Blog October 12, 2023

I Will Order A Stake, Please: Richmond’s Vampire!

I Will Order A Stake, Please: Richmond’s Vampire!

The Richmond Vampire (also called locally the Hollywood Vampire) is a recent urban legend from Richmond, Virginia.

Local residents claim that the mausoleum of W. W. Pool (Dated 1913) in Hollywood Cemetery holds the remains of a vampire. Supposedly Pool was run out of England in the 1800s for being a vampire. Oral legends to this effect were circulating by the 1960s. They may be influenced by the architecture of the tomb, which has both Masonic and ancient Egyptian elements, and double Ws looking like fangs. Because this cemetery is adjacent to Virginia Commonwealth University, the story became popular among students, especially from the 1980s onward. It was first mentioned in print in the student newspaper Commonwealth Times in 1976.

Since 2001, the vampire story has been combined with the collapse of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad’s Church Hill Tunnel under Church Hill, a neighborhood of eastern Richmond, Virginia, which buried several workers alive on October 2, 1925. This part of the story showed up online in 2001 and was first reported in print in 2007 in Haunted Richmond: The Shadows of Shockoe.

According to this newer story, the tunneling awakened an ancient evil that lived under Church Hill and brought the tunnel crashing down on the workers. Rescue teams found a unearthly blood-covered creature with jagged teeth and skin hanging from its muscular body crouching over one of the victims. The creature escaped from the cave-in and raced toward the James River. Pursued by a group of men, the creature took refuge in Hollywood Cemetery (2.2 miles away), where it disappeared in a mausoleum built into a hillside bearing the name W. W. Pool.

According to Gregory Maitland, an urban legend and folklore researcher with the paranormal research groups Night Shift and the Virginia Ghosts & Haunting Research Society, the “creature” that escaped the tunnel collapse was actually the 28-year-old railroad fireman, Benjamin F. Mosby (1896-1925), who had been shoveling coal into the firebox of a steam locomotive of a work train with no shirt on when the cave-in occurred and the boiler ruptured. Mosby’s upper body was horribly scalded and several of his teeth were broken before he made his way through the opening of the tunnel. Witnesses reported he was in shock and layers of his skin were hanging from his body. He died later at Grace Hospital and was buried at Hollywood Cemetery.

Rumors of a vampire lurking in the shadows of Hollywood Cemetery have circulated since the 1920s. The mythical figure is described by locals as a ghastly creature — dripping blood and flesh — who slumbers in a tomb on the site’s hallowed grounds.

The urban legend, which had its first known print appearance in The Commonwealth Times, alleges that the vampire escaped during the deadly Church Hill train tunnel collapse of 1925. After the collapse killed and buried several railway workers, the first fanged-creature sighting was reported near bookkeeper William Wortham Pool’s grave.

Mr. Pool is alleged to be a vampire, there seems to be a cult in Richmond that has grown up around him.”

Pool, who resided in Woodland Heights, died from pneumonia at the age of 80 in 1922. His initials, “W.W. Pool,” are engraved into stone; some say the letters resemble a vampire’s fangs. 

Curtis contrasts the eerie subject matter of the local tale with the cemetery’s “peaceful atmosphere,” noting the grounds’ springtime flowers, statues and crosses. According to the article, medical students used to break into the cemetery to steal Pool’s remains. 

Tour guides from Haunts of Richmond, a company that gives walking tours of Richmond’s paranormal past, tell the story of the Richmond vampire in the “Church Hill Chillers” and “Shadows of Shockoe” tours. 

It is said the tale most likely originated in a “game of telephone,” most likely started from a sighting of an injured individual with blood on their face, broken teeth and other injuries after the Church Hill tunnel collapse.

“And that story gets relayed from one person to the next,”  “All of a sudden, you go from an injured individual to there being a vampire.”

Hollywood Cemetery’s long, winding paths wrap around tombstones of various shapes and sizes. The grounds serve as a resting place for many famous Virginians, including author James Branch Cabell and Jefferson Davis, former president of the Confederacy.

The cemetery’s rolling hills also serve as the burial sites of two former U.S. presidents, James Monroe and John Tyler.

The original 1920s tale is more frightening than modern-day depictions of vampires, making it an urban legend that would pass through generations of Richmonders. 

There’s so many ghost stories here in the central Virginia area. Will come and take a Tour?