Spirits and spirits

Triangle Brewing Company
918 Pearl Street
Durham, North Carolina

He died anonymously and his body was dumped in a trash bag, though with spirited libations and good cheer, he is now celebrated as the “patron saint” of a brewery.

The South has always had a tradition of spirit-making: from the bourbons of Kentucky and whiskies of Tennessee to the modern micro-breweries that dot the landscape to even the backwoods moonshine that was created when legal liquor production was outlawed. Of course, this activity has also spawned spirits, not only in the breweries themselves, but in historic structures now occupied by spirit makers.

When renovations were conducted in the old warehouse that now houses Durham’s Triangle Brewing Company, human remains were found in a trash bag partially buried in the floor of the basement. Time had taken a toll, leaving only bones and teeth which could not be identified by the Durham Police Department. Not even a date could be established for the remains.

Presumably, the remains were buried in a local cemetery, though they may be associated with the spirit that still rambles about the building. According to the spirit’s page on the brewing company’s website, he’s a good sort of spirit who occasionally whispers, moves things and knocks darts off the dart board. The owners of the brewery have decided to keep him on as the business’ patron saint and have dubbed him “Rufus.”

When he gets a bit rowdy, they pour a beer down the drain to sooth his antics.

Sources

  • Rufus. Triangle Brewing Company. Accessed 23 April 2014.
  • Shaffer, Josh. “Durham brewery celebrates 7 years of Rufus the sudsy specter.” The News-Observer. 16 March 2014.

Talon Winery Tasting Room
7086 Tates Creek Road
Lexington, Kentucky 

Unlike the anonymous spirit spreading cheer around the Triangle Brewing Company, Talon Winery’s resident spirit has possibly been identified: none other than famed Lexington transvestite, Sweet Evening Breeze.

James Herndon—known best as “Sweet Evening Breeze” or “Miss Sweets”—is considered “the city’s most colorful character.” The transgender blog, TransGriot, states that Herndon “often wore makeup, occasionally performed or appeared on Main St. on Saturdays in drag, and was apparently quite effeminate. Long before there was RuPaul, Lexington’s Sweet Evening Breeze was titillating and gaining respect from the locals.” The biographical sketch ends by stating that Herndon “cut a path as an openly gay man, drag queen, and possibly a transgendered person.”

In an article from LEX18, Lexington’s NBC affiliate, Herndon is described—somewhat incorrectly—as “a man who liked to wear wedding dresses back in the 1950s.” The article quotes the owner of the winery, “if they go to the stairway that’s where they see the white wedding dress with the dark hair.”

According to what little history that can be found on the winery, the house was built in the 1790s, quite possibly by Isaac Shelby, the state’s first governor. Of course, some of the previous owners have remained in the house and staff reports that children have been seen peering from the windows of the house.

Sources

  • “Agritourism and wine: A natural pairing.” Agritourism Monthly. February 2014.
  • Jones, Jeff. “Sweet Evening Breeze.” 8 February 2007.
  • “Mystery Monday: Haunted Wine Tasting Room.” 31 March 2014.

The Packing Plant is Packed In

Cape Fear Meat Packing Plant
Navassa, North Carolina

The old and haunted Cape Fear Meat Packing Plant is no more. In its stead, speeding cars will traverse the final leg of Interstate 140, the Wilmington Bypass.

This region saw a great deal of industrial growth in the late 19th and early 20th century as the South tried to resurrect itself following the Civil War. Business was booming so much so that even the title banner of the local paper, The Wilmington Morning Star, is set on a background of industrial buildings, a ship and a locomotive. Wilmington—just across the marshes of the Cape Fear River—was a booming industrial town at that time.

The banner of The Wilmington Morning Star with its optimistic industrial background.

Navassa saw growth from its connection with a small, uninhabited island between Jamaica and Haiti called Navassa Island. The turpentine industry, which was supported by the huge swaths of pine trees in the region, sent much of its product to the West Indies but had nothing to fill the ships returning, until huge amounts of guano—bird and bat excrement—were discovered on this tiny island. In North Carolina, the first fertilizer plant opened in this area in 1869 with other plants opening in turn. Around these plants, the community of Navassa grew up.

