The Black Sisters of Christiansburg

Contributed By Cheryl Deane

Black SisterBack when I was in Jr. High. My family had moved from Tennessee to Virginia due to my father’s job. This would have been the early ’80s. We moved to Christiansburg, Va. It’s a small town with a big story. Now my parents had me in a private Christian School at the time. So I did not attend the local middle school. But out of all, the places my family have lived. I find it interesting that as soon as we moved there. Other kids were warning me and asking me if I had heard of the Black Sisters.

Apparently, there were three sisters that lived in Christiansburg in the early 1900s. I was told they wore all black hence their nickname. People were very afraid to look at them on the street. There was a book in the local library about them which I could never check out myself because it was always checked out. Their names were Virginia Wardlaw, Caroline Martin, and Mary Snead. They were educators at a female academy that is now where the middle school stands.

They claim in stories about how the janitor of the middle school has to go in at night and turn off lights that come on by themselves. And there are all kinds of stories about odd and unexplained things happening at the middle school over the years.

The Black Sisters were killing people around them for insurance money. And they actually got away with it for a quite a long time. Until they moved out east and from what I understand they drowned a relative for money but did not get away with it.

Now I have read that Virginia was sent back to Christiansburg after she starved herself before being convicted by a judge for her crimes. But that she has an unmarked grave.

I was hanging out with a small group of kids and they took me up to a small mountain late at night. We drove up a gravel road almost to the top. There they proceeded to show me Virginia Wardlaw’s tombstone.

I saw a very old gravestone with her name and in the right bottom corner of the stone. It had a little lightning bolt design with the statement “she is not dead.” Since the kids showed me this I am just amazed no one has ever written about it!

It was the oddest thing I have seen on a tombstone. And I have to admit being up on a dark mountain late at night and reading that sent chills up my spine.

Of course, the group of kids taunted “if you walk backwards around her tombstone three times you are cursed.” So I had to take the challenge. Which later I regretted and actually got a book to cleanse myself of anything evil looming over me.

I was wondering what are your thoughts are on this? And I am really blown away that no one says anything about the tombstone I was shown.

Sorry guys, this page is copyright Cheryl Deane, 2015. You do not have permission to copy this for any reason. Please learn how to cite your work.



  1. I attend Christiansburg High and have heard the stories since I was in elementary at Falling Branch. I’ve been doing some research on the sisters recently and was trying to find some pictures of them when I came across this. From what I’ve found in my research, Virginia was actually buried in Sunset Cemetary, the (partial) tombstone of which I have seen. I find it rather odd though that there’s another possible grave. What mountain was it, may I ask?


    • Cheryl says:

      That is interesting I only lived there a year. So really not familiar with area. I wasn’t driving yet. It was just a weird experience that stuck with me. Thanks for the info.


    • it’s not a mountain, she is in sunset cemetery on North Franklin about a mile from the courthouse. The tombstone no longer exists due to vandalism.


  2. Carrie says:

    I have lived here in christansburg my whole life and I’m 36. I attended christiansburg middle school back in 91 thru 93 and I’ve had many experiences that I can not explain. Some like crazy sounds of class bells that went off when classes where going on. To hearing foot steps behind me and when I turned around I saw black foot steps in the shape of a man’s dress shoe walking toward me, of course I ran to the side door that I was walking to and when I got to the door I turned around again and they were gone! I remember I was in class in the lower building when I was in 6th grade, where me and all my class mates were reading our lesson that my teacher assigned us when out off no where the door slammed and the water turned on from the small sink that was in the class room! We were all so shocked that no-one said anything or was so scared they couldn’t! These are just a few of the things I experienced. But it would make sense about the foot steps of a man dress shoe for, don’t remember the mans name was that died back when is was a all girls school in the 1900s! I hope this sheds a little more on your story.


  3. Cheryl says:

    Thank you for sharing! I have heard so many stories in the past I find it interesting.


    • Virginia’s headstone was removed by the town because of vandalism back in the 70’s so it’s unlikely you saw it. They moved to Orange New Jersey where they killed their niece Ocey Snead. Caroline died in prison from starving herself and the other sister was released from custody to her son and moved with him to Montana.


