A story about Carter’s Tavern is included in
L.B.Taylor JR.’s book
The Ghosts of Virginia
Carter’s Tavern http://carterstavern.com/ is on the very historic and impressive River Road in Halifax County, Virginia. This area of Virginia is well known for the “Crossing of the
This crossing was made in 1781 by the American Army lead by Nathanael Greene who was pursued closely by the British under the command of Cornwallis. It is also well known for being on the main stage coach road which led from New York to New Orleans as well as for having George Washington mention in his diary that he stopped at the Carter’s Tavern for refreshments.
I had received an email from Mark Willard, present day owner along with his partner. He told me a little about the tavern and how it had been included in a book titled The Ghosts of Virginia Volume II by L. B. Taylor. At first I had trouble finding a reference about Carter’s Tavern in the book until Mark pointed out that the story was included in a section covering Richmond rather than the Southside. The story Mr. Taylor conveys in his book is an interesting one, telling of the many dances held at the tavern as well as a murder that was committed on the third floor which, according to Mr. Taylor resulted in at least one haunting. The ghost was told to be a woman who “roams” the ballroom and looks out of the window. He also writes about how the stage coach would stop at the tavern in order for the weary travelers to eat and for most, to rest for the night.I scheduled a tour of the property with Mark and couldn’t help but feel fortunate that we would be allowed to investigate the building and grounds. As I drove the back roads to reach Carter’s Tavern, I saw several stately older homes that were built long ago. I arrived to find a well cared for building and grounds. It was easy to see that the owners respected the property. I had arrived a little early and took a moment to walk around the yard while waiting on Mark to arrive. With Mark’s arrival I asked to video the interview as we toured the grounds, a transcript of that interview is included elsewhere in this report. It was easy to see that he knew quite a bit of the history of the tavern and about architectural styles. We started in the kitchen and then entered the hallway where I spent a few moments reading information that travelers had written on the wall. We then toured the rest of the first floor which included a dining room and the present day master bedroom. We then went to the second floor where Mark showed me a small bedroom where the ghost of a woman looking out of the window had been seen from the yard. He then mentioned that he had not seen or heard anything paranormal in the tavern and he felt that if there was anything there, it was peaceful and not prone to disturb anyone. We then toured the third floor which was the ballroom where so many dances had taken place. Mark showed me where the murder had been committed and again stated that he had not had any paranormal experiences there. I was impressed at how honest he was about that. Many times when I research a property for an investigation people can be hesitant to admit that they personally haven’t seen or heard anything although others might have. We then toured the grounds and the family cemetery not far from the tavern in a small stand of woods that separates the tavern from a farmer’s field. We discussed the headstones and how some were simply unmarked stones. I thanked Mark for his time and for sharing his knowledge and returned home to work on a plan for the investigation.
Members present on the investigation were Scott and myself. We had discussed a plan of action and packed up all of the equipment for the trip. We would start at the location where most of the activity in the past had been experienced, the third floor and then make our way to the small bedroom on the second floor. We would attempt to record possible EVPs and take video along with still photos throughout the tavern.
We arrived around 7:30pm and I introduced Scott to Mark and his partner, Richard. Mark told us that they were going to be at a party that evening and that we would have the tavern to ourselves. We unloaded our equipment and made our way to the third floor. We got set up and called for lights out. Scott conducted an EVP session while I videoed and took an occasional still shot. At first we received no responses, but after about a half hour we would hear an occasional tap in response to a question, but not on the third floor. It was coming from downstairs. I was doubtful our voice recorders were picking up the faint sounds from below but was hoping that whatever was making the taps would come to us. We discussed it and decided to move to the second floor in order to hopefully get closer to the sounds.
We set up in the small bedroom at the front of the house. It was the obvious choice since there was a history of sightings at this room. Scott was near the window while I was close to the door. We began an EVP session and heard nothing. After about 20 minutes we decided to move again.
