Trinity Episcopal Church
Once was haunted by a Scottish family Banshee!
Mission Statement “We are called to worship and glorify God and to open ourselves to the presence and power of the Holy Spirit so that each of us is inspired to follow Christ’s teaching to love God and our neighbors as ourselves. We will express this love by beginning in our own community to build Christ’s world where the hungry are fed, the sick are comforted, and the dignity of our neighbors is as precious as our own.”
When the founder of Portsmouth, William Crawford was laying out the streets, he designated intersection of High Street and Court Street to be the Portsmouth town center, and left space for an Episcopal Church to be built sometime in the future. In 1761, Trinity Episcopal Church was built and began its long history of loving God and their neighbors as themselves.
This first congregation was under the care and leadership of Rev. Charles Smith. A first generation Scotsman, Rev. John Braidfoot, was the second priest to lead this congregation. Rev. John Braidfoot was also the chaplain for the Second Virginia Infantry Regiment when the Revolutionary War broke out. When the British took over Portsmouth, their garrison stayed in the church, which must have been awkward for the congregation.
The first native-born rector was John Emmerson, who had to get his Certificate of Ordination from the Bishop of London in England and to this day it hangs in the parish hall. Over the years, however, many priests from this church have been elected to be bishops. “Trinity Church could rightly be called the mother of bishops, since five of its rectors have been elected bishop.”
During the Civil War, Trinity Episcopal Church had a beautiful stained glass window put in their church, which still is in good shape. There are two inscriptions on the window. “The original message honored men who died defending Virginia “against the invasion of the U.S. Forces.” Union troops ordered the church to change the inscription, to say, “Given through respect for the Patriotism of the Dead … ” The church today displays both inscriptions.
The church was built in a colonial style architecture, and had the cemetery in front and side yard of the property, which is still there today. It had colonial pews, side balconies and probably a really big pulpit often seen in churches built in this time period. It had a tall stone bell tower, which is still used today.
Over the years, renovations, and changes have been made to the original, colonial style church and additions have been built to suit the needs of the congregation and the community at large. The colonial pews and side balconies were removed and several fine Tiffany windows added. In 1893 the angel shaped baptismal font fondly called Elizabeth, was dedicated.
The acoustics in the church itself are perfect for the worship music program and community concerts. In 1961, the church made the investment of buying a new organ, installed by Austin Organ Company with the basic 21 ranks. Throughout the 1990’s, the church added more pipe ranks totaling 61 pipe ranks, which gives this organ a glorious sound. The Organ’s pipes are now located in both the front and the back of the church, surrounding the congregation in music. It is considered to be one of the largest and most versatile instruments of its kind in the Hampton Roads area.”
By 1993 a $300,000 renovation plan which included the church, organ, and the churchyard was completed, a nice note for their priest, The Rev. Robert Huffman to retire on.
Perhaps the Braidfoot family Banshee.
Some years after the Revolutionary War ended, an unknown apparition appeared to Scotsman Rev. John Braidfoot while he was at work in this church several times, telling him that he was going to die on February 6th, though Rev. John Braidfoot appeared to be in perfect health.
Sure enough, Rev. John Braidfoot did indeed die on February 6th.
Uncertain – This paranormal experience happened long ago and I can’t find anything that has happened recently.
My theory is that the Braidfoot family may have had a family banshee over in Scotland who would come and tell them of a forthcoming death. Perhaps this banshee followed the family over when they immigrated to America. An old church with a graveyard one would think must have a restless one here and there, but may be really quiet because the Episcopal Church does have an exorcism ceremony. If I do find a story about this place, I will add it to this story.
Scheduled ghost walks seem to start at Trinity Episcopal Church, which seems to indicate other restless spirits may be here still.
500 Court Street
Portsmouth, VA 23704
Trinity Episcopal Church and its graveyard can be found at the intersection of High Street and Court Street in the historical downtown Portsmouth.
- trinityportsmouth.org * users.wirefire.com [Bad Link]
- HAUNTED PLACES: The National Directory by Dennis William Hauk
The Penguin Group, 2002
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr