The Ghosts of Greenview

Benjamin N. Keys, Jr.

For centuries man has insisted that another world exists in direct parallel with this world we call home. It is here in this nether world that legions of lost souls or spirits who have haplessly departed this life, under other than normal circumstances, must now reside until Judgment Day. I often wonder if this could be the same place referred to in the Bible as Purgatory, an ethereal realm between Heaven and Hell where all errant souls are cast and reside until they find a way to make restitution for the event that cast them there. Age-old legends are emphatic. When someone dies an unnatural death, such as suicide, their soul is cast into this 'limbo' world.

Whatever we choose to call these entities, lost souls, spirits or ghosts, they seem to have the capability of returning to this world or dimension at will and especially to the place that was important to them in their previous lives. There must be something to this theory, for thousands of old homes, castles, even public buildings and roadways all over the world consistently play host to these entities. They all seem to defy explanation. Maybe those who continue to 'plague' us with their antics have become restless in their ‘limbo’ world or either have given up on atoning for their sin. It sounds plausible and who can say for sure either way? For those of us who have been so fortunate as to encounter one of these entities when least expected, it’s an experience never to be forgotten.

Being somewhat of a skeptic, naturally I would have to be among those very fortunate few afforded the golden opportunity of experiencing a first hand encounter. It came about the first time I chose to visit one of my friends who owned an old plantation home on the lower James River. Without exception, almost all of the old plantation homes along the James have resident ghosts and the owners are both proud and protective of them. I will not attempt to relate what happened for it is far too lengthy and a full story unto itself, but I can truthfully say I never expected to be admonished about my extraordinary excited behavior after an encounter. In spite of the resistance nurtured in my psyche regarding the existence of such entities, this experience was bone chilling. When the visit was finally over, I had a 'blown psyche' along with an entirely new conception of the existence of 'ghosts'!

The first and foremost point driven home was that ghosts have the uncanny ability to sense when life had become dull or boring and will immediately initiate a counteraction to liven things up. Just as quickly, I learned ghosts are always unreliable and perform at their very best when nothing is expected. When it happens and it will happen, it can scare the hell out of even the most stouthearted. Needless to say I had a boggled mind and a lot to think about when I returned home.

My next encounter occurred as unexpectedly as had the first when I chanced to meet the most famous ghost in America, the Ghost of Bacon's Castle, in Surry County Virginia. This too would make quite a story in itself and is a story too lengthy to elaborate at this time but I will say that it was once again an experience I truly wish I could share with everyone who doubts their existence. For decades, this particular entity has captured the imagination and curiosity of people all over the world that come to see first hand this rather reliable phenomenon. I remember only too well the year a group of European scientists visiting Jamestown, heard about the Ghost Light of Lawne's Creek Parish and Bacon's Castle and decided to visit. They wanted to see for themselves and maybe even dispel the age-old legend. Local newspapers and the radio covered their visit. They set up their tent and made themselves at home beside the 1610 old church ruins. No one ever found out what they saw or encountered after their two-night stay at the church graveyard for no one ever saw them again and no further news covered their visit! We can let our imagination run wild. There is much that has been written about this legendary ghost and research into it can be both enjoyable and enlightening.

Maybe I should be thankful not only to that ghost but to all the other ghosts I had the pleasure of encountering over the years as well, for they initiated and conditioned my mind for something that was to change my life forever. It had always been a dream of mine to someday own and live in one of the old plantation homes but at the time it was only a pipe dream. Fate intervened and a decade before I retired, I found such a home, purchased it, started restoration and the fun began. I had only visited with ghosts before but now I was to find I would be among those privileged few who possessed a 'live-in' ghost as a companion.

The old plantation home I purchased was named Greenview and was constructed circa 1730. Within its confines were manifested all the necessary habitation requirements necessary to entice a resident ghost, but such a thought did not cross my mind at the time due to the elation of becoming the proud owner such a place. Little did I know what was in store for me. Past experience has always proved that nothing ever happens until you least expect it and that is exactly what was about to happen to me now. I would be caught off-guard and even after all my past experiences. I guess I must have thought I would never be so fortunate as to purchase one of these old homes, especially one its own private ghost already in residence and my senses were dulled!

