Railyard Revenant—West Virginia

Facebook can be a marvelous resource for ghost stories, if you can stand wading through unsourced posts, over-eager amateur ghost hunters with blurry ghost photos, and memes asking if you believe in ghosts. The information on this haunting came from a post on the Haunted West Virginia page that included the original article along with the name of the paper and the date.

The Norfolk and Western Railroad got into the coal business in the late 19th century. After the purchase of the Flat-Top Coal Land Association and the massive coal fields under its control, the railroad reorganized the organization into the Pocahontas Coal and Coke Company and began to expand its railroads into the coal fields of southern West Virginia. As the company began cutting into this remote region, towns were established including the small town of Williamson.

Aerial view of Williamson in 1990. Taken by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. Notice the railroad cutting through the middle of town.

At a point along the Tug Fork River, at this point the border between West Virginia and Kentucky, a marge railyard was established with a town being established around it. The railroad still cuts through the heart of this small town with the large railyard still in operation, though the railroad’s name has changed from the Norfolk and Western to Norfolk Southern. The town is now the county seat for Mingo County.

On September 1, 1935, the paper in Bluefield, West Virginia, the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, reported on paranormal activity experienced in the railyard.

But today comes the strangest ghost tale every published. The wonder of it is some of the big newspapers have not grabbed it, for it sure is a knockout. Many Norfolk and Western railroad men vouch for the truth of the story, men whose word is as good as their bond.

This amazing happening has its setting on Williamson yard, and has been told and retold until around the Mingo county seat the kiddies are sometimes put to sleep thinking of the yarn.

But we will not [sic] longer keep the reader in suspense.

From the inferno of the boiler of a Norfolk and Western yard engine in use in Williamson yard may be heard the pitiful cries of baby. Of course, there is no baby in that firebox. Even a child need not be told that.

But often during the dead hours of night from the firebox the engineer and fireman almost stand speechless as the faint cry of an infant is emitted from the seething furnace of their locomotive.

Billy Dotson, veteran engineer, is said to have been the first to hear the baby cry, but since, others claim to have heard the voice distinctly.

One theory advanced is that a long time ago a young baby in some maner [sic] was tossed into the firebox of this particular engine, and that its tiny spirit remains.

Anyway, you have the story. It is not for us to offer a solution of this amazing phenomena.

Panoramic view of the Williamson Railyard, 2013. Photo by Magnolia677, courtesy of Wikipedia.

As far as I can find, this is the only reporting on this incident. It is unknown as to if the activity in the Williamson Railyard has ceased.

Sources

  • Norfolk and Western Railway. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 16 January 2018.
  • Williamson, West Virginia. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 16 January 2018.
  • “Writer unfolds a new ghost story.” Bluefield Daily Telegraph. 1 September 1935.

From a dumpster fire to a Husk—Savannah

12 West Oglethorpe Avenue
Savannah, Georgia

In 2006, a ghost tour guide told a reporter from the Houston Chronicle that this one address in Savannah has seen “more conversions than Billy Graham,” a reference to the nationally known evangelist. Of course, these were conversions to one of Savannah’s true religions: belief in the paranormal. According to this tour guide, this site has played host to a panoply of tragedies and, as a result, now hosts paranormal activity.

During this particular tour, guests were allowed to step up to the front door of this forlorn house and take photographs in hopes of capturing evidence of the home’s ghosts. Reportedly, some guests experienced battery drain with their cameras and even motorized wheelchairs. Others were shocked at what appeared in their photos.

This particular site—within Savannah’s massive historic district—has seen a tremendous evolution since the city’s founding in 1733. As noted by a monument in the median of West Oglethorpe within sight of the house, this property was initially the city’s first Jewish cemetery. A burial spot for the local Jewish community was later established some distance away, though, the graves were left at this site, which evolved into a residential area.

The house at 12 West Oglethorpe is an unassuming Georgian home with an elegant circular porch. Among the numerous homes in Georgia’s oldest city, the house is not as old as some of its neighbors, dating only to around 1898. Built as a home, the structure’s modest history includes the building’s use as an Elks Lodge and later, a performing arts school, until the building was abandoned in 1985.

During the time that the house sat boarded up, ghost stories began to circulate and the home became a fixture on many ghost tours. Here, guides would relate the sad tale of Dr. Brown, a physician who occupied the house in 1876, during the last of the yellow fever epidemics to strike the city. Patients visiting the house brought the illness into the home and one by one, the doctor’s family died after succumbing. Grief stricken, the good doctor sealed himself in one of the upstairs rooms and starved to death.

This is a great story, but total bunk. Yellow fever, which does feature in some local ghost stories, is not spread from human to human contact, but spread by mosquitos. Local tour guide and author, James Caskey was not able to locate any reference to a doctor living on this site (this house didn’t exist in 1876) or anywhere in this area named Brown. While this story isn’t true, that doesn’t discount the paranormal activity here. Some of the activity described by Caskey in his authoritative 2008 book, Haunted Savannah,  includes the apparition of an elderly man seen peering from an upstairs window—despite the fact that there was no floor underneath that particular window—odd sounds being heard by the neighbors, and several strange anomalies appearing in photographs.

A year after Caskey’s book was published, a dumpster fire set by teenage pranksters ignited the modern addition at the back of the house. Photos of the damage show the addition with broken, charred windows and a missing roof. Neighbors, worried about the building’s safety pressed the city for action, though they were thwarted by the slow-turning wheels of government and absentee owners.

Caskey makes an appearance in a recent episode of Haunted Towns on Destination America. The show follows the Tennessee Wraith Chasers as they visit cities and towns throughout the country with haunted reputations attempting to suss out why these places have earned such reputations. Their episode on Savannah concentrates on the legends surrounding Wright Square, located just around the corner from 12 West Oglethorpe. Caskey is interviewed early in the episode where he notes that legend of the square and the house may be connected.

Wright Square, just around the corner from 12 West Oglethorpe. Photo by XEON, 2013, courtesy of Wikipedia.

He also remarks that the house has never been investigated, spurring the show’s investigators to investigate themselves. In fact, another local guide and investigator, Ryan Dunn, explored the house in 2010 and had a frightening encounter. On the second floor Dunn’s camera “powered down for no apparent reason.” He continues, “As I looked up, I saw a black shadow person cross the hallway in front of me from one bedroom to the other.” He describes the shadow figure as being three dimensional and roughly shaped like a person, but with no discernable features.

Dunn also includes a fascinating tale from the 2009 fire. After extinguishing the fire, local firefighters held a fire watch in order to ensure that the fire did not reignite. Staying in the house overnight, the firefighters began to tell ghost stories and daring each other to creep up the stairs to the “haunted room” where Dr. Brown supposedly died. One firefighter bravely entered the room and let out a scream. Dashing down the stairs, the firefighter remained in his vehicle out front for the rest of the evening, refusing to reveal what he encountered in the room.

