Dinner with a ghost table setting

How To Experience Everything From History to Hauntings At The Octagon Mansion

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If you find yourself passing through the charming mountain town of Wytheville, Virginia do yourself a favor and exit the freeway and head downtown. 

Once there find your way to the Octagon Mansion and experience everything from history to hauntings!

Seriously, this was such a surprising and unexpected discovery. Honestly, if this hadn’t been on my press trip schedule I probably wouldn’t have take the time to visit, but, WOW, I’m so very glad I did.

We were slated for a guided historical tour (self-guided is an option as well) that turned into an experience unlike no other.

The owners (you’ll meet them a bit later) are incredible storytellers and the Octagon Mansion and History Museum is definitely a passion project for them.

How To Experience Everything From History to Hauntings At The Octagon Mansion

However, this story really took a turn for me during the tour when I noticed a number of pieces of ghost hunting equipment set up around the house.

Of course, my paranormal loving brain wanted to know exactly what was going on and why the equipment was set out. 

Ghost hunt equipment at octagon house

Apparently, the Octagon Mansion is reportedly haunted and most weekends there are paranormal groups in to investigate. Y’all know I’m 100% here for that!!

Exterior Octagon Mansion

Because I have no shame, I instantly asked if I might join the investigation that night (<<–100% a job perk).

Luckily, the paranormal investigating group was accommodating and more than happy to have me join them for an investigation.

What was an already great experience at the museum was just getting better and better.

I was beyond thrilled that they said yes! More on them in a little bit.

Before we get into the hauntings I think it’s helpful to have a little history of the house, it’s current owners and what’s happening here now.

A Very Brief History of the Octagon Mansion–if you don’t care about history, (no shade, just sayin’), scroll on down to the ghost stuff 😉

The construction on the house began in 1870 by a Dr. Henry Quincy Adams Boyer (I know, that’s a lot of names…). Anyways, our good doctor started the house and then decided to move a bit further south (next county over) to start a hospital. He sold the home in 1874, before it was completed, to a Rev. Dexter A. Snow.

Rev. Snow remained in the home until the 1890s (and is maybe still there today…..stay tuned) when he sold it to a Mr. James Gleaves. It was Mr. Gleaves that had the side wings added.

Side Note: So, as always, I have questions. The biggest one being how in the world a reverend could afford a mansion back in the late 1800’s. His father was a reverend as well so I don’t think he had a lot of money.  I didn’t do the research to see if  his wife came from money or if the church paid for it. However, the church was built AFTER purchasing the house. Times were different then so maybe the house was really affordable. At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter, but just something to thing about.

It remained a private residence through the decades up until the early 1990s where it went through a number of commercial business and then sat mostly empty from 2012 until recently.

Enter the current owners and rescuers of the mansion,  Debbie and John Cushman.

What Is the Octagon Mansion Architecture?

I know very little about architecture so I’m sharing what I found in a history book about the building.

The general overall structure (not including the additions/changes)  is that of an octagon mode 2-story brick house with a semi-circular portico supported by Doric columns.

My interpretation..it’s just a cool freaking building and you’re going to want to go inside and see it up close and personal.

After visiting the Octagon Mansion there are 13 more things you absolutely must see before leaving town.

Octagon Mansion Interior

What Is The Octagon Mansion Today?

Today, the Octagon Mansion is owned by John and Debbie Cushman. John has spent a lifetime curating memorabilia and when he met Debbie he moved an entire semi-trailer load of artifacts to Wytheville and the Octagon Mansion History Museum was born.

From Debbie: 

John’s lifetime collection of American history began at age 5.

He was a re-enacter at Gettysburg for 25 years and amassed this collection during that time. It has always been his dream to preserve history, display and share his collection with the public. In doing so, he is also restoring and preserving the Octagon Mansion…..

Hence, The 1870 Octagon Mansion History Museum was born.

