Revisiting the Angel Oak

This is the fourth entry of my Encounter Countdown to Halloween. There are only 27 more days until All Hallows Eve!

Angel Oak Park
3699 Angel Oak Road
John’s Island, South Carolina

A long dirt road leads away from sprawl of Charleston to a quiet place of natural repose surrounding the Angel Oak. It had already been a long day for myself and my partner when we arrived about twenty minutes before the park closed for the day. There were still crowds of visitors milling about, taking pictures, and lolling under the massive oak.

Since my first visit in 2011, after which I wrote this blog entry, little has changed with the oak itself, though the insistent signage discouraging people from climbing or damaging the oak has multiped. The tree’s gargantuan trunk is now surrounded by a rope so that it almost appears to be a museum exhibit. Perhaps the crowds of tourists arriving just before closing time detracted from the park, but the place seemed to be missing the sacred feeling I felt on my first visit.

Angel Oak John's Island South Carolina
The massive Angel Oak, during a recent October day. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

This was my partner’s first visit, and he did get a feeling of awe in the presence of the wondrous tree. We have discovered, he is sensitive to paranormal. While I may occasionally pick up changes in the energy in some places, I generally don’t pick up on much at all. My partner, however, is quite sensitive to these changes. He can feel them in the form of a sense of uneasiness, or sometimes he might be nauseated or perhaps he might feel a headache coming on.

At the Angel Oak, he said he felt a sense of pressure, nearly to the point of having a headache and also nausea. As we wandered under the branches, he continued to complain of these feelings. We didn’t stay long and as we walked back to the car, the feelings lifted. While there may be a rational explanation for these feelings, it is curious that he only felt them under the tree’s wide canopy.

For more background on the Angel Oak, see my 2011 entry.

Angel Oak John's Island South Carolina
Posing with the oak, I promise you, I’m trying to smile. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

A cupola seaman—Louisville, Kentucky

This is the third entry of my Encounter Countdown to Halloween. There are only 28 more days until All Hallows Eve!

United States Marine Hospital
2215 Portland Avenue
Louisville, Kentucky

There’s something quite jaunty about the cupola atop the old U.S. Marine Hospital in Louisville. The rest of the building is stately and noble and almost bows to travelers as they cross the Ohio river into Kentucky; perhaps it’s a gracious bow of warm Southern welcome. But the little cupola adds a certain joyful flair to this staid structure, almost like a hotel bellman’s pillbox cap.

US Marine Hospital Louisville Kentucky ghosts haunted
The U.S. Marine Hospital with its jaunty cupola, 2007. Photograph by Censusdata, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Travelers have been passing this spot for nearly two centuries and they have been greeted by this landmark. Almost a hundred years ago, the Dixie Highway was routed across the steel lace of the Kentucky & Indiana Terminal Bridge from New Albany, Indiana into the bustle of Louisville’s Portland neighborhood. Automobile traffic over the Kentucky & Indiana Terminal Bridge ceased in 1979 and rerouted to Interstate-64 and its nearby concrete bridge. The interstate rushes past the sober hospital with its jolly cupola at Exit 3 as it hurries towards the spaghetti bowl interchange with I-65 and I-71.

Built by the Federal government to provide healthcare to boatmen operating on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and Great Lakes. This hospital was situated here on the Ohio River, for the “beneficial effect of a view of the water, and the impressions and associations it would naturally awake in the minds of men whose occupation were so intimately connected with it.” After the decline of the Marine Health Service in the late 19th century, the facility continued to operate as a hospital and later as quarters for medical professionals until 1975.

The now ancient building saw a multi-million-dollar restoration of its exterior some years ago, though the interior remains unusable, except for a few ground-floor rooms. Efforts to restore the entire structure have yet to succeed.

During the restoration in 2004, a painter working inside heard someone whistling down one of the hallways. When the painter realized that he was alone in the building he grew more curious. A few days later he was working with another painter and the two decided to take a smoke break on one of the building’s galleries. As they walked into the unrestored portion of the building, painter’s co-worker accused him of staring at him and making him uncomfortable. The painter denied that he was staring at him and said he was only concentrating on his work.