During the Tennessee Wraith Chasers’ investigation, they meet a property manager working on the renovation of 12 West Oglethorpe who told them the story of Dr. Brown. While the story is being told, the crew’s camera unexpectedly cuts out. After getting their camera up and running, the property manager tells the investigators that he had had one peculiar incident while working in the house where his name had been called by a disembodied voice. The paranormal team did a sweep of the house including the basement where a temperature gauge registered a temperature of 66.6 degrees. During the evening investigation, the group experienced battery drain, captured a few EVPs, and heard a disembodied voice.

The building opened its doors on January 5th as the Savannah outpost of the Charleston restaurant Husk. In the award-winning hands of chefs Sean Brock and Tyler Williams, Husk opened in Charleston, South Carolina in 2010 in a historic haunted home next door to haunted landmark, Poogan’s Porch. Serving Nouveau Southern cuisine, the chefs playfully rework classic Southern dishes and ingredients bolstered by research into the gastronomic history of the region. The restaurant has also made a point to occupy historic structures in order to preserve the historic built environments in addition to food ways and incidentally, the spirits, of each city where it operates.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. Haunted Savannah: The Official Guidebook to Savannah Haunted History Tour, 2008. Savannah, GA: Bonaventure Books, 2007.
  • Cowen, Diane. “Spirited Savannah.” Houston Chronicle. 19 March 2006.
  • Curl, Eric. “Three downtown Savannah historic commercial buildings closed to public and awaiting restoration.” Savannah Morning News. 16 November 2013.
  • Dunn, Ryan. Savannah’s Afterlife: True Tales of a Paranormal Investigator. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2014.
  • “Savannah.” Haunted Towns. Season 1, Episode 3. Originally aired 9 August 2017.
  • Whiteway, Maria. “Husk is here!” Connect Savannah. 10 January 2018.

Spectral Selfies in the News

In the past few weeks, several people visiting haunted places here in the South have been photobombed in a spectral fashion. Visitors to St. Francisville, Louisiana’s The Myrtles Plantation and Homestead, Florida’s Hotel Redland have captured images of someone in their photographs, someone who wasn’t physically present when the photos were taken.

Six friends visiting The Myrtles decided to take a group selfie just outside of the house. Upon closer inspection, the photographer noticed the face of a seventh woman peering from behind a window pane behind the group. While all the women in the group are smiling, the women in the window pane appears to be scowling. Photographs of the this nature are easy to fake, so I cannot say this photograph is authentic. Surely, this is not the first photograph taken at The Myrtles to possibly show something spectral. In 2015, I published a photograph taken by an acquaintance that appears to show someone sitting on the staircase.

The Myrtles, 2005, by Bnet504. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Perhaps the most famous haunted places in the country, The Myrtles (7747 US-61, St. Francisville, Louisiana) is a late 18th-century plantation with a tragic history. Of course, much of that tragic history has literally come back to haunt the home. The house is preserved as a museum, bed & breakfast, and haunted attraction. In my opinion, at least some of that tragic history has been created to make the haunting more interesting. I looked into these stories in a blog entry several years ago.

It’s interesting that the other selfie that has been published in the news is from a place that also has a doubtful history. The history of the Hotel Redland (5 South Flagler Avenue, Homestead, Florida) is not as long or as varied as The Myrtles, though it has also left spectral impressions. Those spectral impressions led a friend of a hotel staff member to investigate the hotel recently. During the investigation, the visitor snapped a selfie standing in the lobby. In the selfie, a face appears which the British tabloid, the Daily Mirror, described as resembling the horror movie villain, Michael Myers, from John Carpernter’s movie franchise, Halloween.

My opinion on the photograph is that this is a case of pareidolia, when the brain tries to make sense of something chaotic by finding patterns in it. In this case, light reflected in the window pane creates a “face,” within the reflection.

The first building on this site was constructed in 1904 as a boarding house for railroad employees called the Homestead Inn. This building’s history was rather quiet until the fateful day of November 10, 1913. I’ll allow the Miami Metropolis to take over the story from here:

A few minutes before 2 o’clock in the afternoon the large steam roller, being used in rolling the streets, puffed down in front of the Homestead Inn, and it was only a few seconds later that the roof of the hotel was discovered on fire, having caught from a flying spark from the engine. Soon the entire fire-fighting population of the town was on the scene, and all efforts were brought to bear to save the burning building, but to no avail. However, the furnishings were carried to safety and the loss of the building is just about covered by insurance.

Flames spread to five adjoining buildings destroying several other businesses. The paper ends the article by mentioning that a fire caused by sparks from the same steamroller had damaged the city’s other hotel across the street that morning. “It is likely that some action will be taken to curb the chances of another such conflagration starting from the same cause.”

Hotel Redland, 2011, by Ebyabe. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

While the damage to the structure led to much of it being rebuilt, the story of this dramatic fire continued to be told and expanded. The story of the fire as told now sets the scene late at night where the fire takes the lives of a number of guests soundly asleep in their rooms. These same guests now haunt the hotel.

An article in the August 16th Miami New Times detailed a paranormal investigation of the hotel by the South Florida team of PRISM Miami, lead by investigator David Rodriguez. That article hints at the hotel actually being haunted, though the details are somewhat vague.

Sources

A haunt in Hamilton County, Florida

Old Hamilton County Jail
501 Northeast 1st Avenue
Jasper, Florida

When it closed in 1984, Jasper, Florida’s Hamilton County Jail was the oldest operating jail in the state. In the 91 years it was operational, this building witnessed tremendous tragedy and sadness, such emotion that imprinted itself on the walls of the structure. Even before its closure, ghost stories about the jail circulated throughout Hamilton County, in fact, the National Register for Historic Places nomination form mentions that the building has a haunted reputation within the local folklore

Old Hamilton County Jail, 2007, by Ebyabe. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Built by the Pauly Jail Company, a St. Louis-based company that constructed jails throughout the country, the jail in Jasper includes a tower suitable for carrying out justice. The historians who wrote the National Register nomination weren’t sure if executions had actually been conducted within the building, though local rumors insist to that fact. Local historian Johnny Bullard stated in a 2014 article that three people met their fates here. He further notes that one or two of these executions were among the last hangings east of the Mississippi.

A 2016 article quotes the president of the Hamilton County Historical Society as saying that no executions took place within the walls of the buildings, but that gallows were constructed for that purpose outside the building. Notice of a 1916 execution at the jail appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat. Interestingly, the paper did not use the name of the criminal, only addressing him as “the murderer of Deputy Raiford Royals,” “the condemned,” and “black man.” While noting that the execution took place on a specially constructed scaffold outside the jail, the article remarks that there was some joy during this most somber of occasions: “As the fatal moment drew near he [Walter Durham, the condemned] laughed and joked with his executioners—smiling even in the very face of death. He claimed he was ‘right with God,’ and was ‘going yonder’—pointing upward. He then asked the negroes present to sing a hymn, himself joining in, and the large crowd was curiously quiet while the mournful dirge floated on the passing breeze.”

