N.B. This article was revised and expanded 7 March 2019.
In time for Halloween, two Tennessee locations–Ruby Falls and Bolivar’s Magnolia Manor (see my coverage in my article “13 More Southern Rooms with a Boo“–have announced that they’ve been declared certifiably haunted after being investigated by paranormal investigators.
Ruby Falls 1720 South Scenic Highway Chattanooga
If you’ve spent any time driving within 100 miles of Ruby Falls, you will recognize this name. Along with Rock City—located just up the mountain—Ruby Falls has engaged in an extensive advertising campaign along roadsides, on barn roofs, and in hotel lobby brochure racks throughout the Deep South. Their advertising campaigns have made Ruby Falls and Rock City synonymous with tourism throughout the region.
Ruby Falls—not to be confused with Anna Ruby Falls in Unicoi State Park in North Georgia—is a cave in Lookout Mountain that ends in a marvelous waterfall. The cave is accessible via elevator from a castle-like visitors’ center above. Earlier this month, paranormal investigators searched for evidence of the paranormal both in the visitors’ center and in the cave itself. After looking at the evidence, Stones River Paranormal determined that there are spirits in the location.
Ruby Falls Cave is actually part of a larger cave system: the Lookout Mountain Caverns. Lookout Mountain Cave was known for centuries by Native Americans in the area as well as early settlers and it was also heavily utilized during the Civil War. Sadly, the natural entrance to the cave was closed off when a railroad tunnel was constructed in the area. In the 1920s, a chemist and amateur spelunker, Leo Lambert, created the Lookout Mountain Cave Company to reopen the cave as a commercial venture. As workers were drilling an elevator shaft into Lookout Mountain Cave, a smaller cave was discovered above. Wriggling into the small cave, Lambert explored the passages and admired the cave’s intricate formations ultimately finding the falls at the end of the cave which he named for his wife, Ruby.
Both caves were opened as commercial, “show” caves but Ruby Falls Cave became much more popular. Tours were eventually ended to Lookout Mountain Cave and over time, lighting and music have been added to “enhance” the cave experience.
Stones River Paranormal discovered the presence of at least five spirits in the cave and its visitors’ center. Leo Lambert and his wife, Ruby, as well as the spirit of a security guard who died after falling down an elevator shaft were named as possible spirits within the facility. Oddly, the spirits of a few children may also be haunting the visitors’ center.
A couple years ago, I corresponded with Amy Petulla, co-author with Jessica Penot, of Haunted Chattanooga (which I reviewed here), and owner of the Chattanooga Ghost Tour. She provided me with a bit more information on the spirits at Ruby Falls:
The security guide that died there has a couple of ways of making his presence known. They say that his spirit is accompanied by the smell of sugar cookies, which his wife used to pack in his lunch every day. He is also a bit of a prankster and is fond of unscrewing the light bulb in a particular section of the cave.
I had a previous guide tell me that while he and his girlfriend were enjoying the fake haunted house that Ruby Falls puts on in October, something invisible grabbed his girlfriend’s glowstick necklace and yanked it up towards her head. There was no one close to them at the time. My guess is this was NOT the security guard, but another entity.
Jenkins, Gary C. “Ruby Falls.” The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. 25 December 2009.
Personal Correspondence with Amy Petulla. 15 May 2017.
Phipps, Sean. “Ruby Falls deemed an official haunted location.” com. 29 September 2014.
Ruby Falls. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 30 September 2014.
I recently had an inquiry from a friend who’s a student at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia regarding a “haunted road trip” he and his friends want to take next month. After consulting my resources, I’ve devised a suitable tour of the area’s numerous haunts.
This tour makes a circle through the Shenandoah Valley, beginning and ending in Winchester. It heads south on I-81 towards Staunton with a few stops along the way. After Staunton the tour heads east to include the famous Exchange Hotel in Gordonsville before returning to Winchester. The tour includes a range of haunted places from historic homes to government buildings, churches, battlefields, commercial buildings, cemeteries, a train depot, a former mental hospital and a cave. Some of these locations are open to the public while a few are private and should only be viewed from the street.
Of the cities on this tour, Winchester is perhaps the most interesting, historically speaking. The city was chartered in 1752 and during the 19th century was one of the most important cities in the region. It served as a market town and it is here that nine major roads converged along with the Winchester and Potomac Railroad. With the coming of the Civil War, the city’s location made it a prize coveted by both armies. It would famously change hands many times during the war with three major battles taking place here during the course of the war with a host of smaller battles and skirmishes taking place throughout the region. This bloody history has most certainly left a spiritual mark on the region and especially on Winchester.
Winchester’s ghosts have been documented primarily in Mac Rutherford’s 2007 book, Historic Haunts of Winchester: A Ghostly Trip Through the Past. This book is excellent in describing these hauntings more in depth. There is a ghost tour, Ghost Tours Old Town Winchester, Virginia, though they only have a Facebook page that doesn’t provide much information. (website).
