Armstrong-Osborne Public Library Update–Alabama

Armstrong-Osborne Public Library
202 South Street East
Talladega, Alabama

Just three days after posting my “Guide to the Haunted Libraries of the South—Alabama,” I was surprised to see an article posted by Birmingham’s ABC affiliate, WBMA ABC 33/40, concerning the ghosts of Talladega’s Armstrong-Osborne Public Library.

haunted Armstrong-Osborne Public Library Talladega Alabama ghosts
Main entrance of Armstrong-Osborne Public Library, 2016. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

In October of 2016, I participated in an investigation of this library and its older, original building, now Heritage Hall, next door with S.C.A.Re of Alabama (a group founded by Kim Johnston, who wrote Haunted Shelby County, Alabama and Haunted Talladega County with Shane Busby). In my “Ramblings from a Spirited Alabama Sojourn,” I recorded my impressions of the two buildings and the modest results of the investigation, as well as the history. Speaking to staff members in both locations, it seems that there was, oddly, far more activity in the new library than the old one. With this recent article, that seems to be the case.

According to the article, the activity has been experienced in two ways: as things moving on their own accord, and in visual phenomena.

haunted Armstrong-Osborne Public Library Talladega Alabama ghosts
Adult reading room of the Armstrong-Osborne Public Library, 2016. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

Doors open and close on their own, sometimes surprising employees. One librarian had a door “almost hit her in the face and no one was on the other side.” Books also regularly move about, sometimes flying off the shelf in front of multiple witnesses. Another librarian had a box of labels disturbed while she worked with them. “It was like somebody hit the box from the bottom and they came flying out of the box.”

Others have witnessed orbs floating in mid-air, but the most perplexing of the visual phenomena is the shadow-like apparition that has been seen. A staff member was leaving for the day when she saw the specter. “It could have been the light shining through…it looked like it was just standing there, waving.” Librarians have named the spirit Fred.

haunted Armstrong-Osborne Public Library Talladega Alabama ghosts
Hall of Heroes entrance, 2016. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.
haunted Armstrong-Osborne Public Library Talladega Alabama ghosts
The Hall of Heroes is lined with the photos of men and women who served in the armed forces from Talladega County. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, 2016, all rights reserved.

The article speculates that the cause of the activity may be the Civil War memorabilia that the library has in its collections; noting that the orbs are seen in the room where this memorabilia is kept. The library does have a genealogy room that we spent time in during our investigation. If I remember correctly, this room was noted as having some activity, which could easily be the same room the article refers to.

haunted Armstrong-Osborne Public Library Talladega Alabama ghosts
The sign of the genealogy room at the Armstrong-Osborne Public Library, on the night of the investigation, 2016. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The library’s genealogy room is off of its Hall of Heroes. Lined with photographs and other mementoes, the exhibit pays homage to the county’s veterans. Perhaps, this concentration of artifacts has attracted spirits to the library for a last farewell?

Sources

Guide to the Haunted Libraries of the South—Alabama

Several years before I started this blog in 2010, a series of articles by George Eberhart about haunted libraries was published in the Encyclopedia Britannica Blog. This comprehensive list, still up on the now defunct blog, covers perhaps a few hundred libraries throughout the world with a concentration on the United States. After perusing the list and noting the many Southern libraries missing from the list, I’ve decided to create my own list here.

Like theatres, it seems that every good library has its own ghost. George Eberhart argues that there are two reasons for libraries to be haunted: one, that the library inhabits a building that may have been the scene of a tragedy, or two, that the library may be haunted by a former librarian or benefactor who may continue to watch over it.

Albertville Public Library
200 Main Street
Albertville

For years, rumors have circulated of this library being haunted, but according to the library’s director, the stories are just rumors. Is this library haunted? See my entry for further information.

Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library
University of Alabama Campus
Tuscaloosa

Amelia Gorgas was beloved in life as the university’s postmistress and librarian and, those who have encountered her spirit contend that even in death she continues to provide a comforting presence. The wife of Confederate General Josiah Gorgas, the eighth president of the university and later its librarian, Amelia took over her husband’s position as librarian after his death, a position she held for 23 years. When this massive library was constructed in 1939, it became the first building on campus named for a woman.

Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library University of Alabama Tuscaloosa haunted library ghost
Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library, 2010, by Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy of the George F. Landregger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Much of the supernatural activity within the library occurs on the fourth floor, home to the library’s special collections. According to Daniel Barefoot, the library’s elevators will only travel to the fourth floor if the rider has a special key, though the elevators will often arrive on that floor with the doors opening to reveal no one. Some members of the library’s staff have claimed to have encountered the apparition of Mrs. Gorgas within the stacks on this floor.

Higdon and Talley note another specter seen within the library: a man dressed entirely in black who approaches shocked students with his arms reaching out for them.

Sources

  • Barefoot, Daniel W. Haunted Halls of Ivy: Ghosts of Southern Colleges and Universities. Winston-Salem NC: John F. Blair, 2004.
  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Tuscaloosa. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2012.

Armstrong-Osborne Public Library
202 South Street East
Talladega

Talladega possesses not only one, but two haunted libraries. The Armstrong-Osborne Library is the town’s current library and sits next to the town’s first library, now the Jemison-Carnegie Heritage Hall Museum. Both buildings have a number of spirits which I have explored in my “Ramblings from a Spirited Alabama Sojourn.” Just days after publishing this article, an article on the paranormal activity was published, the details of which have been described in this update.