This time we chose the large bedroom that was originally the gentleman’s dining room. I chose a chair near the mantle while Scott chose another about 4 feet away. We conducted a short EVP session and then sat in silence as I occasionally videoed the darkened room. There was little traffic on this country road so we only experienced headlights from below a few times. When we did see them they were obvious as to what they were. After about 5 minutes of silence I saw a small light dance over the bed near the ceiling for a few moments. I didn’t say anything at first to see if Scott saw it too. I then mention that I saw a light near the ceiling and Scott quickly said that he had as well, but in a different area. We discussed the possibility of lights from a passing car, but we both knew it wasn’t that. Just as we started to discuss it, a car went by and lit up parts of the room making it clear that we saw something else.We sat quietly for a while longer and then made our way to a bedroom across the hall with a ceiling that sloped on two sides. I sat on the floor near the door where I could see what was going on outside the room while Scott sat on a chair near the bed. We
conducted another EVP session that ended quietly. I mentioned to Scott that maybe we had been lured away from the Ballroom with the tapping from below and he said that maybe we had been since everything had gotten quiet since we had left it. Since we had only heard tapping when we had been on the third floor, we decided to return to it. We conducted several EVP sessions and while we would occasionally hear a sound from below in response to questions as before, nothing seemed to be happening in the Ballroom where we were.
We decided to continue investigating the second floor before moving to another area. The last room to set up in was the caretaker’s room. It could be reached from the large bedroom. I set up again near the Mantle while Scott was in another chair to my right. We again attempted to record some EVPs or hear a noise through asking questions. After about five minutes we both heard a squeak from behind us. The private staircase was in that area. Scott mentioned that he felt uneasy, but didn’t elaborate on why. We stayed quietly in the room for about another ten minutes before deciding to leave it.
We went down the main staircase to the first floor and set up in the kitchen. I stood still near the mantle and looked at all of the cast iron implements while Scott sat at the table. From where I stood I could see out in the backyard. It was lighter out there in the yard than in the tavern due to the bright moonlight. As I was looking out the window Scott asked “Did you hear that?” I replied that I had not heard anything and asked him what he had heard. He said that heard his name called softly. I assured him that I had not said anything. We stayed quiet for a few minutes before we both heard it the second time. My hearing is not that good so if I had not been concentrating I would have likely missed it. We both felt as if it came from the stairway. After an EVP session, decided to take a break. I walked outside and through the back yard. It was cool and the full moon looked impressive. Scott came out after a few minutes and we discussed the investigation so far.
We decided to return once again to the Ballroom. We entered the Tavern and made our way up to the third floor. On the second floor landing I felt a sudden chill and stopped. Scott mentioned that he felt a chill just as I stopped walking. After a few moments, it went away. We discussed it and then continued on up to the Ballroom. We set up again with Scott watching the stair case side of the room while I watched the other side. We were about 5 feet from each other looking in different directions. I remember feeling very comfortable and at ease in the room. After about ten minutes I heard Scott’s flashlight click on as my side of the room lit up slightly from it. He said nothing and didn’t have to. We had worked enough cases together that I knew he had seen something. I also knew I had to ignore the temptation to turn around and keep watching the other side of the Ballroom. After several more clicks of the light he spoke. “I know you’re there, I’ve seen you moving. Come on out over to us. We just want to talk to you”. I couldn’t help but turn around now and without talking to Scott, started watching the staircase side of the room. Then I saw movement. It was on the far side of the banister, on the opposite side of the landing it was a dark shape barely higher than the railing and it moved quickly to the far corner. Scott spoke again asking it to show itself or to come over where we were. I spoke saying that we just wanted to talk and help if possible. Scott saw movement again, but I did not. We sat in the darkened room for another 15 minutes without anything happening. We then decided to call it a night.On the way home Scott told me why he had felt uneasy in the Care Taker's room on the second floor. He said that after a few minutes of us sitting there he felt what seemed to be someone's hand gently moving across his hair. I looked out of the side window of the car and said that he was very fortunate to have had such an experience.
Interview concerning the history of
Recorded by Alan May on 4/11/2009
The following is an account of the history of Carter’s Tavern as told by one of the current owners, Mark Willard. The interview began as we stood outside the back of the present day kitchen.
This part of the Tavern was built in 1773 by the Dodson family. It was originally a plantation house and was one and a half stories. When Mr. Dodson died in the later part of the 18th century, it went to his wife and son. His son applied for a license to operate an ordinary or tavern. They operated a tavern here until sometime in the early 1800’s, maybe 1801 or 1802. It was then sold to Mr. Carter. Mr. Carter tore down half of the house and built the two and a half story section on the side. This is a very special house because the section built between 1800 and 1810 was very Federal and all original, even the paint inside is original. The 1700 section of the home had to be rebuilt when it was restored in the early 1970’s. When this was done they tried to put it back the way it was and saved as much of the original character as they could.