“So, we stepped out onto the gallery and lit up our cigarettes, and it just weird all of a sudden. The hair stood up on our necks and the whole place just felt all staticky and like it was charged with energy or something. It got real cold, too, just like an icy wind blew in, and when that happened, my buddy just sort of looked at me as if to ask what was going on.”

The two men were standing facing one another, the painter standing against the railing his back to the railing, while his co-worker was looking out towards the river. Suddenly, the co-worker appeared to see something, and his eyes got big. When the painter turned to see what his companion was looking at, there was a man standing next to him.

Staring at the man in disbelief, the pair was aghast when he simply vanished before their eyes. “He just sort of appeared for a moment or two, and then he was gone. It was almost like we were seeing an old-fashioned picture.” The painter described the man as appearing like “an old-time sailor.” He was wearing “tight, striped pants and a short jacket and a straw hat.”

George Caleb Bingham Jolly Flatboatmen in Port 1857
George Caleb Bingham’s “Jolly Flatboatmen in Port,” 1857. Dating to the period when the Marine Hospital opened, it depicts men who might have been patients here. The description of the seaman seen by the two painters resembles some of the men in this work. This painting hangs in the St, Louis Museum of Art.

After the spectral vision vanished, the co-worker fled back inside the building and refused to talk about what had just happened. The painter, however, told his story to Louisville author and tour guide David Domine, who included it in his 2006 Phantoms of Old Louisville. Hopefully, this magnificent building with the jaunty cupola can be fully restored as old mariners continue “blurring the fine line between the Here and Now and the There and Then.”

Sources

  • Brooks, Carolyn. National Historic Landmark Nomination Form for the United States Marine Hospital, Louisville, Kentucky. 15 March 1994.
  • Domine, David. Phantoms of Old Louisville: Ghostly Tales from America’s Most Haunted Neighborhood. Kuttawa, KY: McClanahan Publishing, 2006.
  • United States Marine Hospital of Louisville. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 3 October 2019.

“What dreams may come”—Waverly Hall, Georgia

This is the second entry of my Encounter Countdown to Halloween. There are only 29 more days until All Hallows Eve!

Waverly Hall Cemetery
GA-209

After graduating from college in 2003, I ended up getting an apartment with my best friend, David, in Columbus, Georgia. He was still in school and was very interested in ghosts and ghost hunting. With some of his college friends, David often went on late night jaunts to haunted places. Had I not had a day job, I would have joined them.

One night he and his friends decided to explore the cemetery in the small town of Waverly Hall, about 30 minutes away. This old, Harris County town boasts a few haunted places, but the town’s 1829 cemetery could be considered the crown jewel.

Crook Monument Waverly Hall Cemetery ghosts haunted
The Crook Monument erected for Maj. Osborne Crook, d. 15 October 1851 and his wife, Elizabeth C. Crook, d. 25 October 183[?]9. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
Arriving at the cemetery they saw some shadowy figures flitting among the tombstone. They proceeded to try capturing some voices on an audio recorder.

One of those present posed the question, “Do you know that you are dead?”

The recorder picked up a clear response whispering, “Not dead—dreaming.”

As a theatre person, after hearing that response I immediately recalled the immortal words of Shakespeare, To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub, for in that sleep of death what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause.

Jim Miles’ 2006 Weird Georgia describes the cemetery as one of the most haunted in the state and includes two accounts from paranormal investigators who captured evidence here. Many of the details in these accounts back up my friend’s story. One account makes mention of a group who visited the cemetery on several occasions. On the first visit they witnessed a number of orbs that “danced and darted” around them. On the second visit, one of the group members had a figure walk right in front of them.

Lowe Monument
The Lowe Monument, erected for General Henry H. Lowe, d. 8 July 1854 and his wife Mariah H. Lowe, d. 27 November 1852. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

I was caught by surprise by a black figure that walked right in front of me. It walked rapidly, swinging its arms at its side, as if angry and in a hurry. It was clearly defined and male, about six feet two inches. It had a top hat on. I could see no face of specific features.

