Woodburn Mansion in Dover, Delaware - Hauntings

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The History of the Haunting

The Woodburn Ghost

The first documented Woodburn ghost appeared around 1815, about 25 years after the house was built. Dr. and Mrs. Martin Bates, the owners at the time, were entertaining Mr. Lorenzo Dow, a well-known itinerant Methodist preacher. One morning at the breakfast table, Mrs. Bates asked Mr. Dow to begin the meal with prayer. Mr. Dow hesitated and asked if they should wait for the other guest in the house. Surprised, Mrs. Bates explained there were no other guests. Mr. Dow described in detail the gentleman he met on the staircase. The older gentleman supposedly wore a powdered wig, knee britches, and a ruffled shirt. This description bothered Mrs. Bates a great deal because it was an exact sketch of her father, Mr. Charles Hillyard III.

Mr. Hillyard, the builder of Woodburn, has been seen by others since Mr. Dow. Mr. Hillyard, according to Dover history, was known to enjoy a strong drink. If a glass of wine is left downstairs at Woodburn during the night, an empty glass in the morning indicates Mr. Hillyard has been on the prowl again.

Mr. Frank Hall, another owner of the house, claimed to sometimes pass Mr. Hillyard on the stairs and described him as others had in the past.

Governor Tribbitt's wife, Jeanne, regularly checked the stairway for Mr. Hillyard's presence. She even left wine out for him a number of times with no results. She noted, "I made sure that I didn't tell my husband I was doing this, or he would have drank the wine just to tease me!"

More Ghost!

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.

More Stories

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.

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.