Ghost Stories

Practically the only ghosts at VMI are First Classmen in good standing and with a full tank of gas. Because VMI’s history as an armory, and as a source of military personnel – some of whom were killed in action – and accidents, VMI takes on a dark cast whenever the sun goes down. While not as scary as the Clifton Bunnyman, there is plenty of creepiness on the post, not just in Smith Hall.
Folks have reported tears coming from Virginia as she mourns her dead. People have seen blood coming from the painting above the altar in JM Hall – a field of lost shoes, and lost souls? In 80s there was a portrait of a cadet which had been painted over a an earlier work of a woman kneeling. Legend went that the woman was the mother of the cadet, who’d been killed in battle. This was one of many legends at VMI.
Two of my BRs broke two legends: First Rat Sentinel never graduates, until BR Cheadle graduated; and no Cadet of Yankee origin who lived over Washington Arch, where General Jackson lay in state, ever graduated.
Given the violence regularly perpetrated on the 5th Stoop, initially as a room for several BR until attrition took effect, and then as HQ of the RDC, it’s little wonder folks have reported oddities.
For myself, the stacks of Preston Hall were too much. I was assigned a carrel there during Rat year and I used it three or four times. After midnight the library takes on a very different nature. I spent the rest of cadetship studying either in Shipp Hall or in the barracks. Nothing against the library, but it still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
What sealed the deal for me was an incident that occurred during Second Class Year, when 90 allowed 89 to believe it ruled barracks. My four roomies and I were studying in the room. We were in winter uniform and it was a clear, not too cold night. Jim had his back to the door and his earphones on, but we could still hear Metallica in spite of that. So, Charles (his Christian name, not what we called him) had his bluegrass music turned up in obstinate competition. Bull from Bayonne (he looked like Bull from Night Court) was caught in the middle, as was usual, and going bald from rubbing his scalp. Jeff was talking to the air about becoming a marine (which he did) and I was doing my usual attempt to study.
Not that I’d certify that last statement. Honest.
The stick hadn’t run and it was one of the few nights I didn’t get into trouble. Cursed, demonic stick!
It was over in a second. A grey figure moved across our door. Four of us, except Jim, saw it. “Did you see that?” Four people, except Jim, rushed the door. No one on the stoop(we lived in Gold Coast). No one on the stairs above or below. No one on the stoop above or below us. Nothing on the ceiling of our stoop. No one and nothing.
What got the four of us going was just how smooth the whatever it was moved. Humans bounce, even the Marines at 8th & I have some movement as they walk. Same with the Old Guard, same with anything on wheels. This was flat, smooth and consistent.
Practical joke? If so it was a damned good one. The five of us packed up our books and Jim went off to wherever EE majors study, and the rest of us headed to Shipp Hall, where civilized folk study. Well, except for English majors. The Daniels Den regularly filled with cigarette smoke and BS as English majors discussed the presuppositionalist themes of “The Farmer’s Daughter.” The Daniels Den was known for the Demon of Incoherency possessing its denizens.
VMI is a place where alumni return for any number of reasons. Some never leave. There have been fatal accidents in VMI’s past. There was even a murder. In 1854, Cadet Thomas Blackburn pushed one button too many. Scion of one of Virginia’s top 10 families, Blackburn has crossed a young professor Thomas J. Jackson and had been kicked out of school. Blackburn’s family got him reinstated so Blackburn felt obligated to act the ass. Until he was murdered in the churchyard in downtown Lexington.
Blackburn’s murder, and Major Jackson’s subsequent investigation have all the hallmarks of a fine gothic tale: a castle-like barracks, an old churchyard, indolence and privilege, money, political power as a favorite son oppressed an orphan, and the eternal snit between VMI and Washington & Lee, Virginia’s Masonic Master Lodge, even what became known at VWIL . And, a woman. Read all about it! Or you can ask Blackburn himself

About DaveO

Retired soldier, micro-farmer, raconteur and pet owner from the great state of Oklahoma. Wandered in as a frequent commenter and have been enjoying blogging ever since.
This entry was posted in History, Humor, Just for Fun, Rockbridge County, VMI. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Ghost Stories

  1. CooperEP says:

    I remember being sentinel in both Old and New Barracks (New New Barracks didn’t exist), and there were weird nights, particularly in the cold winter nights, where I heard things that didn’t seem to have sources like footsteps when no people were shuffling around well after the extended study hours granted by the TACs had expired. It always seemed weird to me.

