Heather Kyle, owner and operator of Middleburg Ghost Tours, asks the evening’s group of five, “who believes in ghosts or spirits?” All but one raises their hand: A mostly amenable group for the evening of tales by the history and folklore enthusiast with a penchant for the paranormal.
Kyle was first drawn to starting her ghost tours from reading about Middleburg’s most notorious spirit, Jane Kyle, with whom Kyle shares a last name. Though she found no actual evidence of a direct relationship to the spirit Kyle, she did find that they both descended from one main Kyle family in Virginia. And since Heather Kyle is an anthropologist and ethnologist, starting Middleburg Ghost Tours where she could both research and convey history seemed a bit like fate.
“I love history and folklore,” says Kyle. “This is fun for me. It’s a great opportunity for people who live here to find out a bit more about Middleburg and to show people from out of the area the town.” More history than horror, the tour might more aptly be called Middleburg History, Folklore and Ghost Stories. Stories of ghosts and spirits overlay the rich pre-revolutionary and civil war history of our area, and more specifically Middleburg.
The tour begins at the Middleburg Baptist Church outside Sharon Cemetery where Kyle tells of the graves of Confederate soldiers from the Civil War Battles throughout the area and J.T. Morrison, a young man from a wealthy family who didn’t fight in the war, but instead studied law. Owing to his exclusion from a war whose effects had surrounded him, he grew more and more depressed until “that hole of wretchedness took his life.” Morrison allegedly sometimes appears in the c.1850 cemetery.
Middleburg’s most well known ghost Jane Kyle, the wife of a plantation owner in the 1700s, reportedly had gone insane and was chained in the attic “to keep her safe.” Much later, in the early 1900s, it was discovered that Jane had been murdered, one shot in the head. There are reports that she still visits the Brick House and surrounding area at Foxcroft School from time to time. As Kyle, clad in black and holding a lantern, guides the group down main street, she references some of the town’s older buildings and their history: Noble House, Red Fox Tavern, Royston Funeral Home all have stories of apparitions.
In the height of the Great Depression the cottage behind the funeral home was the location of the gruesome murder of socialite Agnes Boeing Ilsley and her maid, Minnie Buckner. It is Agnes who is believed to be the specter, The Lady in White, “a column of white mist” that is often seen in the courtyard of the funeral home and several other locations on the east side of town.
From the narrated prowl around Middleburg, ghost stories overlaying folklore overlaying history, one gets the idea that some of the alleged paranormal activity may be inseparable from the indisputable historical events. Unless, of course, you aren’t a believer in the visitors from the afterworld, then it’s just history and good fun.
Don’t know whether you believe or not? Sure you do or don’t? Middleburg Ghost tours may not change your mind, but whether you’re a local or a tourist you’re sure to learn something new. If you’re lucky, you just may get to see the Lady in White on an evening stroll.
Learn more about the tour by visiting middleburgghosttours.com.
Story and photos by Kerry Phelps Dale.
This article first appeared in the October 2018 issue.