It was a dark and stormy night. Hmmm… well, actually it wasn’t. But the sky was definitely moody and slightly threatening that late afternoon as I drove up to the the Exchange Hotel in Gordonsville, Virginia. The mansion itself emits a spooky aura. The land it stands on has witnessed horrific events.
In 1860, after a fire destroyed the Tavern built in 1757, the Exchange Hotel was opened. Situated at a halfway point to several Virginia destinations, all passengers arriving at the nearby depot were required to disembark the trains and to purchase an additional ticket to continue on to their destinations. Hence, the name “Exchange”.
During the Civil War, the Exchange Hotel became the Gordonsville Receiving Hospital. The wounded and dying came from nearby battlefields such as Cedar Mountain, Chancellorsville, Trevilian Station, Mine Run, Brandy Station, and the Wilderness. Although the Hospital was primarily a Confederate facility, twenty-six Union soldiers are reported to have died there. At the war’s end, more than 70,000 men had been treated at the Hospital. Over 700 would be buried on the Hospital’s surrounding grounds, then later interred at Maplewood Cemetery in Gordonsville. After the war, the Hospital reverted back to hotel status.
Placed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 14, 1973, the Exchange Hotel is now the Exchange Hotel Civil War Museum. The Museum hosts day tours, night tours, and ghost hunting events. Yes, you read that right. Ghost hunting. Which brings me to why I was there on that night.
I knew virtually nothing of its history and only vaguely recalled some of the information I heard on a daytime tour taken many years ago. I was there to attend a ghost investigation and was more focused on the supernatural side of things. After arrival, I wandered around the Hotel, taking pictures, watching closely for anything paranormal. I caught nothing on the outside, and was a bit disappointed, but my disappointment would soon change to awe after the investigation began.
I had to laugh when I spied the logo of the paranormal team that was investigating that night (could not have picked a better name!). The Twisted Paranormal Society is a Virginia-based paranormal investigation group formed in 2011. Team Twisted, as they refer to themselves, rolled into the building, carrying their equipment. Team Twisted has, for want of a better word, TOYS. I watched as cameras, tripods, lights, etc. came out of cases. Digital voice recorders, KII meters, emf detectors…… I could go on. These people have equipment that I dream of owning, and I lusted. Oh how I lusted. Someday I will have toys like that. I stood off to the side in a doorway, feeling inadequate, while clutching my little bag of tricks. My equipment is simple stuff. Nothing high tech. Turns out, that was all I really needed. In fact, I ended up using only one item in that bag. More about that later.
My personal experiences started while I was still standing in the that doorway while watching the Team. The lights were on, and everyone was wandering around and chatting. I suddenly felt several very strong and rapid tugs on the back of my pants leg. Startled and stepping out of the doorway, I turned around expecting to see someone crouched down behind me and playing a trick. No one was there. Its not my nature to draw attention to anything like that, so I said nothing. I prefer to wait and to listen to what others have to say, and have had to say, about paranormal events at any given location. I was to learn later on that night of a child entity. Her name is Emma, and she likes to play.
After a quick tour by the Hotel Curators, I unpacked a pair of miniature brass rods (dowsing or divination rods) that I like to use to communicate with spirit entities. Generally, I engage with those entities by asking them to cross and uncross the rods, to use the rods to answer yes and no questions, and to have me follow them by pointing the rods in the direction the entities want me to go. Pairing up with another guest (who was not part of the paranormal Team or a member of the Hotel staff), we started going room to room. It soon became clear that we were not alone. The spirits seemed to enjoy working with my rods. They crossed, uncrossed, and led us around. We believe that we “spoke” with the Hospital’s Doctor and his wife, and little Emma came to talk with us too.
We were able to investigate the old kitchen, a separate building from the main Hotel, and one generally not open to visitors on the regular tours. The kitchen is two floors consisting of one room down, and two rooms and a bathroom up. The upper rooms were used by boarders and prostitutes. Heading up the steps to explore the second floor, I had a flash in my mind of a shelf-like opening at my side and I reached out to steady myself on the shelf as I was going up. My hand met with a solid wall. I was a bit unsettled as I was sure there was an opening and commented out loud to that effect.
Shrugging it off, I ventured on. The most active room upstairs was the large bedroom that contained a Victorian bed frame, a bureau, and a bouquet of dead flowers on top of the bureau. The rods were very active, and we encountered what we believe to be one of the prostitutes, as well as another not so friendly entity. Our host’s flashlight began to slowly dim, bit by bit, until it finally went dead. Not wanting to remain in the darkness, we left and went back to the main Hotel to gave back the flashlight to a Curator.
“Here, your flashlight battery just died”. “Really?”, he said. “The batteries are fresh. What room were you in?” “The upstairs large bedroom in the kitchen house.” “Oh that explains it. There is someone in that room that does not like flashlights. They don’t work well in that room.” Having said that, he turned on the flashlight and to our astonishment, the flashlight worked just fine. He went on to tell us a bit of history about the Kitchen, about the prostitutes that worked there, and a gentleman who hanged himself in the stairwell. According to the Curator, that gentleman can be very threatening at times. They believe he is the one who does not like flashlights. The wall that I touched going up? That wall was not always there. Its a more recent addition, put up after the hanging. That bit of information shocked my partner and I got quite the stare!
I want to go back. I would like, now that I know something about the residents, to try to communicate with them again. I am curious about why they are still with us, and why they stay. I want to “hear” their stories. I want to take more pictures, and hopefully capture something awesome. Something other than orbs. Now, I don’t put much stock in orbs. Mostly they are dust. But every now and again, you get an interesting one like the one at right. The figure inside appears to be waving. Maybe letting me know, that they are there. And, yes, they are watching.
All ghosts appearing in this post (with the exception of the orb) were added by me. Do you enjoy cemeteries and old houses? Clicking on the pictures in this post will take you to my online store, twistedpixelstudio, where you will find some of my art work and photography for sale.