After being allowed to pen a brief letter to his parents in Hahira, Georgia, the noose was adjusted around his neck and Mr. Durham called for one of his ministers to pray with him. That minister had departed, but a white minister, the Reverend W. B. Tresca of the local Methodist church stepped forward to offer a prayer. The sheriff stepped forward and “launched the soul of the murderer into eternity.” The National Register form offers that Durham’s execution may have been swift and public because of the local outcry over Deputy Royals’ death.

In addition to executions, it is also noted that several other deaths occurred here including a suicide. However, the wife of a deputy sheriff who lived here gave birth to both of her sons in the building, adding some moments of levity to the building’s dark history.

Old Hamilton County Jail, 2007, by Ebyabe. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Investigators have been combing the jail for years looking for evidence of paranormal activity. Newspapers have documented some of the encounters that have occurred here. In 2010, a female investigator entered a bedroom that had once housed members of the warden’s family and sensed a spirit. She told the Gainesville Sun that she felt “a strong pressure on my shoulders and chest. And then my stomach starts to turn and I get this tingling feeling in my legs.”

Historian Johnny Bullard demurred when asked if he had personally had any experiences within the jail. He visited the old jail once with a friend late at night. He told the Suwannee Democrat, “I heard something. I saw something that moved…like a shadow, and I didn’t stick around. It was frightening enough to me that I did not stay around.” He continued, saying that others have heard some frightening sounds including voices and footsteps in the empty building.

Sources

  • Arteaga, Allison. “Paranormal investigators help North Florida.” Gainesville Sun. 16 October 2010.
  • Bulger, Peggy & Larry Paarlberg. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for the Old Hamilton County Jail. 16 May 1983.
  • Northeastern Florida Paranormal Investigators. Investigation Report for Old Hamilton County Jail. September 2010.
  • “Public execution of a negro at Jasper.” Tallahassee Democrat. 17 September 1916.
  • Taylor, Joyce Marie. “A spooky time at the haunted old jail in Jasper.” Suwannee Democrat. 23 October 2014.

A Calhoun County haunt, finally!

Old Calhoun County Jail
20830 Northeast W.C. Reeder Drive
Blountstown, Florida

When I was working on part two of my series on Florida Hauntings, County by County—Part II, I ran into a problem that has persistently plagued me: I had information on a haunting, but it was far too little. For several years, the sheriff of Calhoun County, Florida has opened the old jail in Blountstown as a haunted attraction to raise money for charity. Articles covering the event have hinted at actual paranormal activity in the jail, but none have specifically discussed the activity, until this Halloween.

Old Calhoun County Jail, by Forrest Granger, circa 1940. From the Forrest Granger Collection, www.floridamemory.com.

In a November 1st article for the Panama City ABC affiliate, WMBB, a former jail chief reported that the jail is “haunted by trouble.” The jail chief began working at the facility in 1984 and during her tenure the sheriff shot and killed an inmate in the building. “The sheriff shot him, and the place [the bullet hole, presumably] is still in the wall. He got to the top of the steps and he died,” the retired jailer noted.

After that incident, the jailer began to see “mysterious movements” while on her rounds through the building. One evening, she reached the top of the steps and heard the sound of a door slamming. Calling another officer, he investigated but was not able to locate the source of the sound.

Old Calhoun County Jail, 2015, by Jimmy Emerson. Courtesy of Flickr.

The old jail was constructed in 1920 and served the local sheriff until 2007. A few years ago, the sheriff came up with the idea of taking people through the building for a few scares as the “old jail is scary on a regular day.” According to the sheriff, this haunted jail event will open the building to visitors for future Halloween.

Sources

‘Empty, save the memories’–Louisiana

Beauregard Parish Jail
205 West First Street
DeRidder, Louisiana

Joe Genna’s last hours were full of pain and misery just as the last moments of J. J. Brevelle’s life had been. On the fateful evening of August 28, 1926, Genna and Molton Brasseaux robbed and beat Brevelle, a 43-year-old cab driver, on the outskirts of DeRidder and dumped his body in a mill pond. As he awaited hanging within the Gothic confines of the Beauregard Parish Jail, Genna tried to take his own life by swallowing several poison pills. The Shreveport Times takes up the story:

Genna, pale and haggard and apparently deathly ill from the effects od the several poison tablets he swallowed in his cell Thursday night, required the assistance of deputy sheriffs to walk from his cell to the death chamber. The deputies supported him while he stood to make his statement of repentance and express willingness to die. Friday he repented of his act for having attempted to take his life.

The paper notes that at 12:54 on Friday afternoon, March 9, 1928, Genna “mounted the scaffold at the Beauregard parish jail and was dead five minutes later of a broken neck. Molton Brasseaux walked to the same scaffold to meet his death about twenty minutes later.

The hangings of Genna and Brasseaux took place under the auspices of the stumpy Gothic central tower of the Beauregard Parish Jail. While the “Collegiate Gothic” architecture of the building has been deemed the most fanciful of all the jails in the state, it still lends a cruel sense of ominousness to the building squatting on its haunches next to the proudly standing Beaux-Arts courthouse. Under the jail’s foreboding tower, a circular staircase rises with cells off each round. Hangings could be conducted here allowing for the whole of the jail’s population to witness the death-drop of the convicted. This horrifying feature was used this one time, though it did lend a nickname to the building, the “Hanging Jail.”

Beauregard Parish Jail, 2005. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

For a little over a hundred years these two siblings, the beautiful courthouse and the ugly jail, have existed side by side. Constructed for the newly established Beauregard Parish in 1914, the courthouse continues to operate while the jail is vacant, save for tourists, spirits, spirit-hunters, and memories, having been replaced by a new facility in 1984.

The day of the hanging in 1928, schoolchildren were witness to a pair of black wicker coffins being carried from the jail, though the pair of convicts may not have left spiritually. In 2006, the state’s most notable paranormal investigative organization, Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations, explored the jail. The group did detect some activity that was unexplained as well as having some personal experiences hearing footsteps and flowing water. During their second investigation, the group’s report notes that many of the windows are open thus allowing ambient noise from the street to filter in, which may be mistaken for paranormal activity.

More recent investigations have captured even more compelling evidence. During one investigation, an investigator asked “Do you know that you’re dead?” and recorded the response, “I’m alive. I’m alive.” A photographer taking photos of the jail a few years ago may have captured the image of a jailer sitting on the porch. Starting last year, the jail has been opened at night during the Halloween season allowing visitors to explore the building in the dark.

Scribbled on the wall of a cell, graffiti reveals that at least one inmate expected to remain in this dark place forever: “Here inside these chambers of death I will dwell forever more. I lost my heart, my mind and my soul just because of a bolted door.”

Sources

Haunts from the Halloween season

After spending much of the Halloween season engrossed in the blog move, I’m just starting to catch up on newsworthy haunts from this season’s news.