The second account in the book notes that the group captured “forty-three fantastic EVPs.” While many of them urged the investigators to leave, one voice attempted to lead them his grave. Perhaps one resident of Waverly Hall Cemetery does want some company in their eternal dreams?

Sources

  • Miles, Jim. Weird Georgia: Your Travel Guide to Georgia’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets. NYC: Sterling Publishing, 2006.
  • Powell IV, Lewis O. “Henry McCauley’s Hands—Waverly Hall.” The Southern Taphophile. 18 August 2011.

‘He said we could descend’—Bluemont, Virginia

This is the first entry of my Encounter Countdown to Halloween. There are only 30 more days until All Hallows Eve! 

TWA Flight 514 Crash Site Memorial
VA-601
Bluemont, Virginia

Early on a chilly morning in 2004, a long-haul trucker pulled into a closed gas station near the intersection of VA-7 and VA-601 to check his map. It was extremely dark in this rural, mountainous area, though close to the bustle of cities like Winchester, Leesburg, and suburban Washington, D.C.

He was startled by a knock on the door of his cab, turned on the interior light, and rolled down his window. Staring into the dark, chilly morning, he saw a man standing next to his truck oddly wearing an airline uniform.

The man climbed up onto the side of the truck and asked if the trucker could give him a lift. The trucker noticed the TWA insignia on the man’s cap and the four stripes of a captain on the shoulder of his short-sleeved shirt. The man also reeked of kerosene.

“I am with TWA. I have to get to Dulles Airport to work a flight. Please give me a ride. I’ll pay you.”

“Well, how about I give you a ride to the next open store where you can call a taxi?” the trucker responded.

“Okay, thank you.” the captain muttered awkwardly. “He said we could descend.”

The trucker invited him to get in and the captain jumped down off the side of the truck.

As he walked around the front, the captain suddenly vanished. Shaken, the trucker got out of his cab to investigate, even looking under the truck with a flashlight. The captain was nowhere to be seen.

Agitated, the trucker continued his lonely route home pondering his strange encounter, made especially strange when he realized that TWA had gone bankrupt just two years prior. A little research revealed that his experience had occurred a short distance from the crash site of TWA Flight 514 in 1974.

The trucker recounted his story on the Your Ghost Stories website where it was picked up by the late L.B. Taylor, Jr. and included in his 2010 Big Book of Virginia Ghost Stories.

TWA Flight 514 crash site Virginia
TWA Flight 514 crashed around this rocky outcropping on VA-601. A small memorial is now located here. Taken in March 2017 by Engelalber, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The crash site today, along a wooded stretch of VA-601 on the flanks of Mount Weather, is marked by a small memorial stone set upon a rocky outcropping. It was at this site on the morning of December 1, 1974, the TWA Boeing 727 with 92 souls aboard slammed into this mountain on their descent into Dulles Airport. Miscommunication between the pilot and air traffic control led the plane to shear off the tops of trees before it disintegrated.

TWA Flight 514 crash site Virginia
The TWA Flight 514 crash site in December of 1975, a year after the crash. These trees were sheared off by the low-flying plane. Photo by C. Brown, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Ghost stories concerning the crash site have circulated for some time receiving attention from the nearby Queen City Cryptic Researchers who checked out the site in October of 2018. According to their case file, the group witnessed lights in the woods around the crash site as well as a hearing voices. They also noted feeling a powerful energy there.

Sources

  • Dead Pilot?Your Ghost Stories. 5 May 2007.
  • Rogers, Dawn. “Case File—TWA Flight 514 Crash Site.” Queen City Cryptic Researchers. 22 October 2018.
  • Taylor, L.B. Jr. The Big Book of Virginia Ghost Stories. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2010.
  • TWA Flight 514. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 1 October 2019.

The Intriguing Man at the Bar—Savannah, Georgia

Olde Pink House
23 Abercorn Street

In her 2001 book, Cemetery Stories, Katherine Ramsland includes an odd tale about the Olde Pink House, one of Savannah’s most prominent restaurants. Tales have been told about this building for years; and I haven’t yet seen a tale quite like it among the sources on this place.