Bay Minette Public Library
205 West 2nd Street
Bay Minette

Does the spirit of the first Bay Minette Public Library director continue to watch over the library? See my post, “Alabama Hauntings–County by County Part I,” for futher information.

Comer Museum & Arts Center
711 North Broadway Avenue
Sylacauga

This small marble building on a hill was originally used as the town’s library when it was constructed in 1939. It is now a museum of local history and art. In recent years it has become known for its paranormal activity and I have investigated here with S.C.A.Re. of Alabama twice. The first investigation was written up in “The Haunted Collection in the Marble City—Alabama.”

Demopolis Public Library
211 East Washington Street
Demopolis

In 2014, the Tuscaloosa Paranormal Research Group was called in by the library’s director to find out if the “creaks and quirks” of the old building are simply that, or possibly something paranormal. The director states that staff have discovered books repeatedly falling off shelves, as well as hearing footsteps in the building’s mezzanine. The building that now houses the library was constructed in 1926 and long occupied by the Ulmer Furniture Store. It has housed the library since 1990. There’s been no word as to what, if any, evidence of paranormal activity was found.

Sources

  • Averette, Justin. “Haunted Collection: Paranormal group Investigates Demopolis Public Library.” The Demopolis Times.26 August 2014.
  • Marengo County Heritage Book Committee. Heritage of Marengo County, Alabama. Clanton, AL: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2000.

Evergreen-Conecuh County Public Library
119 Cemetery Avenue
Evergreen

On the grounds of this modern public library, the apparition of a girl in riding attire accompanied by a phantom horse has been spotted. Within the library, staff have reported many odd happenings including cold spots, books being turned “topsy-turvy” on the shelves, and inexplicable noises.

Sources

Gadsden Public Library
254 South College Street
Gadsden

A library staff member closing up the library some years ago stepped off the elevator on the third floor and came face to face with a strange lady in 19th century clothing. The specter faded before his eyes. After that initial encounter, the staff member met the woman several more times. Throughout the years other staff members have experienced cold spots and odd smells, such as burning coal, on the third and fourth floors of the 1960s-era library. Author Mike Goodson contends that these unusual occurrences have ceased after the library’s recent renovation.

Sources

  • Goodson, Mike. Haunted Etowah County. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2011.
  • McCoy, Betty S. Haints, Haunts and Hullabaloos: Etowah and Surrounding Counties. CreateSpace, 2011.

Homewood Public Library
1721 Oxmoor Road
Birmingham

interior Homewood Public Library haunted ghost
Adult reading room of the Homewood Public Library. The space was originally the sanctuary of a church. Photo 2016, by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Occupying a building that was initially constructed as a Church of Christ, it has been suggested that this library is haunted by some of the former church members. Library staff members have heard the sound of a group of ladies talking in the basement rooms that once served as Sunday school classrooms. Doors have been seen opening and closing on their own, and lights have been known to turn off and on by themselves. This activity mostly occurs after hours.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Birmingham. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2009.
  • Singleton, William C. III. “Homewood Public Library – Researcher hopes for chance to study ghostly activity.” Birmingham News. 31 March 2010.

Houghton Memorial Library
Campus of Huntingdon College
Montgomery

Houghton Memorial Library at Huntingdon College haunted ghost
Houghton Memorial Library at Huntingdon College, 2008. Photo by Chris Pruitt, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Campus tradition tells of a scholarly spirit residing in this private, Methodist, liberal arts college’s 1929 Houghton Memorial Library. Faith Serafin reports that the spirit remained unnamed until 1990 when he was dubbed Frank. Library staff and students have been putting up with Frank’s antics for many years. Frank is such a well-known fixture in the library that he has been granted his own study room and given a chair which rolls around the library on its own volition on a regular basis. The mischievous spirit enjoys pulling books from the shelves, slamming the building’s heavy doors, and moaning to scare occasional students.

Sources

  • Enzwiler, Susan & Trina Brinkley. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Huntingdon College. August 1999.
  • Serafin, Faith. Haunted Montgomery, Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.

Houston Memorial Library
101 North Houston Street
Athens

The former home of Governor George S. Houston has been used as a public library since 1936. The governor’s spirit may still occupy the premises. The library has been covered as the Limestone County entry in “Alabama Hauntings—County by County Part V.”

Jemison-Van de Graaf Mansion
1305 Greensboro Avenue
Tuscaloosa

The history of this grand Italianate mansion–which served as a library at one point in its life–connects with several haunted places throughout Alabama. Robert Jemison, the prominent businessman and politician who had this house built, ardently supported the construction of the haunted Bryce Hospital and had the construction supervisor for the hospital, John Stewart, oversee this home’s construction as well.

Jemison-Van de Graaf Mansion haunted ghost
Jemison-Van de Graaf Mansion, 2010. Photo by Altairisfar, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Another tale links this house with the Drish Mansion. Higdon & Talley, authors of Haunted Tuscaloosa and Haunted Alabama’s Black Belt, note that the mansion’s tower was constructed specifically by Dr. John Drish so that he could observe this mansion’s construction. Additionally, Robert Jemison worked with African-American bridge builder Horace King who is believed to have designed and built Spring Villa, a haunted mansion in Opelika.

Throughout the years, the Jemison Mansion has played host to several families including the Van de Graaf family (Robert Jemison Van de Graaf was the inventor of the Van de Graaf generator) and later served as the Friedman Library. Staff within the house have encountered some paranormal activity. A director of the mansion told The Crimson White, a student newspaper for UA, that several times he had heard a tremendous crash within the house. “It sounds like a bookcase is falling over. You can hear the glass and timber splintering, but you can’t feel it like you would if something had actually fallen over.”

Sources

  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Tuscaloosa. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2012.
  • Leopard, Colby. “Buildings on campus and around Tuscaloosa thought to be haunted.” The Crimson White. 31 October 2012.

Julia Tutwiler Library
University of West Alabama Campus
Livingston

Opened in 1962, this International-styled campus building seems like the least likely of places on campus to harbor a ghost. Yet it does harbor a spirit; one that may remain here until a spelling error is corrected. First encountered in 1995, the spirit is believed to be that of former education professor Lucille Foust. She was known as a very “serious-minded woman” and an excellent educator. Therefore, Miss Foust may not be pleased that her memory is honored with a portrait with a brass plaque reading, “Principle of the Laboratory School.” Those on campus who knew Ms. Foust knew very well that she did not tolerate misspelled words, especially when it came to her title as “principal.” The portrait now hangs in the library with the uncorrected plaque.

Students and library staff have observed a feminine form, perhaps that of Ms. Foust, moving through the stacks, though her spirit is most commonly heard. Staff members have had their names called and have heard pages turning and drawers slamming in the empty building late at night. While this spelling error may keep the indomitable Ms. Foust’s spirit earthbound, it is all in the principle of the issue.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted South. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.
  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.

Linn-Henley Research Library
2100 Park Place
Birmingham

Opening in 1927, this historic library building originally served as the Birmingham Public Library. When the new library building was constructed across the street, this became a research library housing archives, government documents, a southern history library, and a ghost. Please see my entry, Southern Spirit Guide to Haunted Alabama, for further information.

Monroe County Public Library
121 Pineville Road
Monroeville

Few libraries can boast that someone famous slept there, though the Monroe County Public Library can. Actor Gregory Peck, star of the film, To Kill a Mockingbird, based on the novel by Monroeville’s most famous resident Harper Lee, stayed here in the 1960s when the building was the LaSalle Hotel. The old hotel was converted into the public library in 1984.

A sense of foreboding surrounds the second floor of the library. People have experienced disembodied footsteps, inexplicable sounds, and strange lights here.

Sources

Ralph Brown Draughon Library
Auburn University Campus
Auburn

According to Brandon Stokes and John Mark Poe of the Haunted Auburn Walking Tour, someone passing the South College Street façade of the Draughon Library saw a woman peering out the third-floor windows. While seeing someone looking out the windows is not unusual, being able to see the fluorescent lights behind the woman through her is quite unusual.

Draughon Library, Auburn University,
South College Street facade of the Draughon Library at Auburn University, 2017. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The third floor seems to be the primary location of most paranormal activity. This includes books sliding across tables and desks as students worked, books pulling themselves off shelves, and strange noises heard within the stacks.

Sources

  • Haunted Auburn Walking Tour. Organized and guided by Brandon Stokes and John Mark Poe. Auburn University Campus, 31 October 2016.

Tallassee Community Library
99 Freeman Avenue
Tallassee

This small library near Montgomery could be considered one of the most paranormally active libraries in the state. It is the representative haunting for Tallapoosa County in “Alabama Hauntings—County by County Part VII.”

Spirits and Smooth Jazz—Knoxville, Tennessee

Baker-Peters House
9000 Kingston Pike
Knoxville, Tennessee

N.B. First published as part of “13 Southern Haunts You’ve Probably Never Heard Of,” 22 December 2014.

The Baker-Peters Jazz Club is a study in incongruity. This large, brick antebellum home is boxed in by urban sprawl, even surrendering its front yard on Kingston Pike to an oil change center. In the yard of the house a large neon sign depicts a martini complete with an olive and advertises the jazz club that was once housed in the Greek revival splendor behind it. Sadly, the club has now closed but it has not yet given up its ghosts.

Baker-Peters House Knoxville Tennessee haunted jazz club Civil War ghosts
The Baker-Peters Jazz Club, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

During the Civil War, East Tennessee was a rather dicey place to be no matter with whom your sympathies lay. While the area firmly lies in the bosom of the Confederacy, geography did not change the opinions of the local citizenry. While Knoxville was firmly secessionist, the hearts of the citizens in much of the rest of East Tennessee remained with the Federal Government. When Confederate troops swarmed the area, they were harassed by locals who sabotaged rail lines into the city forcing Confederate General Felix Zollicoffer to build a series of forts around the city. Knoxville fell to Union forces in late 1863.

West of the city of Knoxville, the farm of Dr. James H. Baker was a haven for Confederates looking for solace among company of like-minded individuals. Dr. Baker, a prominent physician, took in wounded Confederates turning his manse into a field hospital. After Union forces captured the city, Baker’s home remained a safe house for Confederates and the local postmaster, William Hall, is supposed to have reported Baker to the Union authorities. Soldiers soon appeared at Baker’s door demanding that he give up any Confederate soldiers in his care. Refusing to do so, Baker ascended the staircase and barricaded himself in a room at the top of the stairs. The soldiers followed, shooting Dr. Baker through the door, killing him.

But that’s not the end of the killing. Dr. Baker’s son, Abner, returned from service in the Confederate Army to find his father dead. After hearing the tragic tale of his father’s demise, Abner hunted down Postmaster William Hall and avenged his father. Soon after, an angry mob killed Abner for the postmaster’s death.

In the 20th century, the house has served as a series of restaurants where employees and patrons have often felt spirits present. One guest told a reporter for the UT Daily Beacon that she gets “a creepy feeling, almost like you can tell that you’re invading someone else’s home.” After hours, passersby have reported lights in the darkened club, sometimes having the appearance of a lantern. Managers have reported having items moved and having glassware falling on a regular basis. The identities of the spirits are unknown, however, I hope Dr. Baker and his son enjoy the smooth jazz.

Sources

  • Burleson, Simpson. “Local jazz club haunted by Civil War era doctor.” UT Daily Beacon. 1 November 2005.
  • Coleman, Christopher K. Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2011.
  • Flory, Josh. “Oil change business planned outside of Baker Peters House.” Property Scope. 22 August 2014.
  • Price, Charles Edwin. Mysterious Knoxville. Johnson City, TN: Overmountain Press, 1999.
  • Wheeler, W. Bruce. “Knoxville.” The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. 25 December 2009.

Firehouse phantom—Lexington, Kentucky

Fire Station #4, “Vogt Reel House”
246 Jefferson Street
Lexington, Kentucky

N.B. This article was originally published 14 May 2013 as part of “From the Archives—Kentucky Briefs.”

The firemen working out of Fire Station #4 have adopted a ghost as their mascot. Painted on the side of the station’s fire truck is a skull wearing a fire helmet and the words, “The Phantom.” Indeed, the station staff does not shy away from their resident spirit, and even the Lexington City Government webpage detailing the fire department’s facilities mentions the spirit.

The oldest firehouse in the city, the building recalls an era when government buildings were elegantly ornamented and sometimes extravagantly designed. The 1904 building utilizes Jacobean Revival style and retains some of its interior elements including a cast iron spiral staircase fire pole, though a truck now occupies the space where horse stalls once stood. The station’s façade now bears the building’s nickname, the “Vogt Reel House,” name for a former city commissioner who donated the land the station sits upon.

Fire Station #4 Lexington Kentucky Vogt Reel House
Vogt Reel House, 2015, by Todd F. Niemand, published under a Creative Commons License, courtesy of Flickr.

Firefighter Henry McDonald was nearly 70 years old, but still on duty on Christmas Day in 1945. World War II, the most devastating war in history had ended just a few months previous when Japan surrendered in August. He had lived to see two world wars dominate the headlines of the Lexington Herald and the Lexington Leader (these papers would merge in 1983 to become the Lexington Herald-Leader).

That Christmas Day, he peacefully drifted off the sleep in the firehouse and would not wake. He was laid to rest in Winchester Cemetery down the road from Lexington.

At some point after McDonald’s death, things seemed to indicate that his spirit had taken up residence in the old firehouse. Some heard the sound of heavy boots treading the iron staircase while unexplainable cold breezes were felt. McDonald’s beloved cane-bottom rocking chair was even heard rocking by itself in the attic. While the activity sometimes chills firefighters working in the building, the spirit has earned their respect and affection. An article from the local NBC station, notes that McDonald’s spirit “is a pretty good ghost. So good he has earned a bump in rank.”

The firehouse’s captain remarked, “He has been promoted and now they call him The Captain.”

Sources

Grief at the Adams Memorial—Washington, D. C.

Rock Creek Cemetery
Rock Creek Church Road, Northwest
Washington, D. C.

N.B. This entry was first published 23 December 2010, as part of my article, “The Haunts of Washington, D. C.,” and republished 30 October 2017, as part of “’Twas the Night Before Halloween—Recycled Revenants.” This entry has been edited and expanded.  

In a self-portrait taken around 1860, Clover Adams’ face is obscured by a large hat and she holds a small dog. From a modern vantage point, one can read this photograph as a commentary on the place of women in the mid-19th century: as something precious to be shielded and treated on the same level as a pet. While this may have not been her intention, the photograph adds to the sense of mystery surrounding Clover Adams.

Clover Adams self-portrait 1860
Self-portrait of Clover Adams, circa 1860. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Born in Boston to a prominent family, Marian Hooper, or Clover as she was called, married historian and the descendent of two presidents, Henry Adams in 1872. An exceedingly accomplished and educated woman, Clover became a leading light in Boston and Washington intellectual and social circles. She even provided the inspiration for two of author Henry James’ novels: Daisy Miller and Portrait of a Lady. She was also a gifted photographer and writer in her own right. This popularity made her sudden death in 1885 even more shocking.

A prodigious letter-writer, Clover Adams took note of much of Washington’s gossip and private life, even noting intimate details of her own life. Her letters reveal that her family life was quite joyous, and she enjoyed the “utter devotion” of her husband. At the time, the couple was occupying a house on H Street while a home designed by H. H. Richardson was under construction on Lafayette Square, across from the White House. While Clover expressed excitement over the new home and had spent time documenting the construction in photographs, she was grieving over the loss of her father in April of that year. The grief had led to bouts of depression.

On December 6th, as Henry Adams was leaving the house for a walk, a friend of Clover’s arrived to visit. Adams offered to summon his wife and going upstairs found her unconscious on the rug in front of the fireplace of her bedroom. She passed away a short time later. The newspapers of the day noted that her death was due to paralysis of the heart, omitting that she was found with a bottle of potassium cyanide, one of the chemicals she used in developing photographs. Henry James wrote to a friend that, “poor Mrs. Adams found, the other day, the solution of the knottiness of existence.”

