The Spectral Well of Virginia

The Spectral Well of Virginia One of the images seen in the Haunted Well

Hold a mirror over a well on May first, and you will see the image of your future husband or wife. Talladega, Ala.

Memoirs of the American Folk-lore Society, Vol. 4 1896

The story began with that simple premise—that a young woman wishing to see her future husband’s face, held a mirror over the family’s well on their Virginia plantation.

A Gruesome Mystery

Some days ago at Joynerville, Southampton county, Va., Miss Lizzie, the eldest daughter of Hon. John J. Deyer, playfully remarked to her mother that she was going to try her fortune by the familiar method of holding a mirror over the well, and looking down upon the water, when you will see, it is said, the picture of the person whom you are to wed. So picking up a small mirror she went out in the yard to the well, and holding the mirror over it with the glass down was patiently awaiting the decree of fortune, when suddenly there appeared before her the complete outline and exact likeness (life size) of an old gentleman who has been dead for several years, well known in that country, and who was an intimate friend of Mr. Deyer’s family while living. The young lady was very naturally shocked and not a little frightened at the appearance of this “departed spirit,” whose likeness she said, was so perfect that she could not be mistaken.

Returning to the house she related what she had seen to Mrs. Deyer, who immediately accompanied her daughter to the well, where her every doubt was dispelled by seeing everything that had been seen by her daughter and they together saw several other pictures, some of whom they recognized, others they did not.

These apparitions seem to pass in panoramic view, entering the well, apparently, from one side, and leaving it from the other. Some of them can be seen to move their limbs, while others are lifeless and extremely hideous. A corpse in shroud is one of the pictures plainly and distinctly visible.

These various pictures can be seen most plainly from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The sun, however, it would seem, can have nothing to do with it, as the well is overshadowed by a large tree. Various sizes and kinds of mirrors have been used with the same results.

For the past few days nothing else scarcely has been talked of and more than three hundred people have been to the well, seen for themselves, and will testify as to the truthfulness of the statement made above. Each day large crowds flock to Joynerville eager to satisfy themselves of the truth or falsity of this report and they return bewildered, puzzled and completely at a loss as to a solution of the mystery.

That these pictures of shadows are seen upon the surface of the water there can be no well-founded doubt. From whence they are reflected or how they got there none can conjecture. There is no attempt at an explanation by any person who has seen the figures. Alexandria [DC] Gazette 20 May 1892: p. 1

Word quickly spread to the papers and to interested Spiritualists such as Mrs. Mary Kyle Dallas, a well-known poet and short-story writer, who wrote the account below:

 Colonel Deyer’s Well.

In August, 1892, the reports concerning a certain well on the property of Colonel Deyer, of Virginia, so interested the managers of the Herald, that they sent a special reporter to the spot to investigate the matter.

This gentleman, having entered upon the work with the intention of exposing the fraud, became convinced that it was no fraud whatever, but a genuine phenomenon—and so reported in an exhaustive article in the Herald, which was afterward extensively copied. As I shall copy the communication, I need say nothing more just here than that Miss Lizzie Deyer, a daughter of Colonel Deyer, discovered, by mere accident, that by holding a mirror over the surface of the well, one could see arising from its depths, the faces of human beings, as well as curious objects of all sorts, and that the faces were recognized as those of the departed by many neighbors, and by thousands who poured in from all quarters to see the marvel for themselves.

We discussed the matter in the family, and some of the gentlemen were of the opinion that it was simply a clever story, without foundation, in fact. I felt sure that this was not so, and took the liberty of writing to Colonel Deyer, telling him that I possessed all the natural curiosity of a daughter of Eve, and could not refrain from asking how much of the wonderful tale was true. The result of my letter was a most courteous reply from Colonel Deyer, and also, a little later, a letter from Miss Deyer, which I give my readers as being valuable attestation from persons of refinement and education, as well as of good social position, to the truth of phenomena, which the great majority of readers would simply consider too absurd to believe.

Handsom’s Depot, Va.,

Kildare Manor,

10-18-92. Mrs. Mary Kyle Dallas,

My Dear Madame:

Pardon delay in response to yours of the _nth inst. A press of business and absence from home are my best excuses to so distinguished a lady as yourself.

Now, as to the “haunted well,” none of us consider it haunted, but merely a freak of nature, a phenomenon, if you please, but, frankly, beyond my ken or that of the thousands who have witnessed its more than strange antics.

