The Giving Tree—Athens, Georgia

Tree That Owns Itself
277 South Finley Street
Athens, Georgia

…the Tree was happy…
–Shel Silverstein, “The Giving Tree,” 1964

When I read Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree as a child many moons ago, I found the story disturbing. There is more than a bit of sadness in this story of altruism, and I found that disquieting. Perhaps this was one of my first introductions into that grey area where noble ideals spar with reality, morality and immorality square off, or the dramatic tension begrudgingly lies between the blacks and whites of good and evil.

Tree That Owns Itself Athens Georgia
The Tree That Owns Itself in 1910, by Huron Smith for the Field Museum.

The legend of Athens, Georgia’s Tree That Owns Itself exists in this same grey realm of fact and legend. When I stumbled across this 1916 article while browsing the historic newspaper collection of the Digital Library of Georgia, I was happy to be able to add this story to my collection on Athens. Unfortunately, the bottom corner of the paper has been torn and part of the paragraph describing the phantom is lost. 

The Daily Times-Enterprise (Thomasville, GA)
July 1, 1916
Courtesy of the Digital Library of Georgia

GHOST HAUNTS TREE THAT OWNS ITSELF
_____
AT LEAST THAT IS STORY COMING
OUT FROM ATHENS, AND
THERE IS MUCH SPECULATION
OVER REPORT.
_____

Atlanta, July 1—Has the ghost of William Jackson come back to haunt the Tree That Owns Itself?

That’s the tale they are telling in Athens, Ga., where on a big hill in the center of the city stands a giant white oak, the only tree that owns itself, trunk, twig and leaf, together with eight feet of land on all sides.

Early in the nineteenth century William Jackson was one of the largest plantation owners of Clarke county. Under the white oak, which is four or five hundred years old, he used to sit and direct his slaves at work. When he died, this paragraph was found in his will:

“For and in consideration of the great love I bear this tree and the great desire I have for its protection for all time, I convey entire possession of itself and all land within eight feet of the tree on all sides.”

Now comes the report that a phantom has been seen beneath the Tree That Owns Itself.

[page torn]…mist of a man, fading is-
[page torn]…a man with powdered
[page torn]…a broad hat
[page torn]…and laces and frills sitting there under the tree, with one hand resting gently on the bark.

Was it the ghost of William Jackson?

Ask the boys of that college town—they don’t know.

A surprisingly thorough article on Wikipedia examines the legend and its inconsistencies, noting that the first documented version of the tree’s legend appeared in the Athens Weekly Banner in 1890. That article, couched in the heroic language of the period, describes the tree as seeming to “stand straighter, and hold its head more highly and proudly as if we knew that it ranked above the common trees of the world.” The 1890 article continues with the history of the tree but noting that the tree’s deed of ownership is mysteriously missing from the county’s records.

Postcard of the Tree That Owns Itself Athens Georgia
The original Tree That Owns Itself shortly before it fell in 1942. Postcard from the Boston Public Library.

Since 1916, the original tree succumbed to rot and fell on October 9, 1942. The Athens Junior Ladies Garden Club took up the cause of the tree and replaced it with a sapling grown from one of the original oak’s acorns. The current tree sometimes deemed “Son of the Tree That Owns Itself,” continues to flourish from its space on South Finley Street. The tree is now surrounded with a retaining wall and a chain barrier with a plaque denoting the tree’s ownership of itself. Perhaps Col. William Jackson still appears on occasion to rest beneath the stately branches that he gave so much for?

Son of the Tree That Owns Itself Athens Gerogia
Son of the Tree That Owns Itself, 2005, by Bloodofox, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Sources

  • “Deeded to itself.” Athens Weekly Banner. 12 August 1890.
  • “Ghost haunts tree that owns itself.” Daily Times-Enterprise (Thomasville, Georgia). 1 July 1916.
  • Tree That Owns Itself. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 19 June 2019.

Exploring “ghost-ridden territories”—A Review of Haunted Charlottesville

Haunted Charlottesville and Surrounding Counties
Susan Schwartz with photographs by Cliff Middlebrooks Jr.
Schiffer Publishing, 2019

In her introduction to this book, Pamela K. Kinney succinctly describes the Charlottesville region as being among the many “ghost-ridden territories” in the state of Virginia. Susan Schwartz sets out to prove this in her book, Haunted Charlottesville and Surrounding Counties. Covering some familiar haunts and many that are unfamiliar, Schwartz has laid out a brilliant new guide to this most important region.

Not far from the geographical heart of Virginia, the Charlottesville area encompasses a historically important region within state and national history. Before the arrivals of Europeans, this area was the homeland for several noted Native American tribes and afterwards became one of the first frontiers for new settlers. The growing pains of nationhood were distinctly felt here in the form of military action during the Revolution and the Civil War. Among these hills and valleys lived presidents, planters, statesmen, scholars, industrialists, and many others who may remain in spiritual form.

Prior to this book, the region’s spiritual fabric has only been described in one book, L. B. Taylor’s 1992 Ghosts of Charlottesville and Lynchburg…and nearby environs. While Mr. Taylor’s numerous volumes on the ghosts of Virginia are excellent, his book is nearly 30 years old. Ghost stories need regular tending, with information being updated to include not only new encounters, but fresh historical research which may shed light on these hauntings. Indeed, new stories should also be added as they come to light.

Schwartz masterfully navigates readers to some 77 locations in 12 counties. In the process of this tour, Schwartz examines some familiar hauntings such as Castle Hill Manor, Tuckahoe Plantation, and Gordonsville’s Exchange Hotel with stops that she serendipitously discovered as she traveled the backroads in search of ghosts. From abandoned roadside stores to a small deli in the community of Troy in Fluvanna County, Schwartz provides a fresh and lively commentary on these newly discovered haunts.

cover Haunted Charlottesville and Surrounding Counties Susan SchwartzAs she guides readers to these locations, Schwartz does well to cite her sources by including in-line citations. Often, I’m left to puzzle over where an author got their information, but Schwartz sees to it that there is no question. Her bibliography forms an excellent guide to the foundations of her book and is exceedingly useful for researchers like me.

Overall, this book is a spectacular guide to these “ghost-ridden territories” in central Virginia for everyone from the paranormal dilettante to the serious, academic researcher and provides well-marked trails for all to follow to explore the haunted past of the Charlottesville region.

Haunted Charlottesville and Surrounding Counties is available on Amazon.

Strange LaGrange: Ghosts, Legends, & Spirited History—A Walking Tour

There is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in proportion.
–Edgar Allan Poe, “Ligeia,” 1838

The South is a very strange place. Even after years of researching and writing about the South, I continue to find masses of odd stories, not just from ghostlore, but stories regarding cryptids, UFOs, aliens, dreams, premonitions, and other high strangeness. While the South isn’t any more active than any other region in the world, it seems that Southerners, who are natural storytellers, have created a stranger version of their world through their storytelling.

Lafayette Square LaGrange Georgia
Lafayette Square in downtown LaGrange, Georgia. Photo 2012, by Rivers Langley, courtesy of Wikipedia.

My hometown of LaGrange, Georgia has its own strange and storied landscape. Growing up here, I heard stories and tales of haunted places, but was never able to confirm much of this. After starting this blog, I have pursued some of these stories, but rarely with much success. When I got the call from the director of the Troup County Historical Society several months ago, asking if I would be interested in creating this tour, I jumped at the chance. It has always been a dream to create a ghost tour locally, but I never had the backing of such an august group.

As cliché as it may be to say, this tour is a labor of love. Not only has led me to ponder local history, but my own personal history here, as well as reinforcing my love for this little West Georgia town.

The tour winds through downtown LaGrange stopping by a number of historic and haunted locales as well as other places of strangeness, which doesn’t just include ghostlore. During the mid-1990s, this area was the scene of a large number of UFO sightings, leading ufologists to dub it the “Troup-Heard Corridor.” During this time, locals not only witnessed strange things in the skies, a few even had some very close encounters with possible aliens.

Indeed, the strangeness also includes the discovery, in the late 1960s, of an ancient Sumerian tablet, now known as the Hearn Tablet. Discovered by a local housewife in her garden, this apparent ancient receipt in the form of a small lead tablet is certainly out of place and produces many questions as to how it ended up here in West Georgia.

Hearn Tablet ancient Sumerian tablet found in Troup County Georgia
The Hearn Tablet, an ancient Sumerian tablet found in Troup County, Georgia. Photo courtesy of the Troup County Historical Society and Archives. All rights reserved.

From downtown, the strangeness extends all the way to the august halls of LaGrange College, the oldest private institution of higher learning in the state. Recently, a pair of young ladies were working in the college’s Smith Hall late in the evening. The first entered and was walking towards her office when she suddenly tripped over something. Looking around, she tried to identify what she had tripped over, but nothing was there. She realized that it felt as if someone had stuck their leg out to purposefully trip her. Shrugging off the incident, she continued to her office and set to work.

