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Sharing Great Falls Ghost Stories

GFHS Oktoberfest features tales of local hauntings.

The Kings Park German Band performs at the Great Falls Historical Society’s Oktoberfest Wednesday, Oct. 10.

The Kings Park German Band performs at the Great Falls Historical Society’s Oktoberfest Wednesday, Oct. 10. Photo by Alex McVeigh.

— After moving into one of the oldest houses in Great Falls, Jinny Beyer began thinking something was amiss in her home. For the first six months they lived there, every night at 2 a.m. sharp, Beyer would wake to what she felt was a presence in the room.

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>The Grange is decorated for the Great Falls Historical Society’s Oktoberfest, which featured local residents sharing stories of their experiences with ghosts.

"Every night for the first six months, I was awakened with what I thought was a presence in the room. I wasn’t scared, but I felt like someone was observing us. Every single night at the exact same time," she said.

One night, during a severe ice storm about six months after they moved in, Beyer had another experience.

"I was awakened again around 2 a.m., and I heard soft footsteps coming down the stairs into our bedroom. I thought something was in the house, and I actually picked up a pair of scissors and walked around the house, but there was nothing," she said. "When I went back to bed, I laid there, wide awake, and in the upper left corner of the room, I noticed the glow of a light. I kept thinking ‘I don’t really see that’… after several moments, I closed my eyes, and got that feeling like you would at the beach when a cloud goes over the sun, there was just this shadow. And when I opened my eyes, the glow was gone."

AFTER THAT NIGHT, they didn’t have another visit. She said she thinks there is more than one spirit in her house. Beyer was one of several residents who shared spooky stories at the Great Falls Historical Society’s Oktoberfest.

Mark Turner, who lives in the Turner Farm House, says when he moved in, he quickly came to believe that there was a spirit in the house. He moved to the house, which was built by family in the 1870s, in 1983. It didn’t take long for him to have his first otherworldly experience.

"My first vision of the ghost was one night in the middle of the night. I woke to go to the bathroom and there was a ghostly image on the top of the rear stairwell. It appeared in the shape of a slender, tall lady wearing a dress that looked to be from the late 40s, late 50s. After that time, which was in the mid-90s, you would feel a presence in the house."

Turner says the ghost, or ghosts, were mischievous, as all sorts of random occurrences would happen.

"Sometimes you couldn’t find something and then it would reappear. Other times a light switch wouldn’t work for a while, then you’d come back, and it would work. We would have company stay in the guestroom, they swore there was a spirit in the house," he said. "We realized we could not say my grandmother’s first name. Every time we would use Grace Turner’s real first name, Anna, something would break. The washing machine, the dishwasher, the refrigerator."

Doris Carpenter remembered a spooky story from December of 1952. She was at a family Christmas in New Hope, N.C., when her grandfather became ill. After returning to Great Falls, they got a call that he passed away. Carpenter said she was unsure about whether or not to return to North Carolina with her husband and six children, so she spent an evening thinking about it.

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Bob Westin of the Kings Park German Band plays his strumphfiddle at the Great Falls Historical Society at the Grange Wednesday, Oct. 10.

"That night about 4 a.m., I was sitting up rocking a restless six-month-old baby, and wondering what the right decision was," she said. "Suddenly at the far end of the room, at the fireplace, I saw my grandfather in a halo of light, sitting in his favorite chair, smiling at me. And we went to the funeral, and in the end, we were very glad we did it."

KATHLEEN MURPHY, president of the historical society, said the idea for the program came during their history-gathering project hosted over the past year, where people would come to the Great Falls Library and tell their stories.

"It seemed one person after the other mentioned their experiences with ghosts," she said. "Since then, there have been many more people who have come forward. It’s a very interesting phenomenon."

Murphy said she knows of conferences for leaders of historical societies that have featured sections on paranormal experiences related to history, and that the Fairfax County Historical Society also hosts a similar program.

"Ghost stories are put under the category of folklore, and its remarkable that if you look online, every country, every culture has ghost stories. There’s no culture without these stories," she said. "We thought this was a good beginning to share these experiences within our own community."