To get on with an account of this very private first hand encounter. It was to be an event that would embed itself in my memory forever. In addition, to say that it probably shortened my life expectancy by years would be an understatement. The last ancestral owners of Greenview moved out of the old manor house in the early part of the twentieth century and left the area. They kept the farm but leased it out to tenant farmers who now became the occupants of the old house. Although it was now becoming barely inhabitable, they nevertheless resided there until the mid-forties when they constructed a home of their own nearby. Once again the house was vacated and sealed. It soon fell into a state of disrepair and faced inevitable destruction.

In 1975 the house and fourteen acres were purchased by a retired couple, whose hobby it was to buy old homes and remodel them for resale. They would not do a complete renovation but just enough to save the structure. When I found out they had just finished the basics, a lifelong friend whose dream had been the same as mine, went to look at it and together we purchased it. A necessary action as due to the immediate outlay needed. Divorced bachelors with no future concerns about married life, we joined forces to fulfill our dreams by restoring the house to its former pristine beauty as a living example of an old colonial country manor house.

Once the home was purchased, it then became necessary for us to sell our current home where we now resided. As this would take some time we let the old couple live there to prevent vandalism until we could close and move in. Something out of the ordinary must have happened during the months that followed for the old couple suddenly became very anxious to leave. No reason was ever given regarding their hurried request to leave but we agreed and I decided I would move in alone to begin the more positive restoration process. The day we notified them of our intentions they lost no time in getting out. This should have been a ‘red flag' for me but at such a time as this, who would be thinking of anything except moving in, etc.

They moved out on a Friday and were barely were gone before I moved in right behind them. Now, more excited than ever, I could begin the long tedious task of beginning the restoration even if it had start alone. My buddy would stay at the other home until it could be sold and then he too would join me. In all the confusion that took place when they moved out that day, I overlooked one small detail. They had the power and telephone shut off for it had been in their name. They failed to alert us to this and I would not find out until too late on this, my first terrifying night at Greenview!

I had brought with me a small fold-up cot, saws, sanders, etc. and planned to go to bed early so I could get up and get started bright and early the next morning. I set the cot up in the master bedroom on the second floor amidst all the dust and debris. I promised to clean up later when I was not so pressed for time. Most of that first day was spent going over everything on the outside in an effort to make myself acquainted with the entire area as much as possible. Before long darkness approached and I was forced inside. I cannot begin to describe that sick feeling in my stomach when after attempting to turn on light switches with no success, it occurred to me that I was at the complete mercy of the darkness with no form of communication. Too late now to call the power and the telephone company and with the weekend coming up, it would be Monday anyway before I get anything done along these lines. I would just have to 'rough it' for two days just like the forefathers had done. Didn’t seem to bad, just no lights, no phone, no flashlight and no curtains at the windows. What the heck, this was my home now and I would make the best of it regardless, or so I thought!

I managed to get the stairs, undress and crawl onto the cot before it got totally dark. I lay there unable to sleep thinking about how I would begin the next day. Suddenly, it occurred to me that the night seemed to be especially dark. Even with no curtains at the windows, it was difficult to tell where windows were. Suddenly, every good though left my mind when a series of 'thumps' began in the downstairs hall. The 'thumps' soon turned into 'thump-scuff, thump-scuff, thump-scuff'! My mind went crazy! For the world, it sounded like someone walking down the hall with a 'wooden leg'! The sounds paused for a moment and then, they began to ascend the stairs. What now! The master bedroom I had chosen to set up my cot was right at the top of the stairs and who or whatever this was would soon be face to face with me! Would I be able to even see it or tell what it was in the darkness!

I had made sure before I retired, that the doors and windows were secured or locked before due to the close proximity of Interstate 95 to the property, a mere 2 miles. In this day and age you never know when hitchhikers will come along looking for a place to spend the night and what better place than an old vacant house! I could think of nothing that would allay my frazzled nerves. Suddenly, there was a deafening silence that was worse than the footsteps for now I could not determine the whereabouts of who or whatever this was. I lay motionless, hardly daring to breathe for what seemed an eternity. The intense pounding of my heart would have been a dead give-away as to my location but unfortunately, there was no viable way I could possibly control it. Suddenly the footsteps began and this they seemed to be leaving the doorway to my room and going down the hall in the opposite direction! I listened intently as they I thought they turned and went into one of the bedrooms at the end of the hall. Then, once again there was that dread silence. I lay there without moving so much as a finger until at last, the first rays of dawn began to spill into the windows. Only when the room was intensely bright with the rays of the morning sun did I dare venture off the cot. I cautiously approached the doorway not at all unlike a small child coming out of hiding. The floors were coated with a heavy coating of dust and anything that had 'thump-scuffed' over them should have left a mark, but there was nothing! I slowly made my way to the far end of the hall and peered into each of the bedrooms. Not the first iota of dust had been disturbed! As vivid as it all had been, had I dreamed it?  The gears in by brain began to mesh and I came up with an awful lot of options, yet one that satisfied me. One thought kept coming back and of course it had to be the inevitable one, did we obtain a real ghost when we purchased the house? A real enigma to say the least.