Olde Pink House Savannah Georgia ghosts haunted
The James Habersham Jr. House, between 1939 and 1944, taken by Frances Benjamin Johnston for HABS (Historic American Buildings Survey). Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

It seems that a young lady working in the restaurant’s bar located in the basement of this more than 200-year-old home, became intrigued with a regular patron. This young man would come in, order a beer, and say nothing as he drank. The young woman watched him intently and eventually developed an infatuation with him. One evening, as he got up to leave, the young lady decided to follow him into the warm night air.

Ramsland doesn’t provide the actual route, though I suspect that the young man followed Abercorn Street south. This would have brought the man around Reynolds and Oglethorpe Squares before approaching the gates of Colonial Park Cemetery at the intersection of Abercorn and Oglethorpe Avenue.

The young lady watched as the man entered the gates of the cemetery. He approached the plot of the Habersham family. “He stopped at the iron fence surrounding the aboveground monument and then walked right through it and disappeared.”

Shocked at what she had just witnessed, the young lady approached the grave thinking this was perhaps a trick of the light and shadows in the cemetery. To her astonishment, there was no one in or around the grave site.

There are a couple details of the story concerning the cemetery itself that may not be correct. The story speaks of the man simply entering the cemetery gates at night. The gates of Colonial Park are closed at night, in fact the cemetery’s official website notes that it closes at 8 PM March through November and 5 PM November through March. However, the Habersham family plot is located near the fence line on Oglethorpe Avenue, so the young woman could have observed the man from just outside the fence. The second detail that may be incorrect is that the Habersham plot does not have a fence.

In digging around for this article, I did come across a much older version of this story. The Visit Historic Savannah page on Colonial Park mentions several ghost stories about the cemetery including one involving a young maid from the City Hotel. One night, this young woman was found sitting outside the gates of the cemetery distraught after she followed an intriguing young man from the hotel. The young man, it seems, entered the cemetery gates and vanished within its precincts. It should be noted that the City Hotel building is now the home of the Moon River Brewery, one of the most discussed and well-known hauntings in the city.

Ramsland writes in her book, Ghost: Investigating the Other Side, that her version of the story was told on a ghost tour of city. This would make sense. In my own experience of taking a tour in Savannah, I heard one story on my tour that was a local adaptation of a typical ghostly hitchhiker story. In fact, I recall quietly groaning when I realized what the story was. It would not surprise me if the City Hotel version of the story had simply been updated to a more modern setting. While the story is intriguing, it may very well be fiction.

Savannah is a city of stories and the restaurant where this tale originates has many of its own. The restaurant’s name is a reference to the red brick underneath the home’s stucco that has bled through over the years. The home was built by James Habersham Jr., son of noted colonial merchant and planter James Habersham, around 1789. It is James and his three sons, James Jr., Joseph, and John, who lie in the family crypt in Colonial Park Cemetery. The home was converted to use as a bank in 1812 and became a tea room and antiques shop in 1929. The building was transformed into a restaurant in 1970 and remains one of the most prominent restaurants in the city.

James Habersham Jr. by Jeremiah Theus.

Among the supernatural stories from the Olde Pink House are several telling of a man in colonial dress seen drinking at the bar. He is believed to be the spirit of James Jr. still watching over his former home. A few other spirits may also be in residence in this stately old home. I plan on exploring those ghost stories in future articles.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Haunted Savannah: The Official Guidebook to Savannah Haunted History Tour, 2008. Savannah, GA: Bonaventure Books, 2005.
  • Historic Colonial Park Cemetery.” Visit-Historic-Savannah.com. Accessed 24 September 2019.
  • Ramsland, Katherine. Cemetery Stories: Haunted Graveyards, Embalming Secrets, and the Life of the Corpse After Death. NYC: Harper Collins, 2001.
  • Ramsland, Katherine. Ghost: Investigating the Other Side. NYC: St. Martin’s Press, 2001.
  • Williams, Robin. Buildings of Savannah. Charlottesville, VA: U. of VA Press, 2016.

Mapping the Mysterious

I have added a new feature page to this blog. My Southern Haunted Places Map logs nearly 800 locations I have covered in this blog. Each map marker has links to the corresponding blog article or articles. The link can be found among the state directories on the right side of this page.

