Named for our very first First Lady, this hotel has some secrets of its own behind the front doors. The Historic Martha Washington Hotel In Abingdon, Virginia has a long history and some say this beautiful hotel may be one of the most haunted places in Virginia, if not the entire U.S. Affectionately called “The Martha,” the hotel includes a luxurious day spa, comfortable, spacious rooms, and more than a few ghosts wandering the halls.
First built in 1832, the hotel was originally the retirement home of General Robert Preston after he served in the war of 1812. He and his wife, Sarah, lived in the home with their nine children until 1858, when the mansion was purchased for use by a local, upscale girl’s college. Today, the original living room serves as the lobby for the hotel, but that life was still a few years off for the Martha. For 70 years, the mansion served as the location of the college, living through the civil war and more skirmishes.
During the Civil War, like many houses near the battlefields, it was made into a makeshift hospital for injured soldiers during the war. The college women were swiftly recruited as nurses and the sprawling grounds were used as barracks. Injured men were from both sides of the skirmishes, both Union and Confederate. Dozens of men were carted into the home just to pass from their injuries, despite the life saving efforts from the nurses and surgeons on location. Even more were treated and got to go home to their families, but the dark history still looms over the hotel. A bloodstain in one of the rooms has resisted every effort to clean, still staining the hardwood floors with a dark reminder of its history. It’s said this bloodstain comes from a Confederate soldier who was murdered on the grounds, and even more people say that he appears all around the antebellum home, wandering the halls even to this day.
The Martha Washington was closed as a college for girls after the Great Depression, the doors being closed in 1932. While the building wore many hats over the course of its history, such as housing for actors of the theater right across the street, with many prominent actors getting their start at the Martha. Today, Barter Theatre is known as the longest-running professional resident theater in the country. Tunnels that once connected the hotel to the theater across the street are also said to be haunted by an angry and violent spirit, some guests reporting scratch marks after walking through the tunnel below the Martha.
Finally, in 1939, the hotel was purchased and turned into the spa and resort we see today, though many actors would return as guests to relive their time living there during the beginning of their career. Famous individuals such as two presidents and their first ladies and movie stars have slept under the roof of the Martha Washington Hotel.
Along with the Confederate soldier said to haunt the building, many more specters make their home here in luxury. Mysterious violin music can be heard echoing through the halls, even when no musicians are around to have created it. Many guests report seeing shadowy figures peeking around corners and walking through the day spa. Some have even seen the ghost of a horse and his rider on the grounds, only for them both to disappear seconds after being spotted.
A heartbreaking story tells of a soldier who fell in love with his nurse before passing away. In his last breath, he asked Beth, the nurse, to play him a song so he could die in peace. Before she had time to pick up her violin, the soldier was gone. Perhaps this is the origin of the ghostly violin music sometimes heard throughout the hall, a final song for a life ended by conflict. Beth played for many soldiers as they took their final breath, and only three weeks after losing the man she’d come to love, Beth would succumb to typhoid fever as the illness spread throughout the hotel and nearby town. Legend says her spirit still haunts room 408, her apparition being reported numerous times by the guests of the hotel.
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Born in Death Valley and raised on the prairie, Deborah is a Wyoming-based paranormal researcher and a senior at the University of Wyoming, studying Communication. Her interests lie in folklore, history, rhetorical analysis and research. With an obvious love for ghost stories, frequently those interests combine with her work on Ghostlandia.