Sunday, November 1, 2015

An All Hallows L.I.N.K.S. dedicated to The Female Stranger

This edition of L.I.N.K.S. (hyperlinks that Lure, Intrigue, Nurture, Kindle, or Stimulate) is dedicated to the mysterious female stranger, whose tortured soul some claim still haunts Room 8 of Old Town Alexandria's Gatsby Tavern Inn.

The young, unnamed woman, known to history as the Female Stranger, slipped the surly bonds of this earth in Room 8 on October 14th, 1816. Her identity and cause of death shrouded in mystery, she was buried in St Paul's cemetery by a man claiming to be her husband. For nearly 200 years now, rumors and hypotheses have grown like weeds on an untended grave.

Who was the Female Stranger? Why did she come to Alexandria? Why was she so adamant about hiding her identity? How did she die? Who was the man who claimed to be her husband? What secrets did her doctor--sworn to secrecy--carry to his own grave? Why did the doctor agree to protect his patient's identity?

Rumors abound:

  • She was escaping an unhappy marriage with a paramour when she became deathly ill. 
  • "She" was really Napoleon Bonaparte in disguise. 
  • There is no body in that grave. The whole charade was just part of an elaborate disappearing act.

I first heard of this story in October 2014, when Port City Brewing Company released a new beer called Long Black Veil. This is a Black IPA brewed in honor of the Female Stranger who died in the Gatsby Tavern Inn nearly 200 years ago. Yes, the love of beer is a gateway to mystery.

This year, looking for some spooky fun, I visited the Gatsby Tavern Museum on Hallowe'en and took the tour (I highly recommend this tour, by the way! Ask for Laurie.). The tour guide explained that she does not normally mention the Female Stranger, since there are more rumors than facts, and to repeat spurious rumors would be pandering. However, partly at my insistence, and partly because there was a Female Stranger-themed birthday party happening even as we discussed the idea, she agreed to include some aspects of the young woman's story on her tour.

I took photos of Room 8, including the ghostly figure of a number 8 on the door. The story goes that at the moment when the young woman gave up the ghost, the numeral slipped 90 degrees and became an infinity sign.

Our tour guide convinced a birthday partier dressed as The Female Stranger to pose for a photo. Backlit in my photo, the veil-clad young lady appears eerily translucent--almost ghost-like.

I went from the tavern to St Paul's cemetery and searched for a tombstone in memory of The Female Stranger. After a spooky search, I found it!

The nearly 200 year old table-top grave marker is now weathered and difficult to read. I searched the Internet and found this helpful transcription.

"Tomb of a female stranger, Alexandria, Virginia (8597808671)" by Boston Public Library

And so now, with all that as prologue, I offer this collection of L.I.N.K.S., the 14th in the series, this one dedicated to the mysterious woman known to us only as The Female Stranger.

Post Script: L.I.N.K.S. is a recurring feature here at PhilosFX. You can find and enjoy previous editions of L.I.N.K.S. (hyperlinks that Lure, Intrigue, Nurture, Kindle, or Stimulate) by using the search term, L.I.N.K.S. Enjoy them all!