Monday, November 21, 2011

Shirley Plantation: The Ghost of Aunt Pratt

The Shirley Plantation, located in Virginia's coastal region, is the states oldest plantation. It was founded in 1613, just six years after the first permanent English settlement at Jamestown. 

During its long history Shirley has been the home for eleven generations of the same family, today this family continues to own, operate, and work this grand plantation. 

The Shirley Plantation is a National Historic Landmark.

Through its history, this southern plantation managed to survive Indian uprisings, Bacon’s Rebellion, the American Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the Great Depression. 

One story about the Plantation’s main house called the “Grand House” took place during the civil war. 

Around 2000 Union soldiers camped around the plantation. The Shirley women turned the Grand House into a hospital where they tended to both Union and Confederate soldiers, it is believed this is why the house was not burned down.

The descendants of Edward Hill I, the original owner, still reside in a private residence on the plantation. The Shirley Plantation is the oldest family-run business in North America. 

Edward Hill I established the farm in 1638, and construction on the Grand House started in 1723, when Elizabeth Hill, the great-granddaughter of the first Hill married. The house was completed in 1738. 

The Shirley Plantation is known for its resident ghost. 

Martha Hill Pratt was known to the family as “Aunt Pratt.” She was the daughter of Edward Hill III, 17th-century owner of the Shirley. 

Her manifestations occur through a portrait of her that hangs in the Grand House.

When Martha Pratt finished her schooling, she left an unsigned portrait of herself at the Grand House. She traveled to England where she married an Englishman by the name of Huge Griffin. The surname Pratt is a family pet name.

Originally this portrait was hung in a bedroom on the second floor. When Martha passed away, the family moved her picture to the third floor. After this, the family noticed the portrait started to shake and rock on the wall. So they moved the painting to the attic. 

Then the family began hearing knocking sounds all over the house. Yet later, when they moved the portrait to the first floor, it continued to tremble and shake. 

Some concluded Martha's spirit was attached to the picture, and she was apparently not happy with the moves.

The portraits strange behavior led to it being put on display in New York. While being filmed for a television report, the camera caught it shaking. 

Over the years, the portraits’ shaking and rocking caused its frame to break down. While in a shop being repaired workers stated that they heard bells tolling, but there were no bells in the area.

When the portrait was returned to the house, it was hung in its original place on the second floor. It seems to be finally at peace. 

School groups that tour the Grand House are encouraged to stand to the side when viewing Aunt Pratt’s portrait because she does not like to have her view out the window blocked. Her dark eyes and stern mouth dominate the room.

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