Contributed by Beth Trissel

Shirley Plantation is home to a famous ghost called “Aunt Pratt.” To quote their website: “Aunt Pratt” was Martha Hill Pratt, the daughter of early Shirley ancestor Edward Hill III. Her portrait in the bed chamber of Shirley’s Great House is the subject of intriguing stories which have been retold by noted author L.B.Taylor, Jr. in his book, Ghosts of Virginia, Volume I. Mr. Taylor is also author of Haunted Houses, published by Simon and Schuster, as well as five regional Virginia ghost books, including Civil War Ghosts of Virginia.
The story of “Aunt Pratt” is included in Lori Haskin’s Book - Spooky America: Four Real Ghost Stories

A reviewer of the book describes the tale:
Picky Aunt Pratt Shirley Plantation, Charles City, Virginia January 2002 Martha Hill Pratt must have been an extremely strong woman when she was alive, that’s the only way she could have a ghost that could command so much attention. Martha Pratt was born at the plantation but married and moved to England, the portrait of her hung in the first floor gallery for years, overlooking the family cemetery. In the mid 1800’s the family decided to redecorate and moved the painting to the attic.

Night after night, family members could hear a tapping noise coming from the attic, puzzled they realized the only thing that was moved to the attic was the painting so they decided to move it to the third floor. The tapping continued so they tried the second floor.
That didn’t seem to work either so they returned the painting to the first floor where it originally hung.

After that, everything was quiet again. That is until 1974 when family members shipped the painting to New York City for a display of haunted goods. Martha didn’t like it, not at all; the painting rumbled and rattled until they decided to put it in a closet for the night. The family decided that Aunt Pratt had enough, they had the frame fixed [it was damaged when it was in the closet] and hung it back in it’s original location where it still hangs a little crooked to this very day. The last line sums it up perfectly, “It’s just a friendly reminder from Aunt Pratt...leave me alone!”

The history and stories of Shirley were part of the inspiration behind my paranormal romance, Somewhere My Love, coming soon to the Wild Rose Press!

For more on Shirley Plantation and Aunt Pratt visit:
To explore other historic ‘haunts’ in Virginia check out:
To purchase Pamela Kinney’s non-fiction book, Haunted Richmond, Virginia visit


  1. Nightingale // February 17, 2008 at 12:12 PM  

    I love ghost stories. My grandmother scared us with ghost stories so much that we'd hide under the covers.

    But she didn't have any stories of "vocal" ghosts. Very interesting.

    There is a walking ghost tour in Charleston, SC.

  2. Beth Trissel // February 17, 2008 at 3:06 PM  

    I've heard about the Charleston ghostly tour. Williamsburg has one as do other historical places in Virginia. It seems we have an abundance of ghosts in the Old Dominion.

  3. Mary Marvella // February 17, 2008 at 4:44 PM  

    Ghost stories influenced 2 of my books. One grew from the names of two ghosts who yakked their story to me during a two hour ride. I still love that book.

  4. Ashley Ladd // February 17, 2008 at 7:11 PM  

    Ghosts fascinate me. One of the best times of my life was ghost hunting at the French Lick hotel on a writer's retreat a few years ago.

  5. Georgie Lee // February 17, 2008 at 10:40 PM  

    Great post. I visited Shirley Plantation this summer and I loved it. The history connected to the house it spectacular and I can imagine it resulting in a few ghosts.

  6. Helen Scott Taylor // February 18, 2008 at 4:20 AM  

    I love ghost stories, Beth. This sounds facinating. I've never written a book inspired by a ghost story, but the stories certainly stir the imagination!

  7. Beth Trissel // February 18, 2008 at 8:28 AM  

    Thanks, ladies. I seem to be very drawn to the subject of ghosts, as they make appearences not only in Somewhere My Love, but in several of my historical romances. Must be the influence of these old Virginia homes, including our family homeplace, (circa 1816), and all the stories that accompany them.

  8. Shelley Munro // February 18, 2008 at 10:38 PM  

    Beth, what a great story. I enjoy reading romances with ghosts. I'm not sure I'd like to meet face-to-face though!