Rosalie Raymond White grave Magnolia Cemetery Charleston South Carolina
The death mask of Rosalie Raymond White, Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston, South Carolina. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Not only does this help to provide my readers with a selection of haunted places in whatever area they are interested in but it will help me to identify areas where I need to research and feature those places in the pages of this blog.

Thank you for your interest in my little blog!

“I’ll be seeing you”—Lake Worth, Florida

I’ll be seeing you in all the old, familiar places
That this heart of mine embraces, all day through.
–“I’ll be seeing you,” (1938), lyrics by Irving Kahal, music by Sammy Fain

Lake Worth Public Library
15 North M Street

While working on a research project on August 25, 1965 at the Lake Worth Public Library, Carol Bird spied an acquaintance’s cousin, Karl Kroeger, in the reading room.

“Now glancing up from his book he saw me and waved, then continued reading.” She told FATE Magazine. “He was merely an acquaintance and since he didn’t seem inclined to chat, I continued my own work.”

After that initial sighting, Ms. Bird continued to see Mr. Kroeger daily at the library and the ritual wave would take place after which he returned to his book. She thought this was curious, though, as he was in Florida well before “snowbird” season. Karl Kroeger was a resident of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and was among the legions of people who annually escaped the horrendous winter weather of the north for the sunny Florida climate.

Lake Worth Public Library Florida postcard
The Lake Worth Public Library as seen in a postcard from the Tichnor Brothers Postcard Collection of the Boston Public Library. This postcard was created between 1930-1945.

When she later ran into Karl’s cousin on the street, she pointed out that she had seen him frequently at the library; only to be told that he had passed a year earlier.

When she stopped by the library the next day, Karl was sitting in his usual position in the reading room. He waved and went right back to his book. Carol Bird called her friend and told her to come to library immediately. When her friend arrived, they entered the reading room only to find that Karl wasn’t there.

Her friend teased her saying, “Your imagination is playing tricks with you. I think you need a rest. Maybe you’ve been working too hard through this frightfully hot summer.”

At the end of her account, Carol Bird posits, “Why did Karl Kroeger appear to me? Did he come in spirit to a favorite spot? And was I the only one capable of seeing him?”

A general search brings up nothing else on the matter of the Lake Worth Public Library being haunted, so perhaps Ms. Bird was the only one to have an experience. The library has had a long history. Local ladies began building a collection of books in 1912, a year before the town was incorporated. The library opened in this building in 1941.

Sources

Capitol Creepiness—Williamsburg, Virginia

Old Capitol
Duke of Gloucester Street

Pamela K. Kinney, author of Virginia’s Haunted Historic Triangle (now in its second edition), and her husband took a guided tour of the Old Capitol in 2010. As the guide and the group descended the stairs from the second floor, the pair was briefly alone, and Kinney snapped some photos before returning to the group. When she uploaded the photos at home, she was stunned to find that one of those pictures included the head of a person, Kinney and her husband were alone on that floor.

The man is standing in front of the photographer and his head is very brightly illuminated, with individual hairs quite visible. Did she capture the image of one of the spirits that lingers in this reconstructed building?

Old Capitol Williamsburg Virginia ghosts haunted
The Old Capitol Building, between 1934 and 1950 by Fay Sturtevant Lincoln. Courtesy of the A. D. White Architectural Photographs Collection, Cornell University Library.

The building that stands today is a reconstruction of the first capitol building constructed between 1701 and 1704. That structure was gutted by fire in 1747 with only “the naked Brick Walls only left standing.” Using those remaining walls, another capitol was constructed, though it was architecturally different from the first building. It was this second building that witnessed the fiery speeches of Patrick Henry and meetings of revolutionaries as they worked to throw off the shackles of British rule. After the removal of the colony’s capital to Richmond in 1780, the building was used for a variety of purposes before it was also destroyed by fire in 1832.

In his 1938 book, Old Williamsburg, William Oliver Stevens related two fanciful tales about the old capitol building: the first that Patrick Henry’s portrait hanging inside has come to bear a disgusted look thanks to the British flag flying overhead, and second, that Henry and other patriots assemble in front of the building at the stroke of midnight on July 4th and “use the most reprehensible language.” I presume they are cursing the modern government, though Stevens doesn’t clarify.