Tivoli Theatre
Home to the GALA Hispanic Theatre
3333 14th Street NW
Washington, DC

Alone in a one-room apartment, Harry Crandall wrote a note ending with “To whom it may concern: it is now 2:45 a. m., and I am turning on the gas.” He signed the note with his initials and soon slipped out of the bonds of this plane. Crandall had been on top of the world just 15 years previous, but a snowstorm brought difficulties to his theatre empire and fortune in 1922. As a blizzard dumped snow onto Washington on January 28th of that year, patrons of Crandall’s Knickerbocker Theatre were cozily watching Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford when snow piled on the building’s roof caused a collapse leading to the deaths of 98. The city immediately closed all theatres until snow could be removed from their roofs.

The jewel in Crandall’s crown was the Tivoli. When the Knickerbocker disaster took place, the Tivoli was still in the planning stages. After government officials began to question the architectural integrity of Crandall’s architect, Reginal Geare, Crandall asked the eminent theatre architect, Thomas Lamb, to step in as architect. The Tivoli is considered a masterpiece of Lamb’s art. Geare’s replacement and the questions around his design led him to commit suicide in 1927.

Tivoli Theatre, 2005, by D Monack. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The same year of Geare’s suicide, Crandall sold his theatre chain to Warner Brothers, but continued several businesses related to the film industry. From the day the Tivoli opened its doors in 1924, the Tivoli’s marquee glittered for many decades. Following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, riots rocked many cities including large parts of Washington. Much of the neighborhood around the Tivoli was devastated, though the theatre survived unscathed. The Tivoli limped into the 1970s when a precipitous drop in business led to the theatre’s closure.

While the theatre sat unoccupied, locals recognized the building’s historical importance and had it listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. In the early 2000s the theatre underwent restoration, with the GALA (Grupo de Artistas Latino Americanos) Hispanic Theatre set to occupy the theatre space. In January of 2005, the theatre reopened its doors to the theatre-going public. From opening day, GALA Hispanic Theatre has continued to present the best of Hispanic and Latino theatre in a space where spirits of the past still may wander.

A Halloween article in American Theatre magazine notes that staff and crew members of the GALA Hispanic Theatre have had paranormal encounters which they believe may be the spirit of Harry Crandall. While Crandall did not die in the theatre, it would not be surprising that his spirit would return to this theatre that he was very closely associated with. In the theatre, staff has dealt with light turning off and on and making a general spectral ruckus while a painter saw a figure while painting a set late one night. Perhaps Crandall still wants to be a part of showbiz.

Sources

  • Darris, Cranston. National Register nomination form for the Tivoli Theatre. March 1985.
  • Dembin, Russell. “Keep that ghost light on!” American Theatre. 31 October 2017.
  • “Once wealthy theater head is a suicide.” Daily Mail (Hagerstown, MD). 27 February 1937.
  • Tivoli Theatre (Washington, D.C.). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 14 November 2017.
  • The Venue – History of the Tivoli Theatre.” GALA Hispanic Theatre. Accessed 14 November 2017.

Philippe Park
2525 Philippe Parkway
Safety Harbor, Florida

Grave of Odet Philippe, 2010 by TimT1006. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Overlooking the western shore of Tampa Bay, Philippe Park encapsulates some of the early history of the area. Among the moss-draped oaks and palmy vistas is a mound constructed by the Tocobaga people who occupied this area until the Spanish invasion in the 16th century. A marker within the park also notes the burial of Odet Philippe, a free black man who settled here in the early 19th century. Philippe is credited as planting the first grapefruit tree here, thus aiding in the establishment of a multi-billion-dollar industry.

An article from the Tampa Bay Times, notes that “supernatural stories abound in the park,” and that the article’s author heard “lots of weird rustling,” which she did not stick around to investigate. The park has been the scene of a serious paranormal investigation conducted by Tampa Bay Spirits. A report on their website includes the experiences of three sensitives who walked the park. Each encountered energy around the mound.

Sources

  • Guerra, Melissa, & Eric Smithers. “Odet Philippe: The story behind the namesake of Philippe Park in Safety Harbor.” South Tampa Magazine. 15 July 2014.
  • Hayes, Stephanie. “5 spooky sites around Tampa Bay that aren’t theme parks.” Tampa Bay Times. 27 September 2017.
  • Tampa Bay Spirits, LLC. “Philippe Park, Safety Harbor.” Tampa Bay Spirits. Accessed 4 October 2017.

Lapham-Patterson House
626 North Dawson Street
Thomasville, Georgia

Lapham-Patterson House, 2010, by Ebyabe. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Shoe manufacturer Charles Lapham had good reason to fear a house fire. After all, he was from Chicago, a city that had nearly been destroyed during the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. He was also interested in the Spiritualism movement, which was in vogue at that time. Perhaps these things informed the design of this strange and exuberant South Georgia vacation home?

While the house contains an overabundance of exits, which would be ideal in the event of a fire, an odd stained glass window in the gentleman’s parlor projects the image of a cow’s head onto the floor during the spring and fall equinoxes. Some believe this may be a strange homage to Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, the scapegoat of the Chicago fire.

Staff and visitors to the house, which is now operated as a historic site by the state of Georgia, have had some chilling experiences. A performer sitting on the staircase during a reading of Edgar Allan Poe was tapped on the shoulder by the form of a little girl. The curator of the house noted that, “she firmly believed it was Lapham’s daughter, who died in the house of pneumonia.”

Sources

  • Lapham-Patterson House. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 15 November 2017.
  • Warrender, Sarah. “’Supposedly, she roams around’: Haunting tales of the paranormal from South Georgia, North Florida.” Daily Citizen (Dalton, GA). 28 October 2017.
  • Wright, Russell. National Register nomination form for the Lapham-Patterson House. 5 December 1969.

Eight-sided Spirits–Kentucky

Octagon Hall
6040 Bowling Green Road
Franklin, Kentucky

Andrew Jackson Caldwell began this unique plantation home in Franklin, Kentucky in 1847 completing it in 1859 on the eve of war. Kentucky was literally the birthplace of the Civil War being the birthplace of both Lincoln and his Confederate counterpart, Jefferson Davis, but initially, with the secession of its Southern neighbors, the state attempted to remain neutral. When the Confederate army invaded the state and occupied Columbus, Kentucky on the Mississippi, all hell began to break loose. A Confederate shadow government was created to oppose the Unionist state government already in place and the state joined the Confederacy in December of 1861. The provisional capital at Bowling Green had to be evacuated the following year and some eight to ten thousand fleeing soldiers camped on the grounds of Octagon Hall, February 13.

Octagon Hall, 2008, by Kentondickerson. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The pursuing Union army swept through the plantation two days later and while they controlled the area, frequently searched the grounds for hidden Confederates. Wounded soldiers, knowing of the Caldwell’s pro-Confederate leanings, sought out the house as a hiding place. A story told by the Caldwell family involves soldiers being hidden in the cupola that once topped the house. Mr. Caldwell kept bees in the cupola and Confederates would be dressed in bee suits and hidden there. When Union troops would search the house they wouldn’t enter the cupola because of the bees.

