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The Sad Lady

Daniel, Virginia, USA
October 1998

This is an event that involves many years of experiences that almost every member of my family has experienced at one time or another. I live in a small town in a house that has been occupied by my family since its construction in 1821. We have owned the land it sits on since 1770. Between 1770 and 1821, there were many different structures here. Log cabins, stone houses, and tents. The "Sad Lady," as we have dubbed her, is not related to our home dating from 1821.

One of the reasons this is so real is that so many have witnessed the goings on of the "spirit". We have family diaries, Bibles, and journals that date back to as early as 1843 that mention her. She has been seen by neighbors, tourists, and many more. She received the name "Sad Lady" sometime around the turn of this century.

Many, many things have happened. I will try to limit my story to only those common occurrences that most everyone has experienced with her. Although she has been seen several times, more often than not she is "felt." She seems to have a very strong affinity with small children, toddler aged and younger. However, the description of her is of a young woman in her early 20s.

She is in no way threatening or foreboding, in fact, she is almost like a living member of the family. The most common characteristic one feels is that of a deep sorrow and grief. The only respite from this feeling is if there is a baby or toddler present. The feeling this is more of a happiness and gaiety. The children of the family all seem to play with the air, laugh, giggle, and babble at something unseen.

The description most often given of her (from the few people who have seen her, because more feel than see her) is of a 20ish woman, long brunette hair pulled back in a single braid, more plain than pretty, rather short and wearing a long white gown with long puffy sleeves, high collar, and matching bed cap. To my knowledge, no one has ever seen her in any other outfit. She also does not appear solid, more wispy and shimmering. The spot where she is most often seen is in the small english-type garden at the rear of the house. There stands a large, very old oak.

Here I will quote the entry by a now deceased relative in her 1900 diary entry as to the description of the Sad Lady. "She stands by this oak, looking with a longing and (illegible) gaze at something to the south. Her face is flooded with tears and an air of anguished fear and grief surrounds her.......(illegible)...glow in her presence. To know her sadness and pain is almost impossible. Papa says..." The writer then continues to write about her father thinking she needed to stop mentioning the lady for fear of being labeled "touched in the head." Almost everyone to have reported seeing her, reports much the same description.

Interestingly enough, she has appeared more to women than men (or so they say) and women seem more receptive of the feelings associated with her. I have never seen her myself, but have felt some of the oppressive feelings associated with her and felt the mood change in the room when a child enters.

The most widely held opinion on her origins is tied to the history of our town. It was founded as a frontier fort in roughly 1765. The fort was actually located on a bluff that lies directly south of where the "Sad Lady" stands by the tree and stares. During the fort days, the land our home occupies was a thicket of trees and undergrowth. Between this thicket on the hill and the fort on the opposite hill, was a flat area in the valley where colonists harvested flax. The area was scattered with cabins close to the fort. It is documented that in the early morning hours of a day in August 1776, an Cherokee Indian hunting party attacked the fort and outlying cabins. Several women and children were captured and taken away. It is stated in the documentation that many colonists hid for cover in the thicket that now comprises our garden area. Could she be a lone survivor watching helplessly as her family is murdered or kidnapped? Perhaps her small children were taken, thus explaining her fascination with small children.

She has never appeared inside the house (to my knowledge) and has never seemed to be dangerous. Whatever the reason, her sadness and loneliness seems to have not diminished over time.

Daniel, Virginia, USA
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