While her suicide was a sharp, sudden blow to her friends and acquaintances, it most deeply affected her husband. In a letter to one of Clover’s friends he wrote, “During the last eighteen months I have not had the good luck to attend my own funeral, but with that exception I have buried pretty nearly everything I lived for.” Adams’ grief led him to destroy all his wife’s correspondence and even refusing to speak of her for the remainder of his life, only mentioning her indirectly in his memoir, The Education of Henry Adams, which was published just after his death.

Nestled in the Rock Creek Cemetery is St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Yard, the oldest burying ground in Washington, D.C. Surrounding the churchyard is the graceful 19th century Rock Creek Cemetery, which houses graves for many of Washington’s elite, including Evalyn Walsh McLean who haunts her former home, now the Indonesian Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue. The work of many famous American architects and sculptors is scattered throughout this garden-like cemetery including a statue by American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens in a setting by architect Stanford White.

The Adams Monument, 2007, by Danvera. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Commissioned by Henry Adams several years after his wife’s death, this monument seems to be a punctuation mark ending his statement of grief. The monument depicts a solitary figure sitting enshrouded in robes. The figure’s hooded face is androgynous, as if to say that grief applies to all humans. The monument is surrounded by a ring of conifers and a lone bench to provide a place for contemplation

Saint-Gaudens named the sculpture, “The Mystery of the Hereafter and The Peace of God that Passeth Understanding,” but to the public the monument became known as “Grief.” Adams hated that name and wrote in a letter to the sculptor’s son, Homer:

Do not allow the world to tag my figure with a name! Every magazine writer wants to label it as some American patent medicine for popular consumption—Grief, Despair, Pear’s Soap, or Macy’s Mens’ Suits Made to Measure. Your father meant it to ask a question, not to give an answer; and the man who answers will be damned to eternity like the men who answered the Sphinx.

Nevertheless, the public’s fascination with the mysterious monument has fueled legend. Visitors to the grave have sometimes been overcome with a feeling of grief. Others have reported that a female spirit is sometimes seen in the vicinity, which may be the visage of Clover Adams. The late Mrs. Adams may also be in spiritual residence in the Hay-Adams Hotel (see my entry on the hotel here), which was constructed on the site of the home being built for the couple at the time of her death.

A copy of this sculpture in DRUID RIDGE CEMETERY (7900 Park Avenue Heights) in Pikeville Maryland is also associated with a ghost. Druid Ridge has a number of spirits associated with it, but “Black Aggie” is perhaps the best known. The copy of Saint-Gaudens’ sculpture was created by sculptor Edward L. A. Pausch and placed on the grave of Union General Felix Agnus. For decades, the sculpture attracted vandals and the legend grew that the figure’s eyes would glow red and those looking into the eyes were struck blind. Another tale told of a fraternity pledge crushed to death when he spent the night in the statue’s embrace. Disturbed by the activity the statue attracted, the family had it removed.  The sculpture was given to the Smithsonian and now resides in the courtyard of the haunted Cutts-Madison House on Lafayette Square which faces the Decatur House across the square.

Sources 

  • Adams Memorial (Saint-Gaudens). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 22 December 2010.
  • Beauchamp, Tanya. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Rock Creek Church Yard and Cemetery. Listed 12 August 1977.
  • Black Aggie. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 29 January 2019.
  • Clark, Brian. “Clover Adams’ Memorial: From a husband who would no longer speak her name.” Atlas Obscura. 23 July 2013.
  • Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. NYC: Checkmark Books, 2007.
  • Marian Hooper Adams. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 29 January 2019.
  • “Sudden Death of Mrs. Henry Adams.” Evening Star (Washington, D. C.). 7 December 1885.
  • Taylor, Troy. Beyond the Grave: The History of America’s Most Haunted Graveyards. Alton, IL: Whitechapel Press, 2001.
  • Varhola, Michael J. Ghosthunting Virginia. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2008.
  • Varhola, Michael J. and Michael H. Varhola Ghosthunting Maryland. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2009.

“The glory that was the Poinsett”—Greenville, South Carolina

Westin Poinsett Hotel
120 South Main Street
Greenville, South Carolina

N. B. I first covered the Poinsett in “A Carolina Cornucopia,” published 9 January 2012, and that article was republished under “‘Twas the Night Before Halloween–Recycled Revenants,” 30 October 2017. This article has been revised and expanded.

The Greenville News mourned the loss of the Mansion House hotel in its February 3, 1924 edition. With a headline reading that the “Passing of the Mansion House recalls interesting local history,” the article notes that the hundred-year-old building saw many distinguished visitors pass through its doors. Statesman John C. Calhoun was such a frequent visitor that room 32 was known as the Calhoun Room and generally reserved just for him. The article ends by extolling the virtues of the Mansion House with hope that the million-and-a-half-dollar hotel that replaces it will “acquire the reputation that was enjoyed by its predecessor…and Greenville of another hundred years will look backward to the glory that was the Poinsett.”

advertisement Poinsett Hotel Greenville South Carolina haunted ghost 1925
An advertisement from The Greenville News for an evening of dancing held at the Poinsett Hotel in 1925.

In June 1925, the Poinsett Hotel opened its doors with a reception, dinner, and dance as locals and visitors alike examined the glittering 12-story skyscraper. The hotel’s developers had hired William Lee Stoddart, one of the leading architects at that time, to design the building. Stoddart’s reputation was primarily built on his designs for hotels and offices, many of which were scattered throughout the South. Designs included the Winecoff Hotel (now The Ellis Hotel) in Atlanta, the Francis Marion Hotel in Charleston, the Lord Baltimore Hotel in Baltimore, and the John Sevier Hotel in Johnson City, Tennessee (all of which are known to be haunted). The hotel’s name honored one of the state’s favorite sons, Joel Roberts Poinsett, the Charleston-born statesman, politician, and diplomat.

