A few months ago, I accepted a retail job at the Atlanta airport. As a resident of LaGrange, I’m required to drive an hour to Atlanta and take MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) to the airport because there is no airport employee parking. Most of my rides on MARTA have been uneventful, though in August I had an odd experience.
I finished working a mid-shift at my store and boarded a MARTA train to start my journey home around 4:30 in the afternoon. Sitting down in my seat, I pulled out my phone to check Facebook like everyone else. The ride from the airport to the first station, College Park, was unremarkable and I did look up as the train pulled into the station. As usual, there was a group of people waiting to board the train when the doors opened.
As I watched, a young man boarded the train and I noticed he was oddly dressed. His clothes were flashy, and his hair was tied up in a scarf on his head. He walked down the aisle and sat in the seats opposite me. I glanced over and noticed he was wearing house shoes and carrying a bunch of shopping bags, notably a bag from Steve Madden. The man slumped down in his seat and appeared to doze off.
Not wanting to stare, I looked out the window a bit and looked at my phone as the train rumbled on to the East Point station. As the train ground to a stop, I started to get up, but as I turned my head, I was shocked to see the seats across the aisle from me were empty. Looking back through the car, no one had their hair tied up in a scarf, in fact, there were only three or four people.
I wondered how I could have missed him getting up and moving. With all his bags surely, I would have noticed if he changed seats. I got off the train still looking for the oddly dressed man with the sensation that I may have just had a paranormal experience. I also wondered at the bigger question: does Steve Madden have an advertising contract with the spirit world?
While it may seem odd that a spirit might be haunting something as ordinary as a MARTA train, this is not the first story I’ve heard about MARTA. In 2011, Creative Loafing published an article covering Atlanta hauntings. The article opened with a story from an office-worker who had an experience on MARTA in the 1980s.
After leaving work early on a winter afternoon, the office-worker took a seat on MARTA heading home. He was listening to music on his headphones when he noticed movement next to his reflection in the window. He felt a bit annoyed that a “40ish, black-haired man in a business suit” was sitting next to him on the almost deserted car. He turned his head to look at the passenger and the seat was empty.
The office-worker thought the incident was curious but was not frightened. Still he wonders what exactly he saw. I’m left wondering about the gentleman with his hair tied up in a scarf and the Steve Madden bag. Did we experience a perfectly normal experience that simply appeared out of the ordinary or were these experiences paranormal? I’m not sure we’ll ever really know.
Homan, Curt. “The hauntings of Atlanta.” Creative Loafing. 27 October 2011.
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park
900 Kennesaw Mountain Drive
When the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain was fought in 1864, much of the area north of Atlanta was sparsely settled. Over the past few decades as the Atlanta Metro area has expanded, growth has even overtaken the quiet stillness of this place where tens of thousands fought to stop Sherman’s advance on Atlanta.
Residential and commercial developments have been constructed and roads cut across parts of the battlefield. It was along one of these roads that a father and son had an interesting experience one night in October of 2007. As the duo drove along, the driver braked as something appeared to start crossing the road in front of the car.
Both Civil War enthusiasts, they were shocked to see a horse with a rider emerge from the darkness. Dressed in the uniform of a Union cavalry officer, the rider held a saber aloft as if to make that point even more apparent. The specter passed through a fence on the opposite side and vanished.
The driver told Atlanta’s 11 Alive News, “My son and I were in a state of almost sheer panic, but we managed to maintain and get on the way home very quickly.”
It has been noted that many residents living in homes built on the battlefield have experienced strange things. After this article appeared, one of these residents wrote in to the paranormal blog Phantoms & Monsters:
I’ve got a bad back and haven’t worked in over a year, so I spend a lot of time in bed. Earlier this year, late spring or early summer, I was in a half-awake state and I noticed the hazy form of what appeared to be someone in Civil War clothing on a horse standing in my bedroom. It was there for only a second and kind of dematerialized. I remember it being a kind of yellowish color.
I wasn’t scared and thought it was probably not so much a ghost but the energy of something that happened here during the Civil War. I am 3 miles from the epicenter of the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain and probably less than a mile from the cavalry battleground at Mud Creek.
Several years ago, I spoke with a family who lived in one of these haunted houses. After moving in and experiencing paranormal activity, they asked their neighbors about it only to find out that they lived with the same thing.
The wife told me that she took the trash out one night. As she rounded the corner of the house, she came face to face with a figure in the dark. Startled, she quickly realized that the figure was dressed in an old-fashioned uniform. Not knowing how to react, she dropped the bag of trash at his feet saying, “here you go!” and ran back into the house. She failed to mention if the ghost put the trash in the receptacle.
Crawley, Paul. “Ghost rider at Kennesaw Mtn.?” 11Alive News. 1 November 2007.
Strikler, Lon. “Mailbag: the Kennesaw Mountain ghost rider.” Phantoms and Monsters. 8 November 2009.
Leaning, leaning, Safe and secure from all alarms.
