Astonishing Truth: The Sunken Gardens

Astonishing Truth: The Sunken Gardens - Photo

The truth is we should totally judge books by their covers. And names are no different. A name gives everything away! Take the Sunken Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia. You probably wouldn’t be too far off if you had to guess what it was based on the name alone. Doesn’t the place conjure dark thoughts? I mean, a sinking garden can’t be a good time. Indeed, this spot near the famous College of William and Mary is one wild ride. The Sunken Garden is a large, mysteriously sunken area where the ghosts of young Native American children can be seen running around. Legend has it they died trying to escape the boarding school where they were practically imprisoned, and as if that weren’t scary enough, this giant plot of land is well sinking! Let us tell you all about it. 

No place like Williamsburg 

We’ve all heard of Jamestown, the first successful English settlement in America and the first capital of Virginia (or maybe we haven’t, some of us fell asleep during History class!). But many people haven’t heard of Williamsburg, another nearby colonial city. Back in 1699, way before the U.S. of A was a thing, the state’s capital was moved from Jamestown to Williamsburg, putting the place on the map. Those early settlers thought they would be safer from mosquitos and enjoy better land in their new capital. While they may have gotten that right, they did not foresee all the other problems they would breed. Why does Williamsburg have such a haunted legacy, you might ask? The poor place has seen it all: witch trials in the 17th century; the capital was built on top of Indian burial grounds; the Revolutionary War and later the Civil War tore the town apart, making it an ideal tourist attraction for readers like you. Let us tell you some spots to check out besides the Bruton Parish Church. 

Let’s start with the College of William & Mary. You thought college was scary? Wait until you hear the stories hidden behind these beautiful, regal buildings. Like almost anything in the region, this place was affected by the Civil War and used as a field hospital. Casualties were so high and severe that an unsensible number of people died –– and many stayed behind at the college. One of the most haunted spots is a crypt located underneath the school’s chapel. Some fraternities are rumored to use the human remains as part of their hazing rituals, which we can only imagine anger the ghosts even more.

A Witch Bottle?

And while we’re on the topic of the College of William and Mary, let us tell you about a little artifact some of their researchers found. The object, believed to be from the Civil War period, is what those in the trade call a “witch bottle,” It served a protective function back in its day (maybe it still does!). At first glance, you might very reasonably confuse the Civil War Witch Bottle for being a piece of trash –– like most of its kind, it consists simply of a glass bottle filled with all kinds of gunk. We hope you’re not eating as you read this, but some witch bottles are believed to have human urine in them! But anyway, back to the point. These crafty talismans were intended to ward off curses and evil energies. People would bury them under hearths for the warmth to activate their protective powers. Maybe you can make your own witch bottle when you visit Williamsburg? 

Back in the day

Talking about the Sunken Garden doesn’t make sense without mentioning the Brafferton House, an ominous building right next door. What was that place, exactly? Hundreds of years ago, when the College of William and Mary was first chartered, it was done so with the provision that a boarding school would also be built in the area. This boarding school became Brafferton House, also known as the Indian School. Like many around the country, it aimed to “civilize” Native American youth, which was code for denigrating Native American customs and forcibly assimilating them into American culture. For example, the students had to wear their hair a certain way and were told what to believe.

In 1707, after years of failing to recruit any volunteers, six kids from a nearby warring tribe were forcibly sent to the House, where they were abused and subjected to all kinds of inhumane treatment. In addition to severe physical punishment, many of these students caught diseases from the colonists and eventually succumbed to them. 

Today, visitors can hear footsteps upstairs as well as doorknobs rattling –– both the sounds of the kids’ ghosts trying to escape. And while their ghosts might not manage to make it off the property, they do manage to do some running.

Falling…and falling…and falling

These days, the Sunken Garden is a popular hangout spot for undergrads at the College of William and Mary. Students like to come here for casual hangouts with friends and lovers under the sun. Some like to nap, read, and smoke; you get the idea. But the place wasn’t always what it is today. The area wasn’t always sunken.

Nobody can explain why the Sunken Garden is dropping lower and lower into the ground. Could it be the ghosts of the Native American children who died at the nearby boarding school? Their ghosts can be seen running through the plot of land above head level, right where the ground used to be 200 years ago. Maybe their desperate sprints have just worn down the land; other people, however, have alternate explanations.

There are some who believe the Sunken Garden is one of the most cursed spots on Earth. These people think the Garden is edging closer and closer to the pits of Hell and that one day it will stop sinking. When that day comes, they say, it will be because there is no more room to sink: the ground will open up and unleash unbridled flames; if you want to visit, we don’t recommend waiting much longer.

In Short

The Sunken Garden is exactly what it sounds like: a plot of land that sinks lower and lower into the ground with each passing day. The place is said to be haunted by the spirits of Native American children who were kidnapped from their families and locked at the Brafferton House; the desperate bunch tried to escape many times without luck. Their spirits can be seen on random nights running above the head level on foggy nights. If you don’t look closely, you might make the mistake of mistaking them for shooting stars.