A haunting at the Old Chapel? Or just frisky raccoons?

It started with a creak and a soft slam as I nudged the iron gate closed - almost - closed. The girls and I pulled over to read a historical marker about the Old Chapel in Millwood, Virginia about twenty miles from our house on the way home from a playdate. And since I can't resist a lovely old cemetery, we quickly hopped out of the car and, finding the gates open, passed through them.

The Old Chapel itself dates to 1791, rebuilt in stone after a fire destroyed the former structure, its windows shuttered and painted a dull brown, its door closed to the public and iron doorknob hanging askew. It was unused and set off from the busy road, looked hidden if not forgotten. The cemetery behind it wasn't large but held in its bosom the remains of one of Virginia's early governors and other local dignitaries, it seemed more of an extended family plot, a testament to the close-knit community of rural Virginia. The congregation moved from the building to a larger stone church after they outgrew the Old Chapel in the 1840s so it stands empty except for twice-a-year sermons.

So - back to the story.

I half-pushed the iron gate back to its former position and turned to join Syenna when I heard the scrape of a shutter being closed. The shutters that were already closed on all sides of the building.

"Did you hear that? I thought I heard a shutter?" I said.

"Nah, it's just the gate."

We joined the other two girls in reading dates on tilted stones and enjoying the quiet sunny afternoon on a rare non-humid summer day. The cemetery is well taken care of without being fussy, the grass tickling our feet and a plant or two out of control left years ago by a well-meaning visitor taking over a few graves. A very large tree dominated the churchyard, on closer inspection we saw that it had grown around a stone tower, we still can't figure out what the heck the tower was for (water pump? Indian lookout?).

After about an hour, Wynter and I turned to join the others at the Chapel.

"Mom, I heard music." Vyo, being five-years-old, was very confident. I told her she may have heard it from a passing car but she swore it came from inside the building.

"I told her to knock on the door and see if anyone was there," Syenna said. At fourteen, I knew she wasn't quite as quick to assign phantom music to an old building. "Then we heard a huge crash! I'm surprised you didn't hear it while in the cemetery!"

Well, that got my attention. Birds? Raccoons? The structure looked sound but critters can get in almost anywhere if they have a mind to.

One shutter was loose and we were able to open it to see a cracked window revealing a room devoid of anything but empty pews. So what was knocked over? Who moved the still shutters? And what the heck was making all that racket inside?

Stay tuned, I'm hoping to get a peek inside.


  1. The raccoons enjoy teasing the tourists while experimenting with fusion raccoon jazz.

  2. The raccoons have too much musical integrity to go fusion ;)

  3. :does Elaine Benes dance moves outside of chapel: