We have many ghost stories from the building we work in, some of which I’ve even experienced myself. We spend a lot of time in this Life-Saving building, so much that I’ve begun to feel a connection to the men that used to work here. I’ve even grown to like the idea that I have some other worldly co-workers hanging around the building. They provide me with a sense of comfort, rather than any ominous feelings. In fact, their presence helps me see myself as part of a long line of caretakers of this space.
So you might be surprised to find that my favorite paranormal stories come not from this building, but from one just down the street. My favorite ghostly presence in Virginia Beach? Agnes Simmons Winston, the former owner of the Winston cottage, now better known as Tautog’s Restaurant.
Agnes is someone whose history I immediately connected to. She was the daughter of one of our surfmen, Bennett Simmons. She grew up and chose to make her home here at the oceanfront. She lived her life, raised her family, and on the side, fought to preserve historic Virginia Beach; our building included. She even volunteered her time as a tour guide here, sharing her family’s history with visitors.
The home Agnes built with her husband, Patrick, stands on 23rd Street, between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Avenue. Agnes passed away in 1995, and Tautog’s Restaurant opened in her cottage shortly thereafter. Despite her death, many locals will tell you Agnes’s presence lives on in the house, and not just metaphorically.
Visitors have reported being seated by a woman fitting Agnes’s description. She also shows up in the line for the ladies’ room, at the bar, and even upstairs. Nearly all the reports describe her the same way: an older lady, with white hair, wearing a blue dress. Despite her continued presence, it never seems to be negative. If anything it’s the opposite: she’s trying to make sure her guests are adequately cared for (not that Tautog’s management has any trouble with that).
The thing I love about Agnes is that she’s just an everyday lady who loved her house and loved Virginia Beach. She’s not a hero trying to right a wrong, or a tortured soul stuck in her space. It’s almost as though she’s chosen to stay, to keep an eye on what happens next at the oceanfront. I like to think we all might have that choice to make.