STOP #1-ABRAM’S DELIGHT (1340 S. Pleasant Valley Road, Open daily M-Sat 10-4, Sun 12-4, Adults $5, website) One of the best places to understand the early history of Winchester is in the restored home of the Hollingsworth family, one of the first white families to settle in the area. Built by Abraham Hollingsworth in the mid-18th century, the house remained in the family until the City of Winchester purchased it in 1943. The house is apparently haunted by spirits of family members who once lived there. The family’s mill, which is now home to offices for the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society, is also the scene of some paranormal activity. Please see my blog entry (An independent spirit—Winchester, Virginia) for further information.
STOP #2-MOUNT HEBRON CEMETERY (305 E. Boscawen Street, Open daily 7:30 AM-6PM, website) Encompassing four different cemeteries, Mount Hebron holds some of the oldest burials in the city. Two of the cemeteries within its precincts date to the mid-18th century, while the large Stonewall Confederate Cemetery was created following the Civil War. This may also be the most haunted section of this cemetery. Visitors have noted the presence of a lone figure near the marker for the Patton Brothers, George and Tazewell (Col. George S. Patton was the grandfather of General George S. Patton who lead American forces during World War II). Wearing a military greatcoat and peaked hat, the figure walks towards the marker and disappears. Legend holds that the figure may be none other than Nazi Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. During the 1930s, Rommel was one of a number of German military leaders who spent time in the area studying the military tactics of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson.
While the Confederate dead—some of whom were unknown—were buried in the cemetery here, the Union dead were buried across Woodstock Lane in the National Cemetery. Mac Rutherford states that people living in the area and passersby just after sundown have seen grayish figures rising from the Confederate part of Mount Hebron and making their way across the street towards the National Cemetery.
STOP #3-DOWNTOWN WINCHESTER’S haunted sites may be explored easily on foot, so these are grouped together.
STOP #3A-RED LION TAVERN BUILDING (204-208 South Loudoun Street) This historic tavern building was constructed in 1784 by German Revolutionary War veteran Peter Lauck. He is known to have had seven daughters, one of whom may still be seen and heard in the building. People recently working in the building have been thanked by a soft, feminine voice saying, “danke.” The shadowy figure of a woman in colonial dress is also sometimes seen.
STOP #3B-CORK STREET TAVERN (8 West Cork Street, Open M-Sat 11-1AM, Sun 12-10, website) Occupying a pair of early 19th century residences, the Cork Street Tavern has a pair of ghosts, though there seems to be some uncertainty as to why they’re there. Much of the structure’s history is well-known except for the period during Prohibition when the building may have been used as a speakeasy and brothel. The spectral pair, nicknamed John and Emily by the restaurant staff, have both made their presence known with a variety of activity. Apparitions of both have been seen in the building while Emily’s voice has been heard calling, “John,” a number of times. A spirit has also been known to trip female patrons walking into the non-smoking section. The level of activity here is high enough that it lead an investigator to remark during a 2009 investigation that “nothing holds a candle to Cork Street.”
STOP #3C-SOUTH BRADDOCK STREET HAUNTS (Block of South Braddock between Cork and Boscawen) This block has spiritual activity from two different wars.
BRADDOCK STREET UNITED METHODIST CHURCH PARKING LOT (Intersection of South Braddock and Wolfe Streets, Southeast Corner) During the French and Indian War (1755-1762), Fort George, one of two forts built in the area under the purview of Colonel George Washington, stood near here. This piece of property was used for drilling recruits and Colonial soldiers have been seen in the area and in the building that once occupied this site.
Soldiers from the Civil War have been seen along this street. After the First Battle of Winchester on May 25, 1862 which was a Confederate victory, Union forces retreated along this street. According to Mac Rutherford, they held their formations along this street until they reached the center of town where they broke rank and ran for their lives. The reports of soldiers seen here usually include large formations of many soldiers.
STOP #3D-38 WEST BOSCAWEN STREET (private) One of Winchester’s most accomplished daughters, Patsy Cline, is associated with this building. It was here, at the G&M Music Store, where Cline bought her first guitar and made some of her first recordings. Visitors to the room that once housed the recording studio have experienced a coldness and claim to have felt the spirit of the famed singer.
STOP #3E-125 WEST BOSCAWEN STREET (private) The circa 1790 home at this site is now occupied by a law firm. Like many buildings throughout the city, this structure served as a hospital for the wounded during the Civil War. Employees of the businesses that have occupied this space over the past few decades have reported hearing footsteps regularly and feeling a cold chill in certain rooms.
STOP #3F-FULLER HOUSE INN (220 West Boscawen Street, private bed and breakfast inn, website) This magnificent home was constructed in 1854 incorporating the late 18th century servants quarters from the Ambler Hill Estate. On the eve of the Civil War, the house was purchased by prominent local dentist, Dr. William McPherson Fuller. This building was also commandeered for use as a hospital during the Civil War and that may explain the presence of a soldier who has been seen in the house.
STOP #3G-HANDLEY REGIONAL LIBRARY (100 West Piccadilly Street, Open M & W 10-8, T & F-Sat 10-5, Th 10-1, website) Opened in 1913, this glorious Beaux-Arts library was constructed as a gift to the city of Winchester from coal baron, Judge John Handley. The face of a man with a “drooping mustache” has been seen peering from the windows of the building’s rotunda. A full apparition of a man with a mustache and wearing a frock coat has been seen by library staff inside the building. Perhaps Judge Handley is checking up on his gift?