I assure you, the report in the Herald was not concocted in said Herald office, but was written by a Mr.H, a reporter of said paper. Said H was sent here by the Herald to investigate. I met him at Norfolk, Va., my old home. I was introduced to him by R. C. Murray, Esq., editor of the Norfolk Landmark. I was questioned by a party of gentlemen in said Land-mark office, among whom was said H, who laughingly said he “would like to come down and expose the fraud.” I gave him carte blanche, and in a few days, to my astonishment, down he came, and, lo! as he stated, “the half had not been told.”

Now, I have no explanation to give—all my theories are exploded; but the well is here, and has a solid foundation in fact, as well as a mystery in doubt. It is no advertising dodge—I have never charged a stiver [small Dutch coin, i.e. a nickel] to any one to look, and the well is not for sale, tho’ I should be pleased to have some enterprising Yankee remove it, even to Chicago.

I only wish I had time to give you a succinct acc’t of all its doings, but time forbids; however, if you should want a full description, my daughter, Lizzie Lee Deyer, if you wish to address her, will take pleasure in gratifying the curiosity of a daughter of Eve, she being closely allied to that noble degree. With many apologies for this rambling scrawl, I remain with sentiments of highest esteem,

Your ob’t servant, &c.,

Jno. J. Deyer.

Kildare Manor,

Handsom’s, Va. Mrs. Mary Kyle Dallas,

Dear Madame:

Your letter in reference to the “well” was rec’d a few days ago, & I will gladly give you an account of same so far as I am capable.

I have only one correction to make in the report which appeared in the N. Y. Herald; that is: the mirror was held face to the water instead of back of mirror to water.

It is held perfectly flat over the surface of the water & sometimes it is half an hour or more before an object will appear, then again they will come faster than a person can count.

Out of the thousands who have visited the “well,” I have found only one (that a very old lady) that could see nothing.

A friend of mine was here to see the “well,” a day or so ago, & she called for a person to appear, & in less than two seconds his face was seen, life size & as natural as I ever saw him look. I will say again, that the story in the N. Y. Herald was a true one & it would be impossible for me to give you a more definite account. Hoping you will pardon my delay in answering your letter,

I am,

very sincerely,

Lizzie Lee Deyer.

A Haunted Well.

[From the columns of the Sunday Herald, October, 1892.]

NOTE: This also appeared in the Alexandria [DC] Gazette 11 October 1892: p. 1]

There is something new under the sun. At all events, that’s ‘how it strikes most people who have seen it. It has been discovered at Kildare, Handsom’s Station, Southampton County, Va., where, according to the proverb, truth is sometimes found at the bottom of a well. Third party politics and Colonel J. Deyer’s well are close competitors for public attention in Southampton just now. Perhaps I should put Colonel Deyer’s well first: for, after the election is over, the well will be the only thing talked about, as it was before the conventions were held. It is good evidence of the remarkable nature of the well that it should divide interest with politics, for Virginia is one of the doubtful States, and feels her responsibility.

Last May—to be precise, May 2—the wonderful properties of the well were discovered, and its fame has been growing ever since.

A few days ago, upward of three thousand people visited the well and saw all manner of uncanny things in it. They all swear they did, at any rate, and, what is more, believe what they say. I heard of the well in Norfolk, some fifty miles away, and was assured by ExCongressman George Bowden that he had seen the face of his father reflected in the water of the well in broad daylight. Mr. Kenton Murray, of Norfolk, who occupies the position of Secretary to Governor McKinney, told me that he had met and talked with a number of people who had visited Colonel Deyer’s farm and had seen in the waters of the well the faces of relatives who were dead, coffins, and other things not pleasant to contemplate. Mr. S. S. Nottingham, the publisher of the Norfolk Landmark, confirmed the statements made by Mr. Murray and Colonel Bowden.

HOW DISCOVERED.

A few days afterward, I met Colonel Deyer, who, after awhile, reluctantly told me how the peculiar properties of the well were discovered, and, evidently nettled at my look of incredulity, said—” I shall be-pleased to have the representative of the Herald come out to Kildare and investigate the matter thoroughly.”

PLAINLY VISIBLE

Colonel Deyer has a war record, too, and his title is a genuine one. For four years he fought on the Confederate side and often in the thickest of the fray. I did not question his veracity ; but the old saying holds true, ” seeing is believing,” and I at once resolved to see the well for myself. I took the Seaboard and Roanoke Railroad from Norfolk, and devoted two days to an examination of the well.

