Ghost and Graveyard Tour

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Editorial Review

A drunken ghost still looking for his head, lopped off by a trolley.

A deceased lover searching for his cheating wife to exact his revenge.

Mass, unmarked graves next to the church where George Washington worshiped.

Many of the stories of historic Alexandria are told in the bright light of day, but ones like these (with a history that's gruesome and creepy) must wait until the sun has gone down and the children are tucked in their beds.

Take a walk, if you will, down the haunted thoroughfares of Alexandria. Every weekend, groups of up to 30 gather outside Ramsay House Visitors Center on King Street to spend more than an hour winding through the alleys of the historic city and being spooked by lantern-carrying, costumed docents on Alexandria Colonial Tours' Ghost and Graveyard Tour.

There is something special about listening to a ghost story in the summer. Even sans a campfire, a well-told tale tops anything you can watch in a movie theater. A soundtrack of cicadas and the feeling of goose bumps that aren't caused by air conditioning can't be duplicated.

Tour guides such as Andrew Mills, who led a recent walk, really are excited about telling these stories and encourage the audience to participate. The ghost that lost its head? Short Jack was as tall as the young boy in the front row, Andrew says. The alley the group stands in is where the trolley came down that foggy night.

You can almost hear his drunken singing as he wandered down the alley before passing out in the most unfortunate of spots: in the path of a trolley that, with bells clanging, thundered down the way. After being decapitated, he was about this tall, Mills says, pointing to the boy's neck. The rapt audience shivers.

But the story isn't quite over. Neighborhood kids kicked around the head before realizing it wasn't a ball. The head rolled so far away that the ghost of Short Jack has never been able to find it, Mills continues to another collective shiver. Not the last spook of the night, but one that will no doubt make listeners glance over their shoulder whenever they pass the alley again.

--Amy Orndorff Friday, May 23, 2008