My work regimen for that day was now in a state of total disruption. I could not muster enough energy to begin even the simplest of tasks due to the churning thoughts concerning the events of the night before. Around noon, my co-owner buddy arrived to bring me something to eat and I began to babble incessantly before he even got out of his car. Being a devout skeptic and always the first to 'pooh-pooh' anything concerning ghosts, he was unsympathetic and did not want to listen to any of my ravings. I refused to be shut up! I wanted a phone, lights, gun, knife, club, bodyguard, etc. and whatever else I might anticipate using to defend myself should another event occur again. I think back now and wonder why I had not asked for a 'wreath of garlic' and 'silver bullets' for my gun! Surely they would have been more appropriate under the circumstances. The only solace I ever got from my buddy was that "old houses make noises and now that I was co-owner of one, I might as well get used to whatever came along.

He belittled the affair so much that I too began to have doubts about my sanity and decided that I would simply have to spend the upcoming night if for no other reason than to straighten out my mind. Just before dark, my buddy returned with a flashlight and a gun and wish me well in the upcoming night.

Needless to say, that night turned out to be a dud and I never closed my eyes. I began to think that maybe he might have hit he nail on the head when he told me that I had simply "let my imagination run wild". In the weekends that followed, not another sound was heard nor was there ever one thing out of order. I finally conceded that it probably had been my mind playing tricks on me so I laid the whole matter to rest and went about the restoration procedures.

Several weeks later on a Saturday afternoon, the couple who had completed the initial restoration and lived in the house until I moved in, stopped by for a visit on their way home. It was getting dusky dark. I proudly showed them through the house all the while extolling the virtues of my work. Then from out of the innermost recesses of my aberrant mind spewed forth a question I had to ask them! I began by querying them as to whether they had ever witnessed any unusual occurrences that might have happened while they were living here! When I put the question to them they just stood there and looked at me and said nothing. I got the feeling they were holding back something important I should know. They nervously remarked that they had to go and walked outside and down the brick walkway to their car. I followed. Suddenly, she stopped dead in her tracks and stared at me for a moment!

Without any hesitation she began to blurt out all kinds of 'strange' and 'unusual' occurrences that had taken place while they living in the house and had used the very same bedroom. She said that after the first night, she learned to sleep with a pillow over her head while all her husband had to do was to unplug his hearing aid! These methods did solve the problem and was only way they could get any sleep!

It was getting dusky dark as we talked and suddenly the post light at the end of the walkway beside us came on brightly and then slowly dimmed out. Upstairs a lit candle appeared in the master bedroom and began to drift from window to window across the front of the house! When it appeared in the center window, which was a bathroom, a horrible thought hit me and it must have registered with them about the same time! In order for it to get from window to window as fast as it did, it would have had to go through two walls. It next appeared at the window of the bedroom where I thought I had heard the footsteps prancing around the first night. The candle then returned to the center window, stopped in the middle of the window and stayed lit only a few seconds before it disappeared and the post light came back on. Without one another word, the couple leaped into their car and were gone in an instant without so much as a goodbye! There I was, left to deal with my ghosts and my fate alone. I stood motionless for what seemed an eternity, too afraid to move. The only alternative I now had was to go into the house for it was getting late and cold. My gun was in there as if there was even the most remote possibility that it might protect me against something of this nature.

As I walked up; the brick walkway, I began to sing and whistle and both at the same time, I think. I made the front door without incident and turned on every light switch I could find. I found my gun and began what was probably the bravest period in my life. I nervously searched the entire house, room by room yet needless to say, I found nothing and nothing appeared to have been disturbed! I did notice one thing though, my heart had never pounded as it was doing now nor had my footsteps ever thundered so loud! My adrenaline glands definitely went into overtime and every hair on my body arose to the occasion! A strange feeling passed over me when I began to realize how dismayed I really felt that that nothing had been found or seen. Withstanding all else, I was now the proud owner of a resident ghost, whether I wanted it or not! But, the question was WHO and WHY would become my biggest challenge!