An editorial in 1917 praised the building of the new meat packing plant in Navassa and hailed the coming of a new industry to the region, “a new opportunity as broad as North Carolina.” The editorial continues with all the verbose pomp of the era:

We make obeisance and acknowledge allegiance and loyalty to King Cotton and Lady Nicotine, but they have not yet established a capital of one iota of the magnitude and grandeur of any of the swineopolitan centres [sic] of the livestock and grain domain. We simply mention this is order to emphasize the possibilities in energetically and practically promoting the livestock and packing house industries as a potential means of making Wilmington the Chicago of the South. [The Wilmington Morning Star, 9 December 1917]

The editorial also notes that the new meat packing plant was expected to be completed the next year.

This plant was built for the Cape Fear Meat Packing Company which opened on the heels of the Carolina Packing Company which opened a plant in Wilmington just a few short months before the Navassa plant opened. The Cape Fear Meat Packing Company was formed by G. Herbert Smith in partnership with his son in law, Walter L. Griffith. With its opening, the plant rode of a tide of optimism, the company did not survive very long. On May 14, 1921, G. Herbert Smith was found dead in the bathroom of his home. From his untimely death, ghost stories began to swirl.

Most legends pointed to Smith’s death as being a suicide, though the newspaper account the day after his death indicates his death was accidental.

There were many reports current during the afternoon that he had committed suicide, but these were scouted by friends of the family who were familiar with the circumstances. There is every indication, friends state, that he was preparing to take a bath, either upon his arrival early Saturday morning, or later in the day when getting up, and that he was overcome by escaping gas from a water heater. The coroner declared there was nothing to indicate, insofar as he could learn, other than that death was accidental. [The Wilmington Morning Star, 15 May 1921]

Smith was found in the bathroom of his home in Wilmington clad in underwear. He had returned from a business trip to Richmond, Virginia and wasn’t feeling well. His body was discovered by his wife who had noticed the gas fumes coming from the bathroom.

The Cape Fear Packing Company lingered on for a few years after Smith’s death, declaring bankruptcy in October of 1922. Just before the turn of the new year, the company was purchased by the Southern Packing Company, which used the plant as a slaughterhouse. Recent articles indicate that the plant was closed a short time after that, though contemporary papers do not seem to indicate when the plant closed.

For decades, the structure sat abandoned gathering graffiti, curious teenagers and ghost stories. Among those stories, it was said that Smith had committed suicide within the building by hanging. For decades, this was noted as the only death associated with the building, besides the legions of pigs that had been slaughtered there. In 1982, one of the curious teens attracted to the building fell to his death from atop the concrete building. A 2006 article from the Wilmington Star-News, quotes Navassa mayor Eulis Willis as believing that many more deaths could be associated with the building.

While the building is almost universally acknowledged as being haunted, there are no published stories regarding the site. I’d most definitely like to hear locals or investigators familiar with the site as to what the activity was.

For now, the sad history of the haunted slaughter house has come to an end.

Sources

  • Navassa Island. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 20 April 2014.
  • Navassa, North Carolina. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 20 April 2014.
  • “An Opportunity as Broad as North Carolina.” The Wilmington Morning Star. 9 December 1917.
  • “Progress That Makes the Way for More Progress.” The Wilmington Morning Star. 17 June 1917.
  • “Southern Packing Corporation Absorbs Cape Fear; Plant Here to be Merged with Old Carolina.” The Wilmington Morning Star. 29 December 1922.
  • Spiers, Jonathan. “Former meat packing plant, said to be haunted, gives way to Wilmington Bypass.” Port City Daily. 17 April 2014.
  • Tatum, Crystal S. “Haunted histories.” Star-News. 18 October 2006.
  • Wilmington, North Carolina. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 20 April 2014.
  • “Wilmington Shocked By Sudden Death of Prominent Citizen.” The Wilmington Morning Star. 15 May 1921.

The Distant Past and the Very Near Future—Tennessee Brewery

Tennessee Brewery
495 Tennessee Street
Memphis, Tennessee

I covered the Tennessee Brewery about two years ago as part of an article on abandoned and possibly haunted buildings in Memphis. There have been developments with the Sears Crosstown Building as the local arts community has begun using the building for arts functions. The Sterick Building remains closed and for sale as far as I know while the Tennessee Brewery has been scheduled a date with destiny.

The owners of the building have announced that the building will be demolished on August 1st if no one steps forward to purchase the abandoned structure before then. However, innovative plans have recently been hatched to temporarily use the building ahead of the possible demolition in an effort to arouse interest. Six weeks of events, titled “Tennessee Brewery Untapped,” will be held in the building and expected to draw a crowd. Live music will echo through the aging halls of the brewery while beer—the products of local micro-breweries—will be served in a café that will operated in the building. Other events will include food trucks, mobile retail, movie screenings and workshops.

