There’s something so alluringly beautiful about Virginia’s ghost towns. These places that once supported families, homes, and town activities have long since been abandoned and in some cases, are quietly being dismantled by nature. If you find these sites intriguing and feel like a little exploring (and possibly some hauntings…) then this is the road trip for you. Be mindful of these properties, as some are in especially delicate condition and hold an important place in our state’s history. Here’s the
map as you’ll see below:
This haunted road trip begins in Great Falls National Park with the abandoned town of Matildaville. This area was chartered by the Virginia General Assembly in 1790, as headquarters for the construction of the canal. At its peak, the town included homes, a sawmill, gristmill, and ice house. Tourists who came to see Great Falls would stop at Dickey's Tavern. The Patowmack Canal closed in 1828, having a dire effect on the town. Today, all that remains are the ruins that can be viewed via the park's Matildaville Trail.
2. Virginia Renaissance Faire
The Virginia Renaissance Faire is easily one of the most unusual and fascinating abandoned sites in the state. Located just outside of Fredericksburg (off Route 3), this fair ran for three short years. From 1996-1999, visitors could travel back in time and interact with merchants, shop owners, and other friendly fair-goers. So what happened? Poor weather conditions and its location on a swamp did not bode well for this little community. *Disclaimer: this is one spot that's tricky to access. It's a no trespassing territory that's frequented by hunters; however, because of its convenient location en route to the next abandoned town, it's certainly worth knowing about.
3. Elko Tract
Nicknamed Richmond's Lost City, Elko Tract is one of the most well-known ghost towns in the state. During World War II, this tract of land was used as a decoy, so that in the event of a Japanese or German bombing, this is the area that would have been targeted rather than a bigger city. If there was word of enemy fliers, the power to the city of Richmond would be cut, making Elko Tract seem like the obvious target. After the war, the land was returned to the Commonwealth of Virginia.
4. Ca Ira
Located in Cumberland County, this small ghost town was established back in 1796. It was started by the Virginia General Assembly as a farming community. Many believe it was named after a popular French town of the same name, roughly translated as "it will be fine." This is tragically ironic considering what happened to the town. Although Ca Ira flourished with the development of a canal, many residents developed disease due to a nearby stagnant pond. The Civil War marked the end of this town's prosperity, and today all that remains is Grace Church.
5. Upper Pocosin Mission
In 1902, a priest by the name of Frederick W. Neve set out on a mission to "save" the people who inhabited the Blue Ridge Mountains. He believed they were in need of some serious spiritual guidance. Two sisters, Florence and Marion Towles, were sent as missionaries to this Appalachian territory. While their intentions may have been good, the assumptions about the people who lived in this area were misguided. What you'll notice today upon visiting Shenandoah National Park are the ruins that remain of the church and community building.