–“Leaning on the everlasting arms” gospel hymn by Anthony Showalter and Elisha Hoffman, written in Dalton in 1887.
While we were visiting Old City Hall (114 North Pentz Street) in downtown Dalton, Georgia, two of the young girls in our group let out some horror movie-worthy screams and went running. As they ran past him, Richard Ruland remarked, “There’s no, ‘dude, run!’ in ghosthunting!” Half-laughing, half-screaming, the girls said that one of their K2 meters had gone all the way to red causing their fright.
In his fatherly way, Ruland calmly took the girls back to the doorway where the meter had glowed red. He noted that there was likely an alarm on the door and showed them the alarm pad next to it. The meter, once again, glowed red when he held it next to the pad and the whole thing was debunked.
I have been reading about the Dalton Ghost Tour for many years. When Connie Hall-Scott published her book, Haunted Dalton, Georgia, in 2013, I immediately purchased it from Amazon. While I liked the ghost tour on Facebook, I did not have the chance to check it out for myself, so when I saw a promotion for the first tour of the season with special guest Richard Ruland, I jumped at the chance.
I was well rewarded.
Dalton is billed as the carpet capital of the world and rightfully so, this region of North Georgia produces 80 percent of the tufted carpet manufactured in this country. Driving through this section of I-75, the interstate is lined with carpet factories and outlets with billboards hawking all types of flooring.
Downtown Dalton, removed from the bustle of the interstate, is a very typical Southern downtown with a marvelous collection of historic structures. Locals have recently beautified the sidewalks and renovated many buildings to bring people and businesses back to the historic core. While people are returning, the streets were very quiet on this Saturday evening.
The tour began on a wooden deck next to the Perfect Cup Coffeeshop (112 West Crawford) in West Crawford Street and has a great view of the magnificent Art Moderne-styled Wink Theatre across the street. In the half-light of evening, a small group gathered to hear Mr. Ruland describe his experiences investigating the paranormal throughout his home-state of Tennessee and the South.
The wide-ranging talk covered everything from the dangers of Ouija board use to spiritual cleansing techniques. Ruland, a psychic medium, is a noted paranormal personality who has appeared on My Ghost Story and Aftershocks, and hosts (with J.B. Coates, one of his fellow investigators) Let’s Talk About It, a wide-ranging paranormal show on Facebook. With his wife (and the best investigator he has worked with) Billy Jo, Ruland demonstrated his abilities by pointing out the presence of several spirits in the immediate vicinity including a man who was not happy with our sitting on the deck. As there were a number of children present, Ruland demonstrated some of his equipment and urged them to use various pieces during the tour.
Out of this talk, the tour began with Connie Hall-Scott describing the history of Dalton. During the course of the tour, the historic gravity of the few blocks that we covered was evident. On this land that had once been home to the Cherokee, there had been murder and mayhem over the course of two centuries; with many events leaving psychic scars on the land and buildings.
Among this dark history, the Wink Theater’s (121 West Crawford Street) presence adds a sense of levity. The theater began as a dream for J. C. H. Wink, a dream to provide locals with a place of amusement away from the horrors of the war elsewhere. The theatre opened its doors in September of 1941, months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the horrors of war to this country.
For many, the Wink was a center of social life in town. Hall-Scott recalls in her book the many unnecessary trips to the restroom she made and how she often felt that something was “off” in that room. Little did she know where that thought would lead her.
The Wink Theater closed its doors in 1981 after a showing of Disney’s The Black Hole, certainly foreshadowing for the dark period of the theater’s history that would follow. While the living had forsaken the decaying building, spirits remained. When the suggestion of replacing the building with an ignominious parking lot was floated, many locals stepped in to save the building from destruction, including Hall-Scott’s father, who purchased the building and began restoration.
Since the building’s reopening, it continues to be a center of the community in a spiritual sense as the centerpiece of the Dalton Ghost Tour’s ghost stories and in its function as a church.
Sitting on the deck across from the theater, it struck me the amazing amalgam of history that had occurred in the few blocks that the tour covered. Not only that, but how much of that history is still with us in spectral form. From the angry man Ruland pointed out as standing near us to the suicide victim in the old Hotel Dalton, from the Wink Theater’s doors that regularly unlock themselves, the lynching victims near the Gordon Street Bridge, to the spirits of the old Dalton depot, these spirits span the region’s history.
Hall-Scott seemed to have a story for nearly every building we passed. Standing on the corner of North Hamilton and West King Streets, she pointed out that she had stories from nearly every business lining this busy portion of North Hamilton, evidence of her wide-ranging knowledge of the city’s haunted history.
All along the way, the youngsters on the tour excitedly chattered about the equipment they held. Ruland happily watched over them and shared in their possible connections with the spirit world. Several times he remarked that these kids were doing things they will remember for a long while. I can personally say that spending time with these kindred spirits in Dalton, both living and dead, will be something I remember for a long while.