There is apparently a host of spirits at Octagon Hall. The suggestion has been made that the building’s unusual shape may exacerbate the hauntings as well as the limestone brick that the house was constructed with. At least one Confederate soldier died in the house when he was shot by Union troops. His apparition has been seen by the director of the Octagon Hall Museum, though he may also be the culprit behind the body-shaped impressions left in beds, footsteps heard throughout the house and doors opening and closing by themselves. This soldier is joined by the Caldwell’s young daughter, Mary Elizabeth, who died in the 1860s when her dress caught fire while she was playing in the kitchen. Her apparition has been seen and heard throughout the grounds of the house with one paranormal group capturing a marvelous A-class EVP of a child calling, “mommy.” A search of YouTube reveals a number of videos of investigations of this unusual house.

Sources

  • The Civil War Years. The Octagon Hall Museum & Kentucky Confederate Studies Archives. Accessed 30 November 2010.
  • Episode 2. “Octagon Hall.” Most Terrifying Places in America, Season 7. Travel Channel. Originally aired 22 October 2010.
  • Kentucky in the American Civil War. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 13 December 2010.

“There surges forth a shriek…Maryland, my Maryland!”

But lo! there surges forth a shriek,
From hill to hill, from creek to creek-
Potomac calls to Chesapeake,
Maryland! My Maryland!
–from Stanza VII, “Maryland, my Maryland” by James Ryder Randall (1861), state song of Maryland since 1939.

Point Lookout State Park
11175 Point Lookout Road
Scotland, Maryland

N.B. This article was first published on Courtney Mroch’s Haunt Jaunts 14 September 2016.

Where the Potomac River calls to and meets the Chesapeake Bay at a place called Point Lookout, shrieks sometimes rend the quiet night air. The shrieks and cries may come from the throats of the countless men who withered and died in the Union prison camp here or perhaps they are shrieks of terror from the living who have encountered the active spirits who haunt this place. Here in this wild and lonely place, apparitions are frequently accompanied by audible echoes of the past and negative energies of the past are still palpable in the salty breeze from the Chesapeake Bay.

Waves crash on a breakwater just offshore from Point Lookout. Photo by Matt Tillett, 2008. Courtesy of Flickr.

Seemingly squashed between Virginia and Pennsylvania and hemmed in by the Chesapeake Bay, Delaware, and West Virginia, Maryland seems to be more of an afterthought as a state, though it is perhaps one of the more important states in the early history of this country. In terms of the paranormal landscape, Maryland is also not well regarded, though it could be seen as one of the more haunted states in the South if not the country. From the small villages clustered along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay to the Washington, D.C. suburbs, Baltimore, Annapolis, the battlefield-pocked farmland of Washington County to the mountains of Western Maryland, the state is haunted to its core. Among its contributions to American paranormal studies are the 1949 exorcism of a young boy in Cottage City (a Washington, D.C. suburb in Prince George’s County) that forms the basis of William Peter Blatty’s novel, The Exorcist; the persistent legend of a goatman-like creature near Beltsville (also near Washington); and numerous macabre near-mythical characters including the killer Patty Cannon, the vengeful slave Big Lizz, the Pig Woman of Cecil County. Haunted landmarks include the USS Constitution docked in Baltimore Harbor, the Antietam battlefield, the Landon House in Urbana, Governor’s Bridge, the University of Maryland in College Park, and historic and haunted cities such as Ellicott City and Frederick.

Point Lookout is the most southern tip of St. Mary’s County, the oldest established county in the state having been established in 1637. The area was first explored by Captain John Smith (yes, the one of Pocahontas fame) in 1608 who noted the abundant fish and game, the fertile soil, and the strategic military importance of this spot. Over the next couple centuries settlers here endured attacks from Native Americans and the site’s military importance brought a raid from British forces during the American Revolution. After a number of ships were lost on the shoals just offshore from Point Lookout, the government built a lighthouse in 1830. Despite the warning beacon, some catastrophic shipwrecks still occurred here including the USS Tulip which sank with 47 souls after a boiler explosion, and the tragic breakup of the steamship Express during the Great Gale of 1878 with the loss of 16 souls.

A rebel prisoner photographed by L. V. Newell. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

The Civil War brought thousands to this little peninsula with the establishment in 1862 of Hammond General Hospital to care for wounded soldiers. The immense building could house 1,400 patients and consisted of 16 buildings arranged as the spokes in a wheel. A short distance from the hospital Camp Hoffman was established the next year to house Confederate prisoners of war. In The Photographic History of the Civil War, the camp is described: “No barracks were erected, but tents were used instead…The prison was the largest in the North, and at times nearly twenty thousand were in confinement…in winter the air was cold and damp, and the ground upon which most men lay was also damp.” In this rude prison—nearly all prison camps during this war were rude and inhumane—some 3,000 Confederate troops perished from disease and exposure to the elements. With this dark history it’s no wonder that Point Lookout is teeming with activity.

Point Lookout Confederate Monument. Photo taken for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) by David Haas, 2006. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

In 1992 on the FOX TV show, Sightings, paranormal investigator Lynda Martin says of Point Lookout: “This has to be one of the places that I’ve investigated, that it’s just the whole area is just full of activity. It’s not just localized to just one building or one spot on the grounds, it includes the whole area. I’ve never come in contact with anything like that before.” After a 1980 paranormal investigation here involving Hans Holzer, the pioneering paranormal researcher and early ghost hunter, he declared, “that place is haunted as hell!” For decades, reports have been filtering out from Point Lookout from staff and visitors alike regarding paranormal activity here. What makes these reports so interesting and important is the wide variety of experiences and the evidence that has been captured.

Some years ago a reenactor was spending the night in an old guardhouse near Fort Lincoln, one of the earthen forts built to defend the prison stockade. Going out after dark to gather firewood, the man knelt down and heard the distinct sound of a bullet whizzing past his head. A window pane in the guardhouse behind him was struck and shattered. Shaking with fright from his near-death encounter, the reenactor fled the area. Returning the next morning, he was shocked to find that all the window panes were perfectly in place and none had been shattered.

It is perhaps the old lighthouse here that serves best as a beacon for spirits. Various caretakers have lived in the early 19th-century structure and many of them have had experiences. It was one of these caretakers living here in the late 1970s who asked paranormal investigators to check out the activity after he had numerous experiences in the building. One evening as the caretaker sat at his kitchen table he was overcome with the sensation of being watched. Walking to the door he saw the visage of a man wearing a floppy hat looking back at him through the window. His curiosity was aroused by the strange visitor and the caretaker opened the door to let him in. The figure turned and walked through the screen that enclosed the porch. The same caretaker regularly reported hearing voices, footsteps, moaning, and snoring throughout the house when he was home alone.