Smith Hall LaGrange College ghost haunted
Smith Hall ,LaGrange College, 2010, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The second young lady arrived a few minutes later, entering the office with a curious expression. She noted that she had had a strange thing happen to her on her way in, describing being tripped in the same manner that the first had. The pair returned to work, now wary of the prankster spirit that has haunted the halls of this building for years.

Stories have circulated for years about a spirit within Smith Hall, but many of the stories don’t exactly add up or stand up to historical scrutiny. Nonetheless, students and staff continue to have experiences here and within several other college buildings. All of these stories contributing to make LaGrange very strange.

Stops on the tour also include the LaGrange Art Museum, whose peculiar history I have examined closely in my article, “Its hideous use—LaGrange, Georgia.”

Strange LaGrange Tour Georgia ghost tour
The Strange LaGrange tour stops in Hill View Cemetery. Photo by Ashley Blencoe, courtesy of VisitLaGrange. All rights reserved.

The Strange LaGrange Tour steps off at 7 PM on Friday nights from the Legacy Museum on Main, 136 Main Street, in downtown LaGrange. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, $15 for kids ages 5-12, and can be reserved at the tour’s Eventbrite page. Each tour will last approximately 2 hours and will involve quite some walking, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes and clothing. Come walk with us!

 

Grey-Garbed Ghost of the Governor’s Mansion–Georgia

N.B. This article was originally published as part of “Apparitions of Atlanta,” 28 October 2013.

There was a time when even the august pages of The New York Times published ghost stories. In 1908, this curious item appeared:

The New York Times
2 June 1908

GHOST IN GOVERNOR’S HOUSE
__________

Wife and Daughter of Gov. Smith of
Georgia Say They Saw It.

Special to the The New York Times

ATLANTA, Ga., June 1.—The ghostly gray-garbed figure of a young woman, which appears at all hours of the night, is causing the inmates of the Executive Mansion of Georgia much perturbation.

Gov. Smith is away nearly all the times engaged in a heated contest for re-election, and the mysterious ghost has been appearing to Mrs. Smith and her daughters.

The gray-garbed lady is said to be young and very beautiful. She was first seen by Miss Mary Brent Smith about three weeks ago, about 12 o’clock at night, as the latter returned to the mansion. When Miss Smith entered that hall she noticed the gray figure before a long mirror. Miss Smith approached, but the figure melted away.

Miss Smith in alarm told her mother, but the latter ridiculed her daughter. A few nights later, as Mrs. Smith and her daughter were together, the gray-gowned woman appeared to both of them. Mrs. Smith and her daughter were so overcome they fainted. To a physician Mrs. Smith related the story of the vision. Since then it is said the ghostly woman has appeared frequently.

The negroes say the figure is the ghost of Miss Price, the niece of Gov. A. D. Candler, who died in the mansion when her uncle was Governor. It is said Miss Price was very happy in the mansion, and when dying said she would revisit the place, where she was so happy while in this life.

Old Georgia Governor's Mansion before 1923
Postcard of the Old Georgia Governor’s Mansion which was torn down in 1923.

There are several interesting things to note about this article, first off, I find it interesting that the residents of the Governor’s Mansion are referred to as “inmates,” perhaps it reflects on the status of women in this period? Secondly, it’s noted that the lowly, unnamed reporter who wrote this story evidently sought out local African-Americans to comment on the apparition, something that doesn’t often happen with articles of this time.

As for the historical context of this article, the governor in this article is Hoke Smith, who made his name as the owner of the Atlanta Journal. During that time he used his position to back Grover Cleveland during the presidential election of 1892. Following his election to the presidency, Cleveland appointed Smith as Secretary of the Interior. Returning to Georgia in 1896 after serving as secretary, he allied himself with the now notorious populist firebrand politician, Tom Watson. Smith was elected governor in 1907.

Hoke Smith, governor of Georgia.
Gov. Hoke Smith of Georgia. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

While he worked hard to appease Watson by disenfranchising the vote of African-American Georgians, Watson was still not pleased and in 1908 threw his support behind Joseph M. Brown, son of Georgia’s Civil War governor, Joseph E. Brown, thus necessitating long absences from his wife and the governor’s mansion.

The spirit is identified as Miss Price, the niece of Governor Allen D. Candler. A search of period papers brought up a notice of Miss Alice Price being ill on January 4, 1899. Ten days later, on January 14, there is a notice that Miss Price passed away. She was related to the governor through his wife and was visiting from Macon “to assist with the social honors at the executive mansion.”

Alice Price niece of Georgia Governor Allen Candler
Alice Price, as pictured next to the notice of her death in the Atlanta Constitution,. 14 January 1899.

Notably, young Miss Price died from typhoid fever which, according to the paper, she acquired from poor sanitation at the governor’s mansion.

The illness of Miss Price was caused by the poor sanitary arrangements which existed in the executive mansion at the time of Governor Candler’s inauguration. Before the days of the Atlanta waterworks a windmill supplied the mansion with water, the pipes being distributed through the house from a tank.

When the windmill was discontinued this tank was allowed to remain, and it is thought the decaying wood caused the illness of the young lady. After she became ill plumbers were put to work, and the water now reaches the mansion without passing through the tank.

Postcar view of Old Georgia Governor's Mansion before 1923
Postcard view of the Old Georgia Governor’s Mansion before 1923.

This indicates a misunderstanding of how typhoid is spread. Decaying wood does not cause typhoid, it is spread by water contaminated with human fecal material from someone carrying the bacteria, which speaks to the early problems of water utilities and sanitation. It should also be noted that the governor’s mansion was torn down in 1923 because of the building’s poor condition. The site of the old mansion is now occupied by the Westin Peachtree Plaza at 210 Peachtree Street, NW.

Westin Peachtree Plaza Atlanta Georgia occupying the site of the Old Georgia Governor's Mansion
One of the more notable structures in the Atlanta skyline, the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel now occupies the site of the old Governor’s Mansion. Photo 2013, by Robert Neff, courtesy of Wikipedia.

This house is not the first Georgia governor’s mansion to be haunted, the Old Governor’s Mansion in Milledgeville is also known to be haunted.

Sources

  • “Ghost in Governor’s House.” New York Times. 2 June 1908.
  • Maysilles, Duncan. “Hoke Smith (1855-1931).” New Georgia Encyclopedia. 22 August 2013.
  • “Miss Alice Price Died Yesterday.” Atlanta Constitution. 14 January 1899.
  • “The Sick List.” Atlanta Constitution. 4 January 1899.

“Its hideous use”—LaGrange, Georgia

LaGrange Art Museum
112 Lafayette Parkway
LaGrange, Georgia

N.B. Starting on Friday, June 7th, I will be giving ghost tours of my hometown, LaGrange, Georgia. “Strange LaGrange” will cover all types of oddities, ghosts, UFOs, and strange history throughout downtown. This location is one of the primary stops.

In the January 1, 1892 edition of the LaGrange Reporter, an article appeared hailing a new structure that would be constructed later that year; “the new building will be an ornament to the town – barring its hideous use – and an honor to the county.”

The phrase, “barring its hideous use” is quite curious, though apt when you consider that this building, now dressed in a penitent’s white, opened as the Troup County Jail. This building recalls the cruel history of executions at a time when they were carried out by local governments, rather than at the state level as they are now.

LaGrange Art Museum formerly the Troup County Jail ghosts haunted LaGrange Georgia
The tower of the LaGrange Art Museum is popularly thought to have been used for executions, though executions were only conducted in the cellblock. Photo 2019, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The Pauly Jail Building Company of St. Louis, Missouri, which today remains in the business of constructing correctional facilities, designed and built this jail along with hundreds of similar structures across the South and throughout the country.

The contract to build the jail was awarded in January of 1892 for the sum of $13,500. Construction likely commenced shortly thereafter and was completed by September.

To test the quality of the steel cells, the Troup County Commissioners summoned a machinist and tools from Georgia Tech to test the steel cells. The LaGrange Reporter notes that Mr. Frank Hudson “entered the steel cells with his compliment of tools, and, after boring, sawing and chiseling for two hours, without making an appreciable impression, desisted.”

interior Troup County Georgia stockade
The interior of the Troup County Stockade is likely similar to the interior of the jail. The sparseness of the facilities provides scant hope to the incarcerated. Photo by Snelson Davis, courtesy of the Troup County Historical Society and Archives. All rights reserved.

On September 15th, the “county’s boarders,” as they were deemed by the paper, were moved into the new building. They were given haircuts, a bath, and new uniforms to correspond with their new quarters. The paper continues:

It was a gala day for these unfortunates, and they greatly enjoyed the change from the close, dark, and generally uncomfortable cells in the old structure to their bright, white, clean quarters in the new. It was like going into another and a better world, although they are more prisoners than before, so far as means of escape are concerned. They left their filth and much of their gloom behind. Light, air and larger space will make their confinement henceforth more endurable.