Dalton Ghost Tours are held on Friday and Saturday nights through September and October. Friday night tours begin at 8 PM and Saturday night tours will have a special guest and begin at 7 PM. All tours begin at the wooden deck on West Crawford Street across from the Wink Theater. Tickets may be purchased onsite, $15 for adults and $10 for kids.
Deaton, Thomas M. “Dalton.” New Georgia Encyclopedia. 25 September 2009.
Hall-Scott, Connie. “Dalton Ghost Tour.” Dalton, Georgia. 1 September 2018.
Hall-Scott, Connie. Haunted Dalton, Georgia. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
I know dark clouds will gather round me,
I know my way is rough and steep,
But beauteous fields lie just before me,
Where gods redeem, their vigils keep.
-–“Wayfaring Stranger,” traditional American folksong
Eight years ago, I started on a journey. I had been laid off and was terribly depressed and needed a distraction. On August 17, 2010 I posted the first entry on my blog; the first step on a long journey. At the time, I wasn’t really sure of what I was doing, but I was enjoying it, nonetheless.
I’m still treading that path which is rough and steep, though it has ultimately been rewarding as I discover and explore marvelous Southern ghost stories. Also along this path I’ve been interviewed by newspapers and on radio shows, I’ve written a book, I’ve done speaking engagements, and I’ve led ghost tours in Birmingham. I’m truly grateful for the people I’ve met along the way who have shared their own stories and those readers who sit a spell and read what I have written.
Here on my 8th “blogiversary,” I’m sitting at my favorite Starbucks working on yet another outgrowth of my blog: storytelling. My home of LaGrange, Georgia, has always been supportive of the performing arts and over the last few decades, some of the leaders had the foresight to establish a storytelling here. The first weekend of March, nationally-known storytellers gather here to spend a few days spinning yarns at the Azalea Storytelling Festival.
With the inspiration from this vast array of tellers and the support of a noted teller that I have had the privilege to know for many years, I am pleased to announce I will be “spreading the Gospel of Southern Ghosts” at two upcoming events in October.
In searching for stories to start with, I returned to a story I have always loved from North Carolina: the Tarboro Banshee. When I first came across this story in Daniel Barefoot’s first volume of his “Haunted Hundred” series, I immediately thought this would be a great story to tell.
I have been looking into the story’s origins as well, trying to craft my own version. It seems that this story was first recorded as a part of a WPA folklore project in the 1930s. I have not been able to find any history to corroborate the events of the story, beyond this “very literary sounding text” that W. K. McNeil included in his 1985 Ghost Stories from the American South. The version here is a combination of the original WPA story, some details from Barefoot’s rendering, and my own research into the story’s circumstances.
Please note that this is a departure from my usual style of writing about haunted places. In keeping with the elements of oral tradition, I have made some adjustments to the story to suit my own tastes.
The Tarboro Banshee
In 1999, Hurricane Floyd slammed into Cape Fear, North Carolina. As well as damaging the coast, the storm brought torrential rains further inland causing many rivers and streams to swell. The Tar River, in the eastern portion of the state, rose beyond its banks flooding portions of the city of Rocky Mount and the downstream towns of Tarboro and Princeville. After the waters receded, locals recalled an old tale of a banshee along the river and wondered if she was still exacting vengeance for the death of David Warner.
During the time of the American Revolution, Warner built and operated a mill at a bend in the Tar River, possibly near Tarboro. While most of his history is lost in the shifting sands of time, legend recalls that he was born an Englishman. After settling on the frontier, the British crown roundly abused him and his neighbors and many switched their allegiance to the democratic ideals being touted in Boston and Philadelphia.
As war broke out in 1775, Warner began working his mill to feed the Patriot army. Often, the waterwheel rolled late into the night with the scene lit only by the dim lantern light spilling out of the mill’s open door broken by Warner’s huge shadow as he labored.
On a humid August afternoon in 1781, Warner was busy in his mill when a neighbor stopped by with grave news. “The British are coming! Close your mill and hide! They know you for a rebel, and they will kill you.”
Looking at his thick wrists, built by the heavy labor of milling, Warner replied, “I’d rather stay and wring a British neck or two.”
“Surely you cannot fight the whole army single-handedly!”
“Then I’ll stay and be killed. What is my life?” Warner solemnly nodded and returned to his work.
Later that evening the waterwheel continued to groan as it turned. Like moths to a flame, the mill’s meager light attracted the attention of a party of five British scouts.
Knowing he was being observed, Warner remarked out loud, “Make certain you pack every precious ounce of flour to deliver to General Greene. I hate to think of those British hogs eating a single mouthful of gruel made from America’s corn.”
Rushing in, the scouts seized Warner, cursing and thrashing him as a traitor. It took the strength of all five of them to bring the huge miller to the floor. Once he was down, they began to bicker as to what to do with him. One of the scouts, who had a particularly evil bent, ghoulishly suggested that they should execute him.
