Monday, August 31, 2009

Dining With Ghosts

For my husband’s birthday, our family decided to splurge on a night out at Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Located less than 3 miles from our home, the restaurant is what was once the old Bellgrade Plantation built in 1732. To my children’s delight, it’s said ghosts of two past residents who died tragically on the property still linger and we couldn’t wait to see if they would make an appearance while we were there.

In 1840, a forty-three year old French bachelor named Robiou bought the plantation. In search of a bride, he met the fourteen year old daughter of a prominent attorney and wealthy landowner named Wormley who lived nearby. They were married shortly thereafter and moved into Bellgrade. A few weeks after their marriage, Robiou arrived home unexpectedly one afternoon to find his new bride in a compromising situation with her previous nineteen-year-old boyfriend Reid. Incensed by what he had found, Robiou threw his new wife out of the house and demanded a divorce.

Angered and humiliated, the girl’s father talked young Reid into helping him retaliate against Robiou. Late one evening, the two waited for Robiou outside his home. As he reached his porch, he was fatally shot. Both were arrested, but Reid was later released because he had been duped into the plot by the older and more cunning Wormley and he had not pulled the trigger. Wormley was tried for murder, found guilty and sentenced to be hanged.

Meanwhile, his now widowed daughter, who had been neither divorced nor disinherited, married Reid and moved back into the plantation. Within two weeks of her father’s hanging, she fell down the stairs and was killed. There are two accounts of how she died. One account is that she fell on a sewing basket and scissors punctured her heart. The other account is that she broke her neck. Since this tragedy, there have been hundreds of stories of sightings of the ghosts of Robiou and his young bride roaming the boxwood gardens behind the home.

After reading the account of the ghosts, our waiter informed us that our table sat just feet from the very staircase the unfortunate young girl tumbled down. We were allowed to do a little ghost hunting ourselves, exploring the stairs and a tiny dining room off to the side where she’s been seen on occasion.

The ghosts are said to be friendly but they are a little shy, usually only coming out once the restaurant is closed. And sometimes they can be a bit mischievous, turning on lights after everyone is gone and knocking over glasses when no one is around. The manager of the restaurant is a good friend of my husband’s and has had at least two close encounters with the ghost, describing it as a smoky shape hovering near the lobster tank before racing back up the stairs. Did we see any ghosts ourselves? Unfortunately not. But while we were talking to our waiter about the ghosts, my daughter’s Shirley Temple flew out of her hands, spilling a bright red stain all over the white table cloth. Accident or the ghost making herself known? You decide.