About five years after the jail opened, the Atlanta Constitution took the Troup County Commissioners to task in a brief article on January 1, 1898:

Recently, it has been published that the commissioners of Troup county, in order to provide against the public execution, and with the view of saving the city of LaGrange from the usual crowd which an execution draws together, decided to erect a gallows inside the jail building, where it would be in full view of the two condemned men who were to be hanged therefrom.

The LaGrange Reporter very sensibly urges the commissioners to meet and change this order, taking the ground that the prisoners have some rights as well as the citizens, and that they should not be compelled to pass several days in constant view of the dread instrument which is to execute the sentence of law.

It is hoped that the views of The Reporter will be listened to by the county commissioners, and that some other plan should be adopted. To have a private execution it is not necessary that the jail corridor be used.

[The “two condemned men” in this article were George Gill and Will Smith who were sentenced to death for murder. They were supposed to have been executed on January 7, but their sentence was suspended for 30 days, and later commuted to life in prison by the governor.]

The Troup County Commissioners did not take heed of the opinions of the LaGrange Reporter or the Atlanta Constitution and change their decision to hold executions inside the jail.

Troup County Jail LaGrange Georgia now the art museum
A view of the jail, probably in the 1920s. Photo by S. Hutchinson, courtesy of the Troup County Historical Society and Archives. All rights reserved.

The first execution to take place inside this building was that of Edmund Scott, August 2, 1901. Scott, an African-American, was put to death for the deaths of Lena and Carry Huguley in West Point, Georgia (in southern Troup County) in 1900. He claimed the shooting was accidental and that one of the young ladies had been his sweetheart.

According to articles in both the LaGrange Reporter or the Atlanta Constitution, Scott was “ready to go.” During his confinement, he had met with pastors from the Methodist Church and the pastor of the Presbyterian Church met with him the morning of his execution. The Constitution provides a good description of the hanging:

The hanging took place inside of the jail at 12:18 o’clock. The gallows is built over the space between the iron cages and the brick wall of the building. Thirty or forty persons saw the hanging. Scott was dressed in a black suit with a standing collar and black tie. He walked up the ladder to the top of the cells without assistance and was calm. He had but little to say and spoke in a low voice. Rev. J. Kelsey, pastor of the colored Baptist Church, offered an earnest prayer. The black cap was then placed over his head. As the noose was being arranged Scott asked:

“Who is placing the rope about my neck?”

The sheriff’s deputy replied:

“Sheriff Brady.”

“The man,” said Scott, “who places the rope about my neck will die.”

The sheriff sprung the trap and Scott’s body went down. Death came in fifteen minutes and the body was cut down in sixteen minutes from the time it dropped. His neck was not broken.

The note that Scott’s neck was not broken is particularly cruel. The use of a drop in hangings is meant to provide a relatively quick and humane death to the condemned with the short, sharp, shock of a jerk of the rope. However, this requires some mathematical calculations involving the height and weight of the condemned and a specific length of rope. If the rope is too short, the condemned will strangle to death. If it’s too long, the condemned could be decapitated.

The next man to die here was Ingram Canady, Jr. who was executed here for the rape of a white woman. Canady, or Canida as his name is sometimes rendered, was hung March 20, 1908. His last words were recorded by the Atlanta Constitution:

I don’t know anything in the world about it; I am ready to meet death, and know my soul will be saved. I don’t know a thing in the world about the crime, and am innocent. All be good; expect to meet you in heaven.

Just before the trap was sprung he said, “The old Master will straighten all mistakes.”

The Reporter noted that again, his neck was not broken. Canady died of strangulation after sixteen minutes.

On January 2, 1909, Lucius Truitt was hanged for the murder of Dock Tatum during a robbery and home invasion. Walter Thomas died here on June 10 of the next year for the rape of a child.

The final man to die here was 22-year-old John Marvin Thompson, who was hanged in July 26, 1918 for the slaying of Troup County Sheriff William Shirey. The sheriff led a raid on an illegal liquor still in the southern part of the county. Thompson, who owned the still, opened fire on the raiding party and the sheriff was killed.

Before “a small crowd of friends of Thompson, his father, and the newspaper men,” Thompson ascended towards the fateful noose. His last words were recorded by the Atlanta Constitution:

I want all of you to know that I am dying innocent of what I am accused of. I have done things that I ought not to have done in my life, and God will forgive me for all I have ever done and take me home.

To his father he said, “Tell all of my people good-bye for me, papa.” His father responded, ““I am sorry for you, John; I wish I could go with you.”

The reporter for the Constitution notes that, “No struggle whatever occurred after the trap was spring, his neck evidently having been broken by the fall.” Thompson was the first and only white man hung in the county as well as being the last man to die a state sanctioned death in the jail. Several years later, the state revoked the privileges of localities to conduct their own executions and executions were removed to state correctional facilities.

With the construction of a new jail facility, the inmates were moved elsewhere in 1939, and the structure was converted to use as an office for the local newspaper, The LaGrange Daily News.” The building also served as a furniture store until the local Callaway Foundation granted funds to convert the building into an art facility.

LaGrange Art Museum formerly the Troup County Jail ghosts haunted LaGrange Georgia
The jail probably around the time it ceased being used as a jail in 1939. Photo by S. Hutchinson, courtesy of the Troup County Historical Society and Archives. All rights reserved.

I’m still trying to understand the original layout of the building. So far, research has pointed to this first section as being used as a residence for the jailer and his family. I have been told that there was no interior connection between the buildings, therefore to reach the cellblock, the jailer would have to leave his residence and use an outside door to enter.

It should be noted that there is no evidence that the building tower, which resembles a finger uplifted in moral admonishment, is not a “hanging tower.” In the newspaper accounts of executions in the building, all of the hangings took place within the cellblock, and not in the jailers’ personal space.

LaGrange Art Museum formerly the Troup County Jail ghosts haunted LaGrange Georgia
Oblique view of the museum building. The section of the building in the foreground was added when the building was converted into a museum. The middle portion with the bricked up windows was the cellblock. The galleries now occupy that portion. Photo 2019, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The second section contained the cellblock. This section was also two stories and prisoners were separated by race. Contemporary sources say that white male prisoners were held on the first level with women, juveniles, and people of color being held on the second. On a recent tour of the building, I was able to see the basement space located underneath this section. As we closely looked at the original brick walls, we were able to see names carved into the brick, perhaps by restless inmates.

The conversion to an art museum, reconfigured the building to include office space in the front section with connecting doors between the two buildings. In a space where inmates wiled away their sentences, visitors now contemplate works of art. Sighs of the condemned have been replaced with the joyful chatter of children enrolled in the museum’s educational programs. Growing up here, I spent time at the museum attending an arts camp and classes.

With my curiosity about ghosts, I’d always wondered if the museum was haunted. A co-worker reported to me that she had seen faces peering from the tower windows at night. When I worked for the LaGrange Daily News some years ago, I interviewed the museum’s director and asked about activity. She responded that there were often odd sounds, especially at night.

When I started work on my upcoming ghost tour of downtown, I talked with the current director. She shared with me that she would frequently smell the odor of tobacco smoke in the entrance hall of the museum, which is a smoke free facility and has been for many years. I also spoke with the maintenance man who said he regularly heard footsteps in the building when he was alone at night. He noted that he would walk throughout trying to find the source, but to no avail.

In preparation for my tour, I visited the museum with a sensitive friend. As we walked up the front steps he noted that there were three spirits in residence. Upon entering the gallery portion (which had once been the cellblock), he saw an African-American man standing against one of the walls. He attempted to communicate, but the spirit didn’t want to talk. Walking to the other side of the gallery, we felt a chill in the air where the sensitive detected the presence of a hunched back man.

We attempted communication with the first spirit again. This time, he was a bit more forthcoming and revealed that his cell had been at the back of the space. He proclaimed his innocence, saying that he was defending himself. Still, he was reticent to speak.

LaGrange Art Museum formerly the Troup County Jail ghosts haunted LaGrange Georgia
Second floor of the gallery which occupies what was once the cellblock. Photo 2019, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Heading to the second floor of the gallery, we encountered a feminine presence, which the sensitive noted was related to a man incarcerated here, “either a mother or an older sister.”

LaGrange Art Museum formerly the Troup County Jail ghosts haunted LaGrange Georgia
The old jail, now dressed in a penitent’s white, provides educational opportunities to many local children, some of whom are featured in murals that currently adorn the building’s brick wall. Photo 2019, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

This building, which once was so hideous, now rings with the chatter and laughter of children, or the silent contemplation of adult art patrons. It is my sincere hope that whoever the spirits are in this old building, they have finally found the peace.