Restrained on the floor, Warner spoke up. “If you take my life, hear me clear that a banshee will be summoned and will grieve over my death forevermore. In her despair she will hunt you down, as you did me, and she will see that every last one of you dies a terrible death.”
As boys growing up in Britain, the scouts had often heard tales of the terrifying banshees that would wail as death omens for certain Irish and Scottish families. These entities also protected family members as they traveled and settled throughout the world. Memories of these tales shook four of the scouts, and they argued that they should take the rebel to their commanding officer, but the evil one held fast.
“Why wait,” he said, “We have been sent to make the way safe. We will get rid of this rebel before he continues to make trouble.”
Deferring to the evil scout, the redcoats bound Warner with rope and escorted him to the river’s edge where they boarded a small rowboat. A millstone was found and secured around his neck. Warner stoically sat as the boat was rowed towards the middle of the river.
Without ceremony they pushed Warner overboard and hauled the millstone into the cool waters of the Tar. The millstone jerked him underwater pulling him towards death and the muddy river bottom.
The group watched as Warner’s final breath bubbled to the surface and all remained quiet. The warning of a banshee was just pure bluster.
Suddenly, from the watery grave a shrill scream began to emerge. The sound quickly grew into a wail and it began to echo up and down the river until the pines and hardwoods reverberated with the mournful, vengeful cry. The awful sound pierced the scouts’ brains with a sensation of utter terror. As they looked, dumbstruck, into the depths of the river, the darkness began to draw together into a shape.
A beautiful woman emerged from the inky blackness. Her dark clothing and long, blonde hair billowed around her. Her face was beautiful, though it was contorted into a grimace of pain and grief. Her mouth was pulled open as she wailed and keened.
Stumbling for the oars, the scouts hastily rowed their boat away from the terrifying scene. After bumping into the shore, they tumbled out of the boat and fled to the safety of the piney forest around the mill, their ears still filled with the horrible screams.
When the scouts’ army unit arrived the following day, they set up camp around the abandoned mill. Amongst themselves, the five argued if they should tell their commanding officer of the previous night’s events. In the end, the evil soldier stated that they should keep quiet.
That silence lasted until sunset. Once darkness fell upon the army tents, the mill, and the riverbank, the banshee’s wail began anew. The soldiers were intrigued by the spectral wails and gathered by the riverside to wonder at the odd scene, while the scouts huddled in their tents.
Two of the scouts finally had enough went to their commanding officer’s tent and confessed to having killed the miller. Outraged, the commanding officer called all five to his tent where he dressed them down and ordered that they remain behind to work the mill as punishment.
The army unit moved on the next day leaving the five scouts laboring in the mill and dreading the oncoming night. As night drew around them, the banshee began her wailing over the river and drew close to the rumbling waterwheel. The scouts were suddenly terrified to see the misty apparition in the doorway. Suddenly, two of the scouts stiffened and appeared to be in a trance. Slowly, zombie-like, the young scouts walked out of the mill into the darkness and vanished.
The remaining scouts continued working the mill the following day, worried of their fates come nightfall. Again, the banshee began her wailing over the river and drew close to the rumbling waterwheel. She appeared in the doorway as the scouts cowered in fear. Again, two of the scouts stiffened and appeared to be in a trance. Slowly, zombie-like, the young scouts walked out of the mill into the darkness and vanished.
The evil scout was alone now, and, with fright, he continued to work the mill. As night drew around the mill, he heard the familiar screaming coming from the river. As the screams continued to torment him, he began to lose his grip on reality and ran screaming into the forest calling the miller’s name. The next day his body was discovered floating, bloated and bloody, near where David Warner had been executed in the muddy waters of the Tar.
Since those dark days of revolution, Warner’s mill has disappeared, but residents along the Tar River say that on humid August evenings as the katydids chatter and the rain crow calls for rain, a shrill scream is still heard to echo up and down the river until the pines and hardwoods reverberate with the mournful, vengeful cry.
Barefoot, Daniel. North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred, Volume 1: Seaside Spectres. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2002.
Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits, 3rdNYC: Checkmark Books, 2007.
McNeil, W. K. Ghost Stories from the American South. Little Rock, AR: August House, 1985.
128 East Martin Street
Martinsburg, West Virginia
On August 21, 1927, a brief item from the Associated Press appeared in papers nationwide describing the death of architect Reginald Geare. In a room in his Washington, D.C. home, Geare’s body had been found with a gas tube next to it. Five years previous, the roof of the Knickerbocker Theatre in Washington collapsed under the weight of snow during the screening of a film. With a death toll of 98, authorities questioned the integrity of Geare’s design of the building. Though he avoided prosecution for the disaster, the shame continued the crush the architect. The shame would also lead to the death in 1937 of the theatre impresario, Harry Crandall, who owned the Knickerbocker. It is believed that his spirit may roam the Tivoli Theatre in Washington, another of the theatres in his chain.