I arrived at Kildare after a drive of a mile through the woods, during all of which I was regaled with stories of the peculiar things the driver had seen in the well. At the station I had the same experience. The station agent and a helper were all witnesses to the uncanny things the well made visible.

Colonel Deyer was not expecting me, because I had not telegraphed my arrival; but he welcomed me, and, in response to my asking to be shown the well, at once called his daughter, and, together with his wife, we proceeded to the well, which was situated about sixty feet from the house and off to one side. A colored servant, who stood near, looked in the well with us, and, as Miss Deyer held the mirror, he exclaimed:

“Foah Gawd, dere’s a bottle!”

“What kind of a bottle?” I asked.

“A green bottle wid silber on de top on it.”

He was right. Faintly gleaming on the surface of the water, but distinctly visible, I saw a champagne bottle appear and then mysteriously sink into the depths of the well. The rest of the party saw the same things. The bottle was only one of a hundred objects inanimate and animate that appeared on the surface of the well during the forty-eight hours I spent examining it.

FICTION BEATEN.

The sorcerer who summons up “spirits from the vasty deep,” in fiction is discounted in this instance by a young Virginia beauty, who brought up flowers, jewels, bottles, coffins, visions of old ladies and young ones, venerable men and smooth-faced boys, hands with blood dripping from their wounds, bodies of dead men and women, and other queer sights that few, perhaps, will believe can be seen in the well, unless, as I did, they see them for themselves.

But Miss Deyer is not the only person who causes faces and other things to be seen on the surface of the water. Others do it as well as she. That proves that it is not the girl who is haunted.

It is a curious fact that the faces and objects which appear in the well can only be seen in the daylight, and, the brighter the sun is shining, the more distinct they become. In all the haunted houses, I remember, utter darkness was essential before the ghosts would condescend to roam around and clank chains and do other blood-curdling things.

Colonel Deyer’s well is just an ordinary well, such as you find on almost every farm in Virginia, similar in appearance to fifty-one other wells on the plantation. The other wells, however, will not reveal a face. I tried them all, and so have others. The causes that bring these curious shapes to the surface of the water in the “spook well,” whatever they may be, are missing in all other wells on the farm. I cannot explain why it is so, but just have to give it up, as I did fifty theories that suggested themselves to me during the hours I spent peering down into the well, climbing down into the well and examining every inch of ground for mirrors and other devices known to tricksters and so-called mediums.

PASSING STRANGE

I left Kildare, considerably more astonished than when I arrived. The story of an old gentleman who, after listening to a tough yarn of which the narrator said, “it is true, I saw it myself,” replied, “well, I must believe it, then; but I would not believe it if I saw it myself,” occurred to me. I saw the well myself; I saw the things I have described therein; but I am utterly unable to account for them.

One of the faces was that of the old gentleman with a skull-cap. I saw it as distinctly as I have seen my own countenance in my mirror.

“Dr. Tudor,”said Mrs. Deyer, and “Dr. Tudor,” echoed Miss Grace Petit, of Norfolk, one of the party engaged in looking in the well at the time.

“Describe Dr. Tudor,” I said.

She gave me a description of him, which, in the most minute particulars, corresponded to the face that appeared in the well.

Imagination plays a large part in these sort of sights, and to make sure that what I saw was not influenced by the exclamations of people about the well, I had the group write on a piece of paper a description of what each member saw in the well.

There was a startling correspondence between them all.

“I see a white coffin”; “I see an old man looking at a white coffin”; “I see a coffin and an old man,” were the words they wrote. What I saw was a white coffin, with a figure of an old man looking down into it. In a minute, the coffin passed away from the shadow on the water, and Miss Petit said:

“I wish it would come back with the lid off.”

“Look!” screamed Mrs. Deyer There was the coffin, with the elliptical lid off, and under the glass could be distinguished the face and shoulder of a young girl. The sight was too much for the nerves of Miss Petit, and, with a little sigh and a shudder, she sank fainting to the ground.

All this time Miss Deyer had been holding the glass. I took it and, holding the back of the mirror toward the water, awaited developments. Then a hand, holding a Calla lily, rose from the bottom of the well and remained in sight a full minute.

They were not such “pictures” as imaginative people can see in a wood-fire, or in clouds, but much more definite.