Sources

  • “The Contract Given.” LaGrange Reporter. 8 January 1892.
  • “Edmund Scott Hanged.” LaGrange Reporter. 9 August 1901.
  • Hanging. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 27 May 2019.
  • Hearn, Daniel Allen. Legal Executions in Georgia: A Comprehensive Registry, 1866-1964. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2016.
  • “John Thompson hung for Murder of Sheriff.” Atlanta Constitution. 27 July 1918.
  • Johnson, Forrest Clark; Glenda Major, and Kaye Lanning Minchew. Travels Through Troup County: A Guide to its Architecture and History, LaGrange, GA: Family Tree,
  • “Negro Hanged at LaGrange.” Atlanta Constitution. 21 March 1908.
  • “New Jail Received.” LaGrange Reporter. 16 September 1892.
  • “Scott Hanged in LaGrange.” Atlanta Constitution. 3 August 1901.
  • “That Jail Corridor Hanging.” Atlanta Constitution. 1 January 1898.
  • “To Be Hung To-day.” LaGrange Reporter. 20 March 1908.

Courthouse Creepiness—Caswell County, North Carolina

N.B. This article was originally published 6 April 2011, but not reposted when this blog moved. This article has since be edited and revised.

Caswell County Courthouse
Courthouse Square
Yanceyville, North Carolina

There is a room in the Caswell County Courthouse with a door that opens and shuts on its own accord. According to two different sources–though I think one source is likely referencing the other–that is the only unknown phenomena reported in this magnificent edifice. But then again, the story behind it is just as fascinating.

The Caswell County Courthouse is the fourth courthouse and was constructed between 1857 and 1861. The architecture is unusual for a government building of the period in that it employs the Italianate style; a style quite different from the other period, Greek Revival buildings in the area. The courtroom located on the second floor is noted in one description as one of the most beautiful in the state with carved benches and partitions and an ornate plaster ceiling.

haunted Caswell County Courthouse Yanceyville North Carolina ghosts spirits
The Caswell County Courthouse, 2009, by NatalieMaynor, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Within this marvelous structure a heinous act occurred; an act indicative of the area’s rough transition following the Civil War. Reconstruction was a difficult process for much of the South. Nearly everything was in upheaval: the economy, cities and plantations lay in ruins, the social order, and African-Americans suddenly thrust into a new social standing. Add opportunists into this mix, especially Yankees with a carpet bag in hand and a glint in their eye, and you have an explosive combination.

It is against this turbulent backdrop that 34-year-old John Walter Stephens made his arrival in Caswell County. He is described as a difficult fellow, but of course, that all depends on who you talk to. Stephens was born in North Carolina and had worked as a tobacco trader as well as being active in the Methodist Church. Apparently, shortly before his move to Yanceyville, he had been involved in a scuffle with a neighbor whose chickens had wandered onto his property. Stephens killed the chickens and the neighbor had him sent to jail. After getting out, Stephens confronted the neighbor with a gun and in the fight that broke out, two bystanders were wounded. This incident provided Stephens with the nickname, “Chicken.” It was something that he would never live down.

While continuing to work as a tobacco trader, Stephens also worked as an agent for the Freedman’s Bureau and was a member of the Republican affiliated Union League, which helped to control the African-American vote in the South. Needless to say, these things were politically unpopular with the white citizens of Caswell County. Through the efforts of the Union League and the African-American citizens of the county, Stephens was elected to the North Carolina State Senate in 1868. Slanderous gossip was spread through town and Stephens received death threats, but he staunchly remained in his position.

Per the affidavit of John G. Lea, Stephens was tried in absentia by a Ku Klux Klan jury, found guilty, and sentenced to death. This death sentence was carried out on May 21, 1870 in a storage room on the ground floor of the courthouse. Stephens, who was attending a session to nominate county officers and members of the legislature, was lured downstairs and taken into the storage room where a group of KKK members awaited. After Stephens was disarmed of his three pistols John Lea rushed in. Lea, the last of the conspirators to die when he passed in 1919, described the scene in an affidavit sealed until after his death:

He arose and approached me and we went and sat down where the wood had been taken away, in an opening in the wood on the wood-pile, and he asked me not to let them kill him. Captain Mitchell rushed at him with a rope, drew it around his neck, put his feet against his chest and by that time about a half dozen men rushed up: Tom Oliver, Pink Morgan, Dr. Richmond and Joe Fowler. Stevens was then stabbed in the breast and also in the neck by Tom Oliver, and the knife was thrown at his feet and the rope left around his neck. We all came out, closed the door and locked it on the outside and took the key and threw it into County Line Creek.

The turbulence, already boiling in the area, rose to a fever pitch after Stephens’ murder. The Ku Klux Klan stepped up its terror of African-Americans and their white allies throughout the region. In the town of Graham in Alamance County to the south, an African-American town commissioner was lynched in a tree on the courthouse lawn. Republican Governor William W. Holden, upset over the uproar in the area and the political threat to his seat from the mostly white Democrats, declared Caswell County to be in a state of rebellion and sent some 300 troops under the leadership of George W. Kirk to march on Yanceyville. Under the governor’s orders, some 100 local men were rounded up and jailed. With the suspension of habeus corpus, these men were held for some time and quite possibly mistreated during their incarceration. The event, which ended later in 1870, became known as the Kirk-Holden War, despite the distinct lack of fighting.

With the August 1870 election, the Democrats swept the legislature. The governor was tried on charges of corruption for his participation in the Kirk-Holden War and removed from office. The New York Times reported in 1873 on a bill in the state legislature to give amnesty to the murderers. It describes a Republican representative giving an explicit account of the murder on the House floor. The bill passed, but I have not discovered if it was ever signed into law.

Things quieted down in Yanceyville, but there is still discussion of this turbulent bit of local history. And still, the door to the storage room on the courthouse’s ground floor opens and closes by itself. Is John Walter Stephens still seeking justice?

Sources

  • Barefoot, Daniel W. North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred, Vol. 2, Piedmont Phantoms. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2002.
  • Caswell County Courthouse.” Caswell County Historical Association. Accessed 5 April 2011.
  • Kirk-Holden War (1870).” Caswell County Historical Association. Accessed 5 April 2011.
  • Senator John Walter Stephens.” Caswell County Historical Association. Accessed 5 April 2011.
  • Lea, John G. The Ku Klux Klan Murder of John G. Stephens. 2 July 1919.
  • “Life in North Carolina: The Murder of Senator John W. Stephens—A Terrible Scene—Shall His Assassins be Amnestied?” New York Times. 26 February 1873.
  • Stone, Jason. “The Ghost of Chicken Stephens.” CreepyNC.com. Accessed 5 April 2011.

Doing the Charleston: A Ghostly Tour—North of Broad

N.B. This article was originally published 13 May 2015 as a single, massive article. It’s now broken up into three sections, South of Broad, North of Broad, and Charleston Environs, which have all been rearranged and revised for ease of use.

Known as the “Holy City” for the number of churches and raise their steeples above the city, Charleston, South Carolina is also known for its architecture, colonial and antebellum opulence, as well as its haunted places. This tour looks at the highlights among Charleston’s legends and ghostlore.

Broad Street cuts across the Charleston peninsula creating a dividing line between the most historic, moneyed, aristocratic portion of the city—located south of Broad—and everything else. For convenience, this tour is now divided into separate articles covering the area South of Broad, North of Broad, and the Environs. Locales in this article include places open to the public as well as private homes. For these private homes, please respect the privacy of the occupants, and simply view them from the street.

The tour is arranged alphabetically by street, with the sites in order by street address south to north and east to west.

Archdale Street

Unitarian Church and Churchyard
4 Archdale Street

A lady in white walks through the garden-like churchyard here. Over the years, a story has arisen identifying this woman as Annabel Lee, one of the loves of the great American horror writer Edgar Allen Poe. Poe did spend time in the Charleston area, and some believe that his poem, “Annabel Lee” may be based on an actual person. There is no historical connection that can be made with anyone buried in the churchyard.

This historic churchyard is one of the most magnificent places to sit and contemplate in the city of Charleston. Be sure to also see the interior of the church; the fan vaulted ceiling is magnificent.

interior of the Unitarian Church Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Interior of the Unitarian Church, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.
  • Workers of the Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration. South Carolina: A Guide to the Palmetto State. NYC: Oxford University Press, 1941.

East Bay Street

Southend Brewery
161 East Bay Street

As you pass the Southend Brewery, look towards the third-floor windows. Ill-fated businessman, George Poirer was looking through these windows as he took his life in 1885. His body was discovered hanging from the rafters here after being seen by a passerby the following morning. Poirer was upset over losing his fortune when a ship he had invested in burned on its way out of Charleston Harbor.

Southend Brewery Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Southend Brewery, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

This building was built in 1880 for F. W. Wagner & Company. Paranormal activity has been reported throughout the building after its conversion to a brewery and restaurant. In addition to the occasional vision of someone hanging on the upper floors, restaurant staff and patrons have heard spectral voices and experienced odd breezes.

