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Ghosts of the Wythe House
(Part 2)
By Nancy E. Sheppard

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Last week, we examined one possible "ghost” of the Wythe House in Williamsburg. This week, we are going to examine the other possible spirit to linger in the hallways of this Colonial Williamsburg home.

Lady Ann Skipwith was married to Sir Peyton Skipwith, 7th Baronet sometime in the latter half of the 18th century. The couple lived in Mecklenburg but Sir Peyton would travel to the colony’s capital in Williamsburg for events, given his title and position. There isn’t an incredible amount known about Lady Ann but the nature of her death has been the talk of urban legend and ghost tales for many years.

The legend goes that Lady Skipwith was staying at the Wythe house to attend a ball at the Governor’s Palace with her husband. Allegedly, he was having an affair with her sister, Jean, and the two got into an altercation over the alleged affair. Lady Skipwith fled from the ballroom, losing one of her shoes while running from her husband. She never took off her single heeled shoe, went straight to her room, and committed suicide. At least that is what ghost hunters like to say. There have been stories of hearing the tapping of a heeled shoe going up the stairs, but no one to cause such a noise. Also stories of smelling perfume in the room where she stayed and the closet door randomly opening and closing.

The truth of Lady Skipwith’s death is far less sinister, but (while tragic) commonplace for the time period. Lady Ann Skipwith died in 1779 while in childbirth, leaving behind her grieving husband and three children. Sir Peyton was in love with her sister Jean – but there is no proof that that affection ever stemmed while his wife was still alive. In fact, he did not marry her for nearly a decade after Ann died (and remained married to her until he died in 1805. As would be the case with such a tale, locals in Mecklenburg claim that Lady Jean Skipwith haunts the Georgian styled plantation house where they lived, Prestwould, which still stands today.

Whether or not Lady Ann was actually scorned by her husband is unknown but she did not die at her own hand but in a way none too infrequent of women of her time. Tragically, it seems most of her story is lost, along with the location of her corporal remains. She will be forever tied to the Wythe House… billed in ghost walks as the lady scorned by her cheating husband and the betrayal of her sister, who took her own life… a turn of events that never actually happened.


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