After two years of hard work, The museum opened on Memorial Day, May 2021.

The museum is open for public tours on Fridays and Saturdays 12-4pm and private tours by appointment only on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

I’m not sure if Debbie knew what she was getting into when John said he collects military memorabilia, but it appears that she has taken it all in stride and together they have created an incredible place to share their love of history with people.

Octagon Mansion drums

I greatly appreciate that his private collection is available for others to see. So many times these items get locked away in storage units, but the Cushman’s have graciously, and to great expense to themselves, provided a public home for the items to live.

The majority of the collection may be Civil War history, but there are any number of military conflicts represented. 

Octagon Mansion 3

Thousands of items adorn the walls, display cases, bookshelves and more. I think there is more to go on display but there simply isn’t room at this time. 

uniform on display at Octagon Mansion

Walking through the house I’m simply stunned by the collection. There is everything from Civil War uniforms, drums, and guns to documents, art work and antiques.

Octagon Mansion

If you are a civil war buff plan on spending some time here because it’s going to take a while to see it all.

Most of the collection is categorized by subject matter. There is a uniform room, a Grand Hall with some very cool maps of the Battle of Gettysburg, a front parlor, a dining room where you can have Dinner With A Ghost and so much more.

Octagon Mansion Desk

The mansion is still undergoing restoration and the owners are slowly but lovingly restoring the building to its original grandeur.

I can’t wait to see how much more it will shine when it’s done.

Visiting in the winter? Check out our cold weather adventure guide

Front Parlor of the Octagon Mansion in Wytheville VA

Investigating the Hauntings at the Octagon Mansion

Here’s the part I know a lot of you have been waiting for….

I arrived back at the Octagon Mansion at the appointed 9p.m. start time and was warmly met by members of the Tri-State Paranormal Research Team with their sister group Mid Ohio Valley Ghost Hunters. 

Four members, Amy, William, Michelle, and Valerie, were able to make this trip a couple hours away from their home base for the weekend. 

ghost night investigation at octagon mansion in wytheville va

They were about to take me on a very adventurous night at the museum. I mean, who doesn’t want to be in a museum at night, the artifacts may not have come to life, but there was definitely paranormal activity happening while I was there.

We spent a solid hour talking about their experiences and how long they’ve been investigating. For the record, a long time, 20+ years with 150+ investigation so I’d have to say they know what they’re doing.

The Investigation Begins…

After chatting we decided to move to the front parlor where they capture a lot of activity. They do not provoke and always use kind words and actions while on investigations…that’s just smart investigating, in my opinion.

For the first part of the investigation I just sat quietly in the corner and watched them do their thing. Equipment was set up down the hallways and in various rooms. 

There were 5 of us total. From where I sat I could observe all of them and see/hear the equipment. William showed me how some of the equipment works and what it takes to set it off. Basically energy has to be touching the equipment, whether it’s human or spirit, it only goes off when being touched.

ghost hunt at octagon mansion in wytheville va
Motion activated light going off during investigation, everyone was in the room with me no living person was in the hall.

We weren’t in the room for 5-minutes when the rem-pods starts making noises and the motion lights start lighting up. Alrighty then, this is really happening.

The team used audio recorders in an attempt to record voices/sounds and in hopes of getting answers from the other side. 

Eventually I got into the spirit of things and started asking questions and engaging as well.

haunted doll at octagon house
The story goes that this doll, which is quite heavy, has shown up in different parts of the house without anyone moving it. Insert eerie music here…

We had questions, “they” had answers, it was all very interesting, and I’m going to admit a bit shocking. I, personally, have never experienced that level of activity on an investigation before. 

Additionally, these spirits have a sense of humor and  are, without a doubt truthful and maybe lack a bit of tact.

When asked if one of the team members looked pretty in her dress the response was “not really.” We all got a really good laugh out of that one.