STOP #3H—KIMBERLY’S (LLOYD LOGAN HOUSE) (135 North Braddock Street, Open M-Sat 10-6, Sun 11-5, website) Lloyd Logan, a local tobacco merchant, built this home around 1850 and it was considered one of the finest homes in town. When war came, the house was commandeered for use by Union generals Franz Sigel and later Philip Sheridan. Under orders from General Sigel, Lloyd Logan was thrown in jail and the house and most of its contents were confiscated for army use. Logan’s wife and daughters were later removed from the house and unceremoniously dumped along the Valley Pike. This incident may contribute to the spiritual activity within the home.
From Braddock Street, look up at the two windows on the south side of the second floor. Passersby have seen the figure of a man pacing and throwing his hands into the air. One witness noted that the figure was “really clear, sort of gray and fuzzy. I think he was even pulling at his hair.” Employees of Kimberly’s have also seen the man in that room and state that he is accompanied by a woman crying in the corner.
STOP #3I—PHILLIP WILLIAMS HOUSE (formerly JOE’S STEAKHOUSE) (25 West Piccadilly Street, ) A Confederate officer is frequently seen staring out the windows of this circa 1845 mansion. Legend holds that this is the spirit of Colonel George S. Patton (the same one buried in Mount Hebron Cemetery above) who died here September 19, 1864 from injuries sustained during the Third Battle of Winchester. He is believed to have passed away on the second floor.
STOP #3J—INDIAN ALLEY Figures of very tall Indians have been witnessed along this street. There are a number of legends dating to the 18th century regarding very tall Native Americans who once lived in the area. Perhaps the spirits of these original inhabitants return? The Indians are generally seen during the first and last light of the day.
STOP #3K—BREWBAKER’S RESTAURANT (168 North Loudoun Street, Open T-Sat 11AM-2AM, Sun 11-9, website) With a core dating the late 18th century, this old commercial building has been home to a continuous line of restaurants since 1910. However, the history does not explain the apparition of a young woman who appears near the fireplace.
STOP #3L—151 NORTH LOUDOUN STREET (formerly OLDE TOWN ARMORY AND HEIRLOOMS) Built originally as the Arlington Hotel, this building houses a ghost that was known recently to make a bathroom run every morning. Past owners of this building would have the front door open by itself followed by the sound of footsteps racing into the store and up the stairs. The water in the bathroom would be turned on in the upstairs bathroom. After some time, the spirit began leaving a penny outside the bathroom door. In one case, the spirit left a penny on the floor and placed a penny on the breasts of a female mannequin being stored just outside the bathroom.
STOP #3M—TAYLOR PAVILION (125 North Loudoun Street, private) In its heyday, the Taylor Hotel offered the grandest accommodations in the city. Opening just a decade before the Civil War, the hotel provided accommodations to many of the generals leading troops through the area. Sadly, the spirit of one of the red-headed call girls who served at the hotel still lingers.
STOP #3N—VILLAGE SQUARE RESTAURANT AND V2 PIANO BAR AND LOUNGE (103 North Loudoun Street, Open M-Th 11:30-10, F-Sat 11:30-12, Sun 11:30-8, website) These two establishments occupy a series of haunted structures all built in the early 19th century. Spirits flit and float throughout the restaurant, but the V2 Piano Bar and Lounge haa the real story to tell. This building formerly housed Miller’s Apothecary which opened on this site in the mid-18th century. The apothecary was operated by the Miller family until 1992 when they decided to shutter the business. Subsequent owners of the building have all had run-ins with the resident spirits including Jeanette, a young woman who lived with the Miller family in the 18th century.
Perhaps one of the saddest stories of this location comes from the Civil War. Union soldiers from the 29th Pennsylvania Infantry were quartered in the upstairs rooms. A young African-American male was lynched by the group in a tree just outside the building. The pacing of boots and the shouts of arguing soldiers are still heard here.
STOP #3O—33 NORTH LOUDON STREET Be on the lookout for a young woman in Civil War era clothing hurrying along the street with a shawl wrapped around her shoulders near this address. She is believed to be the spirit of Tillie Russell, a local woman who legend calls, “The Angel of the Battlefield.”
A small engagement occurred at Rutherford’s Farm outside of Winchester on July 20, 1864 when Union forces attacked a Confederate division under command of General Stephen Ramseur, throwing it into confusion. Capt. Randolph Ridgeley of the 2nd Virginia Volunteer Infantry was seriously wounded during that attack as was discovered by Tillie Russell. She nursed him through the night and Ridgeley survived his wounds.
For years, people have seen the spirit of Miss Russell leaving the building at 33 North Loudoun pulling her shawl about her shoulders as she heads off towards the battlefield at Rutherford’s Farm.
STOP #3P—OLD COURT HOUSE CIVIL WAR MUSEUM (20 North Loudoun Street, Open M-Sat 10-5, Sun 1-5, Adults $5, website) Of all the buildings throughout the city impacted by the Civil War, the biggest impact was possibly on this building which was constructed in 1840 as the Frederick County Court House. The building served as a hospital and, after the Third Battle of Winchester, a prison for captured Confederates. Many of the scars left on this building including the graffiti left on the walls by soldiers from both sides have been preserved. The building has also been the scene of some rather intense spiritual activity.