During that afternoon, a great many faces appeared. Once, the back of a negro man, who had apparently been flogged, with the gashes bleeding, was the spectacle presented. There was something very peculiar about some of these visions. I noticed, for instance, that the head and shoulders of a man or woman would appear in one position, go away and re-appear again in half a dozen different positions. A profile view would be presented, a rear view, a front view, and top view, even. It seemed as if a recognition was eagerly sought. I noticed that the flesh generally exhibited the peculiar appearance presented by the skin of drowned people.

Miss Deyer, who has acted as medium for most of the people who have visited the well, scouts the idea that she alone can get the phantom faces in the well, and I fancy she is right.

I noticed that, when Miss Petit acted as medium, her hands trembled so that nothing could be distinguished.

The use of a mirror might lead some to suppose the pictures seen in the water were reflections from objects lying about the ground or place. I thought so, too, until I held the mirror below the edge of the square box that surrounds the well, totally shutting everything outside of it, and still the aquatic visions appeared. I thought perhaps it was the mirror that did the trick, so I procured a piece of window-glass and covered it with dark cloth, and went to the well at eight o’clock in the morning and tried it with the same results. The morning experiment was private.

As Colonel Deyer’s story of the well is the best one, I repeat it as he told it in the presence of Mr. Murray, Mr. Blain and Mr. Nottingham.

“The first of last May,” said Colonel Deyer, “our house servant, Susan, said to my daughter, Miss Lizzie, ‘you know, Miss Lizzie, if you takes a looking-glass on the first of May and goes to the well and holds the mirror over the well, back down, the face of your future husband will appear on the surface of the water.’

“That is an old superstition in Virginia, you know. Mrs. Deyer and Miss Lizzie laughed at the notion and dismissed it from their minds. The following day, Monday, however, Susan started to the well to draw a pail of water at noon, when Miss Lizzie picked up a mirror and followed her. Laughing, at the time, at what she regarded as the absurdity of the thing, she held the mirror in the position indicated, and Susan looked into the depths of the well at the same time. In an instant, she and her mother declare, they saw a hand wearing a diamond ring steal across the patch of shadow thrown on the surface of the water by the face of the mirror, and, in alarm, Miss Lizzie dropped the glass into the well. They fished the mirror out, and spent that afternoon holding the mirror over the well, and saw a number of things—faces of people, flowers and a beautiful white casket.

COULD FIND NO EXPLANATION.

“I was away from home at the time, in Richmond, and, when I returned, a few days later, my wife and daughter told me of the occurrence.

“I laughed at the story, exactly as you gentlemen are doing now, but did not laugh when, that afternoon, my daughter took the mirror, and, proceeding to the well, held it in the position described and bade me look. In a minute or so, a shadowy something appeared on the surface of the water, apparently rising from the bottom of the well, and I distinctly recognized the face of a neighbor who had been dead for two years. I looked around to see if my wife and daughter were playing tricks on me, but saw they were just as much startled as myself. All that afternoon I spent looking in the well and saw a number of objects. I am not superstitious and I do not believe in spirits, so I tried to find a natural explanation of the things I found in the well. Every theory that I advanced was in turn exploded, and I am just as much in the dark today as I was six months ago.

“The negroes about the place spread the story in the neighborhood, and the neighbors began to come to see the well, and from them the news of the queer sights to be seen got carried all about—over into North Carolina, for instance—until, lately, people drive from miles around, some coming a distance of fifty miles just to see the faces and things in the well. All this is a great source of annoyance to me, for the well is the one situated nearest the house, and we have not lived in comfort since the facts about the well got out.”

Colonel Deyer told the story in a way that impressed me with his entire truthfulness and sincerity. He evidently believed what he said. If there was any humbug about the well, he was no party to it.

WHAT THE WELL IS LIKE.

The well itself is the one, as stated before, that supplies the household with drinking water; it is supplied with water by eight springs and generally has about eight or ten feet of water in it. When I was there, the depth of water measured just ten feet; above that to the top of the well the distance was twenty-two feet; the diameter of the well is three and a half feet. So clear is the water that the white sand bottom can be plainly seen when the sun is shining. I saw the bottom distinctly, and noted a few things that had fallen into it. The well has been cleaned every year, and the time for cleaning the well is at hand now; but, Colonel Deyer says—” if that well is cleaned, I will have to do it myself. There is not a servant on the plantation that will go near that well alone, and, as to going in it, no money would induce them to make the venture.”

As I drove away, the owner of Virginia’s sensation said—” if you meet any skeptical people, send them along ; I shall be only too glad to meet the person who will clear up the mystery.”

