This home was a famous haunted house at one time, but its prominence has been forgotten. It takes a bit of research to locate any information on the Old Hart Place in Hiltons, Virginia. This local attraction once had visitors from all across Southwest Virginia, but no one ever established what made it so haunted.
Mann Hart, brother of notable Scott County patriarch Elijah Hart, built his home beside the Holston River, opposite his brother, in the 1830s. While he never achieved the same social recognition, he did achieve success. Mann was 300 pounds of legend and mystery during his lifetime, and said to have been as tall as a bear. His farm encompassed 300 acres of fertile land in the decades prior to the Civil War.
His two-story home was an impressive antebellum structure that sat on the riverbank. Locals were never certain just how Mann achieved his wealth, but many noticed that travelers often came to his house, and were never seen again. Rumors traveled that Hart took in wealthy boarders and killed them for their riches. He buried their bodies somewhere around the house.
The house fell into obscurity for over a century after Mann’s ownership, but locals never stopped talking about it or their experiences. The house seemed to come alive. Long before the establishment of electricity, every room in the Hart house was known to light up of its own accord, simultaneously. A family cemetery was started near the house. The property later was also known as the, “Marston House.”
The owners eventually built a newer house and the historic house was rented. Many tried to live in the home, but no one stayed for long. It eventually belonged to the Marston family. A family named Graham attempted to live there in the 1950s, but they were forced to leave, as well.
By the 1960s, John F. Miller owned the place. Miller was a successful businessman in Kingsport, Tennessee. Years after the Graham’s vacated the premises, and the house was falling to ruin, Miller held an open reward for any brave soul. Any individual who stayed a single full night would be paid $25. He never had to pay a single person.
A group of skeptics gathered at the house in January of 1966, several months before the auction. By this point, the house was covered in thin white paint and had green shutters. The interior was paneled with yellow poplar that still had square-head iron nails, or “cut nails,” from its early construction.
The men spent the night chasing sounds between the house and the barn. They heard thumping, thrashing, and the sounds of struggle. They heard faint whispers and eventually ghostly music began to play. They searched the house and surrounding buildings for the music’s source, but never found a point of origin.
A variety of stories was associated with the house. Here they are in as much detail as can be presented, while maintaining their historic integrity.
The upstairs bedroom was the most haunted room in the house. No person could sleep in the room without their covers being ripped from their bodies. If the sleeper held on to the fabric, the covers levitated from the bed until they touched the ceiling.
A migrant family lived in the home during the 1920s. They weren’t sociable and had no interest in befriending their landlord or neighbors. They simply wanted to be left alone. Those living near them respected their wishes. Later on, neighbors learned the father was an abusive alcoholic, but sobriety had no impact on his disposition. He was just as physically and verbally vicious with his family sober as he was when drunk.
One night, when he was particularly drunk, he grew enraged. He pushed his wife down the stairs, but she caught the rail a few steps down. He stabbed her with his hunting knife and kicked her body. When she landed on the floor below, she had enough life left to try and get up. She only managed to leave a bloody handprint on the board beside the first step. When he realized she was dead, he went outside with his pistol and shot himself.
Decades after the tragedy, no amount of scrubbing or sanding removed it. The board was replaced several times and the print always reappeared on the new wood.