Point Lookout Lighthouse, 2013, by Jeremy Smith. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

A park ranger reported that he saw a Confederate soldier running across the road near where the camp hospital once stood. Over the years that he served at the park he claimed to have seen the soldier nearly a dozen times. A group of fishermen arriving early one morning reportedly struck a man who suddenly appeared in the road ahead of them. The group exited the vehicle to find no man or damage to the car, though they had all experienced the thump of the man’s body hitting the car. Another park employee on patrol one night turned to see a field of white tents lined up in the middle of the road. She fled without looking back.

In terms of auditory evidence, Sarah Estep, one of the pioneers in the field of EVP or electronic voice phenomena, was a part of the 1980 investigation and captured a number of EVP here. Among the EVPs captured was one saying, “let’s talk,” while another EVP came in response to Estep’s question, “were you a soldier here?” The clear voice of a young man states, “I was seeing the war.” These EVPs were among some 25 captured during this investigation. Others have successfully captured singing, humming, and even the chanting of soldiers on tape when nothing was heard at the time.

From the ominous lighthouse to the spiritual artifacts remaining from the Civil War prison camps, Point Lookout remains one of the most important historical and paranormal landmarks in the South.

Sources

  • Charles, TBN. “Troubled spirits are restless at one Southern Maryland site.” The Bay Net. 22 October 2015.
  • Cotter, Amelia. Maryland Ghosts: Paranormal Encounters in the Free State, 2nd Ed. Haunted Road Media, 2015
  • Davis, William C. & Bell I. Wiley, eds. Photographic History of the Civil War, Vicksburg to Appomattox. NYC: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 1983.
  • Gallagher, Trish. Ghosts and Haunted Houses of Maryland. Tidewater Publishers, 1988.
  • “Legends of Point Lookout. Bay Weekly, Vol. 8, No. 42. 19-25 October 2000.
  • Oconowicz, Ed. Big Book of Maryland Ghost Stories. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2010.
  • Point Lookout Light. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 2 November 2017.
  • Point Lookout State Park. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 2 November 2017.
  • Rasmussen, Frederick N. “A grisly past continues to haunt Point Lookout.” Baltimore Sun. 27 October 2007.
  • Varhola, Michael J. & Michael H. Varhola. Ghosthunting Maryland. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2009.
  • Winkler/Daniel Productions. Sightings, Season 1, Episode 2. Aired 28 February 1992.

‘Twas the Night Before Halloween—Recycled Revenants

‘Twas the night before Halloween and all through the blog, little was stirring…

This move from Blogger to this new site has been tedious and time-consuming. I’ve tossed out a great deal of junky posts and put many posts aside that need to be updated and refreshed leaving me with many bits and pieces that should be republished in a different context. This is a selection of 13 recycled pieces for Halloween.

Donnell House
601 South Clinton Street
Athens, Alabama

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Rock Creek Cemetery
North Capitol Street
Washington, DC

Nestled in the Rock Creek Cemetery is St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Yard, the oldest burying ground in Washington, DC. Surrounding the churchyard is the nineteenth century Rock Creek Cemetery which houses graves for many of Washington’s elite including Evalyn Walsh McLean who haunts her former home, now the Indonesian Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue. The work of famous American architects and sculptors is scattered throughout the cemetery including a statue by Augustus Saint-Gaudens in a setting by architect Stanford White. The memorial was built by author and historian Henry Adams in memory of his wife, Marian “Clover” Hooper Adams. Commonly known as Grief, Adams hated the name and wrote in a letter to the sculptor’s son, Homer:

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

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

Legend states that visitors near the statue are often overcome with a feeling of despair and others have seen the wraith of Clover Adams near the statue. The late Mrs. Adams may also be in spiritual residence in the Hay-Adams Hotel, see my entry on the hotel here. This sculpture is interesting in the fact that a copy of it, placed in Druid Ridge Cemetery in Pikeville Maryland is also associated with a ghost. Druid Ridge has a number of spirits associated with it, but “Black Aggie” is perhaps the best known. The copy of Saint-Gaudens’ sculpture was created by sculptor Edward L. A. Pausch and placed on the grave of the wife of Felix Agnus. For decades the sculpture attracted vandals and the legend grew that the figure’s eyes would glow red and those looking into the eyes were struck blind. Another tale told of a fraternity pledge crushed to death when he spent the night in the statue’s embrace. Disturbed by the activity the statue attracted, the family had it removed and it was given to the Smithsonian and now resides in the courtyard of the haunted Cutts-Madison House on Lafayette Square which faces the Decatur House across the square.

Sources 

  • Adams Memorial (Saint-Gaudens). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 22 December 2010.
  • Beauchamp, Tanya. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Rock Creek Church Yard and Cemetery. Listed 12 August 1977.
  • Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. NYC: Checkmark Books, 2007.
  • Taylor, Troy. Beyond the Grave: The History of America’s Most Haunted Graveyards. Alton, IL: Whitechapel Press, 2001.
  • Varhola, Michael J. Ghosthunting Virginia. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2008.
  • Varhola, Michael J. and Michael H. Varhola Ghosthunting Maryland. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2009.

East Coast/West Coast
138 St. George Street
St. Augustine, Florida

This modest commercial building once housed Kixie’s Men’s Store and some odd activity. The shop employed a young tailor, Kenneth Beeson who would later serve as mayor for the city. While working late one evening he noticed a door opening by itself followed by the sweet scent of funereal flowers. After experiencing odd activity for a while, Beeson put out a tape recorder and set it to record just before he left. When he returned the following morning, he was shocked to discover a plethora of sounds including marching feet and guttural growls. Disturbed by these incidents, Beeson had a priest exorcise the building. The activity ceased.

Sources 

  • Cain, Suzy & Dianne Jacoby. A Ghostly Experience: Tales of St. Augustine, Florida. City Gate Productions, 1997.
  • Lapham, Dave. Ghosts of St. Augustine. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 1997.

Western & Atlantic Railroad Tunnel
Chetoogeta Mountain
Tunnel Hill, Georgia

As the railroad spread its tentacles throughout the nation before the tumult of the Civil War, a route was needed from Augusta, Georgia to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Numerous obstacles stood in the way, but the biggest was Chetoogeta Mountain. Plans for a railroad tunnel dated to the second half of the 1830s, but work did not commence until 1848 with work completed two years later. The new tunnel was instrumental in Atlanta’s growth as a railroad hub and was a strategic feature for the Confederacy to protect during the Civil War.

The tunnel’s strategic importance led to a series of skirmishes being fought here leading up to the Battle of Atlanta. Following the war, the tunnel remained in service until 1928 when a new tunnel was built a few yards away. The old tunnel became overgrown with kudzu and was largely forgotten until 1992 when preservationists fought to save the tunnel. It is now the centerpiece of a park that features reenactments of the skirmishes fought at the site.

Entrance to the old Western & Atlantic Railroad Tunnel, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, All rights reserved.

It is often re-enactors who have encountered anything supernatural at the site. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of documented accounts of spirits at Tunnel Hill. At least four books and a handful of good articles document the high levels of activity at this site. Accounts include the apparitions of soldiers seen both inside the tunnel and around it. Ghostly campfires, disembodied screams, spectral lantern light and the smell of rotting flesh (minus the presence of actual rotting flesh) have all been reported by re-enactors and visitors alike.