Poinsett Hotel Greenville South Carolina haunted ghost
Poinsett Hotel, 2017, by Upstateherd. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Despite its brilliant opening, the hotel struggled to succeed until J. Mason Alexander took over the reins of the business in 1930. During his 30-year tenure, the hotel began to turn a profit becoming a fixture in the city. However, the glory that was the Poinsett had faded by the mid-1970s as business left for motels and chain hotels on the outskirts of the town. The hotel closed its doors in 1975 and sat dormant until it was acquired by a developer and renovated for use as a retirement home. For a decade, the grand dame hosted aging grand dames and gentlemen, though management was plagued with problems including fire code violations. In the January 1, 1987 edition of The Greenville News, the grand dame said farewell in a picture story. For 13 years, the abandoned structure attracted the homeless and thrill seekers.

The hotel reopened in 2000 after a multi-million-dollar restoration and it has now returned to prominence as one of Greenville’s most luxurious hotels.

So far, some guests enjoying the luxurious amenities have encountered other, non-paying guests in the hotel. Jason Profit, in his book, Haunted Greenville, South Carolina, relates stories from two guests. A businessman was awakened during the night by odd sounds from his bathroom. Twice, he discovered the light on after he knew he had shut it off. The second time, the sounds seem to be coming from the hallway and the businessman opened the door. Peering into the empty hallway, he glimpsed an elderly man disappearing around the corner. Upset, he called the front desk to demand that whoever was cleaning at that time of the night needed to be quieter. The desk clerk informed the businessman that no one was cleaning and he was the only guest staying on that floor.

A young woman staying in the hotel had an even scarier experience. After checking in with her boyfriend, the young woman was alone in the room hanging clothes in the closet. Suddenly, something pushed her into the closet and the door shut behind her.

She tried desperately to open it, but the knob felt as though it was being held from the other side (pun intended). Nearly 15 minutes passed while she attempted to escape. When she got out, she called her boyfriend to inform him that she would not be staying any longer in the hotel.

Whether the spirits of former guests, elderly residents or vagrants, the entities stalking the halls are unidentified, though they only add to the luster that is the glory of the Poinsett Hotel.

There are several other haunted places in Greenville that I have covered in this blog. Connolly’s Irish Pub on East Court Square is covered in my “Dining with Spirits” article and Herdklotz Park, the former site of the Greenville Tuberculosis Hospital, is covered in my article, “Feeling Umbrage for the Upstate.”

Sources

  • Morrison, R. F. “Passing of the Mansion House recalls interesting local history.” The Greenville News. 3 February 1924.
  • National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for the Poinsett Hotel. No date.
  • “Poinsett Hotel opening is affair of much brilliance.” The Greenville News. 23 June 1925.
  • “The Poinsett Hotel: Two grand ladies say farewell.” The Greenville News. 1 January 1987.
  • Profit, Jason. Haunted Greenville, South Carolina. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2011.
  • William Lee Stoddart. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 19 January 2019.

A restaurant revenant—Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

1905 City Hall
300 South Second Street
Bay St. Louis

N.B. This was originally published 3 June 2014 as part of “Louisiana and Mississippi: Newsworthy Haunts–6/3/14.”

Two hurricanes, Camille in 1969 and Katrina in 2005, wrecked much of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi including its graceful 1905 city hall. Camille, which made landfall next door in Waveland, blew off the building’s cupola and Katrina also severely damaged the building when it made landfall nearby. Since its restoration, something else may be occasionally wreaking havoc inside the building.

Bay St. Louis Mississippi city hall haunted ghost
Bay St. Louis City Hall a short time after construction. Undated postcard. Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Originally, the building housed the mayor’s office, city council chambers, police department, and jail. Over the years, many city departments have occupied the building which, after Katrina’s destructive blow to the city, required extensive restoration. After its Georgian splendor was restored in 2014, the building now houses offices with a Greek and Italian restaurant, Mezzo Mezzo (formerly Sonny’s Cypress Café), occupying the entire first floor. It is here, where the old jail was once located, that quite a bit of paranormal activity has been experienced.

Bay St. Louis Mississippi city hall haunted ghost Hurricane Katrina damage
Bay St. Louis City Hall, September 19, 2005, after Hurricane Katrina. Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

An article from a local TV station, WLOX, quotes a restaurant staff member as saying, “We’ve had a lot of things move around, we’ve had glasses fly around. Doors just open and close real quick, and all of our doors have safety mechanisms which [means] you can’t actually open them. There’s just so many things that happened here on a regular basis that just didn’t seem normal.” A staff member interviewed by G-COM, states that mason jars and glasses sometimes fly off the counter and shatter on the floor.

After initially attempting to ignore the activity, the owner and staff decided to call in a paranormal team. G-COM (Ghost Chasers of Mississippi), investigated and captured evidence of three possible spirits in 2014. They produced a video of their investigation which was posted on YouTube. The investigation yielded a number of EVP and some fruitful flashlight sessions.

For the café’s owner, however, the spirits are not fearsome, “nothing bad has really happened, it’s really kind of cool,” she said.

Stories point to an incident in 1928 which may provide the origin of some of the building’s activity. That year, a man incarcerated in the jail shot his way to freedom, killing a man in the process. After he was recaptured, the prisoner became the last person executed by hanging in Hancock County, when he was hung in the Hancock County Courthouse a short distance away. That building may also be haunted by his restless spirit.