At another point in the evening two team members said it felt like a child was sitting on their laps. They felt a weight that was child like and they both spent some time talking with the “child.” During that experience the EMF detectors kept lighting strongly and consistently.

Upon review of the voice recorders when one of the investigators ask “If you are a girl, would you like for me to braid your hair?” As soon as she asked the question, a little girl’s voice was recorded saying “Okay”.

It was interesting watching and experiencing the interactions. I haven’t ever had that much fun on an investigation. The team members like to keep things lighthearted. It was like hanging out with friends, having a good time, paranormal aspect is a fun bonus.

Sadly, around 1a.m. I had to tap out, because I can not hang all night like I used to. 

Master bedroom at octagon mansion wytheville va

Audio Recordings, Photos and a Hella Good Story…

A few days later I reached out to Amy to see what they may have discovered when reviewing their evidence. After my departure they had experiences that included a pull on a shirt bottom, a little pinch to the arm, more footsteps, rem-pods and EMFs going off. 

She shared some stories of the adventures they had after I left and I love the humor and fun they bring to investigations.

So that other investigator aren’t influenced by their experiences I’m not going to go into too much detail, but I’m going to share a couple things plus one of my favorite stories from Amy.

Tri State Paranormal Research Team
Look in the upper right corner of the left window at back of room, see anything?
Image courtesy of the Tri State Paranormal Research team (c) Amy


tri state paranormal reserch team, face reflected in glass (c) Amy Nortum
Circled image courtesy of the Tri State Paranormal Research team (c) Amy

Story Time By Amy From the Tri State Paranormal Research Team: 

“Early Saturday morning around 4 am, Valerie, Michelle and myself decided we would go ahead and try to get a little sleep.

Michelle decided to carry some of her equipment down including 2 round black pucks one with “yes” wrote on it, the other with “no” that doesn’t light up but talks.

The “yes” one has different sayings for yes and the “no” button has different forms of no including a mean sounding creepy NO!

She had those gathered in her arms with a few other pieces of equipment. As we neared the stairs, all 3 of us heard a noise behind us as well as footsteps.

We stopped to listen, Michelle on one step, myself at the same top step I was on the last time when the door slammed shut in my face, and Valerie at that door not on the stairs yet.

Michelle took a step to proceed down the stairs when a creepy loud NO! was shouted.

I grabbed the railing with a death grip while simultaneously grabbing Michelle’s shoulder causing her and Valerie to jump.

It only took a few seconds until we were laughing uncontrollably because we realized it was the “no” button Michelle was carrying that went off due to pressing against her chest from carrying everything in her arms.

Someone else thought it was funny as well because we were able to hear with our own ears another voice laugh behind us. I thought for sure William, who was asleep on the couch, was going to be able to collect on my life insurance policy!”

Images and videos on the tri state paranormal research team fb page
Click image to watch videos

The team shared a number of videos and photos on their Facebook page. Click the image above to check them out. 

Audio Recordings

There were a number of fantastic audio recordings, but the one I really liked is of a child’s saying “watch your hand” and at the end of the recording someone is whistling which is NOT the investigators. Whoa!

There’s numerous recording of voices and whistling, but not enough room to share all that data here. I’m really thinking there needs to be another story focused on a number of the pieces of evidence.

My Paranormal Experiences at the Octagon Mansion 

My experience at the mansion included hearing “hello Deb” through the spirit box (yikes!!).  Asking questions and getting answers via the spirit box. Hearing voice recordings on the audio recorders, and rem-pods and EMFs lighting up, at times all the things going off together. It was quite spectacular.

Is the Octagon Mansion Haunted?

In my very limited experience and knowledge I would say, without hesitation, that the Octagon House definitely has paranormal activity.

I can’t explain, by modern science, what I heard or felt, but intuitively I know that the mansion holds a lot of energy be it residual and/or intelligent or of multi-dimensions.

However, I don’t believe anything evil lurks there. 