Sources

  • Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. The Ghosts of Charleston. NYC: Beaufort Books, 2001.
  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Pitzer, Sara. Haunted Charleston: Scary Sites, Eerie Encounters and Tall Tales. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2013.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Broad Street

Blind Tiger Pub
36-38 Broad Street

The Bling Tiger Pub occupies a pair of old commercial buildings which have served a variety of uses over the years. Number 38 served as home to the State Bank of South Carolina for many years, but the story of Number 36 is more interesting and has provided the strange name for the pub.

During the administration of Governor “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman (1895-1918), the state of South Carolina attempted to control the sale of alcohol. Throughout Charleston small establishments sprung up where the citizenry could, for a small admission fee, see a blind tiger, with drinks provided as compliments of the house. Number 36 housed one of these establishments; then during national prohibition, this building housed a speakeasy.

The pub is known to be inhabited by happy spirits according to a former employee. Patrons and staff have seen figures in the building while odd sounds have been heard. Staff closing the back porch have had the motion-activated light come on without anyone being present.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Charleston City Hall
80 Broad Street

Charleston City Hall ghosts haunted
Charleston City Hall, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

Charleston’s marvelous city hall was originally constructed as a branch of the first Bank of the United States in 1800. In 1818, it was transformed into city hall. Confederate General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, a native of Louisiana, was in charge of the city’s defenses during the attack on Fort Sumter, the battle that started the Civil War. He returned later in the war to command the coastal defenses for the Deep South. According to Tally Johnson, his spirit has been seen prowling the halls of this magnificent building. One of Beauregard’s homes, now called the Beauregard-Keyes House, in New Orleans is also the home to spirits.

Sources

  • Johnson, Tally. Civil War Ghosts of South Carolina. Cincinnati, OH. Post Mortem Paranormal, 2013.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997. 

Calhoun Street

Joe E. Berry Hall – College of Charleston
162 Calhoun Street

This modern building stands on the site of the Charleston Orphan House, which was built in 1790. A story is commonly related that the orphanage was the scene of a fire in 1918 that killed four orphans, though there is no documentary evidence of this. The orphanage was torn down in 1951 and a commercial building erected on the site. After the construction of Berry Hall, the building has been plagued with fire alarm problems. Even after replacing the system, the problems persist. Additionally, there are spectral sounds heard within the building, including voices.

Joe Berry Hall College of Charleston ghosts haunted
Joe E. Berry Hall, 2012. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

Sources

  • Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. Haunted Charleston. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2004.
  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Pitzer, Sara. Haunted Charleston: Scary Sites, Eerie Encounters and Tall Tales. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2013.

Chalmers Street

Old Slave Mart
6 Chalmers Street

Old Slave Mart Museum Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Old Slave Mart Museum, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

Now a museum devoted to the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, this building was originally constructed in 1859 to house Ryan’s Mart, a slave market. The last slave sales occurred here in 1863, but the misery induced by those few years of sales remains. According to Denise Roffe, museum employees have had run-ins with shadowy figures throughout this building.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.
  • Roffe, Denise. Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, South Carolina. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2010.

Pink House
17 Chalmers Street

Pink House Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Pink House, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

This quaint house is among the oldest buildings in the city, having been constructed around 1712. It is believed to have housed that was owned and operated by female pirate Anne Bonny. Geordie Buxton suggests that the feminine spirit here may be her shade.

Sources

  • Buxton, Geordie. “You are here.” Charleston Magazine. October 2013.
  • Pitzer, Sara. Haunted Charleston: Scary Sites, Eerie Encounters and Tall Tales. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2013.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Church Street

Dock Street Theatre
135 Church Street

The spirited and storied Dock Street Theatre is covered in depth in my article, “Phantoms of the Opera, Y’all—13 Haunted Southern Theatres.”

St. Philips Episcopal Church
146 Church Street

With a commanding view of Church Street, it’s hard to miss St. Philips. The building’s massive portico protrudes into the street and the steeple acts as a stern finger warning the city of the wages of sin. The clean and stringent Classical lines of the church seem to set the tone for the remainder of the city. The first structure on this site was a cypress building constructed in 1682. It was replaced in the early 18th century with an English Baroque church. After the Baroque church’s destruction by fire in 1835 the current building was built. Because of its architectural and historical importance, St. Philips is now a National Historic Landmark.

St Phlips's Church Charleston SC ghosts haunted
St. Philip’s Church, 2012. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Around this church lies an ancient churchyard that serves as the final resting place for many prominent Charlestonians and a stopping point for numerous ghost tours. To address the ghost tours, just inside the gate to the left of the church building is a small sign stating, “The only ghost at the church is the Holy Ghost.” One of the more recent paranormal events took place in 1987 when a photographer snapped a few pictures just inside the gate. When the pictures were developed, he was shocked to see the image of a woman kneeling on a grave. Further research has indicated that the grave is that of a socialite who had passed nearly a century before. The photograph was taken on the anniversary of her death. 

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted South Carolina. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2010.
  • Pitzer, Sara. Haunted Charleston: Scary Sites, Eerie Encounters and Tall Tales. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2013.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.
  • Our History.” St. Philip’s Church. Accessed 22 February 2011.

Bocci’s Italian Restaurant
158 Church Street

One evening as staff members were cleaning up in the second-floor dining room. One of them saw someone who they thought was the kitchen manager crouched by one of the walls. He called the manager’s name and got no response. As he approached the figure, the staff member realized that it was someone else and the figure was transparent. Perhaps the figure may be one of people killed in this building during a fire in the 19th century.

Bocci's Italian Restaurant Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Bocci’s, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV.
All rights reserved.

This building was constructed in 1868 by the Molony family who operated an Irish pub on the ground floor. When Governor Tilman attempted to control alcohol sales in the state (see the entry for The Blind Tiger Pub on Broad Street), the family converted the pub into a grocery with a small room in the back for illegal alcohol sales.

Reports of paranormal activity in the building mostly come from the second and third floors where doors open and close by themselves, voices are heard and there is mysterious rapping on doors.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Roffe, Denise. Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, South Carolina. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2010.

Tommy Condon’s Irish Pub
160 Church Street

Tommy Condon's Irish Pub Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Tommy Condon’s Irish Pub, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

On the floor around the bar of this Irish pub, a metal track still runs reminding visitors of this building’s original use: as a candy factory. According to Denise Roffe, this building is apparently a warehouse for ghosts. She notes that a certain section of the restaurant feels very uneasy to guests and staff alike, while the women’s restroom and the kitchen also play host to spirits. 

Sources

  • Roffe, Denise. Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, South Carolina. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2010. 

Old Charleston Ghost Shop
168 Church Street

Sadly, this store is now closed, but it was a great place for all things creepy in Charleston. Of course, the shop also had some mischievous spirits that are reported to pull pictures from the walls, rummage through the cash drawers left over night, and cause the occasional spectral racket.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.

Cunnington Street

Magnolia Cemetery
70 Cunnington Street

In the mid-19th century, this cemetery, located outside the bulk of the city of Charleston, became the primary burying ground for the best of Charleston’s citizens. Denise Roffe reports that there are some wandering spirits among the magnificent funerary art here. See my post, “Locked In,” for further information.

Grave of Rosalie Raymond White in Magnolia Cemetery Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Grave of Rosalie Raymond White in Magnolia Cemetery. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Elizabeth Street

Aiken-Rhett House
48 Elizabeth Street

According to Jonathan Poston’s The Buildings of Charleston, this estate is considered “the best-preserved complex of antebellum domestic structures” left in Charleston. The house remained in the family as a residence until it was donated to the Charleston Museum in the 1970s. Since its opening as a museum, the house has been left as is with conservation work done only to prevent deterioration.

This house was constructed in 1817 for merchant John Robinson; but following a financial reversal the house was purchased by William Aiken, Sr., founder and president of the South Carolina Railroad. Aiken’s son renovated the house and added a series of outbuildings including slave quarters to accommodate his many slaves. It is noted that by the eve of the Civil War, Governor William Aiken, Jr. was the largest slave owner in the state.

Aiken-Rhett House Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Aiken-Rhett House, 2012. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

Within the slave quarters, two visitors encountered an African-American woman who disappeared in the warren of rooms on the second floor. A pair of architects within the house in the late 1980s saw the image of a woman in a mirror sobbing and silently screaming in the ballroom of the house. Others within the house have taken photographs with possible paranormal anomalies. 