Sources

  • DeFeo, Todd. “Antebellum railroad tunnel still a marvel after all These years.” com. 22 June 2009.
  • Kotarski, Georgiana C. Ghosts of the Southern Tennessee Valley. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2006.
  • Underwood, Corinna. Haunted History: Atlanta and North Georgia. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2008.
  • Western and Atlantic Railroad Tunnel. Tunnel Hill Heritage Center. Accessed 28 November 2010.

Old Talbott Tavern
107 West Stephen Foster Avenue
Bardstown, Kentucky

Old Talbott Tavern, 2008, by C. Bedford Crenshaw. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Continuously open since the late 18th century except for a period in the late 1990s when the tavern was being renovated following a disastrous fire, the Old Talbott Tavern has hosted an impressive array of visitors ranging from Daniel Boone to General George Patton. Perhaps one of the famous guests who has never checked out is outlaw Jesse James who stayed frequently in the tavern while visiting his cousin who was the local sheriff. With the claims of Jesse James’ spirit which may also roam the halls of Selma, Alabama’s St. James Hotel, James’ spirit may split the hereafter between two favorite locales. But James’ spirit is not the only spirit acting up in the Old Talbott Tavern. Other ghosts may include formers guests, owners and their families.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Kentucky. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2009.
  • Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted South. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.
  • Starr, Patti. Ghosthunting Kentucky. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy Press, 2010.

Old Louisiana State Capitol
100 North Boulevard
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

When the state capitol was moved from New Orleans to Baton Rouge in 1846, the city donated land atop a bluff over the Mississippi for the capitol building. Architect James Dakin designed a Neo-Gothic building very much unlike the other state capitols which were often modeled on the U.S. Capitol building in Washington. The magnificent crenellated and be-towered structure was used as a prison and garrison for soldiers under the city’s Union occupation and during this time it caught fire twice leaving it a soot-stained shell by the war’s end. The building was reconstructed in 1882 but abandoned in 1932 for Governor Huey Long’s new state capitol.

Old State Capitol, 2009, by Avazina. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Even before the capitol burned during the war, there was a ghost gliding through its halls. Pierre Couvillon, a legislator representing Avoyelles Parish, enraged by his colleagues’ corruption, suffered a heart attack and died. Though he was buried in his home parish, his spirit was said to reside in the capitol; perhaps checking up on his colleagues. When the capitol building underwent restoration in the 1990s, the spirit or spirits in the building were stirred up and activity has increased. Staff members and visitors have reported odd occurrences. One security guard watched as movement detectors were set off through a series of rooms while nothing was seen on the video.

Two organizations investigated the building in 2009 and uncovered much evidence. Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations picked up a number of interesting EVPs including someone singing the old song, “You Are My Sunshine.” Everyday Paranormal, in their investigation had a few encounters in the basement of the building, the area used as a prison during the Union occupation. It seems that there are many spirits within the crenellated walls of the Old Capitol.

Sources

  • Duvernay, Adam. “Several Baton Rouge sites said to be haunted.” The Daily Reveille. 27 October 2009.
  • Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. Gretna, LA: Pelican, 2007.
  • Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations. Old State Capitol, Baton Rouge, LA. Accessed 11 November 2011.
  • Manley, Roger. Weird Louisiana. NYC: Sterling Publishers, 2010.
  • Old Louisiana State Capitol. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 9 November 2011.
  • Southeastern Students. “Old State Capitol Still Occupied by Former Ghosts.” com. 29 October 2009.

Jericho Covered Bridge
Jericho Road at Little Gunpowder Falls
Harford County Near Jerusalem, Maryland

Jericho Covered Bridge, 2009, by Pubdog. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Straddling the county line between Harford County and Baltimore County over the Little Gunpowder Falls is the Jericho Covered Bridge, constructed in 1865. According to Ed Okonowicz in his Haunted Maryland, there are legends of people seeing slaves hanging from the rafters inside this nearly 88-foot bridge. Certainly, there is an issue with this as the bridge was constructed in 1865, after the end of both slavery and the Civil War. Other, more realistic legends, speak of a woman seen on the bridge wearing old-fashioned clothing and people having their cars stop inexplicably in the middle of the bridge.

Sources

  • Jericho Covered Bridge. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 20 January 2011.
  • Ed. Haunted Maryland. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2007.
  • Varhola, Michael J. and Michael H. Varhola. Ghosthunting Maryland. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2009.

Corinth Battlefield
Corinth, Mississippi

Following the Confederate’s disastrous attack in April of 1862 on the Union forces at Shiloh, Tennessee (for a battle description see my entry on the Beauregard-Keyes House in New Orleans), the Union army laid siege for two days to the vital railroad town of Corinth, just over the state line. To save his army from annihilation, General P.T.G. Beauregard gave the appearance of reinforcement troops arriving and being put in place while efficiently moving his troops out of the city to nearby Tupelo. The Union army entered the city the following day to find it devoid of Confederates. In October of the same year, Confederates tried once again and failed to capture the city losing some 4,000 men (including dead, wounded and missing) in the process.

The railroad junction at the heart of Corinth. Photo 2013, by Ron Cogswell. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The battlefield on which these two battles were fought is now incorporated into the mid-sized city of Corinth. Portions of the battlefield and earthworks are now preserved as the Corinth unit of Shiloh National Military Park. As one might expect, some of those portions have spiritual artifacts remaining. Some of the best stories from Civil War battlefields come from re-enactors who have experiences while re-enacting battles and one of the primary reports of ghosts from the Corinth battlefield comes from a re-enactor whose story was documented by Alan Brown. This particular re-enactor heard the sound of a phantom cavalry and a few nights later, the sound of someone rummaging through her tent while camping on the battlefield.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted Southland. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.
  • Second Battle of Corinth. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 27 January 2011.
  • Siege of Corinth. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 27 January 2011.

North Carolina Zoological Park
4401 Zoo Parkway
Asheboro, North Carolina

North Carolina lawyer and folklorist Daniel Barefoot has done much to preserve North Carolina and Southern legends and ghost stories in his books. His series, North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred provides a single ghost story or legend from each of the state’s one hundred counties. From Randolph County, smack dab in the middle of the state, comes the legend of the aptly named, Purgatory Mountain, now home to the NC Zoo. The state-owned zoo is the largest walk-through habitat zoos in the world and a major attraction in the region.

NC Zoo sign, 2010, by Eleazar. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

During the Civil War, much of rural North Carolina was resistant to seceding from the Union and, as a result, the state was the final state to secede. Still, many citizens, including the peaceable Quakers of Randolph County resisted joining the butternut ranks. Recruiters were sent to these areas to nudge and sometimes force the inhabitants to join. One particular recruiter in this area earned the nickname, “The Hunter,” for his harsh methods.  He rounded up a group of Quaker boys, tied them roughly and marched them to Wilmington to join the army, but a few escaped and returned, bedraggled to their rural homes. When the recruiter returned, this group of escaped boys shot him outside of his cabin at Purgatory Mountain. His malevolent spirit is still supposedly stalking the crags of his mountain home.

