Thursday, January 24, 2013

An Insanely Cold Day

On Saturday Margie and I drove down to Radford, VA to meet with a group where we were visiting an abandoned sanatorium. The morning was frigidly cold and we were both wrapped up well to visit a house which was likely to be colder inside than out. As we drove south the countryside became whiter and whiter with snow that had fallen a couple of days previously. In Radford itself we heard that about 8" had fallen and there were still homes without power.
 Radford is a university town with some interesting ghost signs on old walls but little to really look around although we found an old antique/junk shop on the main street.
 St Alban's Sanatorium was set on top of a hill overlooking a river and definitely looked spooky from the outside. We met inside a lounge area to listen to a briefing and discovered that we were taking the first ever photo tour of this old building. It's been used for various 'haunting' functions and as we walked around we came across many props for this purpose.
The building was originally a boys school but was later converted to a sanatorium where many experimental treatments were used that resulted in fatalities. The building is claimed to be heavily haunted thus the reason for the ghost hunts and tours. The background of St Albans is here.
 The community is anxious to preserve the building and its story with many volunteers helping out on the tours. We were told the history of the place and informed of some of the ghosts that walk it's rooms. We were allowed to walk around freely and ask questions or directions.
 We found this coffin used on one of the haunted tours so Margie jumped in for a photo shoot. She seemed to be getting quite comfortable in there and I wondered if she was planning a nap.
 The rooms inside the building weren't that interesting architecturally so it was a challenge to take some interesting shots but we persevered and enjoyed chatting with the volunteers who were always ready to tell a tale, explain uses of the rooms or simply direct us.
 Margie took a photo of me in this bath which I haven't seen yet but I found out later that a women in the sanatorium had given birth to a stillborn child. She kept it in a jar in her closet and later committed suicide in this tub.
 This was a 'cell' in the basement of the building. Note there's no handle on the inside of the door.
 One of the rooms had this sad little dog left on a bed. Staged, I know, but I found it effective.
 An old bed spring in one of the rooms.
 I took my little crystal marble with me and used it in some shots.
 This was one of the bedrooms upstairs where a young boy of about 7 years was murdered by another patient called Don who had a room across the hallway. These toys are left on the floor and Jacob plays with them, moving them around, and this has been seen during investigations.
An old electrical switch, the knobs on the bottom were pushed up for power.
 There's an old bowling alley in the basement. The whole area is in complete darkness and feels a bit creepy down there. Apparently there are a couple of ghosts that appear, one called Red Eyes, since all that is seen are 2 red lights like LED pointers, and another ghost called The Goat Man.
Here is an interesting documentation of paranormal activity at St Albans;
 There were about 20 of us walking around the house so I'm not sure if this kept the ghosts at bay but nobody reported any findings or activity. But there must be something there as there are many reports on Google and also videos on YouTube. The house has many supporters who raise money to keep the building open. It's costs about $60,000 a year to maintain the place and repairs have already been made with more planned for the future. The volunteers were all very enthusiastic and had plans for many fund raising events including an upcoming Bloody Valentines Weekend. Their commitment and hard work as well as their openness to visitors really endeared me to them and I hope they succeed in keeping the building, because somehow it saddened me to think of all those ghosts with no home.
After leaving Radford we drove to Roanoke to have a look around. I want to come back down here in the spring when their transport museum is open as there's supposed to be some great old trains in here but today we were just exploring.
The cinema had wonderful old fashioned lights on the front.
Two great old signs on the buildings. We walked around the town and decided a return trip would be very much worthwhile as there were some great shops and restaurants and plenty to photograph. but the daylight was fading fast and we were hungry so we decided to stop at a hole in the wall restaurant that caught our eye.
The Texas Tavern was like stepping back in time. It was a tiny place with just a counter where we sat on old fashioned stools and waited for our food to be cooked. The chili was very popular, everyone was eating it and it was only $1.70 a bowl! We had a cheeseburger each and shared a chili. Washed down with a soda and feeling very stuffed I paid our bill of $8.40. The food was fun and filling and the 2 guys running the place were friendly and fast with their service. Their website is here.
Of course the trip wouldn't be complete without a beer and this was achieved at the Chaps Tavern, a small bar near the railroad tracks.
I took the photo above on my phone and we were later asked why I was taking photos. They seemed a little concerned until we told them that we were merely tourists and then suddenly everything was fine and we were soon chatting to some of the regulars and introduced to the owner. A very friendly crowd who wanted us to stay the evening and wouldn't let us go until we'd exchanged details and promised to return.
It was a long drive back in the dark and we broke up the journey with stops to stock up on munchies and a snow globe for Margie's expansive collection. We'd been driving for well over 10 hours over the day but the trip was worth it, a fun day of ghost stories and history told by some fabulously friendly and unique people.

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