Excited as I was about these new happenings, I accepted them rather graciously and made up my mind that I was not going to be afraid any more and would find a way to make this entity aware of my intentions. We would just have to learn to 'co-exist' amiably if we both were going to be inhabiting the same place. I was not going to be scared off and fully intended to spend the rest of my life here whether he or she liked it or not.

Our other house finally sold and we moved in completely a short time later with nothing eventful happening for more than a month. Fate had somehow dictated that I was to get the bedroom that seemed to be the main focal point for all these spectral 'happenings'. I fully expected to experience some hairy moments from time to time until my ghost and I got to know each other but somehow but I soon became disappointed after giving my best effort to get to know my ‘roommate’!

Within a week things took a turn for the better or worse and I began to hear that famous, 'thump-scuff', 'thump-scuff' of my ghosts wooden leg. Sometimes, it would come down the hall and stop just outside my door and apparently end there, thank GOD! At other times, I would hear it pacing back and forth in the bedrooms on the floor above. Luckily, neither of us ever had the ‘good’ fortune of meeting each other face to face during his travels. Many times I could have sworn that I saw something out of the corner of my eye but it came and went too fast and to this day I could never say for sure.

One fall day, a lady who was a direct descendant of the ancestors who lived in the house in the 1800's, stopped by for a visit. No second-guessing about the prime question I was bound to confront her with before she had a chance to leave. "Had she ever heard anything about a ghost in residence here and if so, who!" To my complete surprise, she never faltered before she began to pour out the whole story of "him"! "Oh sure, I know all about who he is and why he is still here". I was flabbergasted and began to describe in detail all the happenings of the past. "Sounds just like him," she began. "He was my, great uncle and both of the bedrooms at the end of the second floor hall were his chambers. He was a Captain in the Thirteenth Virginia Calvary and lost his left leg at the Battle of Hanover Courthouse during the Civil War. He was never the same after that and upon returning to Greenview, grew despondent over his handicap as well as private affairs. On October 22, 1894, at 7o’clock in the morning, he committed suicide. His colored attendant, upon reaching his room and seeing what he had done, took up his pistol and joined him in death" She never batted an eye as she reached into her purse and extracted a copy of an obituary from the Index Appeal, fore-runner of the current Progress-Index. It was as though she had anticipated my query. "Here, read for yourself and you can keep this copy," she replied. It was the most vivid and explicit account of any obituary I had ever read. She went on to explain that the remainder of the family had sensed who they were dealing with and had no other recourse but to learn to cope with his ghostly antics that soon began to take over the place. ‘If his ghost ever seemed to be getting out of hand, simply admonish him and tell him to behave" she told me. "That is what we did many times and it worked but make sure you call him by name when you address him", she instructed. I promised I would try her method but I had some reservation about an attempt by me in admonishing a ghost to whom I was not a kinfolk!" It seems evident that all the ghostly antics that have been taking place have been done so by the Captain and never involved his poor manservant. I guess he is at peace with himself somewhere else! Thank goodness!

Armed with this new plethora of information about my ghost, I felt as though I now had the upper hand. I began to look forward to the "thump-scruff's" and was disappointed when he stayed away. I feel certain that his death took place at twenty minutes after the hour for it has always been that time he would come. It didn't seem to make any difference which hour, just twenty minutes after the hour. I can always sense when he is about to make his presence known by the uneasy actions of the dogs and cats. Their ears perk up and they take off for parts unknown about five minutes prior to his arrival time.

Many strange and unusual things have constantly prevailed to make sure our interest has not peaked. In the middle of one dark winter's night, a corroded Indianhead penny bearing the date 1894 fell into the middle of the bedroom floor of the master bedroom where my co-owner buddy slept. This incident gave him quite a jolt to say the least, for the year 1894 had been the year of the Captain’s suicide! Where had it come from? It had dropped from the ceiling in the middle of the room and as no one here owned such an Indianhead penny, it was a real puzzle. Another time when we were taking a group of visitors through the house there was a loud crash of a sort that sounded like a large tray of glasses crashing to the floor in the area where the tavern had been! We all immediately ran to the area but we could find nothing. A complete search of the house by both the visitors and myself still turned up nothing. Needless to say, the visitors lost no time in leaving the house poste haste! This identical event has repeated itself many times since then but now we just ignore it although it is not an easy thing to do!

