Haunted Chatham House

Chatham House was a large, prosperous plantation during the late 1700s. Built by William Fitzhugh in 1771, it played a very important role in both the social and political life of a then young America.  Only a few yards away from George Washington’s Estate, it was the scene of many a party and social gathering.  Washington’s diary makes mention of his having spent a lot of time there.  The place even had a race track, where all the local farmers and breeders would often pit their horses against each other.

The source of Chatham’s best known ghost, the Lady in White, was a soured love affair.  A young girl from an aristocratic family in America was sent to England for her education where she fell in love with a young man who was a drysalter. Drysalters dealt with the sale or even manufacture of various chemicals like lye or potash besides the more obvious implications of the title, namely the salting and preservation of meats and fish and the sale of salt itself. This was not a proper profession for a girl who had grown up in a wealthy plantation family to marry into.

Her family vehemently disapproved of course, and had her brought back to American to stay at Chatham in the hopes that she would meet a more suitable paramour.  They were not counting on the determination of her lover back in England however, who somehow made his way over to America with the intention of eloping with her.

George Washington, of all people, caught the young man exiting out of window with the girl at a party. He spoke to the fellow and persuaded him to give up his quest as it simply could not end any other way than badly for all. The young girl also resigned herself to marrying someone that her family would approve of. It is said that after that point she never smiled again.

She married and produced 10 children. On her deathbed she proclaimed that she would return to Chatham in spirit as that was the only place where she had been truly happy. Shortly after that people began to see a “Lady in White” walking about the grounds.  She appears every 7 years on June 21st, between noon and midnight.  She died in 1790, on June 21st. Supposedly her grief over the loss of her only true love was what killed her.

It is also said that ghostly carriages full of party guests and revelers can be seen coming and going back and forth along the long driveway that leads up to the house.

Chatham also experienced a minor slave rebellion in 1805, where the slaves actually overpowered all four overseers.  This was promptly suppressed and one of the slaves was killed.  Two more died trying to escape, and another two were deported, possibly to Louisiana or the Caribbean. Though nothing has been reported of hauntings linked to this incident, it would be interesting to do some research, as incidents like  the above are often the source of hauntings.

 

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