The Governor’s Mansion
Built in the 1790s by Charles Hillyard III, Woodburn (as the Governor’s Mansion is known) once served as a stop on the Underground Railroad and much more recently was purchased by the state of Delaware, serving as the official residence for Delaware’s governors since 1965. A Middle Period Georgian-style mansion, it has been home to everyone from gentleman farmers to U.S. Senators and doctors. And each owner seems to have left his own special imprint on the house.
The first ghost documented at Woodburn appeared only about 25 years after the house was constructed. The owners of the house at the time, Dr. and Mrs. Bates asked a visiting itinerant Methodist preacher to begin their shared morning meal with a prayer. The preacher suggested they wait for their other guest to join them. Puzzled, the couple stated there was no other guest in the house. The preacher then described in great detail the older gentleman he saw on the stairs. His description startled the couple even more, as it was precisely the way Mrs. Bates’ father, Charles Hillyard III had appeared—while alive.
It seems Mr. Hillyard is the most frequent spectral visitor at Woodburn. He is often seen on the steps. Having a reputation for enjoying alcohol, people have found that glasses of wine left on the stairs at night are often drained by morning.
As a stop on the Underground Railroad, slaves frequented the area. Legend has it that a slave running from a band of slave hunters hid in the hollow black walnut tree that used to stand near the home’s south porch. He was caught in his hideaway and some say his screams are still heard, most often at Halloween.
Another ghost visitors and residents have mentioned seeing is a young girl dressed in a traditional gingham dress and bonnet. She has been seen walking near the reflecting pool and carrying a candle. Although the most mysterious ghost of the group, none of the ghosts seem malicious or difficult. All seem to have become part of the rich history and local lore of Woodburn.
Tours of the mansion are available, but call ahead and stay with your guide so you don’t anger the spirits of Woodburn.