It soon got to the point that I looked forward to having 'something' break the dull daily routine of life and thoroughly enjoyed myself when it did but one summer night, ‘someone’ added a new twist! I had awakened that night with an acute thirst and decided to go downstairs for a cold drink of water. The incident that followed would take its place among the most bizarre happenings so far.. As I began to descend the stairs, I passed through an intensely cold, damp, musty area about midway! It was the coldest cold I had ever felt and it seemed to go clear to the bone. It bothered me but I sloughed it off and kept going. As if the incident on the stairs had not been enough, when I reached the dining room or tavern door and tried to turn the doorknob to open it, it very forcible wanted to go in the opposite direction. If I let it go and tried to turn it in the other direction, it would try to go back in the other direction. I turned it loose and watched as it returned to it's normal position and wiggled! That was enough for me for one night! I was no longer thirsty and readily accepted the fact that I probably had not been thirsty in the first place. I ever so quietly eased backwards into the hall and rapidly ascended the stairs and returned to my room post haste.

Many times there have been knocks on doors, even when the doors were already open into the room where we were sitting. It has been a very disconcerting thing to happen, especially when you have guests and it did empty our house of guests several times. At a party one night, the house was filled with visitors with many spilling over into the parlor where an old l853 restored pump organ was located. Now everyone knows that this piece of musical equipment MUST be pumped madly by foot in order to create enough air to make it function. On this particular night, such was not the case and we rapidly lost a whole house full of guests when it let out a crescendo all by itself. The party was over when everyone ended up on the front lawn! Whether or not anyone cares to admit it, these ghosts here at Greenview have not only convinced us, but have also given many of our guests something to ponder for years to come!

Months later, we became aware that we just might be harboring still another ghost and this one probably a female! We made this determination due to the faint aroma of lilac and rose powder similar to the type all the old ladies used to wear. It can be smelled quite often it wafting through the hallways. Whether she has always been here and had been a 'low key' ghost we may never know but we think she may have seen how good we got along with her brother and decided she too should 'come out of the closet'! It was now time for another interrogation of ancestors and/or descendants! Who is this one? Why? What happened to this one? Not surprisingly, we got plenty of answers. From the ancestors we learned that she was indeed a sister of our ghost but her story was entirely different. It seems that long before her death, she had made it known that when she departed this life, her body was to be laid to rest at a place of her choosing in the family burial plot, one of the most beautiful spots on the plantation. It would be here that she wanted to remain "until the day the LORD came to take her away.’ But alas! Some descendant came along with the bright idea that she and several other family members should not remained buried in the plantation family graveyard since the family no longer owned the land and thus should be disinterred and moved to Blandford Cemetery in nearby Petersburg! Just before we moved into the house, the caskets of several family members were moved….Evidentially, a very big mistake!

In the days that followed we became more and more aware of her discomfort at having been disturbed. In her final days she had lived in the bedroom directly over the kitchen where the back stairs could be used to care for her. Many times while preparing a meal, we would notice the smell of the old lilac or rose body powder drifting down that back stairway. I remember it very well for my grandmother had used the very same powder. At times we all heard her sobbing softly up there. Outside the simple routine of these happenings, she never gave in to antics of any kind so we respect her as a grand old lady. I often times have tried to reach out to her to let her know that I sympathize with her completely but she keeps her distance, unlike her brother. I really can’t blame her! If I were in her place I would be mad as hell about being disturbed and moved and would seek some kind of vengeance.

Today, our existence with these resident ghosts is a pleasant one and like the legions of other old homeowners with ghosts, we would have it no other way! We only occasionally hear from ‘The Captain’ and on rare occasions smell that lovely lilac rose powder but there is one unusual thing that does bother me. Soon after I moved into The Captain’s chambers, my left leg went out and I had trouble walking, incredibly the very same leg he lost! There had been many times when the pain was so intense that a lesser stalwart soul would have contemplated self-destruction! Could he be lonely and trying to find a way to get me to join him? Such an action might be forthcoming from someone else but not me. I’ve got too much living to do! He will have to find someone else. I could not be more honored than to continue to reside in this beautiful old home replete with my own private ghosts and I shall continue to do so for some time to come...I hope! Should I spend the rest of my life here and then I too become a ghost, I fully intend to reap the benefits of what I have learned in dealing with ‘the Captain’ and pass it on to the next owner of Greenview.

©BNKeys, Paranormalplus.com2003

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