Mystery can be defined in many ways. It can be something that simply defies understanding, something that causes you to question its origin, or something that makes you think a little bit deeper and harder about the world around you. The following list includes sites, both natural and man-made, that will make you do all three.
1. Fairy Stone State Park, Stuart
When it comes to natural beauty, Fairy Stone State Park has it all with a large lake, beautiful mountain hikes and pristine forests. But what this park is best known for is its abundance of fairy stones, cross-shaped stones that were once thought to protect the wearer from evil spirits and illness.
According to legend, the crosses are the crystallized tears of fairies who lived in the woods thousands of years ago. Fortunately, the mystery of the fairy stones can be solved easily by science. The stones are “staurolite,” a combination of silica, iron and aluminum, which is only found in rocks that have been subjected to intense heat and pressure. The mineral crystalizes at 60 or 90-degree angles, hence the cross shapes we see today. To hunt for your own fairy stones, learn how you can visit the park at
Fairy Stone State Park
2. George Washington Masonic Memorial, Alexandria
The Masonic brotherhood is, itself, surrounded by mystery, as is the founding fathers’ involvement in it - no less thanks to the popularity of books like Dan Brown’s “Angels and Demons.”
The George Washington Masonic Memorial was designed by Harvey Wiley Corbitt and built by the Masonic brotherhood between 1923-1932. The building honors George Washington for his influential role as a Freemason. By ancient Masonic tradition, temples are built on hilltops or mountains, and this site was of particular significance, as it had been considered by Washington and Jefferson as an ideal site for the nation's Capitol, prior to the selection of Washington, D.C. It houses significant Masonic and historical artifacts, in addition to serving as museum, library, performing arts' center and Masonic meeting place. To visit, and maybe uncover a few of the masons' secrets, visit their website
3. The Meade Pyramid, Fredericksburg
The Meade Pyramid is a 30-foot square, 23-foot high structure set on Prospect Hill in the Fredericksburg Battlefield Park. The pyramid memorializes where General George Meade and his Union troops broke through the Confederate defense on December 12, 1862. They were driven away, but only after losing nearly 40% of their men. The pyramid was built in 1897 by men from the R.F.& P. railroad on behalf of the Confederate Memorial Literary Society. Made entirely from Virginia granite, the memorial is mysterious more in its oddity - and the fact that it sits at a very dangerous crossing point along the railroad tracks and is best viewed from a distance.
4. “Field of Lost Shoes,” The New Market Battlefield and the New Market Military Museum, New Market
JJ Jackson / flickr
On May 15, 1864, Confederate troops defeated Union troops just south of the town of New Market near the Bushong Farm in the Shenandoah Valley. The battle was significant in that it included 257 cadets from the Virginia Military Institute, marking the only time in U.S. history that the entire student body of one school fought as a unit in actual battle.
As many of the older boys were already enlisted in the war, the average cadet was only 16 years old. A field near Bushong’s Orchard earned the moniker “Field of Lost Shoes” as the VMI cadets charged into battle across muddy ground, many losing their shoes along the way. Ten cadets were killed, while another 47 were wounded - and yet the boys never broke their line of defense. Every year, cadets from VMI recreate the infamous scene.
While the site itself is not a mystery for its existence, it does demand a particular amount of somber reflection. To think of such young boys, charging like men into battle, makes you realize just how far the horrors of the Civil War went. Today, the New Market Battlefield Military Museum serves to not only highlight the battle fought at the site, but to provide vital information about the history of the military and the mysteries of warfare. Visit them to learn more at
New Market Battlefield Military Museum
5. “Virginia Mourning Her Dead” at Virginia Military Institute, Lexington
Founded in 1839, the Virginia Military Institute has a long and illustrious history. As mentioned in the story above, VMI sent cadets into the battle of New Market. In 1903, Moses Ezekiel, a survivor of the cadet unit, created the statue called “Virginia Mourning Her Dead” that now sits outside of the VMI barracks. Legend says that she has been seen with tears on her face, supposedly crying for the cadets lost in battle, 6 of whom are buried just behind her. Every year, a ceremony commemorates the deaths where the names of each lost cadet are called out and the corps offers up a prayer and a three-volley gun salute. Visit VMI at their
to learn more.
6. Natural Chimneys, Mount Solon
You probably know all about Natural Bridge in Rockbridge County and probably even Natural Tunnel in Duffield. But these are not the only “natural” phenomena in Virginia. Located at Natural Chimneys Park in Augusta County, the Natural Chimneys are chimney-shaped rocks formed from limestone. Historians believe the stone structures began forming as many as 500 million years ago in the Paleozoic Era at a time when the entire region would have still been under water. Today, the chimneys sit side-by-side, reaching up to 120 feet.