Martinsburg’s Apollo Theatre was an early design success for Reginald Geare, in company with local architect Chapman E. Kent. It was the first theatre in the state built primarily for showing films, though the stage was large enough to accommodate live performances. After opening in 1913, the theatre underwent an expansion to provide for better live performance facilities. Throughout its history, the Apollo, named for the Greek god of music, has provided entertainment for citizens throughout the West Virginia panhandle.
Stories of the Apollo’s haunting reputation have circulated for decades with some of the oldest stories dating to the mid-1970s. There are no records of deaths within the theatre, though the building may have been used as a hospital during the 1918 influenza epidemic. Apparently, there are several spirits here, two of which are known by their nicknames, Charlie and George. In 2008, a theatre board member told The Journal about his run-in with George in the early 80s. “During the curtain call I saw an old man in the back of the theatre, in a plaid shirt with a cigar. No one but me saw him and suddenly he was gone.” During the filming of Gods and Generals, a female reenactor using the restrooms at the Apollo let out a scream after encounter the same figure in the ladies’ room.
Charlie, one of the theatre’s other spirits, may also smoke cigars. A resident of a nearby apartment building may have seen Charlie once standing outside the theatre. The figure wore a fedora pulled down over his eyes and stood hunched over with the collar of his coat pulled up around him. The apartment resident was astonished when the figure suddenly vanished before her eyes.
Pauley, Michael J. and Rodney S. Collins. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for the Apollo Theater. 12 September 1979.
Racer, Theresa. “The Apollo Theatre.” Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State. 16 January 2011.
Strader, Tricia Lynn. “Halloween haunting is close at hand.” The Journal (Martinsburg, WV). 31 October 2008.
Swayne, Matthew. Ghosts of Country Music: Tales of Haunted Honky Tonks & Legendary Specters. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2017.
“Theater architect ends life with gas.” Atlanta Constitution. 21 August 1927.
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
While on a book tour last year, the Bush twins, Jenna and Barbara, revealed that they had a possibly paranormal experience in the White House. One summer during their father’s administration the twins crawled into bed in their respective bedrooms. Jenna’s phone rang, and she woke up to turn it off. As she began to fall asleep again, she heard what she described as “opera, and a woman’s opera voice coming from the fireplace.”
After hearing the chilling singing, she fled across the hall to her sister’s bedroom. Two nights later, the twins were both asleep in Barbara’s room when they were awakened by the sounds of “1920s jazz music” emanating from the fireplace. They convinced themselves that their black cat, India, must have jumped upon a piano, though the music was good enough that the cat “would have had to have taken it up.”
This most important of houses has been described by many to be one of the most haunted houses in the nation. Certainly, its halls are haunted by the spirit of politics and have been so since John Adams first occupied it in 1800 and its corridors were crowded with hangers-on, lobbyists, and politicians of every stripe, but time has left those same corridors alive with spirits. Many residents and staff of the White House tell stories of things going bump in the night and, indeed, there are so many stories that Dennis William Hauck’s venerable Haunted Places: The National Directory provides a room by room breakdown of the possible paranormal activity.
Author Jeff Belanger examined the haunting of the White House in his 2008 children’s book, Who’s Haunting the White House? which, though written for children, provides a well-researched look at the panoply of phantoms that have made appearances here. Perhaps the most well-known spirit is that of Abraham Lincoln who has regularly been spotted in and around the bedroom named for him (that room served as his office). Among the witnesses to his spirit were First Lady Grace Coolidge; Maureen Reagan, the daughter of Ronald Reagan; Queen Juliana of the Netherlands; George W. Bush, during his father’s presidency; and various staff members.
Among the other spirits that have been identified in the White House include the spirit of Willie Lincoln, the young son of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln; Presidents William Henry Harrison, Andrew Jackson, and John Tyler; First Ladies Abigail Adams and Dolley Madison; and a young British soldier carrying a torch. Reports of possible paranormal activity from these spirits have come from the Lincolns; Harry Truman; Eleanor Roosevelt; the Clintons; and Michelle Obama. Certainly, the Bush twins are in good company among the witnesses to the paranormal in the “People’s House.”
Belanger, Jeff. Who’s Haunting the White House? NYC: Sterling Children’s Books, 2008.
Hauck, Dennis William. Haunted Places: The National Directory. NYC: Penguin, 2002.
Johnson, Ted. “Is the White House haunted? Jenna and Barbara Bush share their ghost story.” 31 October 2017.
Peters, Lucia. “Is the White House haunted? Jenna Bush Hager & Barbara Bush just shared the creepiest story ever.” 31 October 2017.
Built around 1725 by wealthy planter Paul Hamilton, this French style home burned in 1929. While the house is now just a shell, there’s still a ghostly legend attached to it. Two different authors have recorded this story more than 40 years apart, but there are some differences. The basic premise is that a young bride was killed in the house on her wedding day by a jealous and spurned suitor.
The main differences in the story concern the identity of the suitor and his method of killing. Margaret Rhett Martin in 1963 identifies the suitor as a local Native American who shot the bride with an arrow; while Geordie Buxton in 2007 identifies the suitor as a Charlestonian, who shot the bride with a pistol. Nevertheless, the spirit of the bride is supposedly still seen staring from the window where she was shot. Buxton also includes that that window sill is still stained with her blood.