  4. Heather says:

    Pretty cool to have this pop up in my feed. (Thanks Toby) i went to Cburg, elementary, middle and high and was in middle school in the early 90’s. I remember the stories of the black sisters. One story told of a basement in the school where weird things happened, but I don’t know if there is even a basement. I remember the story that the sisters killed babies and that they found infant skulls in a well or something like that. The man that was murdered was burned maybe? And may have been a brother in law or brother, I’m not sure. I also seem to remember that there is a book on the black sisters. I agree that from my recollection they were buried in sunset cemetery. I don’t remember anything unusual ever happening to me or anyone I knew. I have to say though, it was pretty cool to a pre-teen to go to a school where the black sisters once roamed and ruled.


  5. Betty Nunley says:

    Check out Phillip Church on He has published a book about the black sisters.


  6. Michelle says:

    I hate to tell u but Virginia Wardlaw is buried in Sunset Cemetary in Christiansburg. I am from Christiansburg and have actually seen her grave, my grandfather is buried a few sections over from it. My mother showed it to me and the tombstone did read “she is not dead.” The Cemetary removed the tombstone because it was getting vandalized.


  7. I have some photos from them from back in the day. and another book is out on Amazon buy Phillip Church. holds lots of info on the sisters.and their stories.


  8. I had forgotten all about this! I, too, had heard stories of the middle schools basement. I distinctly remember hearing all about them in third grade but then I moved to Blacksburg and forgot all about it. It did prompt me to enjoy reading haunting books when I was a kid though. Really interesting to hear this is based on a real story.


  9. Stacy Taylor says:

    I have lived in Radford Va my whole life, but have always heard of the tales of the Black sisters. I have read the book, it is called “The Three sisters in black” if I’m not mistaken. They were the deans of an all female academy that stood where the middle school now is. There was a maintenance man that was burned to death in his bed at the school and supposedly there was a college student that got pregnant out of wedlock that was murdered and supposedly her unborn baby was taken and sacrificed by being thrown into an old well that is supposed to be buried under the gym floor of the middle school. They say you can still hear a baby crying in the gym when no one is around. I have heard many stories over the years of strange occurences going on in the school. Lights coming on by themselves, desks being moved around in classrooms, footsteps in the hallways and they say that one person saw a women in a long black dress disappear around a corner afterhours and that when the teacher tried to chase her down to question why she was in the building after hours, that she was no where to be found. I am not sure about her headstone being removed….I was in sunset cemetery in the summer and the headstone was back in place and it definitely says…” she is not dead”. Her husband John Wardlaw is buried right beside her. The story has always fascinated me and I hope this gives you a little more information 🙂


  10. Angela says:

    I’ve seen that grave stone and i grew up in cburg my whole life. The old middle school name was Montgomery ward when the black sisters owned the land. The book is called the sisters in black. There were lots of wierd odd stuff that happened in that building.


  11. Keith Neely says:

    I was born just a block away in the old hospital. Before it was the middle school, it was the high school were I graduated. Before the gym was built near the football field in the back the gym was in the auditorium to the left facing the building. Supposedly there was an old well when the Black sisters were around that was built over that old gym. Before going to high school, I would walk over to that old part of the school for band practice and often be the only one in the place. Often times I would hear a drip, drip, drip from somewhere thinking it was from that old well. It was a little scary but I like scary things. 🙂 True story of story tales I am not sure are true.


  12. Bobbie says:

    I grew up in CHBG all my life, but, at the time grades 1-5 were at the elementary school at the top of Wades Lane. 6th grade was in that small building as you turn into the HS, & 7th & 8th grades were in the newer section that runs along Radford St., & our class was the first class to go Freshman to Seniors in the new HS, so we only had gym in that part of the school. But, I took tap & ballet when I was 5 to 6, & had our show in the auditorium, & I heard that the well was under the stage. I remember being alone, for some reason before going on stage, & something scared me good. I do not remember exactly what it was, but felt the temperature drop, & felt a presence was with me, but I can’t remember the sound that I heard. I think I ran looking for someone, or screamed so someone would come & find me. It seems like behind the stage, that you were below the stage, & everything was painted black, & black curtains. I used to see the tombstone in Sunset Cemetery all the time, as I took a short cut through the cemetary to my friend’s house. We also rode our bikes in the cemetsry. The stone was broken back then (60’s & early 70’s). I believe I was told that lightening struck the stone, causing it to break apart in an diagonal way. The broken piece just layed over top of the other piece, & it did say “She is not dead”. I have not looked for the site in a long time.


