Brianna is a full-time writer, blogger, and editor. Her specialty is all things scary. Travel with her to some truly haunting destinations!
Sit Back and Enjoy the Ride
We're driving. We have left the city and are now in a serene, scenic part of Southern Virginia. We enter Wythe County, a small and tight-knit community of about only 500 residents, located in the hills is Max Meadows, Virginia. We turn onto a long, gravel road traveling slowly into deer-filled woods; we pass flowing streams and an abandoned mill. Finally, we have reached our destination—a massive, beautiful antebellum mansion perched on a scenic hilltop awaits us. But, this beautifully crafted estate houses a lot of secrets . . . and some long-deceased guests. Are you ready for a tour through time?
The History of Major Graham Mansion
Built on 11,000 square feet of property, Major Graham Mansion (also called Cedar Run Farm) gets its name from a civil war hero and past owner, Major David Graham. Born in 1838, he served as a Lieutenant in the Civil War. Major Graham lived in this historic estate all his life as the mansion was actually built by his father, Squire David Graham. Squire David, an Irish immigrant, purchased the parcel of land from John Baker in 1826. John Baker was the son of Joseph Baker, who originally owned the land and built a small cabin in 1785. According to court records, Joseph Baker's two slaves murdered him by taking an ax and slicing his head clean open right down the middle and then throwing his body into a vat of moonshine. The two slaves, Bob and Sam, were eventually hanged on the property for the crime. Their ghosts have been continuously reported wandering around the grounds where they were hanged. That was the start of this mansion's dark history and hauntings as the mansion was built around Joseph Baker's original cabin. Squire David married his wife, Martha Bell Pierce, in 1835 and began the building of what would eventually become the famous Major Graham Mansion. They had eight children, with Major Graham eventually inheriting the mansion.
So how does a family come to build and own such a prominent and massive property? The Grahams were very wealthy in part to owning many other properties, including thousands of acres of land, a mill, a general store, 12 Iron forges, and furnaces. Squire David also had part ownership of local mines. When he died, Major Graham inherited his properties and businesses as well. Apart from his inheritance, he also invested in and governed several mining and manufacturing companies of his own. Major Graham married Nancy Montgomery Tate in 1868 and also birthed eight children before he died in 1898.
Many renovations, additions, deaths, tragedies, mental illnesses, and secrets have happened over the hundreds of years Major Graham Mansion has existed. It has seen its share of owners as well. The current owner since 1989, Josiah Cephas Weaver, has maintained the property with the direct intention of preservation of the mansion and its history and heritage. He also hosts many events at the Cedar Run mansion throughout the year, with the most popular events held during the fall months. Those events include haunted attractions, music festivals, and ghost tours.
A Look Inside the Magnificent Mansion
This massive antebellum mansion was built in four sections from 1840 through 1890. The mansion itself has three floors and 25 rooms but has many outbuildings as well on the property. Some outbuildings have been lost over the years, some are original, and some renovated. As of now, they have an outbuilding to the left of the front porch of the mansion, which served as the wash house and has the original fire pit, chimney, boiling cauldron, drain, and rinse basin. The outbuilding directly behind the main mansion's kitchen was the summer kitchen and slaves' quarters. There was also a "winter's kitchen" that was located in the basement. Other outbuildings include a contributing office commissary, a spring house, and two barns. Just a few steps away from the mansion is also Squire David's General Store which attracted many wagon road travelers headed west in its day.
Major Graham Mansion is surrounded by hills and forests, which makes a very picturesque, chilling, yet beautiful scene. Its architectural work is reflective of a more Charleston influence, and the exquisite woodwork inside and outside the home and rope trim around the doors add to the mystique of the mansion. Throughout the mansion, you will find original mahogany mantles as well as decorative and functional radiators. The woodwork on the rear staircase is also original and zig zags from the main floor to the third floor. The living room opens directly into the dining room with floor-to-ceiling oak doors and are the two most massive rooms in the home. Around the outside of the mansion, you can find original herringbone brick walkways.
During the period Major Graham owned the mansion, he added a Mansard roof, a tower, and dormers. It was then that he also added the beautiful Victorian porches that overlook Cedar Run Creek.