Here seems to be an opportunity for the Society of Psychical Research. The Freed Spirit: or Glimpses Beyond the Border, Mary Kyle Dallas, 1894

Two gentlemen from the Society for Psychical Research did, in fact, go to investigate and reported on their findings in the article read before the American Psychical Society, Jan. 27,1893 and excerpted below.

THE SPECTRAL WELL OF VIRGINIA.

The American Psychical Society was appealed to to investigate the well, and see if it could discover whether or not there were any abnormal happenings there.

The writer was requested to visit it, which he consented to do in company with Mr. Allen, the Secretary of the Society, who chanced to be in Baltimore at the time. [U]pon Nov. 19, we met Miss Deyer, who was very willing to show us the haunted well, and we presently went to it, she provided with a common mirror about a foot square. The mirror was held over the well, mirror side down, and as nearly as could well be horizontal all the time. The fatigue of holding it in such a position for a long time was diminished by supporting one end of it by a rope which had been stretched overhead for the purpose….

[The well is described as brick-lined, about 30 feet deep.]

It had a curb made of a large hollow gum-tree log, and water was drawn by means of an old-fashioned well-sweep and bucket….On the first try, the mirror appeared to grow milky, but nothing was seen. Later in the day, Miss Deyer saw a rabbit and the other witness saw a skull-like image slide across the mirror.

Other members of the household, black and white, would come and look into the well while we were looking, and declare they could see images of persons when we could see nothing more than the reflections of sky and mirror. The sight of the skull and rabbit’s ears, however, gave encouragement to look further and speculate upon their origin. Colonel Deyer and his daughter stated that the sights in the well were not as good and plain as they were some time before; indeed, they said that last summer they were much plainer than they had been since, and they thought likely that all the phenomena were fading out, and that that would end the appearances. There are a great many other wells on the plantation, but none of them show any such things, for they had been well tested. This served to convince the Deyer family that what they saw was not the result of ordinary reflections.

We had seen that there were good grounds for some apprehensions among such as could find no explanations and when we abandoned looking the first afternoon, it was felt that we had a curious puzzle to unravel if possible. When the mirror was tilted this way and that it did not bring anything into view, until it was tipped so much that the top of the well-curb, which was well lighted, could be seen by reflection.

The next morning observations were begun again, the sun being low in the horizon, but shining into the well-curb on one side. The rabbit’s ears were again seen. A small pocket mirror was now taken, and a beam of light reflected into the well and moved about so as to expose all parts of the well-lining to view. Within the well and near the top, on the west side there was growing a small fern, having a few short fronds four or five inches long. When the rabbit’s ears were to be seen in the reflection from the large mirror, the beam of sunlight was thrown upon the fern and at once the rabbit’s ears became bright and plain, and thus showed clearly enough what the source of that form was.

As the beam was directed to the lower part of the well-curb so as to light it up, it could well be seen reflected from the water against the dark background of shadow of the mirror better than anywhere else. Now, the well-curb had been in place a good many years, and had decayed a great deal both at top and bottom, which gave a very irregular outline to it, ragged and jagged; the reflection from this showed all sorts of fantastic forms when lighted up in this manner. Nothing of this could be seen at that time except when thus lighted. The day before our visit there had been a severe rain through that region, and all exposed woods were well saturated. This makes such wood surfaces dark colored. When dried out they become lighter in color, and this particular well-curb is of a rather light slate color when dry and reflects a good deal of incident light, quite sufficient to give by reflection from the water surface an image that could be seen against a dark background. Its ragged edge, when dry, would give an almost infinite number of outlines which need but a little imagination to transform into familiar objects. Like the fantastic forms of summer clouds, they can be likened to birds or animals or dragons.

Another factor of considerable importance was the mirror itself, which was an ordinary plain mirror, which kind, as is well known, is often very far from having a plain reflecting surface. Objects near to it and seen by reflection are not very much distorted, but looked at from a distance of several feet, are often very much distorted. This particular mirror gave a very much wrinkled and jagged outline to any object whatever, the outlines varying with every change in position of the mirror. Here, then, was a new source of disfigurement in which the amount of distortion depends upon the distance of the reflector from the eye. When looking down in the well this was about twice the distance from the eye of the observer to the surface of the water, or in the neighborhood of fifty feet, somewhat greater than it was last summer when the water was deeper and when, according to Miss Deyer’s statement, the objects seen were more numerous and better defined, which is quite what would be expected. We did not have a plain mirror suitable for comparative observations, but there was no doubt about the distortion produced by the one we used……[Note, it is apparent from other accounts that various mirrors were used, depending on the day.] The milky appearance of the mirror shadow is explained by the fact that when one first looks down the well, the eyes have been in a brighter light and are consequently not so sensitive as they will presently become. The image is therefore darker, and will become lighter as the eyes recover sensitivity.

