HMC’s occupancy in the Goodwin Baker Building in downtown Richmond is just a blink in the building’s 117-year history. Built at the turn of the 20th century, the space was first home to the Richmond Underwear Company, where roughly 160 employees, mostly women, cut and sewed underwear for commercial sale. With all that history and lives passing through the doors, the building is a ripe environment for ghost stories. And they abound.
Sid Miller, renovator and owner of Goodwin Baker Building, says, “We’ve had lots of reports over the years of strange experiences. Particularly on the third floor before it was renovated. We stored tools up there and if you went up around dusk, you’d get this chill on your shoulders and neck. And from the floor below, tenants would hear noises, people walking and running around when there was no one up there.”
Down on the second floor, a printing company operating in the space would find stacks of paper inexplicably moved from one side of the building to the other.
After one prospective tenant got so spooked by the unsettling energy of the space, Miller brought in a shaman from Hinesburg who confirmed the presence of spirits in the building, including a woman and child whom she could sense crouching in a corner on the third floor. The shaman held a session aimed at helping the spirits move on. “After she completed the ritual, you could totally feel a difference,” said Miller. “Something about the air, the whole vibe. It was clearer, calmer.”
But the eerie occurrences didn’t go away entirely. Four different HMC employees came forward with their personal stories when asked about ghostly encounters. All incidents happened outside of regular business hours—in the evening, early morning, or on the weekend. Each one described hearing heavy, presumably locked doors suddenly opening and closing, though the hallways were empty and the sensor lights were not triggered.
And then there was this emailed account from Aubrey, an occupant on the second floor:
“Last winter my boyfriend and I shared a car so some mornings I had to start my work day quite early. Some days I would get to the office when it was still dark out and not a soul would be in the building besides me for a couple of hours (or so I thought). One particular morning I had just started the coffee and was heading back to my desk when I heard what I thought was some papers being stapled and some shuffling coming from my co-worker’s office. I remember distinctly thinking, ‘That’s odd, I’m surprised she’s here so early! I’ll go say hi.’ I walked down the hall toward her office and was in mid-‘Good morning’ when I turned the corner and saw that, in fact, no one was in her office. I got that tingly feeling one gets when it seems your whole body is covered with goosebumps! I checked the rest of the office as well just to see if someone else had been in and left—no one. It was just me.”
HMC’s Cheryl Lamery, who spends a lot of time in the office after hours, isn’t bothered by the sound of mysterious footsteps and opening doors. “I’ve never gotten a sense that they’re mean or hostile. I just shout out, ‘Alright, I know you’re here!’ And go about my business.”