Sources

Spiritual Spirits—Athens, Alabama

Donnell House
601 South Clinton Street
Athens, Alabama

N.B. Originally published as part of “Newsworthy Haunts 5/10/13—Alabama’s Battlefields and Charleston’s Jail,” 10 May 2013; republished as part of “’Twas the Night Before Halloween—Recycled Revenants,” 30 October 2017.

Originally called Pleasant Hill, this home was built by the Reverend Robert Donnell, a Presbyterian minister and native of North Carolina. Donnell moved into his newly completed home in 1840 and died here in 1855. The house remained in his family until 1869 when it passed out of the family and became home to the Athens Male Academy. It later became a public school and is now surrounded by Athens Middle School. The house is occasionally opened to the public.

haunted Donnell House Athens Alabama ghosts spirits
The Donnell House, 1935, by Alex Bush for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

During the Civil War, this home was commandeered by Union troops under Colonel John Basil Turchin, a Russian soldier who led the Sack of Athens in 1862. The Donnell family remained in the house during this time with Rev. Donnell’s 16-year-old daughter Nannie lying sick in bed while the troops camped on the lawn. Reportedly, she was kept awake by the soldiers’ constant carousing and music. Even after the soldiers were asked to settle down so the girl could sleep, they defiantly responded, “Better she should go to Heaven listening to Yankee music!” Young Nannie died of scarlet fever a short time later.

The executive director of the house, Jacque Reeves, author of the book Where Spirits Walk, has stated that Rev. Donnell’s spirit remains here. “He is having Bible study, and his mother is making biscuits for the guests,” she writes. According to author Shane Black, one couple touring the home was greeted by an “austere” gentleman who welcomed them to his home. Nannie Donnell is also thought to be here as well, with playful laughter and the crying of a child heard coming from her former bedroom. These spirits may also be joined by others, including Union and Confederate soldiers and slaves.

I have covered two other haunted places in Athens including Founders Hall on the Athens State University Campus, and the Houston Memorial Library is the representative haunting for Limestone County in my Haunted Alabama County by County series.

Sources

  • Black, Shane. Spirits of Athens: Haunting Tales of an Alabama Town. NYC: iUniverse. 2009.
  • Kazek, Kelly. “Paranormal investigators visit Civil War sites in Alabama; ghost says, ‘huh?’AL.com. 9 May 2013.
  • Floyd, W. Warner. National Register of Historic Places form for Donnell House. 1 August 1973.
  • History. The Donnell House. Accessed 14 May 2015.
  • Langella, Dale. Haunted Alabama Battlefields. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.

“It came upon a midnight clear”—A West Virginia Christmas Tale

Old Grafton Road
(WV-310)
Between Grafton and Fairmont

Late one Christmas Eve a trucker was hauling a load of dry powdered glass to the Owens-Illinois Glass Plant in Fairmont, West Virginia. After passing through Grafton, the trucker drove north on West Virginia Route 310, also known as Old Grafton Road; passing the Tygart Valley River as it parallels the route for part of the journey. After it parallels Old Grafton Road, the river swings northwest before it meets the West Fork River to create the Monongahela River in Fairmont.

Monongahela River Fairmont West Virginia
Monongahela River in Fairmont. After picking up the phantom hitchhiker on Old Grafton Road, the trucker would have crossed this river to reach downtown Fairmont. Photo by Tim Kiser, 2006. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In the vicinity of Valley Falls Road, the trucker noticed an odd figure on the side of the road waving him down. Stopping, the driver stepped down out of his rig to find a young woman standing in the cold in a red gown. She was wet, and her hair matted. She asked to be taken to Fairmont.

Despite being late with his delivery, the driver knew he could not leave the young woman by the side of the road. Helping her into the passenger seat of his cab, he grabbed one of his coats and put it around her shoulders for warmth. After climbing into the driver’s seat, the trucker asked where in Fairmont the woman wanted to be taken. Quietly she replied that she wanted to be dropped off at the Cook Hospital.

While he may have known that Cook Hospital had been replaced by a modern hospital, the driver was anxious to get his haul to the glass plant. Stopping in front of the old building at the intersection of Gaston Avenue and 2nd Street, the driver stepped down from the cab, and walked around to help the young lady down. Opening the door, the driver was stunned to see the seat was empty except for his coat.

Heading to the glass plant with his haul, the driver told the manager his strange tale. He was fired for his tardiness anyway.

Hearing of folklorist and Fairmont resident, Ruth Ann Musick, the unemployed driver contacted her with the hope that she could lend credence to the his tale. Musick was indeed familiar with the tale and agreed to call the managers of the glass plant on the driver’s behalf. The driver was rehired after Musick’s call. The moral of this story is that if you cannot be fired if you run into beings from West Virginia folklore.

This is far from the typical ghostly hitchhiker scenario because of its details. This story was detailed in a 2015 article in the Clarksburg, West Virginia Exponent Telegram that looks at folktales throughout the Mountain State. The story has been passed around by many folklorists. I stumbled across this wonderful story in a December 16 post from the Haunted West Virginia page on Facebook.

What makes this story unique are the details that fits this typical type of story into the West Virginia landscape and the involvement of Ruth Ann Musick. It is possible to roughly date this story through its precise details. The Owen-Illinois Glass Plant opened in Fairmont in 1910 making bottles. With the construction of a large factory on 40 acres east of town, the company expanded production and the plant began running 24 hours a day, which would account for a trucker making a Christmas Eve delivery.