Thus it is believed that there is no longer any mystery in the appearances which have been the source of a good deal of superstitious feelings. Colonel Deyer said he wanted the thing explained. If it was in anyway supernatural, it was well, if not, it was better. This explanation brings it within his better class, and so far must be in accordance with his wishes. If he doubt the correctness of it, he can put it to the test by building a new well-curb or painting the inside of the present one black, and then getting a good plate-glass mirror. After that one may guarantee that there will be no procession of phantom forms in the shadow of his mirror, and the country will lose its interest in his well.

A. E. Dolbear.

I have not much to add to Professor Dolbear’s report. He speaks of an appearance which suggested a skull. At that time I saw extending at right angles to the frame of the mirror, an appearance quite closely resembling teeth, though without roots, as one looks at a skull from the side; and a short distance from that, at the edge of the mirror, a patch of color that reminded me of the pieces of gilt paper I once saw inserted in the eyes of skeletons in a spectacular play. There was nothing else to be seen then. It could not be truly said that I saw a skull, but simply that the two images described, and the relation in which they stood, suggested a skull and nothing but a skull. At one time there was a distribution of light and shade in the milky ground of the shadow of the mirror upon the surface of the water that suggested a face. I would not say that it was a face. It lacked relief, and there was no definite contour, only the sharp line at the intersection of the mirror with its frame. Within five minutes of this time, when I was not looking in the well, Colonel Deyer said he saw the face of a man with massive features. I wondered whether he saw the same thing that I did.

When Professor Dolbear reflected a beam of light from the small bunch of ferns upon the image of the mirror on the surface of the water, I saw the details of their structure very distinctly. I would have said, “I see the image of ferns,” without hesitation had I not seen any of the plants themselves in the well. But I did not observe or infer any relation between this reflection and the appearance which Miss Deyer, the Professor, and I all called rabbit’s ears. Nevertheless, the Professor may be correct. In either event, however, I saw nothing that I thought must be called supernormal. If phenomena more remarkable than those we observed, and really inexplicable by known laws, have been seen by visitors to the well, I much regret that it was not our good fortune to witness them. [Mr. Allen] Psychical Review, Volume 1, 1893

The two gentlemen from the American Psychical Society saw little of significance at the well and satisfied themselves that there were perfectly normal explanations for the images. Col. Deyer estimated that 4,000-5,000 people visited the well in the year after his daughter first looked into its depths. Many of them claimed to see visions in the water. Was this a case of folie à mille; some shared delusion excited by a girl who believed that she could conjure apparitions from the well?  Your reflections to Chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com

There seems to have been no monetary motive for a hoax. Col. Deyer repeatedly said that he did not think the phenomenon supernatural and welcomed investigators. Obituaries of Deyer [1839-1902] say that he “was a man of the highest character and possessed a genial, sincere nature, which drew to him many friends all over the State…His popularity, however, knew no bounds of party or sect, and his genuine hospitality was freely dispensed to all who were fortunate enough to know him in his delightful home life in Southampton.” The Times [Richmond, VA] 5 April 1902: p. 3

Col. Deyer died 4 April 1902; his daughter, Lizzie Lee Deyer, married John D. Abbitt of Norfolk “on a Seaboard Air Line express train between Suffolk and Portsmouth” on 22 January 1903. The bride was 31 years old.

It almost looks as though Miss Deyer waited until her father was dead to marry—the customary year of mourning for a parent was not even observed. Perhaps the Colonel had disapproved of her suitor. And the unusual marriage on the train suggests an elopement or perhaps the whirlwind courtship of a fortune-hunter. Had Miss Deyer ever seen the face of her future husband in the depths of the Spectral Well? If so, her joy was short-lived. On 23 March, two months after her marriage, Lizzie Lee Deyer Abbitt was dead. What began as a lark on that long-past May morning, ended with a ring and a casket.

The Spectral Well of Virginia The image of a face seen in the waters of the haunted well.

This post originally appeared on this blog in 2014.

 

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.

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