Buxton, Geordie. Haunted Plantations: Ghosts of Slavery and Legends of the Cotton Kingdoms. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Press, 2007.
Dillon, James. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Brick House Ruins. Listed 15 April 1970.
Martin, Margaret Rhett. Charleston Ghosts. Columbia, SC: U. of SC Press, 1963.
The Castle 411 Craven Street Beaufort
Reading something written about the paranormal by someone who is not an acolyte of the subject is always an interesting adventure. Certainly, hauntings don’t usually get written up in the business magazine, Forbes; but then again, the ghost of The Castle is one of the more unusual ghosts in the South. One sentence, in particular, stands out to me, “Though likely the only haunted house in town, ‘The Castle’ is hardly the only antebellum mansion in Beaufort.” A ludicrous statement if there ever was one! Beaufort is one of the many Low Country towns visited by flocks of the living and the dead; hardly a “one haunted house” kind of town.
This 2006 article highlighted this magnificent estate that had just been put up for sale for $4.6 million, of course that was nearing the height of the real estate market. In researching the house, I stumbled across the house listed on a real estate website for $2.9 million. I can’t be sure that the house has been for sale all this time, but I can’t help wondering what Grenauche or Gauche, the resident spirit, thinks of all this.
The home’s resident ghost is that of a dwarf. Legend holds that the small being only reveals himself to children who are ill. Terrence Zepke records a conversation that the spirit had with a child in which he said he does not reveal himself to fools. The article in Forbes mentions that the daughter of a recent owner saw the spirit when she was in bed with the chicken pox. Nancy Roberts has the spirit appearing to the daughter of the home’s builder, Dr. James Johnson, while she played in the basement. She saw a jaunty and wizened man in a cap, breeches and pointed shoes.
The exact identity of the funny little man is lost in the haze of legend. Some identify him as a court jester who was among the early French Huguenots who settled nearby during the 16th century. Another legend claims him to be a Portuguese dwarf killed in an Indian raid in the early years of the 18th century. According to the stories, the dwarf told a child that he had taken up residence in the old manse because it resembled his old home in the old world. Regardless, his petite spirit may still haunt “The Castle.”
Bordsen, John. “Find the most haunted place in these Carolina towns.” Dispatch-Argus. 31 October 2010.
Roberts, Nancy. South Carolina Ghosts from the Coast to the Mountains. Columbia, SC: U. of SC Press, 1983.
Rose, Lacey. “Carolina Castle.” 17 April 2006.
Zepke, Terrance. Best Ghost Tales of South Carolina. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 2004.
Hotel Aiken 235 Richland Avenue West Aiken
The Hotel Aiken, known for many years as the Holley House, has been a center of the Aiken community since its construction in 1898. Originally constructed to accommodate visitors to Aiken during its time as a winter resort town for the wealthy elite, the hotel is reported to have a handful of spirits who have not checked out.
According to South Coast Paranormal, who investigated the hotel in 2011, rooms 302, 320 and 328 feature spirits. Activity in these rooms includes apparitions, shadows and unexplained noises. While their investigation did not apparently pick up much in these rooms, investigators heard unexplained noises in the attic and witnessed an odd shadow in the basement. South Carolina paranormal researcher Tally Johnson notes that activity is also reported in room 225 where the television regularly turns itself on.
Johnson, Tally. Ghosts of the South Carolina Midlands. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2007.
Kings Mountain National Military Park 2625 Park Road Blacksburg
In a mere 65 minutes, the British lost a good deal in the Battle of Kings Mountain. Not only did they lose the battle, but the British sustained some 244 casualties including the death of Major Patrick Ferguson who lead the British forces into the battle. When Ferguson’s body was later recovered for burial, it had been stripped and urinated upon the by the Americans. It was buried on the battlefield under a traditional cairn or pile of stones. It is at Major Ferguson’s cairn where a pair of re-enactors reported to have encountered the figure of Ferguson smiling at them from the shadows.
Toney, B. Keith. Battlefield Ghosts. Berryville, VA: Rockbridge Publishing, 1997.
Old Post Office Building Park Avenue & Laurens Street Aiken
Modeled on Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, the Old Post Office Building has been remodeled and restored into an office for Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, a company providing management and operations for the nearby Savannah River Site. The post office opened in 1912 and remained as a postal facility until 1971. Also during that time, the basement of the building was renovated into offices for Senator Strom Thurmond. Since retirement, the building has served a variety of uses.
According to the owner of Aiken Ghost Tours, the flag atop the building was raised and lowered every day. Unfortunately, there was a good deal of danger walking the roof, especially in inclement weather. Legend holds that one of these brave souls fell and died one evening. Ever since, locals have regularly seen and reported a man walking on the roof of building.
