Witch Duck Road in Virgina Beach

Posted by junketseo in Virginia Beach Ghost Tours
Witch Duck Road in Virgina Beach - Photo

In Virginia Beach, there are more things to absorb than just the sun, sandy beaches, and the beauty of the Atlantic Ocean. This tourist destination is also rife with otherworldly activity and unexplained phenomena. If you’re considering a trip to Virginia Beach, add a little more excitement and schedule your getaway for July.

Why July? 

Because legend has it, a ghost appears as a gleaming orb of light and revisits the spot where it was accused of a crime in life. This haunting is referred to as the Ghost of Witch Duck Road. 

Why not choose U.S. Ghost Adventures as your guide into this and other unearthly happenings in Virginia Beach? Book a Virginia Beach ghost tour with Neptune Ghosts! You will have the time of your life while exploring the afterlife! 


Why is it Called Witch Duck Road?


In the vast history of Virginia, there is a poignant reminder of witch hysteria commemorated in Witch Duck Road just outside of the famous tourist city of Virginia Beach. The odd name memorializes the trial of a supposed witch named Grace White Sherwood.

Grace was not your typical 18th-century gal. She was a hard-working farmer, yet she was also a traditional healer and midwife. Unfortunately, her neighbors did not appreciate her presence. Grace was accused of acts that were believed to be witchcraft, including turning herself into a cat, damaging crops, and killing livestock.

After being charged with witchcraft multiple times, the definitive accusation would come from her neighbor, Elizabeth Hill, who accused Grace of causing her miscarriage. At Grace’s 1706 trial, the court ordered that she determine her innocence or guilt by being dunked into the water. The court believed that if she drowned, she was innocent. But should she escape, she was guilty – a no-win situation for Grace.


Trial by Water


On the morning of July 10, 1706, Grace was dragged down a then-dirt lane, now known as Witch Duck Road, to a plantation near the mouth of the Lynnhaven River. News of this ducking had spread, and the event attracted people from all over the county.

Five women of the Lynnhaven Parish Church examined Grace’s naked body on the shoreline for any devices she might have to free herself, and, finding none, they then covered her with a sack.

She was bound across the body, her right thumb lashed to her left big toe, and her left thumb tied to her right big toe. Grace was then pushed into the river. She quickly floated to the surface. The sheriff then tied a 13-pound bible around her neck, and while it caused her to sink, she was able to untie herself and swim back to the top.

To the judge and jury, this was undeniable proof that Grace was a witch. Making the situation worse for Grace, she proceeded to swim near the boats where the judges were seated and began cackling at them as she trod water in defiance.

She was unceremoniously hauled from the water and dragged ashore. Some of the women who’d previously examined her for proof of witchcraft performed another examination, uncovering witch marks, which could be any blemish on the skin. Grace was convicted of witchcraft and incarcerated, her property forfeited to the county.


The Spirit of a New Age


The spirit of Grace transcends what was expected of a woman at this time in history, and she has a much more modern sensibility. She stood up for herself in a male-dominated society that subjugated women. Grace was tenacious and independent in a time when women weren’t supposed to be.

Freed from prison by 1714, she recovered her property from Princess Anne County after winning a lawsuit she brought against the government. Grace never remarried and remained on her farm until her death at the age of 80.

A statue of Grace was unveiled in April 2007, honoring her tenacity, perseverance, and beauty. The statue is on the grounds where present-day Sentara Bayside Hospital sits and includes a raccoon and a basket of rosemary. The raccoon represents Grace’s love of animals, and the rosemary represents her knowledge of herbal healing. She is portrayed within the nature she so adored.


The Moral of the Story


The idea of the witch is the polar opposite of what a housewife needs to be. The witch was independent, with no need for a man. She got by on her own. She had knowledge and wisdom which most people couldn’t comprehend. She spoke out of turn and did not need societal norms.

The witch was a woman who had a mind of her own, which was unacceptable in Colonial America. Grace refused to be shaped and controlled by others, and while this almost ended her life, she refused to compromise her beliefs.

It’s safe to say Grace was a true pioneer in the women’s movement and continues to serve as a source of inspiration to this day.