Haunted National Parks-The "Lost Visitor" Ghost
For this adventure, we will return to Prince William Forest Park in Triangle, Virginia. The story comes to us from a veteran National Park Service employee and friend. On the date of this incident, nothing seemed out of the ordinary, until the appearance of the “Lost Visitor” Ghost.
Photo: Prince William Forest Park sign (National Park Service)
The Turkey Run Environmental Center (TREC) is centrally located in the park. It includes the Oak Ridge Campground, TREC itself, which houses park offices and a meeting room, and a few smaller “outbuildings.” It is a central location in the park and coincides with the area that was once the town of Hickory Ridge.
In the 1910s, Hickory Ridge reached its peak population of about 300 people and 171 home sites. Established after the Cabin Branch Pyrite Mine began operation in 1889, Hickory Ridge was a patchwork of small home sites, with many residents working in the mine and engaging in farming to support their families. The families exchanged farm products, including vegetables, meat, milk and eggs through a barter system. As a result, the Great Depression had little effect on the economy in Hickory Ridge.
Photo: All that remains of Hickory Ridge is the Florence Family Cemetery.
An Integrated Town
Despite the passage of a law in Virginia forbidding integrated public facilities in 1924, Hickory Ridge was an integrated town. African American and white families were neighbors, worked in the Cabin Branch Pyrite Mine together, and both were held in high regard as leaders within the community. The town included an Odd Fellows hall, which also served as a church and school for African American families, Porter’s Inn, which was one of the few inns that would serve African Americans, and a company store.
The “Lost Visitor”
One misty morning, a park employee looked up from his work and noticed a young woman standing in the parking lot in front of the Turkey Run Environmental Center where he worked. He thought it a little odd, because the fog was pretty thick and she seemed to be looking around as if she were lost or looking for something. He noticed also that she was wearing a long pink rather frilly dress, which was not exactly appropriate in the area, where most visitors are dressed in hiking clothes or camping at the adjacent Oak Ridge Campground. At this point, he asked his co-worker to go out with him and see if he could assist the young woman.
When he and his female co-worker left the building, there was no sign of the young woman. In fact, there were no cars in the parking lot at all. Concerned that the woman needed help, they got into a park vehicle and drove through the campground looking for her. There were no cars or people in the campground, either. The entire area was still, silent, and shrouded in mist - but no one was there.
Is the Apparition Lucy?
The park employee then started to compare notes with his co-worker and fully realized then that the young woman’s dress was out of place, that he never saw her get in or out of a vehicle, that she didn’t really “fit in” at all. She was an apparition! But who could she be? I’ve done a little research and I believe that this apparition may be Lucy K. Florence.
The Florence family was at the center of Hickory Ridge. Joe Florence, Lucy’s father, owned the town store for more than 30 years. Several family members, including Lucy, rest in the nearby Florence Family Cemetery. Miss Lucy died at the age of 20 in 1887 quite unexpectedly of “convulsions.” Is it Lucy that wanders, seemingly lost, in the TREC parking lot? Is she looking for her home in Hickory Ridge? Unaware of the passage of time and her passing? Her dress is that of the farming period of the 1880s, her age seems to match, and her means of death suggests she may indeed be the lost visitor of Prince William Forest Park. What do you think?
Photo: Lucy K. Florence headstone (National Park Service)
I hope if you’re ever in the Triangle, Virginia, area that you’ll visit Prince William Forest Park. This is just one of many spirit stories I have to share on this paranormally active site!
Until next time,
Carol Pollio, Ph.D.
Florence Family History. https://www.nps.gov/prwi/learn/historyculture/upload/Florance-Family-History.pdf
Hickory Ridge and Batestown. Prince William Forest Park site bulletin. Online: https://www.nps.gov/prwi/planyourvisit/upload/hrb.pdf
Hickory Ridge, Virginia. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hickory_Ridge,_Virginia
The Florence Family. National Park Service. https://www.nps.gov/prwi/learn/historyculture/florence-family.htm