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Ghosts at Sherwood Forest Plantation
The real spirit of Sherwood Forest is the "Gray Lady." You can hear her rocking in her chair in the Grey Room holding a child. For over 100 years, almost every person who has lived at Sherwood has had an encounter with the "Gray Lady."

The most amazing thing happened a few years ago. The Gray Lady's image appeared on the haunted steps.

We cannot explain why her image appeared, but it has an almost "Les Miserable" look to it. You can see the bonnet she is wearing and the hair ringlets.

Ghost of Williamsburg

The following ghost story is from the book "Ghosts of Williamsburg" by L. B. Taylor. You can order this book at Amazon.com - Ghosts of Williamsburg

Precisely how long this lively ghost has inhabited the house is not known, nor is the exact reason why she is there. But it is probably safe to say she has been active since possibly late in the 18th century, long before President John Tyler moved in, because many residents over the years have experienced her presence, and all in the same fashion.

"I wish I could authenticate her origins," says Payne Tyler, "but I can't. I can tell you this. She is definitely in the house. I know, because I have personally had encounters with her, as has my husband who was a non-believer in such things, and others. "

What Payne has pieced together is that the Gray Lady is called that because she apparently wore gray. This leads to the assumption that she was in the service of the family that owned the house when she lived there, because servants then wore gray when cleaning at Sherwood Forest.

"It is thought that she was a governess, who had charge of a small child at one time here," Payne says. "She would take the child from a first floor bedroom (which is now known, appropriately, as the Gray Room) and walk her up through the hidden staircase to a second floor nursery. There, she would rock the child on her lap in a rocking chair."

Unfortunately, the child was ill and died soon after. This presents a speculative motive for the Gray Lady's ghost to remain in the house. It could have been that the Gray Lady was not nearby when the child passed away, or she might have perceived that had she been more attentive the tragedy would not have occurred. No one knows for sure.

What is known is that ever since, the sounds of the Gray Lady have been heard in the house - always in the same forms. Her footsteps are heard going up or down the hidden stairway, and the sound of her rocking is heard in the second floor nursery and in the Gray Room.

"Many people have heard it, and I am one of them," Payne unashamedly admits. "The sounds are very distinct and clear. They are footsteps, not creaks or groans of the house. There is an absolute distinction. I have heard the steps or the rocking three separate times since I have been in the house - twice within the first two weeks and once a few months later. Sometimes it sounded like, when she was descending the stairs, she was dragging something. I have no idea what that might have been."

Payne says each time she heard the sounds it was in the early hours of the morning. "What was so peculiar was that I always sleep with two guard dogs who bark at the slightest sound, but for some reason neither one of them stirred at all." When asked if she went to investigate the source, she replied, "are you serious? I was scared out of my wits. It frightened me so. You have no idea of the fear such a thing can evoke. I actually ran a fever."

At first, her husband scoffed at the idea of a ghost. Harrison Tyler is a chemical engineer and a practical man. "He was not a believer in this sort of thing," Payne says. But then it happened to him. "She walked through his bedroom one night," Payne relates. "Harrison turned as white as a sheet and nearly fainted. He even lost his breakfast," she says.

On another occasion, a 16-year-old girl was staying at the house as a guest. She screamed - Payne says "I never heard such a shriek" - and came running in to say she had just heard a woman walk through her room.

Then there was an incident with a gardener. Payne was working in the yard and asked him to hand her a trowel. It lay only a few feet away, but the man refused to go directly to it. Instead, he walked all the way around the 300-foot-long house. When Payne scolded him for taking so long, he stammered something about not wanting to walk past a door that he said was being opened and closed by some invisible person. The gardener then abruptly left the Tyler's employ, still mumbling, almost incoherently, about "ghosts."

After her third experience with the Gray Lady, Payne had had enough. "I know this sounds ridiculous," she says, "but I sat down and had a talk with her. I felt it was something I had to do." What Payne did - and what other people have done in similar circumstances - was tell the ghost that Sherwood Forest had been in the Tyler family since the 1840s, and descendents had every right to move in and claim the house as their own. If the ghost had designs on the house of her own, that was fine, too, as long as they could peacefully co-exist. "I said, maybe you feel I am an intruder and that this is your domain, but that's not the case and I'm not moving out. We're just going to have to learn to get along together," Payne said.

The frank discussion must have had a positive effect, because Payne has not heard from the Gray Lady since, except for one incredible incident. "That was when a cousin of Harrison's was over for a visit," Payne says, "and I told her about the little talk I had with the spirit. She laughed, and chided me, saying she thought I had more intelligence than that. She just kept laughing. Then the most amazing thing happened. The room we were in, the Gray Room, began vibrating wildly, and there were loud bangs, like shutters slamming against the house. It was an eerie feeling. It so unnerved the woman that she quickly left the house. As soon as she was gone, the vibrations and the noises stopped. She didn't come back for another visit for three or four years."

Intrigued by all that had happened, Payne Tyler, some time later, was visited by two psychic experts, separately, to go through the house and give her their impressions. One said she saw a "tiny woman in an off-color dress with an apron and black shoes, at the top of the stairs on the second floor. It was decidedly not an apparition, but a real woman. The woman disappeared as the psychic climbed up the stairs.

Interestingly, the other psychic reported experiencing the same phenomena. She said she saw a tiny woman at the top of the stairs "in a neutral dress with an overlay down the front (an apron?) and black shoes." Payne believes they both saw the same woman. This psychic, however, followed the woman into a bedroom and observed her sorting clothes in front of a wardrobe. She described it explicitly as an Empire wardrobe, dark brown, with a wide flange at the center, a large brass strip, and having the design of dolphins at each foot.

"When she told me this I was stunned," says Payne. "Julia Tyler was enamored with dolphins and this was the exact description of a piece of furniture that had been in the house, but had been removed two years earlier. It had never been mentioned in any literature about the house, and it had never been photographed. The psychic had no way of knowing it had ever been there, much less what it looked like down to the precise detail."


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