The house is warm and inviting. If you go for an investigation keep it fun and lighthearted and you’ll most likely have your own experiences.

Just like humans want to be around fun people so do spirits. So, go, be the fun the spirits want 🙂

This is what the current owner, Debbie Cushman, shared with me: 

We host paranormal teams from all across the nation most every weekend.

Although many teams have encountered multiple spirits, nothing evil, we believe two resident spirits are the most prominent… the Reverend and Audrey, a young girl we believe to be around 12 yrs old.

This home had never been investigated until John sat down with the previous owners for an investigation.

With typical ghost hunting equipment, within minutes they were approached by this little girl who only asked one question….. “Have you seen my mommy?”

Since then, many teams have also encountered her and that’s how we learned he name… Audrey.

On occasion, she still asks different teams that same question, have you seen my mommy?

Both the Rev and Audrey interact with investigators not to mention other spirits.

Random objects move about the mansion, such as a dinner plate being in Audrey’s room unexplainably, a doll in a different place when left in a room.

Things broken when we return to the mansion when no one had been there.

Who Haunts the Octagon Mansion?

Well, as always, questions like this are up for debate and it comes down to investigators doing their best to assess what is happening and how that correlates to the history of the house. 

The owners are almost positive Rev. Snow decided to stick around as well as a child that they believe is named Audrey (more on the below).

It is also probable that a number of spirits/energy could be attached to the items in the house and we’ll never know who they are.

It’s also been suggested that the mansion is just a place that spirits like to visit. 

I don’t think we’ll ever really know for certain and my opinion on hauntings waver between us being ghosts in someone else’s story and/or a moment in space and time where multiple dimensions overlap and interact and/or strictly what is the accepted definition of a haunting by today’s standards–the energy of a deceased individual that hasn’t crossed over. 

It’s all open for debate and the great thing is there is no wrong answer.

Dinner with a ghost table setting

You’re Invited To Dinner With A Ghost at the Octagon Mansion

Dinner With A Ghost Was created in 2007 by John in Goldfield, Nevada aa a way to raise funding for restoration and preservation in the old mining town.

He took his background of 20+ years in marketing and food distribution and combined it with his love of history and affinity of the paranormal…. And Dinner With A Ghost was born.

Mainly hosted in the west until he met, married ( the love of his life) and moved to Virginia.

Then they toured for two years across the nation hosting Dinner With A Ghost at other historic locations raising funds for their preservation.

In 2020, when the pandemic hit, they had to cancel 50 events across the nation due to the travel ban and they traveled no more which, silver lining, gave them time to get the museum completed.

And now, the Octagon Mansion is the home of  Dinner With A Ghost which blends history with a 4-course fine dining experience, and a paranormal investigation into a night of anticipation and wonderment unlike any other.

Be sure to visit their Facebook pages to stay up to date on all the happenings at the Octagon Museum and the Dinner With A Ghost website.

YouTube video

What Ghost Hunting Equipment Do I Need?

Ghost Hunting Equipment for your next adventure

For the most part I use my senses. Hearing, sight, smell, touch, but having equipment does make the investigation a little more fun and interactive. Here are some starter items you can grab from Amazon:

This Story Wouldn’t Be Possible Without The Following People…

THANK YOU to John and Debbie for hosting me on a guided historical tour of the house and for be the catalyst for this incredible story. Additional thanks to Debbie for answering my endless FB chat, helping feed my curiosity, and editing this story.

And a huge round of applause to Amy, William, Michelle, and Valerie, for letting me crash their party and then showing me the best time.

Additional thanks to Amy who has taken the time to chat and share with me evidence captured, but not shared in this story, and answer even more questions. I’m thinking a second story that focuses on the evidence captured at the Octagon House needs to happen at some point.

All the gratitude to all parties involved (it really does take a tribe) for sharing your knowledge and experiences with me so that I could share them here. 

I hope our paths cross again soon!

Pin The Octagon Mansion For Future Reference

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