Major Graham Mansion's Notable Rooms
There are a few rooms in the home that are well-known for strange phenomena and their dark history. Let's have a look:
- Clara's Room: Of all the rooms in the house, this one seems to have the most attraction, activity, and the worst tragedy. The room is located directly above the Hearth room and was actually used as a classroom. Clara is said to have been a little girl orphaned by The Civil War. She was then "secretly" adopted by Major Graham's younger sister Bettie. She was kept in Bettie's and other younger sister Emily's room. It is believed the sisters tortured the poor young girl for several years before she was ever discovered! After coming down with either Tuberculosis or Pneumonia one winter, Clara died. The sisters reportedly wrapped Clara's body in bedsheets and then hid her in a closet until the winter was over and the ground no longer frozen, where they proceeded to bury her in a shallow grave on the property. The grave is supposedly just beyond one of the barns on top of a hill. Bettie, whose real name was Elizabeth Ann Graham, kept a diary that is now published and kept at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Clara is the most active spirit in the home, especially if given a ball to play with.
- Martha' s Room: There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the story of Martha Bell Pierce, the wife of original owner Squire David. Many believe that Squire David was not only an alcoholic but a mean and nasty alcoholic at that. Martha suffered through many years of depression and mental illness, probably because of Squire David. Martha would have crazy fits, which drove Squire David to lock Martha up in a room for long, undisclosed amounts of time. Where is the proof of this? All over the mansion! In several rooms of the house, you will find walls and windows where Martha carved the date and her initials. The dates are believed to be when Squire David had locked her up. In the infamous Martha's Room is where you will find an actual window etching dated February 24th, 1864, with her initials and signature. Martha's spirit is believed to haunt the mansion and pull pranks on guests.
- Bride's Room: The Bride's Room is located on the front side of the mansion. The room inherited its name from an unknown woman apparition that is often seen in the window. Often called "The Lady in Veil" or "Weeping Bride," those who have seen her describe her as a very saddened young woman who is in a wedding dress. It is believed that she may have been waiting for her fiancé to come home from the war. Only he never made it, and she's been waiting for him ever since. A man and his girlfriend, who were caretakers of the house in the 1990s, claimed to have seen her a few times in the window and at the bottom of one of the staircases.
- Confederates' Room: The Confederates' Room is located in the third-floor attic and is also the biggest secret of the mansion itself. It is very much believed by historians that Confederate officers held secret meetings in this room, plotting battle strategies against the Yankees. Many wonder what other secrets this room held as well.
- The Basement: In the basement is where disobedient slaves were kept. As a matter of fact, there was a room dedicated just for them. That room is called The Shackle Room, and it faces much speculation after writing was found carved into the wood paneling next to the shackles. Could it be? You guessed it! It is believed to this day that the writings are that of Martha Bell Pierce and that this was one of the many places Squire David locked her up.
Read More From Exemplore
"The Place Has Been Haunted Since I Can Remember . . . "
— Local Resident
Hauntings and Paranormal Investigations at Major Graham Mansion
Visitors have become so captivated by this place, and it's easy to see why. Paranormal investigators have been coming to this place for quite a long time and they come often. The reason being is the many accounts of activity and entities seen and heard here by eyewitnesses. Here are some of them:
- A child has been heard saying "What's Your Name?" near the Confederate's Room.
- Many report a strong smell of pipe tobacco in certain parts of the mansion.
- In the most active room, Clara's Room, an entity believed to be Clara, will sometimes roll a ball around the floor.
- Local residents have often reported many strange occurrences. They have heard strange voices and have seen lights and faces in the windows. One long-time resident even said, "The place has been haunted since I can remember."
- One local resident was driving and came around the bend where Major Graham Mansion is located and saw an enormous, at least 6'6, gray apparition in front of the slave quarters wandering the grounds. The resident said the ghost had no pupils, just big round circles where the eyes should be. Could it be the slaves, Bob or Sam, who murdered Joseph Baker?
- The owners and guests of the mansion claim to have walked past Martha's Room and have seen a woman on the outside balcony rocking in a rocking chair that isn't there.