Aside from William Oliver Stevens’ fanciful tales and Kinney’s photo, there is little published on the building’s ghosts, though Jamie Roush Pearce features accounts from several interpreters in her 2013 book, Historic Haunts of the South. These accounts concern two spirits that staff members have encountered. The first is reported to be a little girl who has been heard to call out, “Mommy?” and some interpreters have sensed her following them as they close the building for the day.

The second spirit is a person in blue holding a handkerchief. Pearce and a friend actually saw this spirit while attending a historical reenactment in the courtroom. An interpreter saw this spirit descending the stairs one morning as he unlocked the door. After seeing someone disappear into the courtroom, the interpreter followed to find no one there, and no one should have been in the locked building. Those who have witnessed this apparition have been inclined to identify it as the shade of former guide who enjoyed her work so much that she has continued her duties in the afterlife.

Sources

  • Kinney, Pamela K. Virginia’s Haunted Historic Triangle: Williamsburg, Yorktown, Jamestown, & Other Haunted Locations, 2nd Edition. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2019.
  • Olmert, Michael. Official Guide to Colonial Williamsburg. Williamsburg, VA: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1985.
  • Pearce, Jamie Roush. Historic Haunts of the South. CreateSpace, 2013.
  • Taylor, L.B., Jr. The Ghosts of Williamsburg, Volume II. Progress Printing Company, 1999.

Radiance and translucency—Baltimore, Maryland

USS Constellation
Pier 1, 301 East Pratt Street

In 1955, a photographer was poised to snap a photograph of a spirit aboard the USS Constellation, the historic ship docked in Baltimore Harbor. The photographer, Naval Reserve Lieutenant Commander Allen Ross Brougham, set up a camera on deck just before midnight December 29th. A friend interested in the psychical world advised him that midnight was the best time to capture something. At 11:59, something materialized on the deck and the lucky photographer snapped the shutter on his camera, capturing an incredible image.

Sometime later, Brougham recalled the moment. “How can you describe a ghost? It’d be difficult to do it justice—the sudden, brightening blueish-white radiance; the translucency.”

ghost USS Constellation Baltimore Sun 1955 Baltimore Maryland
Lt. Cdr. Allen Ross Brougham’s 1955 photograph of a spirit aboard the USS Constellation. This photograph was published in the Baltimore Sun, December 31, 1955.

Just before, the naval officer had detected the sharp odor of gunpowder. The spirit appeared for a brief moment, took a single stride, and vanished after he captured the photograph.

The photograph, which was published in the December 31st issue of the Baltimore Sun, shows the figure of a man beginning to materialize. His right leg, seemingly fully formed, is determinedly stepping forward and a white or gold stripe rises up the side of the spirit’s trousers. From the hips up, the image is blurred by movement, though there is still enough detail to make out that this is a naval officer. The man’s right arm is drawn across his waist as he reaches for the hilt of his sword.

The man’s coat appears to have a swallowtail that seems to lift at the back as he marches forward. Echelons of gold buttons rise on the breast, possibly with fanciful embroidery, and large epaulets crown the shoulders. Above the figure’s craggy face, he seems to wear a captain’s bicorn hat.

US Navy uniforms 1852
An illustration of Navy uniforms in 1852. The second man from the right is a ship’s captain. From the U.S. Navy’s History and Heritage Command Website.

A glance at a history of naval uniforms puts this style to around 1852, dating this figure to around the time that this ship was constructed. In the Sun article, Brougham posits that the uniform is from around 1800, but the figure’s pants with braiding on the side, prove that this is later. A ship’s captain of 1800 would have worn a similar jacket, though with knee breeches and stockings.

USS Constellation 2008 ghosts haunted
The USS Constellation at its permanent berth in Baltimore Harbor, 2008. Photo by Nfutvol, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The history of the USS Constellation is complicated. The sloop-of-war that is docked in Baltimore Harbor was constructed here in 1854, though some parts of the original 1797 frigate of the same name were used. For much of the 20th century, authorities argued that this ship was simply a rebuilt version of the 1797 ship, which has not hold up under close scrutiny. From the date of her construction, the ship remained commissioned by the Navy until 1955—nearly 100 years—before she was retired for preservation as a museum ship.