As a fun side note, the oldest "continuously held sporting event in the United States" is a jousting tournament held annually since 1821 at Natural Chimneys Park, which is also home to the National Jousting Hall of Fame.
7. The Ghost Town of Wash Woods, False Cape State Park, Virginia Beach
This small seaside fishing community in the farthest southeastern corner of the state was once 300-people strong. Although no one really knows, legend says the community began 300-400 years ago when sailors came ashore from a shipwreck off the coast. For many years, the village thrived with residents who lived off the land, grew crops, hunted and fished. However, in the 1920s and 30s, repeated storms hammered the small community and all but the most loyal left. The Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962 was the final straw for the remainders, and by the mid-60s the area was abandoned. Today, all that remains is overgrown cemeteries, a church and steeple and a handful of ruins. Tours are available through the park services of
False Cape State Park
8. The Pocosin Mission Ruin, Shenandoah National Forest
Near the turn of the 20th century, Frederick Neve, an Episcopal minister, set out on an ambitious religious quest. He vowed to build a mission at every 10-mile mark along the Blue Ridge Mountains. He saw the primitive "mountain folk," with their superstitious beliefs and wild behavior, to be in desperate need of ministering.
In 1902, the Towles sisters, Florence and Marion, took up the newly appointed mission post at Pocosin. The women resided in a small mission house and maintained a schoolhouse that also served as a chapel. For years, the Towles Sisters lived amongst the people, ministering to them, teaching them and evangelizing. However, most native Appalachian families were forced out of the area in the 1930s as the park system developed. Yet, traces of their lives linger in the ruins of the mission. Today, visitors can take a fire road off of Skyline Drive one mile into the forest where the Towles sisters did their work. Old barns, crumbling walls and an overgrown cemetery serve as reminders of the lives once lived there.
9. Chimborazo Medical Museum, Richmond
Richmond served as a crucial headquarters for many things throughout the Civil War - including hospitals. During the war, the Chimborazo Hospital soon became the most famous for its size, organization and sophistication. Named after the hill on which it sat, the hospital is reported to have seen as many as 75,000 patients over the course of the war, with an estimated 5,000-7,000 deaths. After the war, the wooden buildings were abandoned and many became firewood for desperate residents during reconstruction. The site has been used as a park since the 1870s, which includes the “Chimborazo Medical Museum.” Here, visitors can learn about medicine during the Civil War, as well as learning more about the famous hospital itself. Plan your visit at the
National Park Service website
10. The Great Channels of Virginia, Hayter's Gap (near Abingdon)
The Channels (also known as the Great Channels of Virginia) are located in the Channels Natural Area Preserve at the summit of Middle Knob on Clinch Mountain. These stunning sandstone structures create craggy mazes from deep crevices worn into the stone walls of the mountain. Sitting at an elevation of more than 4,200 feet, the site offers unequaled views of the surrounding countryside. To reach The Channels, follow the Brumley Mountain Trail, a relatively moderate trail that ascends about 3 miles (one-way) to the summit. Find out more about the trail at
11. The Edgar Cayce A.R.E. Headquarters, Virginia Beach
Edgar Cayce (1877-1945) has been called the most documented psychic of the 20th century. Often considered the "father of holistic medicine,” he has also been called the "sleeping prophet” for his ability to go into a dream-like sleeping state where he claimed to have visions of illnesses, past lives and future prophecies. In 1931, he founded the Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.) to examine practices of spirituality, holistic health, intuition, dream interpretation, psychic development, reincarnation, and ancient mysteries. Today, the A.R.E. is headquartered in Virginia Beach and offers conferences, international tours, camps for children and adults, regional activities, and study groups. The site also includes a library with over 75,000 volumes, including Cayce’s 14,000 documented psychic readings. Learn more at
Edgar Cayce A.R.E.
12. The Cursed Tree at Jamestown Memorial Church, Historic Jamestown
Beginning with a tale of forbidden love and ending with what many call “mother-in-law’s revenge,” the story of "the cursed tree" starts with James Blair and Sarah Harrison in the early 1700s. Although Blair was a prominent figure in Jamestown society, serving as governor at one point, his courtship of Sarah Harrison was rejected by her family. The couple married against her family’s wishes, and when her parents were killed in a tragic accident, went on to live happily. Upon their deaths, they were buried in the small cemetery behind the Jamestown Memorial Church, only a few inches apart. However, in 1750, a mysterious sycamore sapling began to grow between the gravestones, pushing the graves apart as it grew. Although the tree was cut down, a new sapling appeared, continuing to separate the lovers in death as her parents could not in life. Learn how to visit this site at
As anyone who has spent time in Virginia knows, with a history as rich and long as ours, mystery abounds. So surely this is only the beginning of a much longer list. Do you know of any special spots that should be added? We would love to hear your thoughts and contributions in the comments below!