  13. Actually the school that the sisters ran was called “Montgomery Hall” and it is carved into the cement stairs in the very front of the school. And I don’t know if they still do it or not, but the News Messenger used to do articles on the sisters periodically and sometimes around Halloween, they interviewed Mr Ballengee, the former principle and he said that he would work late sometimes, and would hear things a lot,, several times he heard the clicking of a woman’s heels coming down the hall, he would go to check and there was absolutely no one there–when I attended school there, I went to the bathroom, it was during class, I heard the door open and someone walk in and go into the next stall, when I came out of my stall, all of the other stall doors were open, and I was the only one there, needless to say, I never went 2 the bathroom alone again.


  14. Steve Jones says:

    I went to the old high school, It was 8th thru 12th when I was there, I was a grad. in 1971, I remember the old well in the school , and they threw bodies down the well to get rid of them, that is what I was told, I live in Christiansburg from 1953 to 1972, then I moved to Va. beach.
    She is buried at Sunset Cemetery , because my grand father took care of the cemetery . And my whole family is buried there.


  15. Larry R. says:

    Virginia Wardlaw is buried in sunset cemetery along with her nephew John Snead which was the man that was set on fire while in sleeping in an attempted murder to collect insurance money but he did not die immediately, he died later of an illness. Before the numerous attempts on his life were almost he was involved with Oceana Snead which was the ” sisters’ ” niece, John’s cousin(I know as if the stories aren’t creepy enough right). The sisters didn’t like the fact that they were cavorting and sent Ocey to New Jersey where they later joined her after they became suspects in not only John’s death but other miscellaneous acts as well. Once in New Jersey the authorities were alert and aware of what the ominous sisters had been up to but for Ocey it would soon be too late. Using a morphine addiction as an excuse the sisters drowned a pregnant Ocey Snead in the bathtub saying she had past out due to the morphine use but the authorities didn’t believe it considering the girl had been dead for hours and looked as though she hadn’t eaten in weeks. The sisters were later brought up on murder charges and insurance fraud. Mary Snead starved herself in an institution, Caroline fell ill and was sent to Montana to live with her son and Virginia Wardlaw fell ill and died while incarcerated in an institution. The graves of Virginia Wardlaw, John and Ocey Snead are located in the oldest part of Sunset cemetery near an old caretaker’s shack. Virginia’s tombstone is not there anymore due to repeated vandalism but both John and Ocey’s remain. Ocey’s tombstone is the one that has ” She is not dead ” inscribed on it. The well under the school has been the most creepy of the majority of the tales of the Black Sisters but to put your minds at ease the well was actually located on a small hill near the middle of what is now the four way intersection of Radford Rd. and Depot St. The old part of Christiansburg Middle was designed by the same man that designed the old Auburn High and old Shawsville High schools in Montgomery Co. They chose to build CMS on the land near where the old all girl academy had been because the land was cheap even for the time knowing some of the horrors that had happened there and some that were thought but never proven undoubtedly not thinking of the stories people would be telling for years to come. I was born and raised in Christiansburg and was raised on these stories that’s why I done a little research to find out some of the truths behind them and what these sisters were capable of make the ghost stories even more terrifying. Someone should make a movie with backstory and embellishments of course.


  16. Logan says:

    Hi, I’m a resident of christiansburg who, like you, has heard for years of the black sisters. I’ve got a bit of a fascination with them and would love to know where specifically you saw this tombstone, because my understanding was that the sisters weren’t buried here. I am very familiar with christiansburg so anything you can remember about the spot would be awesome, I’d love to see it myself.


  17. Hunter Woods says:

    I have lived in Christiansburg Virginia my whole life, always knew of the black sisters. It’s still talked about today! And I’m 23 at the moment. There story will be told for generations to come in sure. I was wondering do you know exactly where the grave is or what graveyard it’s in? I understand it’s been a while since you’ve been there probably but I’ve always wanted to visit it myself! Thanks for the great article!


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