During her time as a museum ship, the Constellation has seen several restorations and paranormal investigations. Staff and guests have experienced much activity aboard the historic vessel. I plan to explore these encounters in further articles.

Sources

  • Catling, Patrick Skene. “’Ghost’ appears, but Navy doesn’t give up the ship.” Baltimore Sun. 31 December 1955.
  • Mills, Eric. The Spectral Tide: True Ghost Stories of the U. S. Navy. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2009.
  • USS Constellation (1854). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 2 September 2019.

Mobile’s Haunted Five

Among the oldest cities in the Deep South, Mobile was founded in 1702 by brothers Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, of whom the latter is considered the founder of New Orleans and Louisiana. The city’s location on the well-protected Mobile Bay, led to the city becoming a major port for exportation. That strategic location, however, made it a major target during the Civil War, which brought economic devastation to the city; that devastation would last for many decades. Through the 20th century, the port city’s fortunes have been restored and the city has become a major tourist destination with beautiful and large historic districts which are, of course, brimming with spirits.

The genteel ghosts of Mobile have been explored in a number of sources, including three books by Elizabeth Parker: Mobile Ghosts (2000), Mobile Ghosts II (2004), and Haunted Mobile (2009). In this blog, I have covered a few sites in the city including the Bragg-Mitchell Mansion, the Richards DAR House, and the Phoenix Fire Museum.

Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa
26 North Royal Street

Considered one of Alabama’s premier hotels, the Battle House is the fourth hotel on this site, though only the second called the “Battle House.” In 1825, as floods ravaged the state capital at Cahaba, Daniel White moved his inn to Mobile using flatboats. That hotel opened as the Franklin House and operated until a fire destroyed it in 1829. A larger hotel, the Waverly Hotel, was constructed on this site only to be destroyed by fire in 1850. Led by James Battle and his brothers, a group of prominent locals created a company to build a large hotel on this site, and the Battle House opened in 1852.

Throughout the second half of the 19th century, this hotel served many luminaries including presidential candidate Stephen Douglas, who was here the night he lost the presidential election to Abraham Lincoln. That hotel burned in 1905, and it was replaced by the current hotel building which opened in 1908. Among the prominent figures who have stayed in this building are President Woodrow Wilson who stayed here in 1913. The hotel went through a difficult financial period in the 1970s and closed in 1974. After being closed for nearly 30 years, the hotel has recently been fully restored and reopened.

Battle House Hotel Mobile Alabama ghosts haunted
The Battle House Renaissance Hotel & Spa, 2008, by Altairisfar. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Historic hotels like this rarely do not have ghosts or, at the very least, rumors of ghosts. The Battle House spirits have not been well documented, though an article by Amy Delcambre on the website, VisitSouth.com, includes an interview with George Moore, the hotel’s resident historian. When asked, Moore disavowed a belief in ghosts, though he did recount some of the curious incidents that have taken place here.

One story Moore recounted involved a recently married couple who stayed in the hotel in 1910. The husband left his wife alone while he took care of some business outside of the hotel. When he did not return, she supposedly hung herself in the hotel’s Crystal Ballroom. After the hotel’s recent reopening, a wedding reception was held in the ballroom where a portrait of the bride was displayed on an easel. The mother of the bride noticed a strange man in a gray suit admiring the picture, when guests began to enter the room, the strange man disappeared.

Other guests here have seen mysterious lights and apparitions in their rooms on the 3rd and 4th floors.

Sources

  • Delcambre, Amy. “Haunted History of the Battle House Hotel.” com. 19 October 2014.
  • Floyd, W. Warner. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Battle House Royale. 4 June 1975.
  • The Battle House Hotel. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 22 May 2015.

Boyington Oak
Located within Church Street Cemetery, just off Bayou Street

Boyington Oak Chucrh Street Cemetery Mobile Alabama ghost haunted legend
The legendary Boyington Oak in Church Street Cemetery, 2009. Photo by Altairisfar, courtesy of Wikipedia.

