Delaware August 21, 2016
The Story Behind Delaware’s Most Haunted House Is Beyond Terrifying
Woodburn Mansion in Dover was built in 1790 and remains one of the finest examples of Georgian homes in the entire state. The 7 bedroom house has been home to many of Delaware’s wealthy citizens, and it was bought by the State of Delaware in 1965 to be the Governor’s Home. It was then renovated to make it more modern. One thing has stayed the same, though, throughout all of the years and all of the residents of the Governor’s House – the ghosts of Woodburn Mansion. They appear in many forms, mostly pleasant, and have been heard and seen by so many people that it’s hard to dispute the fact that there’s just something not quite right about the entire estate. Take a look, and let us know what YOU think. Is Woodburn haunted?
Woodburn Mansion in the 1950s, shortly before the State of Delaware purchased it.
Prior to being the "Governor's House," this haunted place in Delaware was home to senators, politicians, wealthy farmers, doctors and other members of Delaware's elite class. Nearly every resident has reported hearing or seeing one of the Mansion's many ghosts.
The property is adorned with crepe myrtles, boxwoods and large poplar trees.
These large trees loom over the property, giving visitors a sense of dread. The feeling makes sense when you find out that one of the ghosts of Woodburn Mansion is a southern slave raider who died hanging from a tree that still stands. When Dan Cowgill, a Quaker man, owned Woodburn, it was a stop on the Underground Railroad. One night, a group of slave raiders came to the mansion, and as Mr. Cowgill chased them away, one attempted to escape by climbing the large poplar tree in the front yard. He slipped, unnoticed, and got caught in a knot in the tree, where he hanged until his death. To this day, you can still hear screams and shackles, as this evil man must relive his death frequently, as his own personal hell.
The first Ghost of Woodburn Mansion was reported in the early 1820s, just a few decades after the house was built.
Dr. M.W. Bates had a preacher as a guest for the night, and after a night of socializing, the guest retreated to an upstairs bedroom. On his way down the stairs in the morning, he passed another guest - dressed in colonial garb and shuffling up the steps. When he approached the breakfast table and suggested they wait for this other guest, the Bateses were confused. There were no other guests in the house. The Preacher described the man he encountered in detail, and it was revealed that the man he passed was Mrs. Bate's father - who had been dead for years.
The dining room is particularly haunted.
While it has changed in decor throughout the decades, the ghosts still remain fascinated with this room at Woodburn. Governors' wives have heard scampering footsteps in the dining room at all hours of the night, Revolutionary-era gentlemen have been seen floating across the room, and the "wine ghosts" seem to imbibe whatever vino is left out here.
Most of the ghosts reported at Woodburn seem to be friendly and fun-loving.
When Governor Charles Terry Jr. was living in the mansion, one ghost in particular has been seen helping himself to vintage wines in the dining room. A previous owner of Woodburn reported that he'd fill his wine decanter every night, and find it empty the next morning.These wine-drinking apparitions usually appear dressed in revolutionary-era clothes, even in modern day.
One ghost is quite younger than the rest, and it makes you wonder what occurred to have her haunting Woodburn.
A young girl is seen often in the garden, wearing a red checkered gingham dress. She loves to splash and play in the pools and fountains, and she was seen 'crashing' the inauguration of Governor Michael Castle in 1985. Guests of the new Governor felt something tugging at them throughout the ceremony, and then they saw the young girl floating shyly in a corner of the reception hall.
Do you want to get to know the Ghosts of Woodburn?
Luckily, the Mansion is open to visitors Monday through Friday from 8:30-4:00, but you have to call and make an appointment. Believe it or not, they don't like just anyone strolling about the grounds! Maybe someone should tell that to the ghosts. To schedule a tour and see how haunted it is for yourself, contact Corey Marshall-Steele at (302) 739-5656 or via e-mail at
If you’re looking for more haunted Delaware adventures, be sure to check out our
Northern Delaware Haunted Road Trip, and let the ghosts and ghouls terrify you.