Sources

  • Aiken-Rhett House Museum.” Historic Charleston Foundation. Accessed 12 May 2015.
  • Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. The Ghosts of Charleston. NYC: Beaufort Books, 2001.
  • Pitzer, Sara. Haunted Charleston: Scary Sites, Eerie Encounters and Tall Tales. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2013.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Hassell Street

Jasmine House Inn
64 Hassell Street

The only documented paranormal incident to take place in this 1843 house is rather humorous, though I’m sure the businessman involved did not see it that way. A gentleman staying in the Chrysanthemum Room some years ago awakened to find the apparition of a woman within his room. When he tried to leave the room, she blocked his way and shredded his newspaper. The guest was able to get to the phone and call the front desk to summon the manager. When the manager arrived, the shaken guest was alone in the room, but his mail had been tossed about and his newspaper lay in pieces on the floor.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.
  • Ward, Kevin Thomas. South Carolina Haunts. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2014.

King Street

Charleston Library Society
164 King Street

Having been organized in 1748, the Charleston Library Society is the third oldest private library in the country. Built for the library in 1914, some believe that spirits that dwell among its highly regarded stacks. William Godber Hinson, whose precious collection is housed here, may still remain among his books. One librarian reported to the Charleston Mercury that she saw a bearded gentleman in period clothing near the Hinson stacks. Other librarians in the area have experienced sudden blasts of icy air and heard the sounds of books moving.

Sources

  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.
  • Roffe, Denise. Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, South Carolina. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2010.
  • Salvo, Rob. “Legends and ghoulish traditions of the Library Society. Charleston Mercury. 11 April 2011.

Riviera Theatre
225 King Street

This Art Deco landmark opened in 1939 and closed as a cinema in 1977. After being saved from demolition in the 1980s, it was purchased by the Charleston Place Hotel which uses the space as a conference center and ballroom.

Riviera Theatre Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Riviera Theatre, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

Denise Roffe writes that during the theatre’s renovations, a worker had tools disappear only to reappear some days later in the exact spot where he had left them. She also mentions that a young woman touring the building had an encounter with a spectral cleaning woman. She only realized the woman was a ghost when she realized the figure was transparent.

Sources

  • Riviera Theatre.” Cinema Treasures. Accessed 12 May 2015.
  • Roffe, Denise. Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, South Carolina. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2010.

Urban Outfitters
(formerly the Garden Theatre)
371 King Street

Walk in to this store and look up at the magnificent ceiling. This building was once the Garden Theatre, a vaudeville theatre built in 1917. The theatre was restored in the 1980s as a performing space, though most of the fitting were removed when the building was converted for commercial use in recent years. The spirit of an African-American man, possibly a former usher, has been seen here.

Sources

  • Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. The Ghosts of Charleston. NYC: Beaufort Books, 2001.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.
  • Roffe, Denise. Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, South Carolina. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2010.

Francis Marion Hotel
387 King Street

The most commonly told legend about this early 1920s-era hotel involves a young businessman from New York City. In 1929, after meeting and falling in love with a lovely lady from Charleston, Ned Cohen asked to be assigned to South Carolina by Florsheim Shoes. The young lady visited him at the hotel but left while he was asleep leaving a note saying that she could not carry on the relationship. In grief, he tucked the note in his suit pocket and jumped from his room to die on King Street below.

rion Hotel Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Francis Marion Hotel, 2012. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Guests in Ned Cohen’s former room have reported the window opening by itself. Cohen’s distraught form has been seen in the halls of the hotel while others have been disturbed to see someone falling past their windows. When they look out, everything is normal below. James Caskey reports that a search for documentation to back up the story has proven fruitless.

Sources

  • Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. Haunted Charleston. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2004.
  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Pitzer, Sara. Haunted Charleston: Scary Sites, Eerie Encounters and Tall Tales. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2013.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997. 

Magazine Street

Old City Jail
21 Magazine Street

In recent years, this formidable building has become a mecca for ghost hunters and tours. Sadly, much of the legend surrounding the old jail is either exaggerated or total bunk. While many deaths likely occurred here, the number of 40,000 used by many guides is highly inaccurate. Also, the stories told about the crimes and execution of Lavinia Fisher are mostly fictional. Yes, Lavinia Fisher was held here, and she and her husband were executed, but her crimes and rebellious demeanor on the gallows are the product of fiction. If Lavinia Fisher does haunt this place, it is likely only in an attempt to clear her sullied name.

I have covered the jail in two articles: one looks at a televised investigation, and the second recounts my own tour of this most haunted building.

North Market Street

Mad River Bar & Grille
32 North Market Street

Mad River Grill Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Mad River Grille, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

 

The Church of the Redeemer was constructed in 1916 to replace the Mariner’s Church that was damaged in the Great Earthquake of 1886. Services in the church ceased in 1964 and the building became a restaurant. Evidently, the spirits residing here do not approve of the building’s use as a restaurant. Bottles behind the bar have been thrown off the shelf and broken and electrical problems often occur with the restaurant’s system and computer systems. 

Sources

  • Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. Haunted Harbor: Charleston’s Maritime Ghosts and the Unexplained. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2005.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.
  • Roffe, Denise. Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, South Carolina. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2010.

Meeting Street

Mills House Hotel
115 Meeting Street

The current Mills House Hotel is a reproduction of the original that was constructed on this site in 1853. By the early 1960s, the building was in such a severe state of disrepair that the original had to be torn down and replaced with a reproduction. The spirits don’t appear to really know the difference and continue their residence.

Mills House Hotel Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Mills House Hotel, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

Denise Roffe reports that several children’s spirits have been reported here along with the specter of a man in a top hat. Confederate soldiers have also been seen prowling the corridors, hearkening back to the hotel’s use as a base for Confederate forces during the Civil War.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Dyas, Ford. “See the real ghosts at these haunted hotels. Charleston City Paper. 24 October 2012.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.
  • Roffe, Denise. Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, South Carolina. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2010. 

Circular Congregational Church
150 Meeting Street

The long span of Meeting Street was named for the Congregational meeting house that has been located on this site since the 1680s, shortly after Charleston’s founding. The Romanesque Revival church dates only to 1891, while the cemetery surrounding it includes some of the oldest graves in the city.

Circular Congregational Church Charleston SC ghosts haunted
The Circular Congregational Church, 2012. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Many graves are unmarked and, according to the Bulldog Ghost & Dungeon Tour, many more lie under the adjacent bank parking lot. Numerous ghost tours pass by through this ancient place. The entry on the churchyard in Jeff Belanger’s Encyclopedia of Haunted Places reveals that witnesses report orbs, strange mists, apparitions ,and voices under the cemetery’s ancient oaks.

Sources

  • Bordsen, John. “Find the most haunted places in these Carolina towns. Dispatch-Argus. 10 October 2010.
  • Davis, Joanne. “Circular Church Cemetery.” in Jeff Belanger’s The Encyclopedia of Haunted Places. Franklin Lakes, NJ: New Page, 2005.
  • Mould, David R. and Missy Loewe. Historic Gravestone Art of Charleston, South Carolina 1695-1802. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co, 2006.
  • Roffe, Denise. Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, South Carolina. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2010.
  • Zepke, Terrence. Best Ghost Tales of South Carolina. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 2004.

Meeting Street Inn
173 Meeting Street

The Meeting Street Inn was one of the first bed and breakfasts to open in this city during the tourism boom of the 1980s. Guests staying in Room 107 have been awakened to the specter of a woman, while Room 303 has had its deadbolt lock while guests are out of the room.

Sources

  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.
  • Ward, Kevin Thomas. South Carolina Haunts. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2014.

Charleston Place Hotel
205 Meeting Street

When construction commenced on the Charleston Place Hotel it replaced a number of historic structures that were demolished. Denise Roffe mentions a number of odd occurrences happening to guests and staff alike throughout the hotel. These occurrences include mysterious footsteps, knocking on doors, and apparitions.

Sources

  • Roffe, Denise. Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, South Carolina. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2010.

Embassy Suites—Historic Charleston Hotel
337 Meeting Street

Dominating one side of Marion Square, the Embassy Suites hardly looks like a typical chain hotel. This building was constructed as the South Carolina Arsenal in 1829 following the 1822 slave insurrection led by Denmark Vesey. The South Carolina Military Academy was founded here in 1842. Renamed The Citadel thanks to this formidable structure, the school moved to its present site on the Ashley River in 1922.

Embassy Suites Charleston SC formerly SC State Arsenal and The Citadel ghosts haunted
Entrance to the Embassy Suites, 2014. Photo by Niagara, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Guests and staff members of this hotel have encountered the spirit of a Citadel cadet who remains in this building. He appears dressed in the school’s military uniform, one that has remained unchanged from its original appearance. The only detail that indicates to the living that this is a ghost is the fact that the top of this young man’s head is missing.

Sources

  • Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. Haunted Charleston. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2004.
  • Fant, Mrs. James W. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for the Old Citadel. 16 May 1970.
  • South Carolina State Arsenal.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 12 May 2015.

Montagu Street

Benjamin Smith House
18 Montagu Street, private

This late 18th century home sustained damage during a hurricane in 1811. Legend holds that as the chimney collapsed, the enslaved woman who served as a nanny to her owner’s children shielded them from the falling bricks with her body. She was killed as the bricks pummeled her, but the children were saved. This home has since been divided into apartments and College of Charleston students living here have encountered the enslaved woman several times.