Bordsen, John. “Find the most haunted place in these Carolina towns.” Dispatch-Argus. 31 October 2010.
Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, LLC. Newsletter. February 2010.
The Baker Cemetery rises on a low hill above the road between the town of Aberdeen and the community of Churchville in Harford County. There’s little historical information to be found online about this particular cemetery, except for the fact that it is associated with Grace United Methodist Church in Aberdeen.
A 2011 article from the local Patch.com site includes a frightening and fantastic encounter a visitor had at this quiet cemetery just off of busy I-95. This visitor stopped by the cemetery to visit the grave of a relative. After paying respects to the deceased, the visitor began to return to their car. At that point, they noticed an odd man walking along the road.
Despite the warm weather, the man was wearing a long, black trench coat and a floppy black hat. The man looked up the hill towards the visitor who was frightened to see the man’s face was “not the face of someone who would be of the living.” A moment later, the odd stranger looked directly at the visitor and began running towards them.
The visitor fled towards their car and quickly locked the doors. But, when they looked up, the strange man was nowhere to be seen. In fact, the cemetery was quiet and empty. The visitor cranked their car and quickly left.
Sometime later, the visitor’s mother asked why they hadn’t visited the cemetery later. The visitor told her about the uncomfortable experience they had there. The mother responded that she had had the same experience there.
While this story cannot be verified, it remains a chilling tale.
New Orleans is easily included among the most paranormally active cities in the South, if not the entire country. Indeed, some have remarked that finding a location here that is not haunted is far more difficult than finding a place that is haunted. In order to comprehensively cover haunted places throughout the Crescent City, I’m starting with the oldest section, the French Quarter.
The French Quarter is generally defined as the section stretching from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue and from the Mississippi River northwest to North Rampart Street. This section of the city is where the city was originally founded by the French in 1718. With buildings and sites spanning three centuries, the French Quarter is perhaps the most paranormally active neighborhood in the entire city.
Decatur Street originally ran alongside the levee that protected the city from flooding and was called Rue de la Quai,Rue de la Levee or Levee Street until 1870 when it was renamed for early American naval hero Stephen Decatur. Until the early 20th century, much of Decatur Street was a working-class and immigrant area with “Upper Decatur Street” (the portion of the street near to Canal Street) serving sailors during their stopovers in port.
Ryan’s Irish Pub
241 Decatur Street
Patrons sitting near the back wall of this popular Irish pub have seen the apparition of an African-American workman. Jeff Dwyer posits that he may be a victim of the fire that swept through this section of the city in December of 1794.
Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans, Revised Edition. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing, 2017.
320 Decatur Street
This elegant boutique hotel began life in the early 19th century as a rice mill and warehouse. The property was transformed in 1835 into the North American Hotel and has served as a hotel for much of its existence. When Decatur Street began to see revitalization efforts in the mid-20th century, the building was renovated as a private apartment building. In 1972 the Monteleone family, owners of the famed and haunted Hotel Monteleone, purchased the building for use as a hotel again.
According to psychic and paranormal investigator Cari Roy, the Bienville is home to several spirits. One is the wraith of a young woman whom guests have awakened to find standing at their bedside. Often, the guests are unable to move for a moment, though the apparition vanishes after they are released from their momentary paralysis.
“About Us.” Bienville House. Accessed 16 May 2016.
Roy, Cari. “Haunted Hotels.” Paranormal New Orleans. Accessed 16 May 2016.
Kerry Irish Pub
331 Decatur Street
This three-story commercial building was probably constructed in the 19th century. Ads in early 20th century papers show this building was utilized by the Southern Mattress Company, though that does little to explain the cold spots, disembodied footsteps and voices that staff and patrons have encountered within the warm interior of this pub.
Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans, Revised Edition. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing, 2017.
French Market Inn
509 Decatur Street
Originally a bakery for the Dreux family, this 18th century structure has hosted an inn since the Baroness de Pontalba purchased the property in the 1830s. Reports of ghosts began to surface shortly after the building opened to guests. Shadowy figures slipping in and out of rooms and the sounds of metallic clanging, possibly the same sounds produced by a pulley system that operated in the original bakery, have haunted the inn for its almost 200 years of history.
Stories of guests waking to find a bloody handprint on their sheets have also surfaced. A paranormal investigator staying in room 218 was kept awake throughout the night by the feeling of unseen presences, an alarm clock going off periodically, her shower turning off and on on its own accord, and bangs and thuds of unknown origin.
Klein, Victor C. New Orleans Ghosts III. Metarie, LA: Lycanthrope Press, 2004.
823 Decatur Street
The second oldest restaurant in the city after Antoine’s, Tujague’s (pronounced TOO-zhagz) has operated since 1856. Opened by Guillaume Tujague and his wife, Marie Abadie, the restaurant initially served the dock workers and laborers who crowded this neighborhood. For years, the restaurant’s biggest competitor was Beague’s which operated at the corner of Decatur and Madison, on Jackson Square. The owners of both restaurants teamed up and opened the Begue’s space as Tujague’s in 1914.
