On my birthday road trip to Dollywood in October, I got to stay in a haunted hotel: the Martha Washington Inn in Abingdon, Virginia.
The drive from Philadelphia took about 8 hours with only a few short stops for gas, coffee, and the bathroom. This would give us a considerably shorter drive to Pigeon Forge, TN the next day, only about 3 hours.
The Martha Washington Inn is a great old property with an interesting history. It started its life as a private residence in 1832. Next it became a women’s college. When the Civil War started, the building became a makeshift hospital. After the war the building was back to being a college until 1935 when the typhoid epidemic and low enrollment forced it to close; it reopened as a hotel soon after. The hallways walls are lined with interesting paper ephemera from the building’s past: photographs, letters, awards, etc.
There’s a pamphlet at the front desk that will tell you about some of the more famous stories, including a perpetual bloodstain from a murder on the grand staircase, and a ghost horse!
I felt uncomfortable in our room and it had nothing to do with ghosts. We were in suite 210, on the first floor. I’m a big lady. I have chronic pain that affects my back and hips. The bed was enormous, so tall that I couldn’t get in and out of it without the aid of a creaky antique chair I dragged over to use as a makeshift step ladder and nightstand. It was hard to get in and out of bed without straining myself. I also had to sit side saddle on the toilet because it was so close to the shower stall. I know you can only ask for so much in a building that’s almost 200 years old, but the accommodations were not as comfortable as I had hoped they would be.
Our room overlooked an 18-hole miniature golf course! I live for silly things like that, but we were so exhausted from the drive that we skipped it. There are all sorts of activities to do in the back of the property including tennis courts and a trampoline.
We didn’t swim inside but the pool looked nice, even if it smelled a little chemical-y. (Their website says it’s a saltwater pool so this memory is questionable.) We spent some time after dinner in the outdoor Jacuzzi.
The building is furnished with a variety of antiques, like the creaky chair/stool/nightstand in the room. You can see some of the furniture that was purchased by the original homeowners in the lobby and banquet room, including this grandfather clock. This website has some interesting photos of some other artifacts from the building’s days as a women’s college, including Martha Washington’s bedraggled teacup.
Dinner at Sisters, their restaurant, was great. I had poutine and a steak for dinner. Breakfast was extra hearty as well. My only complaint is that all of the chairs in the restaurant have arms that dug into my bountiful hips. I was uncomfortable during dinner and couldn’t stand it for breakfast. Our waitress found me a parsons chair but I think there were only a handful in the restaurant.
We asked every member of the hotel staff that we came across if they’ve seen any ghosts. We didn’t hear about any firsthand accounts, but more than one person knew someone who had experienced something. I took all accounts with a grain of salt. Disappointingly, there was no word of the ghost horse.
All in all, no ghosts, unless you count the lingering discomfort I felt in my hips and back on the ride to Dollywood.
If you’d like to read about my entire 2019 pilgrimage to Dollywood, check out these posts: