Step into the turmoil of Richmond’s dark past.
Richmond is where the revolutionary spark was set aflame. From St. John’s Church, Patrick Henry fanned the dream that would eventually transform into the wave of revolution across the 13 United States. It is the place where iconic figures like Benedict Arnold and Thomas Jefferson helped shape history.
Richmond is also the home of villains, murderers, and rogues. Of the ghosts and spirits that wander its streets, some are welcoming, others diabolic, but they all have good stories to share.
Richmond Ghosts will take you through Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom area – home to some of America’s oldest and most haunted buildings, tunnels, and grounds. These tales are based on historical events, local folklore, and eyewitness accounts. They will delight and scare you with a plethora of paranormal activity. Walk with us through history, the Colonial era, and the chaos of the Civil War, the unfeeling industrial revolution, and on. On your tour, you will feel the shadows of the slave trade’s terrible sins and hear tales that will freeze the very marrow in your bones.
GHEar chilling tales about the ghosts of the roaring 20s’, the decadent 70s’ and macabre modern specters that refuse to leave Richmond’s streets. We strive to bring you the most accurate and up-to-date information about Richmond’s haunted past and ongoing paranormal activity.
Visit the About Us page to learn more about Richmond’s history and why Richmond Ghosts tour is the best!
Richmond was home to Native Americans who called the city “Powhatan,” which led to the group being called the Powhatan Confederacy. Christopher Newport was the first European to set eyes on the land. John Smith later sent settlers to an area near Richmond in 1609. They formed the second oldest English colony in North America, Henricus, in 1611. The original residents did not welcome Their presence, and they entered the first of many wars with natives. The most serious conflict, in 1622, killed 25% of the English settlers in Virginia.
“Give me Liberty or Give me death”
Richmond is where this rousing phrase was spoken by Patrick Henry, who became the first post-colonial Governor of Virginia. Following his speech, the House of Burgesses, as the governing body was called then, committed to sending Virginian troops to the War of Independence. This helped assure victory in the War and liberty from British rule. However, death came to more than a few residents of Richmond and in very unnatural ways. This legacy of mortality leaves its traces all over the charming cobblestones of the Shockoe Bottom neighborhood of Richmond.
The docks of Shockoe Bottom were also the gruesome epicenter of the East Coast slave trade. With hundreds of thousands of scared and tired slaves seeing Richmond as their first taste of life on American soil. Before being sold at the Richmond slave auctions. Later, after emancipation, Richmond was home to the ‘the Wall Street of Black America’ in the Jackson Ward of Richmond. It was the national center of black entertainment and business in the South.
This southern city was a hotbed of independence and industrial progress. The state’s progressive leaders also passed the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, written by Thomas Jefferson, the first of its kind.
The streets of Richmond inspired author Edgar Allan Poe and often appeared in his macabre stories. He was resident here on and off during the early decades of the 1800s, writing his only novel at his house in Richmond. The staircase from this house was moved to the Poe Museum in Shockoe Bottom, Poe’s spirit is said to have tagged along for the ride.
Poe is credited with having invented the modern concept of murder, with motive, means, and opportunity, and he still inspires dozens of crime writers. Richmond has spent decades trying to perfect the form, and the ghosts on these streets are all that remains. At least four serial killers haunt the landscape of Richmond decades after their executions. Experience the bloody streets of one of the oldest European inhabited areas in America with Richmond Ghosts.
What makes Richmond a haunted hotspot?
Richmond’s past reads like a highlight reel of the United States’ history. It was a cradle of the Revolution, a pivotal point in the civil war, a key industrial hub, and a political whirlpool. Its past is highlighted with moments of selfless sacrifice as well as wicked betrayals. Richmond is a land soaked in blood and fury, dripping with the worst and best of humanity. On its streets, valiant soldiers fought wars. In its alleyways, serial killers and madmen preyed on innocents.
The first use of DNA technology halted the Southside Strangler
Timothy Wilson Spencer called Richmond not only his home but his killing grounds. Spencer prowled these quaint and quiet streets from 1984 – 1987. He was known as the ‘Southside Strangler,’ and at his height, he held a city hostage in their own homes, such as the fear of becoming his next victim. In 1994 he was executed for his crimes by electrocution. Some say his fiendish ghost remains at large in the city he gripped with fear. His fascinating trial and conviction used the new technology of DNA analysis to catch a fearsome killer for the first time. DNA also freed a man wrongfully convicted for one of Spencer’s crimes.
Timothy Spencer isn’t the only killer to have stalked the streets of Richmond. Its past is filled with such horrors. Each murderer continues, in their own ghostly way, to haunt the streets of Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom.
Richmond’s booming trade in human souls
Shockoe Bottom was a flat, low lying creek mouth on the James River. Prone to flooding, it would eventually become the soggy commercial center of Richmond, subject to constant inundation until flood defenses were built in the 1990s. This area was once home to over 69 wealthy slave dealers and several auction houses, holding cells, and communal burial grounds. By the late 18th century, Richmond was one of the largest slave-trading centers in the country, second only to New Orleans in sheer numbers, but not brutality.
Endless boats came up James River, loading and unloading their miserable captives just down the river from Shockoe Bottom. The walk up the river and across the Mayo Bridge to holding cells was often the first sight of land these people had seen since boarding the ships in West Africa. Families were sold together or traded as individuals as if livestock. Wealth was created on the backs of these human souls. They built the South’s wealth in the fields, factories, and plantations from Louisiana to Maryland.
For those awaiting sale, or with the spirit to try and escape captivity, a special hell awaited them. Lumpkin’s Jail was known as the Devils half-acre. Hear more about its horrors on the extended tour.
The area was a whirlwind of desolation and despair. The cries of anguish drifting down to the banks of the river, the rancid smell of fear all-consuming. The slaves who did not survive the journey or died later were buried in unmarked graves next to the Devil’s Half Acre. Many ghost sightings occur in the areas of the slave auctions.
Home of American Gothic
Edgar Allan Poe is often called “America’s Shakespeare.” The author is credited with inventing and reshaping whole genres and formats. A prolific writer of horror, science fiction, poetry, and detective stories, Poe was also haunted by his own demons, obsessions, and shortcomings.
He arrived in Richmond after his father left his family, and his mother died. He was taken in, but never formally adopted by the Allan family, who gave him his middle name. He was alternately spoiled and harshly criticized by his new father figure, wealthy tobacco merchant, John Allen.
Poe was a staple of Richmond society. He roamed the town, seeking inspiration and fanning his creativity with the wild tales and bizarre stories that were common currency on the streets of Shockoe Bottom. Richmond’s history owes a great debt to this legendary figure. Poe and even some of his characters are said to haunt Richmond’s streets, particularly the Poe Museum.