The massive Tennessee Brewery, 2010, by C ammerman. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

With so many people expected to crowd into the massive structure, it will be interesting to see how the spirits react. Laura Cunningham in Haunted Memphis states that the spirits “appear to be angry.” This is assumed from the loud noises that can sometimes cause the building to shake while some investigators have been touched, pinched and pushed.

Interestingly, in a 2012 article for the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Michael Einspanjer, founder of Memphis Paranormal Investigators states that “the spirits stuck in the building just couldn’t let go in life, they aren’t threatening.” The article notes that Einspanjer’s group has investigated the brewery at least 12 times and he states that the building is “a very haunted place.”

In looking through the material on the haunting of the brewery, it is very interesting to note that most sources do not speculate as to why the brewery may be haunted. Spurred on by the articles relating to Tennessee Brewery Untapped, I decided to check Newspapers.com to see what may be found relating to the brewery’s history. Indeed, I came up with a few very interesting leads.

The first event dates to 1888, just before the brewery’s construction. Papers in early August report a massive fire at the brewery that destroyed parts of the brewery as well as adjacent structures. The current structure dates to 1890. No deaths are reported in any of the articles, though a massive fire may have left a spiritual imprint on the site.

The second event dates to 1903 and involves at least one death. On April 15 of that year, Adolph Heinz, a German citizen and employee of the brewery was shot and killed. The article appeared in countless papers, obviously pulled from wire services and does not state exactly where the shooting took place. Reportedly, an African-American man named Gary Morgan asked Heinz to bring him a pail of beer. When Heinz refused, Morgan—“a negro with a picturesque police record”—shot him. The article notes that members of the local German community assembled to hunt down Morgan to lynch him. As of yet, nothing has turned up to reveal if Morgan was apprehended.

A third event was reported by the Associated Press in 1950. Prior to December 17th, an employee at the brewery fell from a stairway at the brewery and was killed when his head struck the floor. Perhaps his spirit is among the spirits remaining in the building.

Tennessee Brewery Untapped is scheduled to begin April 24th and run through June 1st.

Sources

  • Cunningham, Laura. Haunted Memphis. Charleston: History Press, 2009.
  • Douglas, Andrew. “Group pushes to save old Tennessee Brewery building.” 31 March 2014.
  • “FLAMES IN A BREWERY: The Tennessee Brewery at Memphis Badly Damaged—Other Fires Yesterday.” Chicago Daily Tribune. 11 August 1888.
  • “Killed in fall.” Kingsport Times-News. 17 December 1950.
  • Meek, Andy. “New Partners Sign On to Tennessee Brewery Effort.” Memphis Daily News. 4 April 2014.
  • Meek, Andy. “Plans Coming Together for Tennessee Brewery Untapped.” Memphis Daily News. 26 March 2014.
  • “One of the Kaiser’s Subjects Killed by Memphis Negro.” The Atlanta Constitution. 16 April 1903.
  • Pickrell, Kayla. “Haunted Memphis: Brewery a piece of history.” The Commercial Appeal. 24 July 2012.
  • Poe, Ryan. “Tennessee Brewery Untapped gets beer license.” Memphis Business Journal. 2 April 2014.

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An Independent Spirit—Winchester, Virginia

Abram’s Delight
1340 South Pleasant Valley Road
Winchester, Virginia

With the recent winter weather, I imagine Mary Hollingsworth is livid if the snow around her house has not been cleared. A 2003 article from the Winchester Star mentions that she was rather upset by a large snow pile outside the house and expressed her displeasure by slamming doors and messing with the lights. Mary Hollingsworth still resides in her old house, but she doesn’t “live” there. She’s been dead since 1917.

Even in death Mary Hollingsworth independent spirit shines through. It may be Mary’s spirit that once turned up the volume on a stereo in one office and a jukebox in another. She also occasionally rearranges the furniture and once even pushed a heavy filing cabinet in an attic room against the door, preventing anyone from entering. In addition to watching over her former home, Mary may also be occasionally visiting her family’s mill next door. Employees of the mill—now the home of the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society—have had doors open and close on their own while one employee experienced “an unexplained flash of light and felt a whoosh of cool air” as she walked through the building’s first floor.