Some spiritually sensitive passersby have witnessed gray forms huddled in the building’s courtyard where Confederate prisoners were kept. In the old courtroom, voices have been heard ranging from faint whispers to obnoxious shouting and the cries of the wounded that once crowded this space. During the building’s renovation, workers had tools and equipment moved. Three workers walked off the job when scaffolding was moved from one side of the room to another during a lunch break.
STOP #3Q—2 SOUTH LOUDOUN STREET (formerly OLDE TOWN CAFE) This large, brick building was originally the family home of the prominent Holliday family and this was the home of Frederick Holliday who served as governor during the 19th century. The building has seen a variety of uses including post office, a dry goods store and drug store. Since its use as a restaurant, the owners have discovered that the building is also the residence of two ghosts. A male spirit has been seen ascending the stairs from the basement, though he always just stops and stares upon reaching the top. A woman’s spirit has been seen entering the building’s front door and rearranging items on the shelves inside the restaurant.
STOP #4—WAYSIDE INN (7783 Main Street, private bed and breakfast inn with a restaurant, Larrick’s Tavern, open 12-9 Th-Sat and Sun 10-2, website) This building sits at the core of history of this small town. The motley of old buildings forming the tavern were built over a period ranging from the 18th century through to the late 19th century. The oldest portion of the building, containing Larrick’s Tavern, may have been constructed around 1750. The road in front was once part of the Great Wagon Road—the road used by settlers pouring into the American “backcountry.” In this area, the Great Wagon Road was originally a Native American trail called the Great Indian Warpath and used by a multitude of Native American tribes including the Cherokee.
In 1797, this collection of buildings became an inn for the many travelers passing on the road. Leo Bernstein, the garrulous personality who took over the inn the latter half of the 20th century, would always claim that this inn was the oldest continuously operating inn in the nation. There does seem to be a good deal of truth behind his claim. It is known that this inn was in operation as war raged up and down the valley during the Civil War and that the inn served both sides.
Like most buildings in the area, the inn has a number of Civil War related spirits, though there is the possibility that the inn may have been haunted before that time. Lord Fairfax, who had been given much the land in the area, did live nearby and died in Winchester (he’s buried at Christ Episcopal Church) is claimed as the spirit that moans on a nightly basis in the oldest portion of the inn. Bernstein describes the space in Sheila Turnage’s Haunted Inns of the Southeast, “Upstairs is about a three foot space. There was a set of steps going up there. The straw is still there.” The loft is located just above one of the bars and Turnage mentions that people gather to listen for the moan at 11:30 PM nightly.
Besides odd moans, the inn is home to numerous other spirits and employees and guests have witnessed much activity. Objects have moved on their own accord, a dishwasher had his apron untied repeatedly by unseen hands, and full apparitions have been seen including those of Civil War soldiers. Paranormal investigations have captured much evidence including EVPs of horses whinnying and photographs featuring specters.
STOP #5—WAYSIDE THEATRE (7853 Main Street, now closed) The sad fate of the Wayside Theatre echoes the fate of so many theatres throughout the country. The company was established in 1961, by Leo Bernstein, the owner of the Wayside Inn just down the street. The summer stock theatre provided training for actors such as Susan Sarandon, Peter Boyle, Kathy Bates and Donna McKechnie. After a precipitous drop in revenue, the theatre closed its doors in 2013.
The building was originally constructed as a cinema and it is from this period that the theatre’s ghost may come from. “George,” is supposedly the spirit of an African-American man who either worked in the theatre or was a caretaker at some point. His spirit is said to haunt the stage, balcony and basement of the building.
STOP #6—CEDAR CREEK AND BELLE GROVE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK (Belle Grove, 336 Belle Grove Road, Open M-Sat 10-4, Sun 1-5, $12 Adults, website; Cedar Creek Visitor’s Center, 8437 Valley Pike, Open M-Sat 10-4, Sun 1-4, website) Historically and architecturally, Belle Grove is one of the most important houses in the region and listed as a National Historic Landmark. It is currently owned and operated by the National Trust and most sources state that the docents are discouraged from talking about the spirits which still reside here.
The history of Belle Grove begins in the late 18th century with the land being acquired by Isaac Hite, the grandson of Jost Hite, a German immigrant and one of the early pioneers in this area. Construction of the house began in 1794 and ended in 1797. The house remained in the Hite family until just before the beginning of the Civil War when it was bought by John and Benjamin Cooley. The first of two ghost stories begin with this family. Not long after acquiring the house, Benjamin Cooley married a local woman named Hetty. Not long after her arrival in the home, Hetty became the subject of ire from one of the slave woman working there.
Though the details are unclear, Hetty was attacked by the slave and her beaten body was thrown either into the smokehouse or the icehouse on the property. Hetty’s spirit reportedly returns frequently and has been seen throughout the house. According to two sources, she actually let a deliveryman into the house one afternoon after the home had been closed for the day. The deliveryman was returning the antique carpets which had been removed for cleaning. After arriving late, he was let into the house by a woman in a period dress who did not speak but only gestured to where the carpets should be placed. When the staff discovered the carpets had been returned and put in place, they called the cleaning company who put the driver on the phone. They were shocked to hear about the woman who let him in.
