Photos by Lori Graham
RADFORD – Glencoe Museum fascinated visitors on Oct. 14 with a tour called, “Myths, Mysteries, and Spirits: A Haunted Tour of Radford” that began at Glencoe Museum, routed through historical sections of the city, and ended at the legendary Ingles Castle.
Brave souls bought their ticket in advance and joined in the adventure to hear stories of times gone by. The Glencoe Museum was the entry point of this journey, where four different tours took place during the evening. Storytellers in the museum enticed and excited the adventure-goers with tales of séances, spirits, and premature burials.
One particular horrifying description of premature burial, which happened in Montgomery County in the Lafayette community, was given by B. Scott Crawford, a historian who has researched the topic. Crawford also serves as President and CEO of Virginia 8-1-1, ironically the organization known for their “know what you’re digging into” slogan on their website at va811.com, in advisement of underground utilities.
“In 1901, something happened that made major news,” Crawford said. “As the Salem Times Register reported, the story of a woman’s torture, said to have been buried alive and child born in coffin, in little ole’ Lafayette.”
Crawford went on to explain that the believed-to-be-deceased woman was pregnant when she was killed, and her husband was later suspected as the murderer. When they exhumed her body during the investigation, they were surprised and shocked to find a deceased female baby in the coffin with her.
However, further investigation by a Virginia Tech professor Dr. Robert Price, determined that the believed poison that was proposed as the weapon, was not present in the woman’s stomach contents and the case was dropped against her husband. Science would reveal that after death, a woman can naturally expel a fetus post-mortem, making the case still quite sad but less horrifying.
Premature burials did happen, especially during outbreaks of cholera or other diseases resulting in mass deaths across a region. If the term “dead ringer” is something familiar to locals, it could be because of this phenomena.
A person could be buried with a string attached to their fingers and run out of their coffin and through a tube that came above ground attaching to a bell. Night watchman in the cemetery performing a “graveyard shift” were to listen for the ringing of a bell and know that someone was buried alive. The hope was that the men in the cemetery would exhume the terrified individual, but this was not always the case.
After hearing stories of spirits and tales of people buried alive, tourgoers took a bus around the city that ended at the Ingles Castle on the west end of Radford.
At the Ingles Castle, or La Riviere, named after the New River that runs adjacent to the property, “spirits” presented the eventgoers with stories of the Ingles family that built and inhabited the grand home. The home was built in 1892 but burnt and was rebuilt one year later. Originally built with all cherry wood, the cherry trees were gone, requiring the homeowner, Captain William “Billy” Ingles, to use oak throughout a large portion of the home.
Ingles’ great-grandmother, Mary Draper Ingles, was captured by Shawnee warriors and later escaped, walking a treacherous several hundred miles to return home and facing many challenges along the way.
The home also holds a bit of a local legend of the Lady in the Mirror. Many locals believe the house is haunted by Ingle’s “Aunt Nannie”, and that her image in the mirror reflects her spirit. However, the story goes that while the endeared aunt was passing the mirror holding her cat, a lightning bolt reacted with chemicals in the mirror creating an outline of the woman and her feline.
Regardless of what the legend holds, the home is beautiful in its construction with rounded walls and ceilings, many rooms for guests and entertainment, and the office where Ingles once conducted his local business.
The home is in need of repair and restoration though, and more information can be found about ways that interested supporters may donate their time or money to the support of the Ingles Castle restoration.
Glencoe Museum can be contacted for more information as well as offering a great place to visit to find out more about Radford’s history and visit their gift shop of vintage gifts, local authors’ books, and crafts.
Executive Director of Glencoe Museum, Scott Gardner may be contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org.