According to a recent article in The Fairmont News, production ramped up over the decades to where, in the 1970s, the plant employed nearly 1000 employees. In 1978, the company began to phase out operations at the plant, laying off the bulk of the plant’s employees by 1980. The plant was shuttered in 1982. Last year, it was announced that the site of the former plant will be developed into a business park.

The Cook Hospital in the story still stands, though it no longer operates as a hospital. The large Italianate building was built in 1903 for Dr. John R. Cook as a 100-bed hospital. A nursing residence was added in the 1920s and the hospital served as a training ground for nurses. The hospital closed in the late 1930s with the construction of Fairmont General Hospital. In the intervening years, the building has also been used as offices for the Marion County Board of Education. In 2017, it was announced that the building would be renovated for use as low-income housing.

The Exponent Telegram version of the story adds a detail with the trucker dropping the young woman off at the Marion County Courthouse instead of the Cook Hospital. A folklorist quoted in the article also points out the fact that regardless of where the spirit requested to be dropped off, spirits aren’t known to cross water. However, the story would require that the trucker drive over the Monongahela River to reach downtown Fairmont where the hospital and courthouse are located. The folklorist concedes that perhaps the man’s coat weighted the spirit down.

Marion County Courthouse Fairmont West Virginia
Marion County Courthouse in downtown Fairmont, West Virginia. Photo by Tim Kiser, 2006. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Ruth Ann Musick, the folklorist who came to the trucker’s defense, is an eminent figure in the preservation of the state’s folklore. She originally came to Fairmont State College (now Fairmont State University) to teach mathematics and English in 1946. During her more than two decades at the school she delved into folklore, becoming a passionate champion of West Virginia’s peculiar tales. As well as creating classes about folklore, she revived the West Virginia Folklore Society and started and served as editor for the West Virginia Folklore Journal.

As a collector of the stories and tales that sprang from the rocky soil of the Mountain State, she published several collections that are still in print including The Telltale Lilac Bush and Other West Virginia Ghost Tales and Coffin Hollow and Other Ghost Tales. The folklorist quoted in the Exponent-Telegram articles notes that Musick knew 21 versions of this story, so the trucker was right in contacting her to strengthen his excuse. We can also use Musick to add a date to this story. According to her Wikipedia entry, Musick was diagnosed with spinal cancer and passed away July 2, 1974. Coupled with the dates from the glass plant and Musick’s death, that would likely set this story sometime in the late 1960s or very early 1970s.

Sources

Encounter at Plant Hall–Tampa, Florida

Plant Hall—Universityof Tampa
401 West Kennedy Boulevard

Tampa, Florida

Several years ago, I wrote about Plant Hall at the University of Tampa. Originally constructed by Henry Plant as the grand Tampa Bay Hotel, this whimsical edifice had trouble turning a profit, and sold to the city of Tampa. In 1933, the building was converted for use as the University of Tampa, which remains its use today.

About a year after I posted the article, I received an anonymous comment telling a chilling story. This has been edited for clarity.

Several years ago, my husband and I were vacationing and visiting my sister in Florida. On one afternoon we were looking for something to do and my sister suggested we check out the Plant Museum in Tampa. My husband knew I loved architecture and especially grand,old, buildings. I was very excited.

We went in and began walking around. I could just imagine what it must have been like in its heyday. I saw the grand staircase and couldn’t help but walk up several flights ahead of my husband. Then I came to a strange hallway that seemed out of place and as I started walking down the hallway, I felt uncomfortable and I felt just a little bit cold (I thought probably because of all the windows). I felt I had gone to a part of the building that was off-limits to the public and decided to turn back.

A curving corridor. Photo 2009 by Gordon Tarpley. Released under a Creative Commons License.

My husband was still on the first floor. As I headed toward the top of the stairway of the third-floor landing, I felt that there was a young girl in a long, white dress nearby. I think I sensed her on the way up too, but I thought I must have quite a vivid imagination and tossed it aside.

Then I reached the top of the stairway and looked down the 3 flights and I heard a man whisper, “Go ahead, why don’t you just jump?” I ignored it and heard it again. “Why don’t you just jump?” This scared the hell out of me.

A grand staircase inside Plant Hall. Photo 2009 by Gordon Tarpley. Released under a Creative Commons License.

The railing I was clutching now seemed so flimsy and low to my body that I could easily fall right over. I felt dizzy and very frightened. I held the railing deliberately and I kept my grip all the way down until I made my way back to my husband. I told him, “I want to leave this place, now!”

In the car, on the way back to my sister’s house, I explained what happened.

This experience has stayed with me for years even though I have put it out of my mind. Recently I saw something on TV today that reminded me of it again. That’s when I decided to look up the history of the Plant Museum and found this web site with the two things I remembered most; the grand stairway and that cold corridor. Does anyone know if, in the history of the hotel, did a young girl, maybe 12-14 years old, fall to her death there? Or commit suicide?

While I cannot validate any of this, especially since the commenter is anonymous, it seems to ring true to me.

Several years ago, I visited Tampa. While I strolled downtown with my partner, I suddenly was greeted with the sight of minarets poking up through the tree canopy across the river. The sight stopped me in my tracks. Just the way that I imagine Henry Plant planned it.

The minarets of Henry Plant’s Tampa Bay Hotel, now the University of Tampa’s Plant Hall, rises above the Hillsborough River across from downtown Tampa. Photo 2014 by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.