Swannanoa Mansion
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Jonathan Painter

Waynesboro, VA

#1 Feb 10, 2007
Does anyone know and stories of paranormal activity at the old Swannanoa mansion?

United States

#2 Apr 28, 2007
I do know of something that happened there, but you would have to contact me personally at bellachow@hotmail.com I was involved in something that happened there when I was about 20 years old and I am now 55. This was the day I met Mrs Russell.
G Holstein

Forest, VA

#3 Jun 3, 2007
If anyone finds out anymore info about he Mansion I would LOVE to know more about the estate!
G Holstein

Forest, VA

#4 Jun 3, 2007
Sorry my email is dispatcherholstein@hotmail.com
Debbie B

Charlottesville, VA

#5 Jun 29, 2007
I used to go visit in the 70's. It's really strange because Lao Russell picked me out of a crowd of tourists on two different occasions and the first time she gave me advice about my love life (or lack there of) and the next time which was probably 2 years or more later, she picked me out again, asked if the man with me was my boyfriend and I said yes and she said "I told you, so" and smiled. That is a very true story. I didn't know her at all.
Debbie Bush

Charlottesville, VA

#6 Jun 29, 2007
I am part of the community :)

Her advice to me was simply

Love yourself.

(Forgot that part)

New Hartford, NY

#7 Aug 7, 2007
I'm surprised I couldn't find out more about this place on the web. A bunch of my friends & I came across this place on a trip to a music festival in 1977. I still have the pictures. It was all very surreal. Tell me more!

New Hartford, NY

#8 Aug 7, 2007
Now, that's strange. I'm not from Parish, NY! I live about 30 miles from there, though. How does your forum come up with that?

Fredericksburg, VA

#9 Aug 24, 2007
Jonathan Painter wrote:
Does anyone know and stories of paranormal activity at the old Swannanoa mansion?
I've been doing alot of research on Swannanoa, I've been up there several times day and night. Me and some friends went inside the other night through a broken window. We went up the stairs and into one of the rooms there. We heard very old classical music playing from a tv in the room. when we shined our flashlights around the room we saw something very frightening. The bed that was in the room looked as if someone was under the sheets,and there was a huge blood stain on the sheet. We were soo freaked out by this, we took off running out of the house and drove off. There is nothing I can do about this situation, simply because of the fact that I was tresspassing. It was a very disterbing night, and I am very afraid to go back there ever agian.

If you have any info please e-mail me:

Somerville, VA

#10 Oct 19, 2007
Does anyone know a number to call to get a tour of the mansion?

Somerville, VA

#11 Oct 19, 2007
you can email me at brodyopt@yahoo.com

Afton, VA

#12 Nov 13, 2007
Ashley, call Tom at Charlottesville Oil, or call him at The Afton Inn. Last I heard he rents it out for weddings. Also, I heard he has some serious security cameras operating there.

Dallas, GA

#13 Dec 19, 2007
There are no ghosts or such thing at Swannanoa. It is private property and should be respected as such. If you want to visit, it can be done legally. Go through the owner as mentioned in previous posts. I simply do not believe the tale about classical music and the TV. As far as Lao Russell, I knew her personally and she was very “down to earth” and genuinely friendly. Not eccentric at all. I grew up in Waynesboro and no one ever had anything negative to say about Swannanoa. I think maybe Swannanoa was misunderstood, but after meeting Lao and hanging out with her, my impression is that she was a kind, unassuming woman.


Atlanta, GA

#14 Dec 27, 2007
Does anyone have pictures of Swannanoa they would like to share?
sarah j

Hopkinsville, KY

#15 Jan 1, 2008
just found this forum!! How interesting! I grew up in waynesboro 1960 until 1976. My dad worked at the News Virginian and also built custom cabinetry. He worked at Swannanoa one summer when I was 10 years old. He took me with him and I was free to explore. I would wander the gardens, sneak into the house, peak in the windows, etc. This was during the 'heyday' of the University of Science and Philosophy. Mrs. Russell was, through the eyes of young girl, like a character from a movie. I have such spectacular memories. Fast forward about 30 years. I go home to visit and take my children to
see Swannanoa. Imagine my dissapointment to find it run down, badly in need of repair and not the
spectacular place that I saw through the eyes of a child.I mentioned this to my mom, who also grew up in Waynesboro and she told me that she had a book written by Mrs. Russell and signed. We went through the attic and found the book simply entitled "Love". Finding this forum has sparked an interest in finding out more about the Russells and Swannanoa. I have discovered quite a lot if anyone is interested.