A few years after Mrs. Cooley’s death, the estate became the scene of the Battle of Cedar Creek. During that battle, Major General Stephen Ramseur of North Carolina was gravely wounded. He was taken to a room at Belle Grove where he passed away the following morning surrounded by some of his former classmates from West Point from both armies including George Custer. This scene was witnessed by a gentleman some years ago. While idly passing through the house, he glanced into a room to see a group of Civil War soldiers in both blue and grey standing around someone in a bed. Later, when he asked who had been presenting the tableaux that day, he was informed that nothing of the sort was taking place in the house.
Employees have told various paranormal writers that voices and other odd noises are regularly heard in the house, while singing is heard in the slave cemetery on the property.
Early on the morning of October 19, 1864, Confederate General Jubal Early launched an attack upon Union forces camping in the area. These forces under General Sheridan (who was headquartered at the Lloyd Logan House in Winchester, see stop #3H) had spent their time clearing the Shenandoah Valley of Confederates. Known as “The Burning,” this period included the destruction of much of the area. Early’s early morning attack was one of the last chances for Confederates to stop the decimation of the valley.
While Early’s attack was initially successful in beginning to route the Federals, Sheridan, hearing the sounds of battle from Winchester, jumped upon his horse and made a triumphant ride to Middletown to rally his troops to victory. At the end of the day, Early’s forces had been driven from the field.
The stories of spirits on this battlefield began not long after the battle ended. These stories included spectral soldiers on the battlefield both singly and in groups and even stories of headless horsemen. Michael Varhola notes, however, that the gentlemen he met working in the visitor’s center, refused to answer his questions about the battlefield being haunted.
STOP #7—GRAND CAVERNS (5 Grand Caverns Drive, Open 9-5, Adults $18, website) From the oldest continuously operating inn in the country to the oldest operating show cave, Grand Caverns has been open for tourists since 1806. I’ve covered this cave and its ghosts in a blog entry here.
STOP #8—PIEDMONT BATTLEFIELD (Battlefield Road) Outside of New Hope, near the community of Piedmont, is an open field that was the scene of a battle, the 5th of June 1864.
Around 5 AM, June 5, 1996, a group of reenactors camping on the southern edge of the battlefield were awakened by an unusual ruckus: the sounds of wagons approaching. In an effort to greet the approaching wagons, a few of the reenactors stepped towards a nearby fence. The sounds, the creak of wagon wheels, the tinkle of chains, the clop of horses hooves and their whinnies, increased for a moment as they apparently neared the awed witnesses then they suddenly ceased. Some of those present later discovered an overgrown trace or wagon road in the woods near the spot where they’d heard the sounds. It is believed that this road may have been in existence at the time of the battle.
Of course, there’s no way to know if the sounds were related to battle or simply spiritual residue from the road’s history. Either way, the reenactors will likely tell this story for years to come.
Like Winchester, Staunton has a myriad of haunted locales and a ghost tour. Black Raven Paranormal presents a handful of different tours; see their website for further information.
STOP #9—MRS. ROWE’S FAMILY RESTAURANT (74 Rowe Road) This popular restaurant has been investigated twice in the past few years after employees and guests have had run-ins with spirits. In addition to activity in the building’s attic and basement, the back dining room and men’s room have reportedly had activity. Two local news articles describe the activity as ranging from full apparitions to employees being touched.
STOP #10—DeJARNETTE CENTER (located behind the Frontier Culture Museum, 1290 Richmond Avenue, the center is closed and private property though one of the tours offered by the Ghosts of Staunton tours the grounds, don’t ask for further information at the Frontier Culture Museum, they can’t tell you much of anything) There’s a good deal of misinformation about this location. Of course, mental and psychiatric hospitals tend to be haunted, along with other medical facilities. Among those with a paranormal bent, there is a tendency to exploit these types of places and often repeat misinformation.
With the DeJarnette Center, there is a tendency to confuse it with Western State Hospital, which also may be haunted. Though their histories are intertwined, these are two separate facilities. Western State was founded early in the 19th century to handle the overflow from the Williamsburg Hospital which handled the insane and mental cases. The complex that once house Western State has recently been converted into condominiums called The Villages at Staunton.
During the first half of the 19th century, Western State was under the aegis of Dr. Joseph DeJarnette, a revolutionary figure in the field of mental health. His controversial legacy included institutionalizing a eugenics program that forcibly sterilized numerous patients throughout the state.
This facility opened in 1932 originally as the DeJarnette State Sanitarium, a private pay unit of Western State. The state assumed control of this facility in 1975 and renamed it the DeJarnette Center for Human Development. The facility experienced severe budget cuts starting in the mid-70s and continuing until the patients were moved into a newer, smaller facility adjacent to Western State in 1996. Since 1996, the site has been abandoned and waiting for the wrecking ball. Countless ghost stories have been told about the facility, though few have actually been published.
STOP #11—DOWNTOWN STAUNTON Like downtown Winchester, Staunton has a number of haunted places, though the information on them is not as readily available (as opposed to Winchester with Mac Rutherford’s book on its hauntings). I imagine many of these locations will be presented on the Ghosts of Staunton tour.
