The Tavern was built about 1777 and is one of the oldest taverns in Virginia. Throughout the centuries, it has been a bakery, bank, post office, private home, general store, as well as a tavern. During the Civil War, it is believed that the third floor attic was a used as a hospital. There are numbers on the wall that look to be where hospital beds would have been lined up.
With all of the history come ghost stories and legends. One story is of the “Tavern Tart”. She was a lady of the evening that had her throat slit by one of her customers. It is reported that her murder took place in the second floor dining room and her figure can be see looking out the window in the middle of the night. It is believed that she is the spirit that likes men and will touch them on occasion. Women, more noticeably pregnant woman, have reported items, such as a loaf of bread, being thrown at them, or they have been pushed aggressively by unseen hands.
Then there was the murder of Captain Gordon William Rife. He was spending time with the wife of a prominent Abingdon resident by the name of Stephen Alonzo Jackson. Jackson found his wife in bed with Rife on the second floor of the tavern. The altercation moved outside where Jackson allegedly shot and killed Rife. It is said the Rife still walks the halls of the second floor.
The Cave House
Under the town of Abingdon is a limestone cave system. Limestone is believed to have properties that hold psychic energy. That may be why Abingdon is known to have so many hauntings.
Walking down a dark Plum Alley during our ghost tour, we stopped at a fenced-in area that surrounded the back of an old house and a large cave. In 1760, Daniel Boone was camping nearby, when wolves came from this cave and attacked Boone’s dogs. Boone gave Abingdon its first name of “Wolf Hills”.
There have been reports from this building of unexplained events such as doors opening and shutting, mysterious footsteps and other noises, as well as the feeling of being watched and followed. I was told also, of noises coming from the back room when the house was a craft store. The Cave House was once a boarding house for the Barter Theatre. Ernest Borgnine, who got his start at the Barter, was frightened by something in the house. He ran out and wouldn’t return.
The house is privately owned and is empty at this time, in need of restoration and repairs.