We then entered the present day kitchen.
You’re now in the 1773 section. The mantle is original and the two warming closets on either side are original. Even though this section was rebuilt, they reused as much of the original material as they could. When this was a tavern, this was a Taproom and upstairs was a sleeping loft. They used to put corn husk beds up there for travelers. The Halifax Historical Society did say that the office building was off to where you drove up into the driveway. There was a murder that took place there, but I’m unaware of any ghost stories connected with it.
Mark’s partner then said: The murder of the overseer had something to do with money. The only ghost I know about the one with the story about the third floor.
At this point we entered the hallway where Mark continued to discuss the history of the Tavern.
This is the original hall. This is all original. There is writing on here (pointing to the wall) from 1938 all the way back to the early 1800’s. We have cleaned some of the wainscoting and some of the folk painting to try to get some of the dust and dirt off of it, but anywhere we see something like this we haven’t touched it.
We then walked down the hall towards the front of the Tavern.This room right here I use as my dining room because I have my two English drop leaf tables that come together, but originally it was probably just used as a gathering spot. The front almost mimics the back; there are just very slight differences. Window placement is the only thing that is different. Then you come into what was originally the general dining room. Both this floor and the one upstairs are identical.
This is all original, the paint, the floors, everything. The only thing that’s not original is that now the walls have sheet rock since they tore the plaster out, and probably it had a wood ceiling, but its covered over with sheet rock. It is documented that George Washington did stop here for refreshments on his way to Danville. We can claim that because it’s written in his diary. None of the furnishings are original to the house. When the Edmonds owned it, they had none of the original furnishings. All of the mantles are original. Actually some people came here and they were going to take them, they were prying them off of the wall. A local lady came in and saw what they were doing and ordered her husband to go back and get their truck. They loaded all five mantles on their truck and stored them.
We then walked into a bedroom next to this room.
This is our room. It originally was the innkeeper’s room and this adjacent room would have been part of the innkeeper’s suite.
We entered the adjacent room that connected the innkeeper’s room to the hallway. Mr. Willard then showed me another staircase that leads to the second floor from the innkeeper’s bedroom and we ascended to the second floor on it.
This is one of the reasons I bought this house. I love this private staircase. They’re narrow and tall so watch your step. This is our bathroom. Originally it would have been another sleeping quarters. We reconfigured it and added the heart pine floors.
We exited the bathroom into a large room directly above the general dining room on the floor below.
And then you walk into the gentlemen’s dining room. As you see it’s almost a mirror image of the downstairs. The faux paintings and the mantles are different, but it’s the same size. This is where your important dignitaries, probably President Washington stayed or refreshed. But, this is now a bedroom.
We then walked out of the gentlemen’s dining room and into the hallway on the second floor landing. We then entered a small bedroom on the right that faces the road.
In the book (L.B. Taylor’s Ghosts of Virginia volume two – white cover) talking about the murder, this is the bedroom the newlywed couple stayed in. We have never seen anything, but people have said they have seen images out of this window. Those that have seen it have seen it from below and have said it’s a young woman. I don’t know the validity behind that. If we have ghosts, they are very friendly ghosts. We’ve never had any issues.
We then reentered the hallway and stopped at the next room on the right. It was a small bedroom with a sloping ceiling on two sides.
This is the little sleeping loft up here. The Edmonds had furnished it just as if it were a tavern. They had a series of three cornhusk beds here, here, and here. To my understanding that’s what would have been originally done. This would have been more for the low paying guests, almost like a hostel.
We then ascended the stairs to the third floor.
This is where the murder happened. We’re using it for storage until we get our outbuildings installed. This is where it supposedly happened.
We walked to the far side of the room to the left of the window.
Its somewhere in this area where they talk about that on a cold rainy night you see blood stains. But this is where the murder happened. The jealous husband, who got upset that his wife was dancing with another young gentleman, shot him. People have seen the bloodstain. I don’t know of any figures happening (appearing) here. This was the main stagecoach route between New York and New Orleans, so you had a huge amount of people at that time passing through here after the Revolution. So there had to be a number of people that stopped here and never made it out of here. That had died of natural causes
Mark Willard then showed me the family cemetery located near the Tavern. We looked at several graves that had only smooth stones to mark them.
End of interview concerning Carter’s Tavern.