STOP #11A—STAUNTON COFFEE AND TEA (32 South New Street, Open M-F 7:30-6, Sat 8-5, Sun 8-4, website) This building was the scene of a homicide in August of 1951. Elmer Higgins, a heavy gambler who lived in an apartment on the building’s second floor was shot in the head, execution-style. The murder remains unsolved and it is believed his spirit remains on the premises.
STOP #11B—AMTRAK STATION (1 Middlebrooks Avenue) There has been a train station on this site since 1854. The first station was burned during the Civil War while the second station was destroyed April 28, 1890 by train. The New York Times described the event, “This morning about 3 o’clock a railroad wreck occurred at the Staunton (Chesapeake and Ohio) Station. The vestibule train, due here from the west at 1 o’clocl was two hours late. About 3 o’clock it came whirling on at a speed of seventy miles an hour, the engine having the appearance of a sheet of fire…As the train reached the passenger station the rear sleeper careened, striking the platform covering, tearing away the iron posts, and demolishing the whole platform structure.”
The train was carrying members of a traveling operatic troupe out of Cincinnati, Ohio. The only death to occur was one of the company’s singers, Miss Myrtle Knox who was badly mangled by the accident and bled to death.
Myrtle’s sad spirit has been spotted on the platform wearing a nightgown. Women with long blonde hair have had their hair tugged and it is believed that Myrtle’s spirit may be to blame for that as well.
An old rail car at the depot once contained a restaurant. Visitors to the station have seen odd lights, shadows and heard voices around the old Pullman car. Along the tracks the apparition of a Civil War soldier has been seen. A Confederate soldier was walking these tracks after having a bit too much to drink at a local saloon. He was hit by a train and killed.
STOP #11C—THE CLOCK TOWER BUILDING (27 West Beverly Street) This 1890 structure has been the scene of at least three deaths. Two early deaths on the premises, which was originally constructed as a YMCA facility, include a heart attack and a young woman who fell down a coal chute. Recently, someone fell to their death from the third floor in a possible suicide. These spirits are still said to linger in this old building.
STOP #12—MARY BALDWIN COLLEGE (Intersection of Frederick Street and New Street) According to the National Register of Historic Places nomination form for this college’s main building, Mary Baldwin is the oldest women’s institution of higher learning associated with the Presbyterian Church. The school was opened in 1842 as the Augusta Female Seminary. In the midst of the Civil War, Mary Baldwin and Agnes McClung, former students of the seminary were appointed as principals. They would serve the school through the latter half of the 19th century and Mary Baldwin’s contribution would be recognized in 1895 when the school was renamed for her. The spirits of Mary Baldwin and Agnes McClung may remain on campus along with a few other assorted spirits.
In the old Main Building, one of the first buildings constructed on campus, a male spirit named Richard likes to occasionally cause trouble. McClung Residence Hall, just behind the Main Building includes the rooms where Baldwin and McClung lived during their tenure here. Students living there have reported the spirits of both women, with one student even waking up to find a white figure hovering over her as she slept. The Collins Theatre, located inside the Deming Fine Arts Center, also features a spirit, possibly that of one of Mary Baldwin’s most illustrious alums, the actress Tallulah Bankhead. The spirit in the theatre is known to mess with the stage lights.
STOP #13—CIVIL WAR MUSEUM AND EXCHANGE HOTEL (400 South Main Street, Open M-Th & Sat 10-4, F 12-4, Sun 1-4, $7 Adults, website) The Exchange Hotel has, in recent years, become one of the Southern meccas for ghost hunters. Opened on the eve of the Civil War, this hotel became one of the premier hospitals for the wounded during the Civil War. With so many deaths here, it’s no wonder that the place is crawling with ghosts. In one of my early blog entries, I’ve covered this location. At one time, the museum offered ghost walks, but I can currently find no information about these. This haunting was also covered on the Biography Channel show, My Ghost Story, first season, episode six.
Abram’s Delight. Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society. Accessed 19 September 2014.
Armstrong, Derek Micah. “A true ghost story.” The News Virginian. 22 October 2012.
Ash, Linda O’Dell. “Respect the spirits, ‘Ghost Hunters International’ star Dustin Pari tells Wayside Inn paranormal investigators.” The Northern Virginia Daily. 7 November 2011.
Austin, Natalie. “Local ghost expert shares stories of the supernatural.” The Northern Virginia Daily. 30 October 2004.
Brown, Beth. Haunted Plantations of Virginia. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2009.
Higher education has always nodded towards the traditions of ancient universities especially during rituals like graduation when students and faculty wear traditional scholars’ gowns and regalia. Among those traditions that can be found are ghost stories passed from student to student, though often these tales include a kernel of truth. Included here are a few stories from Virginia.
Alderman Library Campus of the University of Virginia Charlottesville
The website for the University of Virginia Libraries notes that the university’s library system incorporates 13 buildings, possesses 5.1 million books and includes reports of two ghosts. The university’s grand Alderman Library was built during the Great Depression as part of FDR’s Public Works Administration. Opening in 1938, the building housed the university’s growing library which originally was house in the magnificent rotunda designed as a centerpiece for the university by Thomas Jefferson.
