ghost Alley” and a nearby copse of oak trees searching for her lover in vain. She has been seen many times since the Civil War as a radiant mist in the form of a woman.
Children have also found a home within these walls, serious illness was a fact of life in the early days of our nation, and many children did not live to see their tenth birthdays. Their innocent spirits are often trapped within the walls that sheltered them in life, as they unknowingly continue their journey after death. Two small boys have been reported at the fort, one in the upstairs of an old house next to the moat wall and the other in the basement of an enlisted man’s home. The latter child sometimes seeks out other children to play with when they visit the house, ghosts get lonely too…