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Dover, Delaware – Woodburn
Four ghosts haunt Delaware’s Governor’s Mansion. The great house was built in 1790 by a Revolutionary War Colonel, Charles Hillyard, on land given to his family by William Penn. When a Quaker by the name of Daniel Cowgill owned the house during the Civil War, a tunnel was dug from the cellar to the St. Jones River, and escaped slaves used the mansion as a stop on the Underground Railway. The house was haunted for over 160 years before it became the official home of the governor of Delaware in 1966. The first ghost at Woodburn appeared in 1805 to Lorenzo Dow, a Methodist evangelist staying there. He described the elderly “stranger upstairs” to the wife of the owner of the house one day. She told him no one else lived in the house, but later she saw the same apparition. In the 1870s, another house guest had to be revived from a fainting spell, when he saw the ghost of an elderly man sitting by the fireplace. The phantom could be the original owner, Charles Hillyard, who died in the house. Another ghost is a man in a powdered wig, who has a predilection for fine wine. Governor Charles Terry Jr. accused the ghost of draining off some of the vintage wines in the cellar of the mansion, and one of his servants saw the ghost help himself from a decanter in the dining room. Earlier residents placated the dry spirit by setting out wine decanters, which mysteriously drained overnight. The ghost of a slave kidnapper seems to stay near an old poplar tree in the yard. It is the tree from which he was hanged, although he was not strung up with a rope. He climbed the tree hoping to kidnap runaway slaves, when the house was owned by abolitionist Daniel Cowgill. But as fate would have it, the man slipped, and his head was caught between two branches. On moonlit nights his struggling ghost can be seen dangling from the gnarled old tree. His awful moans and chain rattling sometimes fill the inside of the house as well. The fourth ghost is a little girl in a red-checked, gingham dress. She was seen playing by the pool in the garden during the 1940s but has never been identified. At the January 1985 inauguration party for Governor Michael Castle, guests complained of an invisible presence tugging at their clothing, and one woman saw the apparition of a little girl in a corner of the reception room. The governor himself reported a few ghostly encounters and even allowed a teacher and three of her students to bring their tape recorders and Ouija boards to Woodburn. After spending the night, the children were genuinely spooked, insisting that a portrait of a woman in one of the rooms kept smiling at them.

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