United States

#16 Jan 3, 2008
Sarah J, that is a quite interesting story and typical of stories told by “locals”. I was a local myself and have first hand experience at Swannanoa. Often on weekends we would take drives and go hiking off the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive. I friend of mine knew Lao and we would stop by the palace in the mornings. She would hang out with us, sit in the sun and drink tea on the palace front steps. She was very gracious and genuinely very friendly. Kind of like hanging out behind the curtain with the “Wizard of OZ off the clock”. Lao was not dressed in her extravagant long gowns, but in very ordinary skirts and wool sweaters. We would sit and talk about normal things, not “New Age” mumbo jumbo. Kind of felt like going to visit that favorite “aunt”. She would always tell me to take a walk around the ground floor of the palace in the museum rooms. I recall the cool cosmic psychedelic paintings by her husband. I never understood them, and never tried, but never the less thought they were interesting. She would also tell me to take a walk around back to the gardens. I remember the surreal “feel” of the gardens and was impressed by the statue of Jesus. I am not a member of any particular Christian denomination, but I still was impressed with the beauty of this statue. The combined effect of Jesus with the statues of angels always gave me this unearthly feeling. It seemed as though Lao reserved the morning hours for herself, as she never seemed rushed or told us she was busy. I recall that she would have guests from out of town arrive in the afternoon and we were told by a secretary or someone that she was with other visitors. I was not at the time and am not currently a student of her university, and I have never read any of her books. Maybe this is better, as my impression of her is first hand. I didn’t go to the palace to study the Russell philosophy, but solely stopped by the palace to visit Lao as a side trip on our way to the mountains for the day. It was not our destination. Lao was extremely kind, pleasant, gracious, affable.
sarah j

Hopkinsville, KY

#17 Jan 5, 2008
Tim,'surreal' is an accurate description. I recently read her book, published in 1966, and I
can't say I bought into any of it, or even understood it. It was pretty bizarre, to say the least !! It is dissapointing now to go to Waynesboro and see how Swannanoa, The Inn at Afton and the surrounding property has deteriorated. That area is such an attraction for tourists, I am surprised that the powers that be have let it remain in that shape. What a bad impression it gives. On another note, do you remember Fairfax Hall? My cousin and I used to sneak through the fence ( we trespassed everywhere!) and watch the boarding students ride horses. We were once caught swimming in the pool. We spent many hours there, as we did at Swannanoa, pretending we lived there, etc.

Oxford, NC

#18 Jan 6, 2008
I also grew up right down the road from the beautiful Swannanoa - Just last night I found a few picturs of the outside of the home and of Mrs. Russell - she was such a wonderful person to share her home - It sadding me to see such a beautiful place fall apart - the whole mt top needs a face lift so that we could all be able to enjoy it once again.
sarah j

Hopkinsville, KY

#19 Jan 6, 2008
helen, the place does need a facelift. I used to ice skate at the Inn of Afton, formerly the Holiday Inn and that place is in terrible shape. It seems to stay rather busy, but I dont see how.
I have traveled to a lot of places, and that place
remains, to me, one of the most beautiful places in the U.S.

Oxford, NC

#20 Jan 7, 2008
lol I remember TRYING very hard to ice skate but lets just say the ice is a very hard place to set down on lol

My husband and I use to work at the INN for about a year and and watched it go down hill also

But you can't help and remember the good times -

Watching the sunrise from up there is something else - so very pretty -

Just got back from Hoilday visiting friends and family up there.

Yep I have also been a few places but that will always be home in one way are another.

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