In life, Mary was just as unique a character. She was born into wealth at Abram’s Delight in 1836. At that time, Mary’s father, David, was a wealthy businessman and community leader as well as being fond of entertaining in his grand home. Among the spectacular additions to the house was a lake with a series of islands featuring summer houses. A fleet of boats was kept on hand to ferry guests to these islands during social events.

With the coming of the Civil War, Winchester, located in the most northern tip of Virginia, changed sides many times. Devastation was visited upon Abram’s Delight. The farm lost much of its timber, the fields went untilled and Union soldiers commandeered the livestock. Mary, in her mid-20s and unmarried, quite possibly served the cause of the Confederates by donning men’s clothing and slipping back and forth between the ever changing lines of occupation.

To keep her family’s estate functioning after the war, Mary left Virginia again donning men’s clothing to work for a living. Different sources have her doing different things: one source has her driving a “chuck wagon” out west while others have her working in a Pittsburgh lumber mill. Regardless, she evidently acquired a lady love during her charade and proposed marriage. Later, she broke off the engagement and returned home though her former fiancée and her father did file a lawsuit.

Abram’s Delight, 2012, by Joel Bradshaw. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Some years later, the City of Winchester acquired the water rights to the spring near Mary’s home and constructed a sewage facility. Angered at the prospect of having her family land defiled by the city’s sewage, Mary proposed to never set foot in the city of Winchester again. She passed away in the home where she had been born in 1917. Her sister Annie remained in the home.

As Marguerite DuPont Lee was compiling her book, Virginia Ghosts, she spoke with Annie about the spirits remaining in Abram’s Delight. Mary, it seems, is not the first spirit to take up residence. Annie Hollingsworth reported that as a young girl she would sit at the piano and sing. While singing, another woman’s voice would sometimes mysteriously join in. Commonly, at night, the sounds of people carousing would echo from the parlor below. Lee in her politely Southern fashion notes that these sounds “did not annoy, being as familiar to her as the call of the whippoorwills outside the window.”

While it seems that Mary is the most active spirit at Abram’s Delight, as of late, another spirit has been active much longer: the possible shade of Abraham Hollingsworth, the family’s and Winchester’s patriarch. This marvelous home remains as a testament to the fortitude of Mr. Hollingsworth. A Quaker, Abraham traveled to the Shenandoah Valley around 1728 in search of a prime location to farm and build a home and a mill. Supposedly, upon discovering a group of Shawnee camped near a small spring, Hollingsworth exclaimed that the place was “a delight to behold.” He constructed a small cabin on the property and was granted nearly 600 acres. Construction on the large, limestone house began a few years before Hollingsworth’s death in 1748.

The spirit of a large man in Quaker dress and a large hat has been seen for years within and without the house. At one time, the appearance of this spirit was so frequent that workmen would amuse themselves by watching the figure. The figure would appear and walk up the front steps of the house and pass through the front door. The workmen would pause and watch the figure and then patiently wait about ten minutes for the figure to reappear. After passing through the front door again, the figure would walk down the stairs and disappear again.

This familiar spirit was also reported in 1951 while the house was being restored. L. B. Taylor reports another story from the early 20th century where the spirit would often shoo away cows that were being brought in.

Of course, based on the evidence, it is difficult to determine whether these spirits are actually the shades of Mary and Abraham but based on what we know of their personalities, it’s altogether conceivable that these are the very independent spirits of them.

I just hope the staff at Abram’s Delight have shoveled the snow away.

For a tour of the Shenandoah Valley, including Winchester and Abram’s Delight, see my Spectral Tour of the Shenandoah Valley.

Sources

  • Abram’s Delight. Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society. Accessed 31 March 2014.
  • Abram’s Delight Museum. Washington’s Frontier Forts Association. Accessed 19 November 2013.
  • Lee, Marguerite DuPont. Virginia Ghosts. Berryville, VA: Virginia
  • Book Company, 1966.
    Libby, Elizabeth. “Haunting happenings at Abram’s Delight.” The North Virginia Daily. 27 October 1995.
  • Mangino, Stephanie M. “Scandal and sadness marked Mary Hollingsworth’s life.” Winchester Star. 25 October 2003.
  • Shufelt, Gail. “Homes, ghost stories part of Winchester history.” The Daily Gazette. 11 August 1996.
  • Taylor, L. B., Jr. The Big Book of Virginia Ghost Stories. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2010.
  • Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission Staff. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Abram’s Delight. September 1972.

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