According to accounts from library staff, the two spirits within the library don’t actually haunt the building, but two particular collections of books. Like the inverted and bookish Jefferson, Dr. Bennett Wood Green and Muscoe Garnett were both obsessed with their own personal libraries. When Dr. Green, a Virginia physician, died in 1913, he left his large library to the university. His books were originally shelved in the Rotunda library and that is where his curious spirit was first encountered checking up on his precious books. When his books were moved to the new Alderman Library, he tagged along and his spirit has been seen roaming the old stacks. Footsteps echoing through those same stacks have also been attributed to him. Upon encountering Green’s bookish spirit, one library staff member began bringing her large dog to work with her.
Alumnus and later member of the university’s Board of Visitors, politician Muscoe Russell Hunter Garnett housed his extensive library in his home, Elmwood, in Essex County, Virginia. Upon Garnett’s death just before the end of the Civil War, the house was closed and left to decay. While the house decayed, the books seemingly did not. Rumors spread that the library was taken care of by the spirit of a friend of Garnett’s who would rise from his grave nightly to dust and care for the library. The books were donated by the family to the university in 1938 and were shelved in the new Alderman Library. The spirit seen among these books may be the caring spirit or perhaps that of Garnett, himself.
Barefoot, Daniel W. Haunted Halls of Ivy: Ghosts of Southern Colleges and Universities. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2004.
Foster, Gaelyn and Jiaer Zhuang. “Alderman Library turns 75.” The Cavalier Daily. 16 October 2013.
Pflager, Henry. “Alderman to celebrate 75th” The Cavalier Daily. 3 October 2013.
Strand, Megan. “Terrifying Tales.” The Cavalier Daily. 13 April 2001.
Truong, Tiffany. “Spirits, ghosts reportedly haunt University grounds.” The Cavalier Daily. 30 October 2013.
Ferguson Center for the Arts Campus of Christopher Newport University Newport News
Though Christopher Newport University is the youngest comprehensive public university in Virginia, it seems to have acquired a ghost. The building now housing the Ferguson Center for the Arts originally opened in 1957 as Warwick Junior High School. In 1961, the school reopened as Homer L. Ferguson High School and remained a high school until it closed in 1996. Christopher Newport University, which opened in 1960 not long after Warwick Junior High, acquired the building and hired noted architect I.M. Pei to renovate it into a performing arts center.
Along with the old high school, the university also acquired the ghost of a former student. According to the university’s student newspaper, The Captain’s Log, the spirit requires acknowledgement and the theatre students working in the building know to say hello to her when they enter the sound booths. Otherwise, the student may see things in their peripheral vision. The paper notes that a 15-year-old female student died in 1968.
Christopher Newport University. “Our Campus.” Accessed 12 September 2014.
“Ferguson High School Closing: Ferguson Memories.” Daily Press. 9 June 1996.
Lurie, Victoria. “A Ghost Story.” The Captain’s Log. 30 October 2013.
Payne Hall Campus of Washington & Lee University Lexington
The Colonnade of Washington and Lee University may be one of the most dramatic collections of college buildings in America. Oddly, this section of campus was not “the product of a single architectural concept,” as is stated in the university’s National Register of Historic Places nomination form. In fact, the Colonnade evolved as “an evolutionary product of a building program, extending over nearly one hundred and fifty years.” So remarkable is this collection of buildings that it is now a National Historic Landmark.
The second oldest building in the Colonnade is Payne Hall built in 1831. The building was originally called The Lyceum and used to teach biology. It was renamed Payne Hall after a renovation in the 1930s and is currently used by the university’s English department. After an English class studied James Merrill’s epic poem, “The Book of Ephraim”—a poem composed using an Ouija board—some students and an English professor attempted to communicate with the spirits of Payne Hall via Ouija board. The group possibly communicated with a few spirits. When one spirit was asked which building on campus was the most haunted, it replied by spelling out “B-I-O.” Sometime later, the professor discovered that Payne Hall had historically been used for biology.
Among the stories from Payne Hall are accounts of doors opening and closing by themselves, disembodied footsteps and apparitions. A university press release describes three apparitions that have been seen around this building including, “a dark presence moving swiftly down the back stairs, a person dressed in black swirling down the Colonnade, and a cape-wearing figure that whisks into the building.”
Balfour, Amy C. “Payne Hall Restoration: A Marriage of Old and New.” News @ Washington and Lee. 14 September 2011.
Hanna, Jeff. “Payne Hall Ghost: Spooked by Renovations?” News @ Washington and Lee. 27 October 2011.
Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Washington and Lee Historic District. 6 October 1970.
I occasionally get emails from people wanting information on hauntings within a specific location. Last week I received an email regarding haunted places in Asheville, North Carolina and I gave five suggestions off the top of my head. So I decided to create a blog entry.
Located in Western North Carolina, Asheville is certainly one of the most scenic of major cities in the state. Until European intrusion into the area, the Asheville region was a part of the Cherokee territory. In the years following the American Revolution and the little known Cherokee War of 1776 (which was fought in this area between the patriot colonists and the Cherokee people), settlers began to make inroads into this captivating place at the confluence of the Swannanoa and French Broad Rivers.
