Where Are the Ghosts?
Columnist Conrad Geller compares ghostly findings in both the Ashburn and Leesburg area
Specters, presences, emanations or just plain ghosts – whatever you call them, Ashburn doesn't appear on the surface to be a likely place to find them. According to the conventional lore, ghosts need creaky old houses, churchyards or battlefields to establish a residence, and Ashburn is short in all these locations.
There is the cemetery at Ashburn Presbyterian Church, in the oldest part of Ashburn, and for some reason Google lists Ray Muth Sr. Park, across the street from my home off Gloucester Boulevard, as a cemetery (can anyone tell me why?); but for the most part ghouls are not likely to feel comfortable in our quiet, mostly spanking new community.
I thought at least the spirit of Amos Jenkins might still be wandering around on Ashburn Road near the hotel he owned near the railroad. A bootlegger shot Amos at the height of Prohibition, and if ever there was justification for a vengeful ghost, he qualifies. Yet I can find no record of sightings, strange sounds or mysterious cold zones at or near that site. So I guess Ashburn will have to develop its ghosts in the future, or do without.
But wait! There is a website, ghostsofamerica.com, that solicits eyewitness accounts of weird happenings, and sure enough, Ashburn does show up in their database. There is the testimony of the high-school girl who heard a loud banging on a locker-room door at school, but when it was opened, no one was there; the report of “lights or could be orbs floating in the cemetery;” and scariest of all, an account from 2008 of a girl seen swinging at a playground at Belmont Country Club: “. . . as I got closer she lifted her head and it was the most evil face I have ever seen. She said get off their land and then said we are coming for you ... ”
So it may be hard to know who or what may be lurking in the darkness here, but for the juiciest tales of occult happenings, one has to go a little beyond our boundaries, to Leesburg and Ball's Bluff. So many ghosts abound in those places that until recently you could go on a ghost tour of Leesburg and, if you were lucky or unlucky, meet the specters that inhabit such places, such as the one seen at The Green Tree Restaurant on King Street or the woman's figure purported to wander on occasion up and down East Market Street.
Ball's Bluff, the site of a disastrous Union defeat in the first year of the Civil War, has been the site of several notable Presences. The earliest strange report came in the late 1860s, when some hunters at night “distinctly heard a sound which had grown familiar during the years of conflict, the sound of clanking sabers and of thudding hooves.” It was, according to the witnesses, a troop of phantom Yankee cavalry, causing the men to run home in terror, “as fast as if the Yankees were really pursuing them.” (These quotations are from L.B Taylor's The Ghosts of Virginia, Vol. II, 1994)
More recently, a group of teenagers went up to the Bluff in the 1950s for unstated reasons. At the site they heard horrifying screams, and their car suddenly became immobile. When they finally got home, some of their parents went to the spot to see a small tree next to the cemetery mysteriously bent almost to the ground. They, too, fled in terror.
Most of those I talk to about these matters say they don't believe, but there is often a “but ... ” and a story of some unexplained experience, a sight or sound, a Presence, as the experts call them, or a Residual.
Some belief in spirits persists in every culture, and some scientific attention has been paid to such experiences in recent years. Neurologists like the famous V.S. Ramachandran have explored the brain waves associated with the perception of supernatural events and have concluded that a particular part of the brain, the temporal lobes, just behind the ears, seem to become especially active during such times – the temporal lobes, by the way, which are also importantly involved in epileptic attacks.
None of that scientific babble matters, however, to those who have come face to face with the occult. They know what they have seen, heard and felt.