Along with these eyewitness accounts come the many occurrences that have happened to quite a few paranormal investigation groups or ghost hunters that have spent many nights inside this haunted home. Hand in hand, comes hundreds of EVP's(Electronic Voice Phenomena), apparitions caught on camera, and countless other paranormal phenomena recorded. Here is some of the evidence collected by them:
- Virginia Paranormal Society: This group is among some that have investigated here frequently. And they have gotten some pretty good evidence to date. In the Parlor room (where there is a piano) when asked about playing a song, they caught a man saying clearly," I don't play that tune." While another investigator was investigating a different room on the 2nd floor, he witnessed a shadow of a head and shoulders peek into the room and back out. After immediately going out into the hallway to check, there was no one else around on the whole floor. Other reports and claims from this group include pant tugging, shirts tugging, hearing whispers, and being flat-out touched. But my favorite claim was that of one of the investigators singing Amazing Grace in the Piano Room. When she stopped mid-verse as a technique to get a response, a response she did indeed get! An EVP was recorded of someone singing, "Da da daa da."
- Research and Investigation of the Paranormal (R.I.P): This Investigating group has caught some pretty compelling EVPs. While in the Slave's Quarters, one member asked for a name and a male voice said, "Connor!" A male voice was also heard in Clara's Room saying no when asked if anyone was going to play with the ball that is kept in the room. In the Bride's Room, one investigator asked if anyone was there and they received a response of yes. In the Confederate's Room, a male voice was recorded saying yes after being asked whether or not he would like to move a table.
- Haunted South TV: This group did an impressive amount of work and caught the evidence to match. After doing a total of 4 investigations, they caught over 300 EVPs! That's more than I have heard at ANY haunted location! Among them was a very impressive EVP of who they believe to be Martha Bell Pierce saying, "Can you please tell Gracie . . . I need her." Who Gracie is, we are not exactly sure. They have heard the sounds and whispers of a little girl repeating "hide." A few investigators decided to have a session in Clara's room. During this, they ask if anyone is in there, to which they receive a response from a very deep male voice saying, "I am here with you."
- T.A.P.S: Perhaps the most famous group to investigate at this location was T.A.P.S which you will recognize on the very popular Syfy television show Ghost Hunters. Their investigation conclusion was that the mansion was indeed haunted after their nighttime investigation yielded some experiences and evidence. An EVP was caught in Clara's Room saying, "Come play with me." Footsteps and giggles were caught later on in the night. Also, one investigator thought they heard the rustle of skirts and footsteps going down the stairs. The name of this episode is Moonshine and Madness and it is a must-watch! The title suits this mansion perfectly.
Tours and Festivities
If you are interested in visiting, there are several events that occur at Major Graham Mansion throughout the year. They are always open for historic and paranormal tours. The public may take a Haunted History Tour for $15 a person. Public and private investigation tours are available for $100 per person. Reservations are recommended. There are also several music festivals that are hosted here throughout the year. Among the most common festivities is the Spooky World Haunted Attraction that is there annually every October. Wait, a haunted attraction at a real, true haunted place?! You betcha! Spooky World includes several paranormal-themed activities. Check it all out in the video below. Hope to see you there soon!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2014 Brianna W
Noel on October 27, 2017:
What's the price of admission and age restrictions for children?
Josh osborne on October 08, 2017:
How much is it
Brianna W (author) from East Coast on October 01, 2014:
Jeannieinabottle- thanks so much for stopping by. I don't live that far either. This is definitely worth the visit!
Heidithorne- it was an awesome episode!
Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on October 01, 2014:
Definitely a fan of Ghost Hunters and will have to look up this episode. Voted up and interesting!
Jeannie Marie from Baltimore, MD on October 01, 2014:
Oh, that looks really scary. I don't live too far from Virginia, so maybe I need to visit it one day. Thanks for sharing!
Brianna W (author) from East Coast on September 14, 2014:
The Poe museum is supposedly haunted by children. As far as Byrd theater I believe they have paranormal investigators in there a lot but I'm not entirely sure what they have found. But I know supposedly there is a man who haunts part of the balcony on the theater
Andrew Smith from Richmond, VA on September 14, 2014:
Definitely been to the Byrd Theater numerous times, but I never heard of any supposed haunting. Is it worth researching?
The Poe museum is interesting, but Poe didn't even actually live there (or even visit).
Brianna W (author) from East Coast on September 14, 2014:
Goatfury- definitely! Check out the Byrd Theater, tuckahoe plantation or the Edgar Allen Poe museum. All great haunts!!
Andrew Smith from Richmond, VA on September 14, 2014:
Great info! Do you know much about supposedly haunted places in Richmond? I live in the capitol city.