    I also was told stories of the bookstackers where all of the books in random rooms in barracks would be arranged in the center of the room from largest to smallest when the occupants woke up. Never saw it, but we all know how stories go through barracks. Anyone ever hear similar stories?

    Lastly, one of my favorite things that I did was to take my girlfriend (now wife) on the official Ghost Tours of Lexington. It was cold, and I was in grey blouse with woolies, and it just seemed to fit the atmosphere for the stories and tales told during the tour.

    Liked by 1 person

    • DaveO says:

      I was called upon to conduct a “ghost investigation” in Mezar-i-Sherif in 2004. The Ghost Tour in Old Town Alexandria was fun because the docent knew his history and kept the group entertained. The best show on TV is “Ghost Adventures: Aftershocks.” Watching that show should be mandatory for anyone considering a ghost hunt.

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  2. vmijpp says:

    DaveO, that is one of your best!

    “For myself, the stacks of Preston Hall were too much. I was assigned a carrel there during Rat year and I used it three or four times. After midnight the library takes on a very different nature. I spent the rest of cadetship studying either in Shipp Hall or in the barracks. Nothing against the library, but it still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.”

    YES. As a cadet assistant at Preston Library I very well remember having to close up the place, and quite frankly it could be terrifying. Locking that big iron-strapped oak door behind me (finally!) was always a relief. Every time I see that building I think of those days and how I’m glad– even at my age and after all I’ve done– that I never have to close the place up again.

    Now, going in to JM Hall at night as OD, to stride forward and touch the stage was a altogether a different thing, and hair-raising in its own way.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. keydet1976 says:

    Not sure if was such during your Cadetship; but in the years 1972-76 the Corporal of the Guard hated checking JM Hall after midnight as there were reports of a ghost lurking in the balcony. The ghost of a cadet who committed suicide by stabbing himself with a bayonet after being found guilty by the Honor Court in the mid-60’s. It was said you could hear the anguished cries as he died in the still of the night.
    Years ago I met an alumnus who was the Corporal of the Guard and who discovered the body of that Cadet; his discovery was a result of blood dripping from the corpse on to him as he made his check in the still of the night.

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  4. slater says:

    There were some creepy things that happened to me in my first year. During STP I was woken up by some mid-2000s alumni that somehow knew exactly which room I was in the first stoop. Later on as a member of Glee Club we sang at the dedication of Luke Wullenwaber’s (’02) plaque in the memorial garden. That summer I would meet one of his childhood friends (a few years younger) working at the Blockbuster, when we still had those, in my hometown. Then during my 2nd class year I would get issued both of Luke Wullenwaber’s duffles from the Army Department.

    Since there is pretty much no tradition anymore, being third rat sentinel was nice before the gates would be closed.

    I remember being woken up for the jury pool three times one semester…must not be a true lottery system.

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  5. Interesting. I was the 1st Rat Sentinel in ’64 and I graduated. I also survived a tour as an Infantry officer in Vietnam and remain alive to this day despite frequent attempts to do me in by my adversaries in court.

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  6. slater says:

    Our first rat Sentinel faced the drums.

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  7. burkemblog says:

    This brings back a number of memories–as well as remind me that barracks stories adapt with time. I lived over Washington Arch my third class year–four of the five of us were Yankees and all of us graduated, so wherever that legend came from, it was certainly not current 1969-73. I can’t remember our first rat sentinel, so can’t vouch one way or another for that (though now that i think of it, it may have been Ricky North, who didn’t graduate). I was a cadet assistant, and I also had to lock up Preston Library on Saturday nights–the hardest part (besides going into the Timmins Room to make sure that the on-confinement folks with dates had disposed of their condoms properly) was turning off the lights on all the then-10 floors of the stacks–I knew the place was empty, but was always scared to death when i started and felt much better after i locked the front door.

    We lived next to Stonewall’s classroom my first class year, and twice I heard or felt things–one night, our door opened and a cold presence made its way around the room, walking around the hays–the cold left and the door shut–there was no wind at all, so I’ve always assumed it was someone coming back to check. A few months later, I woke to the sound of boots on the stoop–went to the door and looked out–could hear them but saw no one except the sentinel, and he was not the source. I absolutely believe Old Barracks is haunted–I just don’t know by what!

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  8. DaveO says:

    If I recall correctly, Townie has a theory that “always and forever” is about 12 years: prior to one’s mentor dyke’s class matriculating to after one’s mentored dykes graduate. Mr. Murphy’s and MikeB’s comments seem to indicate the truth of it.

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