THE STREETS OF RICHMOND RUN WITH THE BLOOD OF THE PAST
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.
7 Reasons to take this tour.
Other attractions in Richmond just don't quite hit the spot?
Richmond, during the day is a great place to visit. The Poe Museum, the Craig House, St. John’s Episcopal Church are all fine destinations. You’ll hear the sanitized version of events and think that’s all there is. However, Richmond Ghosts will give you a glimpse behind the curtain of everyday life. After you hear these stories, you will marvel at the bloodcurdling tales hidden in plain sight.
Our tours are a welcome change of pace from the perfectly acceptable, more conventional attractions of Richmond. You’ll leave your tour with a host of truly memorable and scary stories to thrill your friends back home. We’ll also sneak in a better understanding of Richmond’s most prominent buildings and figures and how they impacted American history.
If you visit Richmond in December, be sure to try and catch the Krampusnacht parade, a spooky evening of events and costumes. If art is more your style, The Institute of Contemporary Art is a great place to see some world-class paintings and their events are a lot of fun, but they shut at 6 pm. The bars up in the Fan district don’t get going until much later, which leaves a perfect window, just as the sun is setting and dinner is over, to come down to Shockoe Bottom and Church Hill and see the spooky side of Richmond.
Nighttime is the right time for Richmond hauntings!
Just as the shadows start to lengthen and the sun sets behind the steely towers of Downtown Richmond, the atmosphere is perfect for the haunted histories of Shockoe bottom to be discovered.
The nighttime tour of the haunted highlights is for skeptics and dedicated believers alike. While we can’t guarantee you’ll witness the ghosts of children that like to photobomb visitors to the Edgar Allan Poe Museum, we can guarantee that you’ll get plenty of thrills and chills on your tour. Lumpkin’s Slave Jail is eerie in broad daylight, but at night it becomes even more disturbing as a part of the extended Richmond Ghosts tour. Add in your guide’s skillful narration of the terrible things that happened here, and you are ensured a night to remember.
The stories of hauntings we tell at each stop on your tour are based on eyewitness accounts of the ghostly activity or local legends too common not to be based on fact. Many of the sites your tour visits boast decades of reported paranormal activity. Many of these accounts were originally published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Virginia paper of record, first published in 1850. We encourage you to take photos throughout your tour and to report any anomalies that you witness!
You want a crash course in Richmond's haunted history
Whether you’re a local or just in town for a spell, Richmond’s past holds a treasure trove of fascinating tales and nasty secrets. Join us as we walk along the flood defenses that stand on the site of the Libby Prison. This gruesome hell hole was home to Union and then Confederate prisoners during the Civil War, and a daring prison escape plot took place by the river’s swampy banks.
The streets of Shockoe bottom were described as ‘chaos’ during the civil war, slave revolts, drunken soldiers, and rioting residents all played their part in making the capital of the Confederate states a place where things happened fast and furiously.
Richmond Ghosts is full of factual, historical details about the city and packed with local ghost sightings. We have Richmond legends that bring you a tour that’s as fun as it is educational. Kids, teens, and adults alike will enjoy becoming more familiar with Richmond’s devilish history—and its resident ghosts!
You live in Richmond and want to do something different to do at night
If you already know all the happening places around Richmond. Suppose you can recite restaurant menus from memory if you want something a bit edgy, something just out of your comfort zone, something sinfully delightful. That’s where a ghost tour fits the bill perfectly. Richmond Ghosts tours are fun-packed excursions through the horrific haunted history of Shockoe Bottom. Tours are scheduled at night to fit everyone’s schedule, even on weekdays.
We’re not going to ask you to hold an EMF meter (but you can if you want) or recant an ancient curse of the Powhatan, but if you know any, we’re all ears. We don’t go in for an overcooked reenactment experience, but we do have some stone-cold facts plucked from the latest historical research, and the best ghost stories we can confirm.
Tours last around an hour to an hour and a half. They are the perfect way to wrap up a date, a night on the town or a long day of sight-seeing. See the tour details page for more information or click the ‘Get Tickets’ button to see the tour times and availability.
You want an unforgettable birthday, bachelor/bachelorette party, corporate event or family outing!
Richmond Ghosts offers customizable group tours to those looking for the perfect event for family and friends, or work colleagues. All tours start near to one of Richmond’s best venues, the brand-new Main Street Station. See the tour details page for the exact location.
Hurricane Agnes caused the James River to burst its banks, and water came up the middle of the Main Street Station’s ground floor. It has since been beautifully renovated. The Dark Gothic station has its own ghosts that you will hear all about if you let us create your own group tour experience.
We can help you plan the perfect group ghost tour, working with you to tailor your tour to your specific interests and needs. Just let us know what you’re looking for, and we’ll work with you to help make it happen! Check out our Group Tours page for more information.
You don't like conventional tours.
If you’ve tried other tours and found the guides lack enthusiasm or local knowledge, then this tour is for you. We won’t leave you feeling like the guide is an energy vampire… slowly draining you and leaving you an empty husk. On Richmond Ghosts, the only vampire you have to worry about is the Richmond Vampire, spotted at one of the stops on your tour!
Your guides are fun, knowledgeable locals, enthusiastic about the stories they tell, and committed to giving you a truly awesome experience. The tours are designed to entertain, have you on the edge of your seat, and make each stop spookier than the last.
We tell the stories behind some of the most famous landmarks and haunted hotspots of Richmond. We also have tales of unbelievable events in ordinary places, and the ghosts that leave their mark on our world for eternity.
Looking for a fun company outing?
What better way to bring your work team together than to take your employees out for a group ghost tour? Richmond Ghosts has something for everyone—scary stories for the thrill-seekers, research-based history for the fact obsessed, and fun for everyone!
After a hard day of team building, or intensive company games or fun corporate activities in the Richmond area, a recommended way to blow off steam is to take a gentle stroll and hear about some of the hidden histories of this unassuming neighborhood.
The stories on your haunted tour will be remembered by everyone in your project team or department. Whether you are a Richmond based company or from out of town, a ghost tour is a great way to get to know the scary and historical stories of a fascinating neighborhood in a low-pressure team setting. No performance anxiety, no cruel tricks, and no singing from anyone!
Check out the Group Tours page for information on how to start putting together the best company outing your employees have ever attended!