One of the more interesting spirits here is believed to be that of Julian Eltinge, the famous vaudevillian female impersonator. Eltinge always made a point to stop here when he was in town and a photograph of him once graced the dining room. After this photograph was moved to the attic, his image appeared in a selfie taken by some patrons in 2013.
On the second floor, which once housed the kitchen, the sounds of breaking glass and china is sometimes heard. This is thought to be related to a love triangle that existed between Madame Beague, who owned the restaurant, her second husband Hypolite, and a young lady who worked in the kitchen.
Walker, Judy. “Poppy Tooker communes with Tujague’s ghosts in new cookbook.” Times-Picayune. 27 October 2015.
Turtle Bay 1119 Decatur Street
Writer Alison Fensterstock notes that the 1100 block of Decatur Street “is a particularly fertile area for haunting,” in her 2009 article, “When Ghosts Attack.” In fact, when she visited Turtle Bay while researching the article, her presence may have riled the restaurant’s resident spirit, “Boudreaux.” When she returned to the restaurant the following day, she discovered that the spirit had thrown a tantrum, throwing a couple knives and a pan in the kitchen. This activity, however, is not limited to visits by writers, the cook explained to Fensterstock that the business’ owner was not liked by the spirit and had once pushed a table into him.
Santos, a Rock n’ Roll bar, is the latest of many bars and clubs that have occupied this 19th century building. Spirits here include former patrons and staff members. For further information, see my writeup, “Sipping with Spirits—New Orleans.”
Santos Bar 1135 Decatur Street New Orleans, Louisiana
For years, women have encountered a man in the ladies’ room. In the hedonistic atmosphere of New Orleans, this might not generally be cause for alarm, but when the man stares women down, they leave and notify a staff member. Dutifully, the staff member will check the restroom, though they know the man is only one of the handful of spirits that inhabit this ancient structure. Known as the “Guy in the Bathroom,” the gentleman, wearing a tank top and Jams shorts, is just one of the lost souls remaining here.
Peeling back the layers of history in New Orleans can be a fascinating process. The land upon which Santos Bar is located once was a part of the Ursuline Convent that still stands on the opposite side of the block on Chartres Street. Ursuline sisters from the French city of Rouen arrived in New Orleans in 1727 to establish a hospital and provide education for girls. The sisters were granted a large parcel of land stretching from the river to Chartres Street. This property held an assemblage of buildings including hospital buildings. With the many epidemics of cholera and yellow fever that swept the city in its early years, this site likely saw many deaths.
In the first decades of the 19th century, the convent was moved to a new building in the 9th Ward and the main convent building converted to use as a residence for the bishop of New Orleans while many of the convent’s buildings were demolished to make way for homes and commercial buildings. A series of three-story brick buildings were built along Decatur Street from 1830-1831 called “Ursuline Row.” There does seem to be some contention as what buildings were constructed as part of Ursuline Row. Samuel Wilson’s 1959 A Guide to the Architecture of New Orleans includes all buildings in this block facing Decatur Street, though the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) only includes Nos. 1107-1133 in their collection; stopping short of including the building at No. 1135. Regardless of if the building was part of Ursuline Row, the current structure was likely built no earlier than the 19th century.
For decades the neighborhood around Ursuline Row was a working-class neighborhood inhabited by dock workers, laborers, and immigrants. In the 1930s, saloons and bars opened up along the street and hosted jazz bands. This building was occupied by the Popeye Beer Parlor, which remained open for almost a decade. This would be one of the first of many drinking establishments that would occupy this building.
Over the past few decades, this building has played host to a panoply of bars ranging from a lesbian bar, Rubyfruit Jungle, to a well-known underground goth bar, The Crystal, with many variations in between. As I write this, the building is a bar called Santos, run by the same owners of The Saint Bar & Lounge on St. Mary Street (which is also known to be haunted). While the clientele has changed over the years, spirits remain.
A 2009 article (this address was Rubyfruit Jungle when this article was written) on New Orleans bar ghosts notes, however, that the most well-known spirit on the premises was the Guy in the Bathroom. An earlier article, from 2004 when the building was occupied by The Whirling Dervish, explores more spirits. At this time, the bar was owned by a businessman who also ran a French Quarter haunted history tour, which featured the bar as one of its stops. The article mentions the Guy in the Bathroom, and includes three more spirits, as well as vampires that are rumored to inhabit the shadows here.
One ghost is always seen upstairs and another hangs out where the old DJ booth used to be.
The third is seen outside the bar where he was supposedly murdered when the club was known as The Crystal.
A fourth ghost, the owner at the time of The Crystal was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat in the upstairs room.
Now his ghost is said to lurk in the upper bar.
I have not been able to locate any information on murders here, though such tragedies in the building’s history are almost par for the course for New Orleans buildings.
In a city where spirits are a hallmark for many establishments, Santos, it seems, is a perfect place to hear good music and sip with spirits.