Column – Spooky Suffolk

Published 4:25 pm Tuesday, August 29, 2023

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The 1983 primary election had a low voter turnout, but nowhere was that more apparent than in one Suffolk precinct. The Airport Precinct, one of three “split” precincts in Suffolk for that election, had only 71 eligible voters for this primary. Only eight of the voters actually went to the polls. The cost of operating that polling location turned out to be about $25 a vote.

In the fall of ’83, Planters Park, a 5.5-acre recreational area, was given to the city. Nabisco Brands Inc., which was the owner of Planters Peanuts at the time, donated the facility, “recognizing the community’s continued need for Planters Park.” 

Construction was active in May ‘84. Two bridge projects in Suffolk were among the construction, repair and resurfacing projects being carried out by the Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation. One project was the construction of a two-lane bridge over the Norfolk and Western Railway and Seaboard Coast Line railroad tracks on Pinner Street. Also set for completion in the fall were the repairs to the bridge on Route 125 over the Nansemond River in Chuckatuck.

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According to a story in the Oct. 31, 1984, edition of the paper, Suffolk is home to several ghosts. “In the days of the great iron horse, when Suffolk was a major railroad center for the East Coast of the United States, there was a tragedy one dark and foggy night. One of the mighty trains roared along. Just before a crossing on Jackson Road, there was a huge tree across the tracks, fallen during a storm the night before. Unfortunately, the engineer failed to see the ancient oak, and the mighty engine wrecked. 

Train cars piled atop the engine, and coal spilled out across the farmland. In the tragedy a brakeman, just stepping across from one car to the other, was crushed between them. The story says he was decapitated in the dreadful wreck. Several others lost their lives that night. 

But the brakeman…the brakeman never left Jackson Road. His spirit still walks along the railroad track, searching for his head. And on dark and foggy nights when the moon drifts beneath thick clouds, you can see his light on the railroad tracks. Eyewitnesses report the light is greenish-blue and as you stand and watch, it comes closer and closer until the dread is so awful, so horrible, you’re compelled to run. Suffolk residents who have seen the light will assure you it’s there. Some brave souls try to say it’s phosphor or swamp gas, but those who have seen the light, those who believe in ghosts and spirits, know it’s the brakeman searching for his head.  

A strange noise radiates from Bright’s Pond on cloudy nights, when the stars aren’t shining and darkness falls thick across the water. It sounds as though someone is wailing, maybe calling to a lost love. The noise has often been attributed to the wind, but the wail continues on dark nights even when there is no wind. 

Even the Suffolk News-Herald’s former building on South Saratoga Street was reported to have a ghost. “The resident ghost changes radio stations when the music doesn’t appeal to him and often opens doors rather than walking through walls. The spirit, say those who know, is that of a circulation manager who died in an upstairs room. Footsteps are heard in the halls late at night when there’s no one in the halls. A certain footstool moves slowly across the floor without assistance from human hands. ‘I was here very late one night,’ says one who has encountered the spirit. ‘I heard footsteps running in the hallway. When I walked out to investigate, staples flew from the wall and telephone wires fell from their mounting.’ This resident ghost of the newspaper remains mostly in the upstairs room where, several years ago, he sat down, put his head in his hand, and passed on to another world. But on a night like tonight, he may even venture onto the streets of Suffolk.”

Jen Jaqua is the creative director for the Suffolk News-Herald. She can be contacted at