Sources

  • Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. Haunted Charleston. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2004.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Queen Street

Philadelphia Alley
Between Cumberland and Queen Streets

The name Philadelphia, meaning “brotherhood,” contradicts this space’s occasional use as a dueling site. The sounds of dueling remain here accompanied, according to some reports, by a faint, spectral whistling. It was here that the duel of Joseph Ladd and Ralph Isaacs commenced in October of 1786. The whistling has been attributed to Ladd’s sad spirit continuing to haunt the spot where he was mortally wounded. Spectral whistling is also heard in his former home, the Thomas Rose House at 59 Church Street, which is detailed in the South of Broad section.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Martin, Margaret Rhett. Charleston Ghosts. Columbia, SC University of South Carolina Press, 1963.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Poogan’s Porch
72 Queen Street

Poogan, a local canine, adopted the porch of this restaurant as his home around the time this house was converted into a restaurant. Upon his death, the restaurant owners afforded him a prime burial spot just inside the gate. One author witnessed a child playing under his parent’s table one evening. The way the child was laughing and cavorting with something unseen, the assumption was made that the child may have been playing with the spirit of Poogan.

While Poogan remains a playful resident, it is the spirit of Zoe St. Armand who dominates this restaurant. St. Armand was one of a pair of spinster sisters who lived here for many years. The wraith of Zoe has been spotted in the women’s restroom and lingering at the top of the stairs by patrons and staff alike.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Pitzer, Sara. Haunted Charleston: Scary Sites, Eerie Encounters and Tall Tales. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2013.
  • Roffe, Denise. Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, South Carolina. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2010.

Husk
76 Queen Street

Now housing Husk, one of the more exclusive restaurants in the city, this Queen Anne styled house was built in the late 19th century. James Caskey published the account of a couple who saw a small, fleeting black shadow while dining here. Husk has recently opened a location in Savannah in a haunted building.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

82 Queen
82 Queen Street

For 33 years, 82 Queen has been serving some of Charleston’s finest meals in its 11 dining rooms. The restaurant utilizes a building built in 1865 where diners and staff have reported fleeting glimpses of apparitions. James Caskey in his Charleston’s Ghosts interviewed a former server who reported that she “once walked through a shadow which dissipated around me like smoke.” 

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014. 

Pinckney Street

Andrew Pinckney Inn
40 Pinckney Street

Occupying a pair of historic structures at the corner of Pinckney and Church Streets, the Andrew Pinckney Inn has been described as “mind bending” after dark; with a plethora of odd noises and movements. However, the spirits are known to be friendly.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Wentworth Street

1837 Bed & Breakfast
126 Wentworth Street

A specter recalling Charleston’s infamous, slave-holding past is said to haunt the rooms of this bed and breakfast. Legend holds that the spirit, affectionately named George, was enslaved by the family that originally constructed this house. After his parents were sold to a Virginia planter, the young George remained here. In an attempt to reach his parents, George stole a rowboat but drowned in Charleston Harbor.

The story cannot be corroborated, though the spirit’s antics continue. Patrons have reported feeling small feet walking on their beds sometimes accompanied by the sound of a whip cracking. One couple had the doors to their armoire open and close on their own accord throughout the night.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted South Carolina. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2010.
  • Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. Haunted Charleston. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2004.
  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.

Doing the Charleston: A Ghostly Tour—Charleston Environs

N.B. This article was originally published 13 May 2015 as a single, massive article. It’s now broken up into three sections, South of Broad, North of Broad, and Charleston Environs, which have all been rearranged and revised for ease of use.

Known as the “Holy City” for the number of churches and raise their steeples above the city, Charleston, South Carolina is also known for its architecture, colonial and antebellum opulence, as well as its haunted places. This tour looks at the highlights among Charleston’s legends and ghostlore.

The city of Charleston as seen from one of Fort Sumter’s gun ports. The steeple in the center is St. Philip’s Church, while the one at the right is St. Michael’s. Photo 2012, by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Broad Street cuts across the Charleston peninsula creating a dividing line between the most historic, moneyed, aristocratic portion of the city—located south of Broad—and everything else. For convenience, this tour is now divided into separate articles covering the area South of Broad, North of Broad, and the Environs. Locales in this article include places open to the public as well as private homes. For these private homes, please respect the privacy of the occupants, and simply view them from the street.

Angel Oak Park
3688 Angel Oak Road
John’s Island

Considered one of the oldest living things on the East Coast, it is hard to not feel the benevolent energy emanating from this mighty tree. There is evidence that this tree has served as a meeting spot for Native Americans, slaves, and slave owners whose spirits still remain among the massive branches. See my article, “A spiritual treasure—Angel Oak,” for a further examination..

Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge
US-17 over the Cooper River

Rising over the old buildings of Charleston is the majestic Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, the third longest cable-stay bridge in the Western Hemisphere. Connecting Charleston and Mount Pleasant, this bridge replaced two bridges, the John P. Grace Memorial Bridge which opened in 1929, and the Silas N. Pearman Bridge which opened in 1966.

Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge over the Cooper River, 2012. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The John P. Grace Memorial Bridge was the scene of a terrible accident in 1946. A drifting cargo ship rammed the bridge ripping a 240-foot section. As the ship destroyed a section of the bridge a green Oldsmobile with a family of five was traveling over. The car dropped into the water killing the family. The bridge was repaired and continued to be used for many years, though there were reports of an odd green Oldsmobile seen on the bridge with a family of five inside, all staring straight ahead with lifeless eyes. Since the bridge’s demolition, the sightings of the car have stopped.

Sources

  • Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 12 May 2015.
  • Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. Haunted Harbor: Charleston’s Maritime Ghosts and the Unexplained. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2005.
  • Caskey, James. Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.
  • John P. Grace Memorial Bridge.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 12 May 2015.
  • Pitzer, Sara. Haunted Charleston: Scary Sites, Eerie Encounters and Tall Tales. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2013.

Drayton Hall
3380 Ashley River Road

Of all the great homes in Charleston, perhaps no house is described with as many superlatives, and deservedly so, than Drayton Hall. The form nominating this structure to the National Register of Historic Places describes it as “without question, one of the finest of all surviving plantation houses in America.” The house remains in a remarkable state of preservation, having changed little since its construction in 1738.

Drayton Hall, 2007, by Goingstuckey, courtesy of Wikipedia.

According to Ed Macy and Geordie Buxton’s Haunted Charleston, a psychic visiting this home in 2000 saw the bodies of four men dangling from the branches of the majestic oaks that line the approach to the house from the Ashley River. She stated that these men had been hung on orders from William Henry Drayton for their fealty to George III, during the American Revolution. Drayton’s spirit may also be among the spirits still wafting about this estate. Docents and visitors have reported seeing a man peering from the windows of the house and walking the avenue of oaks.

Sources

  • Buxton, Geordie & Ed Macy. Haunted Charleston. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2004.
  • Dillon, James. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Drayton Hall. August 1976.

Fort Sumter
Charleston Harbor

Fort Sumter’s sally port with tourists beyond. Photo 2012, by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

On April 12, 1861, the first shots of the Civil War were fired here when Confederates led an attack on this Union occupied fort in Charleston Harbor. Interestingly, no one was killed in the initial bombardment. After the surrender, the Union commander, Major Robert Anderson, asked that his men be allowed to perform a 100-gun salute to the American flag before it was lowered. During that salute a pile of cartridges exploded wounding six men, two of whom died later of their injuries. One of those men, Private Daniel Hough, is believed to return as a smoky form. His visage can be seen in the flag of the Palmetto Guard that was raised in the flag’s place. The flag is now displayed in the fort’s museum.

Sources

  • Battle of Fort Sumter.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 12 May 2015.
  • Manley, Roger. Weird Carolinas. NYC: Sterling, 2007.
  • Zepke, Terrence. Best Ghost Tales of South Carolina. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 2004.

USS Yorktown—Patriot’s Point
40 Patriot’s Point Road
Mount Pleasant

Just days before the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the keel of this fighting lady was laid. Just two years later, in 1943, this grand grey lady entered service. She fought in the Pacific during World War II and the Vietnam War. Since the ship’s retirement in 1973, and its donation to Patriot’s Point, guests and staff have had numerous paranormal experiences. See my article, “The Grand ‘Fighting Lady’—Photos from the USS Yorktown,” for further information and sources.

Guide to the Haunted Libraries of the South—Mississippi

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.

For other haunted Southern libraries, see my entries on Alabama, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Louisiana, and West Virginia.

Biloxi Public Library
580 Howard Avenue
Biloxi

Apparently, the Biloxi Public Library is not haunted, but it contains several haunted books. The books were donated in 2014 and the donor contacted the library a short time later to let them know that he and his family believed there was a spirit associated with them.