This mighty live oak growing amid the gravestones of Church Street Cemetery is a supposed sign of the innocence of Charles R. S. Boyington. In 1834, within this cemetery, the body of Nathaniel Frost was found; severely beaten and robbed of his money and pocket watch. Boyington, who had been close friends with Frost and, according to testimony, had been seen walking near here with him, was arrested for the murder and found guilty. He was hung before a huge crowd on gallows erected in Washington Square. Before his execution, however, he stated that his innocence would be proven by an oak sprouting from his heart. This tree sprouted not long after Boyington was laid in his grave. Passersby have claimed that whispers are still heard as the wind blows through the branches.

Sources

  • Kirby, Brendan. ”Murders, burglaries and ‘lynch discipline;’ Mobile was a lawless place in the 1830s.” com. 12 June 2013.
  • Windham, Kathryn Tucker. Jeffrey’s Latest 13: More Alabama Ghosts. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1982.

Central Fire Station
701 St. Francis Street

Firefighters were shocked in 2010 when the Gamewell Alarm System here lit up. Of course, as firefighters, they should always be prepared, but they’re not usually prepared for dealing with the supernatural. The alarm system was last used in the 1960s, and the system was not connected to a power source, so there was no reason it should be lit up.

The old Gamewell system is displayed on the second-floor museum of this active fire station. Some firefighters have suggested that the system lights may be just more evidence of the presence of Laz Schwarz, a former mayor for whom this facility was dedicated when it opened in 1925. The shadowy figure of a man has been seen here for years and is believed to be the shade of the Mayor Schwarz.

Sources

  • Dials, Renee. “South Alabama re station haunted?” WISH TV. 17 August 2010.
  • Hough, Jere. “New re station museum in Mobile is trip back in time.” com. 26 April 2009.
  • Brown, Alan. The Haunted South. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2014.

Malaga Inn
359 Church Street

One of Mobile’s finest inns, the Malaga Inn is noted as being haunted, though the specifics are harder to discern. Elizabeth Parker, the author of three books on haunted Mobile, notes in her blog that she spoke with a few guests who had haunting experiences in this inn that occupies a pair of 1862 townhomes. One guest reported smelling a flowery, perfume-like scent in her room while another guest was physically touched by something she could not see. A different guest awoke to find the apparition of a man standing at the end of his bed.

Sources

  • “Ghost-berfest, Day 31: Ghostober Notebook and Happy Hallowe’en.” Mobile Ghosts Blog. 31 October 2010.

Mobile Carnival Museum
355 Government Street

Housed in the historic 1872 Bernstein-Bush House, the Mobile Carnival Museum displays artifacts from the history of Mobile’s Mardi Gras celebration, the oldest in the nation. Prior to the building’s use as the Carnival Museum, this building contained the Museum of Mobile which did not experience much paranormal activity besides having a men’s patent leather shoe mysteriously appear on the staircase of the carriage house. The staff arrived one morning to find this very nice shoe sitting on the stairs. There was no sign of an intruder, and the building had been tightly secured.

Carnival Museum of Mobile Alabama ghost haunted
The Mobile Carnival Museum, 2008 by Altairisfar, courtesy of Wikipedia.

An unseen entity, dubbed “Ralph” by the museum’s staff, is known to make adjustments to displays. After the Carnival Museum began to install its exhibits in 2005, one mannequin was repeatedly found to be lying on its side. Lights throughout the building often turn themselves on after they have been turned off for the night. One of the more mysterious incidents involved a Mardi Gras crown that was found to be missing from an exhibit. After a frantic search, the curator found the crown sitting on a chair next to her desk the following Monday morning. None of the staff fessed up to knowing anything about the missing object. No one is sure who Ralph may be, though the building did house a funeral home for some decades.

Sources

  • Parker, Elizabeth. Haunted Mobile: Apparitions of the Azalea City. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2009.
  • Parker, Elizabeth. Mobile Ghosts: Alabama’s Haunted Port City. Apparition Publishing, 2001.