Yorktown, Virginia, is most famously known as the site where Lord Cornwallis surrendered to General George Washington on October 19, 1781, bringing about the end of the Revolutionary War and the birth of a new nation. Nearly 81 years later, the town would once again be at the center of military conflict during the Civil War. Though there was not an actual battle in Yorktown, many soldiers met their end there from disease and exposure to the elements. These events have not only secured Yorktown a place in the history books, they have left the tiny colonial village haunted by its past. Today, the village, with its population just over 200, is a living postcard to a sometimes ghostly past.
On the shore of the York River, there is a small manmade cavern. During the Revolutionary War battle, many of the townspeople sought shelter inside this cave. It is rumored, however unlikely, that Cornwallis himself was huddling in a corner. The cave became known as Cornwallis’s Cave. Since that time, residents and visitors to Yorktown have claimed to hear sounds of panicked voices and screams coming from inside. Upon investigation, the cave is found to be empty.
Without a doubt, the grandest home in Yorktown is the Nelson House on Main Street. Built in the early 18th century, it was once home to Thomas Nelson Jr., a signer of the Declaration of Independence. During the Revolutionary War, the house served as Cornwallis’s headquarters. In the Civil War it was used as a hospital. Crude medical procedures were conducted there, including amputations. Many men lost their lives in the house, but it seems not all of them left. Inexplicable gusts of wind and the smell of rotting flesh are not uncommon occurrences. People have experienced hearing voices and seeing men of the Civil War era when they are alone in the house. There is also an occasional sighting of a British soldier on the first floor of the home.
Grace Church dates back to 1697. It was destroyed and rebuilt twice and still serves the people of Yorktown today. There has been a phantom Colonial-era funeral seen in the cemetery surrounding the church. The first recorded sighting of this was in 1791. There is also an apparitional woman holding a dead infant seen inside the church.
OTHER HAUNTED SITES
Other haunted sites in Yorktown include a field across from the Nelson House. Men dressed in red coats have been spotted running around the property and ducking behind trees. On the battlefields, Civil War soldiers have been seen marching around and still on guard. At the Moore house, there is a woman in white who wanders the grounds and a man seen inside the house. But perhaps the most paranormally active spot in Yorktown today is a narrow trail that leads through the woods from the waterfront to Main Street. It is called Great Valley Road. It is not uncommon to experience cold spots and unexplainable mists on the trail. There have also been several instances of voices being recorded on tape that were not heard until the recording was played back.
Written by — Belinda Swindell Lead Investigator, Hampton Roads Paranormal Research Group
YORKTOWN COLONIAL PARKWAY
YORKTOWN, VIRGINIA 23690