Locations become haunted for a variety of reasons. One of the most common causes in the Eastern part of the US is because of a connection with the American Civil War. In this area, it’s not uncommon for residents of a brand new housing development to experience odd events, only to find out later that their home is built on what used to be a Civil War field hospital or encampment or even the remnants of a bloody battlefield. Due to the wide-ranging and horrific nature of that particular conflict, especially here in Virginia, there are a large number of unsettled souls reliving their agony and searching for assistance. Activity from different eras seem to “layer” on top of each other somehow and it is not clear whether the spirits from one time period are aware of those from another, although they often seem to be aware of and capable of interacting with modern paranormal investigators.
A disastrous battle
The “Battle of Ball’s Bluff” took place in what is today the heart of Leesburg, VA, a suburb of Washington DC, located along the Potomac River. General George B. McClellan, Commander of the Army of the Potomac, had his forces camped out on the Maryland side and was preparing for an all out invasion into Virginia when he ordered General Charles Devens to gather intelligence on Confederate forces across the river. Devens sent Captain Chase Philbrick and 20 men on a reconnaissance mission. In the dark, Captain Philbrook thought he saw a Confederate camp. Later events proved that the “tents” the men thought they saw were merely a line of trees.
After the men returned to Union army headquarters and reported their findings, Devens received orders to send 300 of his men across the river as a raiding party. Their purpose was merely to harass the Confederate soldiers and then scurry back across the river to the Union lines. However, as so often happens in wartime, events took on a life on their own and the result was the “Battle of Ball’s Bluff,” which went down in the history books as the second largest battle of the Eastern Theater in 1861. When the smoke cleared, Union casualties totaled over 1,000 while the Southerners lost only 155 men.
The engagement turned into a series of miscommunications and blunders that also resulted in the death of Colonel (and US Senator) Edward Dickinson Baker, the only sitting senator to ever die in battle. Fifty-four dead Union soldiers – only one of whom has ever been identified – are buried in “Ball’s Bluff National Cemetery.”
Construction of Carlheim
Paxton Manor, literally next door to Ball’s Bluff Battlefield, was originally named “Carlheim” and built by industrialist Charles Paxton in 1872, over 20 years after that famous battle took place here. It originally occupied more than 700 acres, but now consists of only 16 acres. It is the home of the Margaret Paxton Memorial Learning and Resource Campus. Also known simply as Paxton Campus, it houses several schools serving children and teenagers with disabilities and provides advocacy services for the disabled. This non-profit corporation, registered under its legal name – The Arc of Loudon – is an extremely well-respected educational and charitable institution in the state of Virginia.
Margaret Paxton was the daughter of original owner Charles Paxton and his wife Rachel. In her will, Rachel Paxton created the Margaret Paxton Memorial for Convalescent Children as a memorial to Margaret, who died in 1900 at 50 years of age. Rachel’s trust mandated that the house and some of the surrounding land be put to use caring for poor children. Upon her death in 1921, the property became known as the Paxton Home for Children. In 1954, it was turned into an orphanage that operated until 1980, when it became a child care center until 2004. Now vacant, every October it becomes a spectacular Halloween haunted house attraction called “Shocktober,” which raises funds for various children’s causes.
Reports of paranormal activity
The colorful history of Paxton Manor has attracted the attention of several paranormal groups, including the Antietam Paranormal Society (A.P.S.), founded in 2008 by Rebecca and Jeremy Boyer. The A.P.S. team conducted an investigation of Paxton Manor earlier this year and captured interesting audio evidence in the building known as the “Fun House,” located behind the main house. Becky Boyer and two investigators were conducting an EVP and Ghost Box Session when they captured this audio clip coming across the Ghost Box. They did not hear what it was saying at the time although they did hear some type of sound that caught their attention. It turned out to be an exceptionally clear and fascinating evidence capture. Additional evidence from other investigations is available on the A.P.S. YouTube channel.
Reports of paranormal activity at Paxton Manor include shadow people, phantom footsteps, and the feeling of being touched. The most commonly accepted theory is that some soldiers from that long ago Civil War battle may have sought shelter here, not realizing that they were already dead. Still traumatized by the horrors of war, they have yet to move on. Other manifestations may include spirits from the Manor’s many years of housing ill, injured, and disabled children. No doubt about it, Paxton Manor is one haunted house attraction that remains active throughout the year, long after the Halloween masks and decorations have been packed away.