All information courtesy of Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Research Historian and
Associate of the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture
Dr. Taylor Stoermer
Virginia Gazette, 13 October 1738
It is reported from Vienna that the ridiculous Opinion of Vampires which was so much talk’d of four or five Years ago, is again reviv’d. The common People’s Notion of Vampires is this, that dead Bodies rise out of their Graves and suck the Blood of People asleep; after which they conclude, that the Persons suck’d become in their turn Vampires ; and to prevent any ill Effects from Bodies that are suspected to be of this Sort, they drive a Stake through the Heart and cut off the Head. These superstitions Follies are suppos’d to arise not only from the Ignorance of the Inhabitants of the Banner, but to the Calamities is at present suffers, which occasions Panicks to prevail.
John Blair, 2 February 1751
Last night the college bell tolled they say about an hour, very slow and regular, till some went up and stopt it, who saw nobody.
Virginia Gazette, 21 March 1751
SOME are over-credulous in these Stories, others sceptical and distrustful, and a third Sort perfectly infidel. Mr. Locke assures us, we have as clear an Idea of Spirit, as of Body…
I shall conclude with a memorable Conference between the late Dr. Fowler, Bishop of Gloucester, and the late Mr. Justice Powell; the former a zealous Defender of Ghosts , and the latter somewhat sceptical about them.
They had had several Altercations upon the Subject; and once when the Bishop made a Visit to the Justice, the latter contracting the Muscles of his Face into an Air of more then usual Severity, assur’d the Bishop that since their last Disputation, besides his Lordship’s strong Reasons, he had met with no less Proof than ocular Demonstration to convince him of the real Existence of Ghosts.
How ! (says the Bishop) ocular Demonstration? Well! I have preach’d, I have printed upon the Subject; but nothing will convince you Scepticks but ocular Demonstration. I am glad, Mr. Justice, you are become a Convert: But pray, Sir, How went this Affair? I beseech you, let me know the whole Story.
My Lord, (answers the Justice) as I lay one Night in my Bed, and had gone thro’ the better Half of my first Sleep, it being about Twelve, on a sudden I was wak’d by a very strange and uncommon Noise, and beard something coming up Stairs, and stalking directly towards my Room. I had the Courage to rouze myself upon my Pillow, and to draw the Curtain just as I heard my Chamber Door Open, and saw a fuint glimmering Light enter my Chamber.
Of a blue Colour, no doubt , (says the Bishop).
Of a pale Blue (answers the Justice). But give me your Favour, my good Lord! the Light was followed by a tall, meagre, and stern Personage, who seem’d to be of the Age of seventy, in a long dangling Rug Gown, bound round his Loins with a broad Leathern Girdle: His Beard was thick and grizly; he had a large Fur Cap on his Head, and a long Staff in his Hand; his Face was full of Wrinkles, and seem’d to be of a dark and sable Hue. I was struck with the Appearance of so surprising a Figure, and felt some Shocks which I had never before been acquainted with.
Soon after the Spectre had entered my Room, with a hasty, but somewhat a stately Pace, it drew near my Bed, and star’d me full in the Face.
And did you not speak to it ? (interrupted the Bishop, with a good deal of Emotion).
With Submission, my Lord (says the Justice) and please to indulge me only in a few Words more.
But Mr. Justice! Mr. Justice! (replies the Bishop still more hastily) you should have spoken to it: There was Money bid, or Murder committed; and give me Leave to observe, that Murder is a Matte cognizable by Law, and this came regularly into Judgment before you.
Well, my Lord, you will have your Way; but in short I did speak to it.
And what answer, Mr. Justice, I pray you, What Answer did it make you?
My Lord, the Answer was, not without a Thump with the Staff, and a Shake of the Lanthorn, That he was a Watchman of the Night, and came to give me Notice, that he had found the Street Door open; and that unless I rose and shut it, I might chance to be robb’d before Break of Day .
The Moment these Words were out of the good Judge’s Mouth, the Bishop vanish’d with much more Haste than did the suppos’d Ghost, and in as great a Surprize at the Justice’s Scepticism, at the Justice was in at the Bishop’s Credulity.
Enlightened residents of 18th century Williamsburg didn’t believe in ghosts. Do you? Check out our series of ghostly features and decide for yourself.