Sources

  • Barefoot, Daniel W. North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred, Vol. 2: Piedmont Phantoms. Winston-Salem, NC, John F. Blair, 2002.
  • North Carolina Zoo. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 11 April 2012.

Westin Poinsett Hotel
120 South Main Street
Greenville, South Carolina

The Poinsett Hotel, named for Joel R. Poinsett, President Millard Fillmore’s Secretary of War, was Greenville’s first skyscraper at 12 stories. Dominating Main Street, the hotel, billed as “South Carolina’s finest,” opened in 1925 partially to serve the textile industry that had blossomed in Greenville. It replaced the Mansion House Hotel which had served visitors to the city for nearly 100 years.

The Westin Poinsett Hotel, 2012, by Bill Fitzpatrick. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

With the Great Depression hitting just a few years after the hotel’s grand opening, the hotel fell on hard times. The hotel would not make a profit again for nearly a decade. From that point, until the 1970s, the hotel served Greenville and its visitors successfully. Declining profits led to the hotel’s closing in 1975 and it was converted into housing for senior citizens. The enormous structure was condemned in 1987 and left abandoned. Vagrants, vandals, the homeless and curious teens ventured into the building and alarmed many local citizens who considered tearing the hotel down. The hotel reopened in 2000 after a multi-million dollar restoration and it has now returned to prominence as one of Greenville’s most luxurious hotels.

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

A young woman staying in the hotel had an even scarier experience. She and her boyfriend checked in and she was alone in the room hanging clothes in the closet while her boyfriend had gone to get drinks at the bar. Suddenly she found herself pushed into the closet and the doors shut behind her. She tried desperately to open the door but she said it felt as if the knob was being held from the other side (pun intended). She said it felt like nearly 15 minutes passed while she fought whatever it was trapping her in the closet. When she got out she grabbed her cell phone and told her boyfriend she would not be staying any longer in the hotel. Whether the spirits of former guests, elderly residents or vagrants, something is stalking the halls of the Poinsett Hotel.

Sources

  • National Register of Historic Places. Nomination form for the Poinsett Hotel. No date.
  • Profit, Jason. Haunted Greenville, South Carolina. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2011.

Carter House
1140 Columbia Avenue
Franklin, Tennessee

By some accounts, the Battle of Franklin, November 30, 1864, was one of the bloodiest battles of the war. Some historians have even deemed it the “Gettysburg of the South.” Fought right on the edge of the town of Franklin, the battle hit very close to the home front and absolutely hammered the farm of the Carter family which was located at the center of the main defensive line. During the furious fighting, the Carters, neighbors and slaves cowered in the basement of the house, emerging after the battle to witness the carnage spread through their yard and around their house. The house and outbuildings still bear bullet holes, attesting to their experience.

Fanny Courtney Carter, who was 8 years old when the battle overtook her family’s farm, later recalled the day following the battle: “Early the next morning after the Battle I went to the field. The sight was dreadful. It seemed I could scarcely move for fear of stepping on men either dead or wounded. Some were clod and stiff, others with the lifeblood ebbing out, unconscious of all around, while others were writing in agony and calling ‘Water! Water!’ I can hear them even now.” Fanny’s brother, Tod, who had enlisted in the Confederate army was found some yards from the house, his body riddled with eight bullets, but still clinging to life. The family brought him into the parlor of his home where he died on December 2.

Carter House by Hal Jesperson, 2009. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The pastoral fields that once surrounded the Carter House as well as the town of Franklin that saw so much blood that November day have mostly been lost to development though the spiritual imprint of the battle is still felt throughout the city. The spirit of Tod Carter may be one of the more active spirits at the Carter House. He has been seen sitting on the edge of the bed where he may have died and according to Alan Brown, he took a tour of the house, correcting the tour guide when she didn’t use the correct name or date and disappearing before he and the guide could descend to the basement.

Apparently he’s not the only lingering spirit. Poltergeist activity in the house has been attributed to Tod’s sister, Annie. Objects have moved from room to room and one visitor on a tour watched a figurine that jumped up and down.

Sources

  • Battle of Franklin (2009). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 13 December 2010.
  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Tennessee: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena Of the Volunteer State. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2009.
  • O’Rear, Jim. Tennessee Ghosts. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2009.

Rockledge Mansion
440 Mill Street
Occoquan, Virginia

The town website for Occoquan (pronounced OK-oh-qwahn), Virginia states that the city, “has an inordinate amount of spooks per capita” and then goes on to list a number of locations in the town with ghosts. Among this remarkable collection of haunted locations is the magnificent Georgian mansion, Rockledge, which commands a literal rock ledge above Mill Street. The town was founded in the mid-eighteenth century as a port on the Occoquan River and during the Civil War this northern Virginia town served as a post office between the North and the South.

Rockledge Mansion by AlbertHerring, 2008. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Quite possibly the work of colonial architect, William Buckland, Rockledge was built in 1758 by local industrialist John Ballandine. In the yard of this house the ghost of a Confederate soldier has been seen and possibly heard. One witness saw the soldier then noticed peculiar wet footprints on the front steps that appeared to be from hobnail boots, the kind that would have been worn by soldiers during the war. Many people have heard loud footsteps in the house as well as someone knocking at the door. So far, no source has identified this soldier.

Sources 

  • Occoquan History. com. Accessed 16 November 2010.
  • Occoquan, Virginia. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 13 December 2010.
  • Streng, Aileen. “Benevolent ghost believed to haunt mansion.” com. 27 October 2010.
  • Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for Rockledge Mansion. Listed 25 June 1973.

Berkeley Castle
WV-9
Berkeley Springs

Berkeley Castle by Jeanne Mozier. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Berkeley Springs, also known as “Bath,” has attracted visitors who come to take the waters of the mineral springs located there. Overlooking this quaint town from a commanding position on Warm Spring Mountain sits Berkeley Castle, seemingly a piece of medieval Britain transplanted. Modeled and named after Britain’s own Berkeley Castle, the castle was built as a wedding gift from Colonel Samuel Suit for his bride, Rosa Pelham. The Colonel, who was quite a bit older than his bride, died before the castle was finished and his widow finished the building. She lived in the castle after his death and squandered the fortune she inherited and died penniless well away from the castle, but legends speak of her return.

The castle was purchased by paranormal investigators in 2000 but sold fairly shortly after that. Once open for tours, the castle is now primarily a private residence, though it may be rented for weddings, parties and other events.

Sources

  • Fischer, Karin. “Castle in Eastern Panhandle could be in need of a new lord this spring.” Charleston (WV) Daily Mail. 21 November 2000.
  • History Berkeley Castle. Berkeley Castle. Accessed 19 March 2011.
  • Robinson, James Foster. A Ghostly Guide to West Virginia. Winking Eye Books, 2008.