Biloxi Public Library Mississippi haunted books
Biloxi Public Library, 2013, by Brandonrush. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The donor told the library’s director that his wife acquired the books in the 1960s. For many years, the family had encounters with a female wraith. The director related to the Sun Herald what the gentleman told her, “They would be asleep, then wake up and see the figure of a woman with long, dark hair and what looked like a gauze-like dress. She would hover. When the person woke up, and the apparition startled them, it would disappear.”

While the library still has the books in its collections, no one has been approached by a hovering apparition.

Sources

  • Smith, Tammy. “17 Coast ghost stories that will creep you out.” Sun Herald. 26 October 2016.

Lee County Library
219 North Madison Avenue
Tupelo

George Eberhart includes this library in his Britannica Blog article that was the inspiration for this series. Besides his listing, I cannot locate any further information about this haunting. According to Eberhart, this library, which occupies a 1971 building, sits on the site of the home of politician John Mills Allen. The library’s Mississippi Room utilizes elements from Allen’s home. Books are sometimes found on the floor and turn up missing from the book drop for which the spirit of Allen is blamed.

Sources

Meridian-Lauderdale County Public Library
2517 7th Avenue
Meridian

In 2008, a janitor working alone in the Meridian-Lauderdale County Public Library had a frightening experience. He was sitting down in the second-floor breakroom when he heard a feminine voice call his name. After searching the building for the mysterious woman, he discovered that he was totally alone.

Staff members have had many odd and creepy experiences in the library. A director reported hearing the elevator ding while he was working late alone in the building. When he investigated, he discovered that the elevator had not moved and there was no reason for the elevator to have dinged. He has also reported feeling a distinct chill accompanied by a feeling of uneasiness. Other staff members have heard voices and the crying of a child here, though no one has seen the spirit.

Meridian-Lauderdale County Public Library Mississippi ghost haunted
The Meridian-Lauderdale County Public Library, 2018, by Michael Barera. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The library was built in 1967 in the International style that was en vogue at the time. The turn of the century home of A. J. Lyons was demolished to make way for the new library. Lyons’ wife, Josephine, committed suicide in the home. Some have posited that she may be the spirit in the library, though others believe that the spirit may be the shade of Jeanne Broach, the former head librarian. A stern, no-nonsense woman who fit the mold of the classic librarian, Ms. Broach served as head librarian from 1945 to 1975. Perhaps she continues to make sure that the library steadily fulfills its mission.

At the behest of the local newspaper, the Meridian Star, an investigation was conducted of the library in 2008. With author Alan Brown, investigators probed the entire library, but the evidence of a haunting was inconclusive.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Meridian, Mississippi. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2011.
  • Jacob, Jennifer. “Haunted places of East Mississippi and West Alabama: Meridian-Lauderdale County Public Library.” Meridian Star. 20 October 2008.

Noxubee County Library
103 East King Street
Macon

Occupying the old Noxubee County Jail, the library still retains some of the jail’s fittings as well as some of its spirits. See my article, “A Mississippi Dante—Noxubee County.”

Rowan Oak
916 Old Taylor Road
Oxford

N.B. Originally published as part of “Haunted Mississippi,” 27 January 2011. 

“Maybe nothing ever happens once and is finished.”
— William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom! (1936)

If the theory holds, residual hauntings are just this, something that happens but is never finished; a haunting where the dead still walk, cry, talk, or laugh among the living.  These things are still heard at Rowan Oak the former home of perhaps the greatest, most complicated and certainly most haunted of Southern writers, William Faulkner. The house was built around 1840 by Colonel Robert Shegog and purchased by Faulkner in 1930.

Rowan Oak William Faulkner Oxford Mississippi ghost haunted William Faulkner
William Faulkner’s Rowan Oak, 2010, by Gary Bridgeman. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The deteriorated state of the house matched the deteriorated condition of the rural South even over half a century after the Civil War. Faulkner, habitually low on money, performed much of the restoration himself. He and his wife experienced odd occurrences in the house and he explained it with the legend of Shegog’s daughter, Judith who he said died trying to sneak out of the house for a tryst with her lover. Researchers, however, have discovered that Judith never existed, but odd sounds still resonate through the old house. Perhaps they are the sounds of life that is unfinished?

While Rowan Oak is not technically a library, it is a literary shrine and Faulkner’s own personal library is preserved within this building.

Sources

  • Hubbard, Sylvia Booth. Ghosts! Personal Accounts of Modern Mississippi Hauntings. Brandon, MS: Quail Ridge Press, 1992.
  • Rettig, Polly M. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Rowan Oak. 30 March 1976.
  • William Faulkner. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 26 January 2011.

Guide to the Haunted Libraries of the South—Louisiana

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.

For other haunted Southern libraries, see my entries on Alabama, District of Columbia, Kentucky, Mississippi, and West Virginia.

Allen J. Ellender Memorial Library
Nicholls State University Campus
Thibodaux

Nicholls State University opened originally as Francis T. Nicholls Junior College of Louisiana State University in 1948. Eight years later, the school became a separate entity from LSU and developed a four-year curriculum. While the school is relatively young among schools in Louisiana, the campus has proven to be especially paranormally active. Perhaps the echoes of the 1887 Thibodaux massacre, a protest by African-American farm workers in the area which turned violent when whites began to hunt down and kill organizers and participants, may be to blame for this.

The Allen J. Ellender Memorial Library is one of many campus buildings with reported paranormal activity. According to Point of Vue Houma magazine, the spirit of a girl has been seen wandering the floors of Ellender Library. An article in My New Orleans magazine provides the description of the experience a janitor had one night after hearing footsteps coming from a locked librarian’s office. Moments later he watched as a girl with a bookbag, clad in a mini-skirt and with waist-length brown hair, walked through a wall and vanished. Near the spot where the janitor had his encounter, a student later caught a brief video of a shadowy form crossing the room and vanishing.

Sources

  • Frois, Jeanne. “School spirits in Thibodaux.” My New Orleans. October 2012.
  • “Local haunts: Fact or Fiction?” Point of Vue Houma. 30 September 2015.

Eunice Public Library
222 South Second Street
Eunice

Staff of the Eunice Public Library believe that a spirit may be haunting the building. See my article, “Louisiana Noteworthy Haunts—6/3/2014,” for further information.

Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum
3201 Centenary Boulevard
Shreveport

While the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum is more a museum and less a library, I think it still deserves to be listed here. This museum is one of twelve throughout the country that have been established to display documents from the Karpeles Manuscript Library, one of the largest collections of documents and manuscripts in the world. The collection was created by businessman David Karpeles and his wife and contains many notable historical documents including drafts of the Bill of Rights, the Confederate Constitution, Mozart’s La Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto, and letters from Christopher Columbus.

The Shreveport location is housed within a structure that was constructed as the First Church of Christ, Scientist in the 1920s. The museum has been housed in the old church for roughly 15 years. During that time, museum staff and visitors have had a number of odd experiences including seeing shadow-like apparitions, smelling odd odors, having objects manipulated and moved by unseen hands, and have been touched by or feeling the presence of spirits. Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations, the state’s most prominent paranormal investigation organization, investigated the building on three separate occasions during 2013, though results were mostly inconclusive.

Sources

Milton H. Latter Memorial Library
5120 St. Charles Avenue
New Orleans

When Hurricane Katrina roared into New Orleans in 2005, some believe that the Latter Memorial Library was spared damage by the diminutive spirit of a former silent film star. Indeed, since the library’s opening in 1948, visitors and staff have seen a “woman-child” spirit, as well as smelling the odor of exotic perfume, and witnessing lights mysteriously flickering within the Italianate mansion.

Milton Latter Public Library New Orleans Louisiana haunted ghost
Marguerite Clark’s former St. Charles Avenue Mansion, now the Milton H. Latter Memorial Library. Photo 2007, by Infrogmation. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In the heyday of silent film, Marguerite Clark was second only to “America’s Sweetheart,” Mary Pickford in the hearts of moviegoing Americans. The child-like star gained her popularity first on the New York stage, then on film in 1914. At the height of her fame in 1921, she retired from entertainment to live with her husband in their New Orleans mansion (which now houses this library). Clark’s husband was killed in a plane crash in 1938, and the widow moved to New York where she died in 1940. Due to the loss of many of Clark’s films her fame has been overshadowed by other actresses whose films have survived.

Sources

Opelousas Museum and Interpretive Center
315 North Main Street
Opelousas

The building housing the Opelousas Museum has a long and interesting past. It was built in 1935 to house a funeral home and has since hosted a church and the city’s library for about a year. With such a history, and its current use as a repository for relics of the city’s past, there’s little surprise that the building is haunted. Doors open and close by themselves, loud noises issue from empty rooms, and several visitors have sensed such bad vibes that they stop at the museum’s door and refuse to enter.

Sources