The city of Asheville grew rather slowly with the pace of growth picking up after the railroads began building lines through the city. After George Vanderbilt began work on his magnificent estate, Biltmore, just south of the city, other wealthy elites began to visit the city as a mountain playground. The Depression brought crushing debt to the city and it stagnated for decades until that debt was paid off.
During the last decades of the 20th century and into the new century, Asheville has remolded itself into a Bohemian gathering place and a Mecca for artists and travelers.
The city’s unique blend of all things hip with a very interesting history has ranked it among the most interesting cities in the South.
In this blog I’ve already covered a few haunted locations within the city including the Grove Park Inn and Helen’s Bridge. Asheville is city with numerous haunted places and this is a selection of those places.
Asheville City Hall 70 Court Plaza
Asheville is most certainly a quirky city and the city’s marvelous collection of Art Deco buildings adds to that quirkiness. The city’s skyline is dominated by its Art Deco styled courthouse where a tragedy supposedly played out not long after the building’s construction. The building was built between 1926 and 1928 on the eve of the 1929 stock market crash that would mire the country in depression for many years. The building’s exuberant Art Deco styling was created by one of the city’s architectural masters, Douglas Ellington. The city’s fathers boasted that upon completion, no town in the nation could boast a finer municipal building.
On the 30th of November 1930, Central Bank & Trust went bankrupt taking all of Asheville’s optimism for the future with it. As the holder of most of the city’s funds, the city entered a period of penury that would last until the city’s debt was paid off in 1976. According to Ken Traylor and Delas House’s Asheville Ghosts and Legends, the city’s failed finances led the city’s financial manager to take a suicidal plunge from the building. It is believed that it is his spirit wearing a three-piece suit that has been seen within the building.
Barley’s Taproom and Pizzeria 42 Biltmore Avenue
While mass-shooting events have become commonplace in our news recently, they are not a new phenomenon. Barley’s Taproom may still ring with the echoes of one particular bloody night in 1906. An escaped convict by the name of Will Harris went on a rampage after he made advances on a woman he barely knew. He shot and killed two police officers nearby then began shooting random passersby in the area including a gentleman killed near the corner of Biltmore Avenue and Eagle Street, near to where Barley’s now stands. Will Harris escaped into the night, but a posse of local citizens hunted him down and shot him south of the city near Fletcher.
While this single event may have led to some of the activity within Barley’s, according to Kala Ambrose’s Ghosthunting North Carolina, the area also once was the site of the city’s gallows and paranormal activity has been witnessed in the area since the early 20th century. She reports that a man in black has been seen walking down Biltmore Avenue and disappearing at the door to Barley’s. Perhaps this was also the spirit seen by one of Barley’s owners. His experience, as reported in a 2005 Asheville Citizen-Times article, was of seeing a man walk past the windows of the bar. While seeing people outside is not uncommon, it’s very uncommon to see someone walk past the second floor windows.
Though it’s not just outside the building where there is activity. Ambrose reports that the spirit of a woman may haunt the interior with her perfume detected when she is present.
Biltmore House 1 Approach Road
The Biltmore House is the crowning jewel of the marvelous Biltmore Estate constructed by George Vanderbilt over the course of six years in the late 19th century. The house remains the largest privately owned house in the country and is still owned by Vanderbilt’s descendants. It seems that the spirits of former owners and employees still may roam the estate. Spirits identified as those of George Vanderbilt and his wife, Edith, have been encountered as well as those of servants.
Riverside Cemetery 53 Birch Street
Riverside Cemetery is one of Asheville’s most storied cemeteries. It is the resting place of two well-known authors: Thomas Wolfe and William Sydney Porter (known by his nom-de-plume, O. Henry) as well as senators, a couple state governors and three noted Confederate generals. With these noted men rest many of Asheville’s most prominent citizens as well as Confederate soldiers and a number of German sailors who were incarcerated nearby during World War I. Monuments and graves crown stately hills overlooking the French Broad River and lend the cemetery an air of elegance.
Among these hills, soldiers from the Civil War apparently still march. They have been both seen and heard.
Smith-McDowell House 283 Victoria Road
Asheville’s oldest brick antebellum era building, the Smith-McDowell House has had a long and illustrious history. Built around 1840 by local entrepreneur, James McConnell Smith, the house remained in his family until 1880. The house went through a number of owners until it came into the possession of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College in 1974. The campus of the college now surrounds the house.
As it is with many historic house museums, the Smith-McDowell House has experienced paranormal activity for years. In 2006, the museum called in a local paranormal group, the League of Energy Materialization and Unexplained Phenomena Research (LEMUR), to investigate. The group identified four spirits residing within the home as well as two unidentified paranormal entities.
Ambrose, Kala. Ghosthunting North Carolina. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2011.
In the past two months, a number of locations in the South have been investigated and written up in local media.
Antiques and Uniques Collectibles 7 Aviles Street St. Augustine, Florida
In the old quarter of one of the oldest cities in the country, it’s no surprise that ghosts are found everywhere. The building housing this small antique store is a quaint, commercial structure with a balcony that overhangs the sidewalk. Painted a bright, gay yellow, the color gives no clue to the spirits that lurk within. According to a historian quoted in Elizabeth Randall’s Haunted St. Augustine and St. John’s County, part of the building was originally built as a jail, specifically a drunk tank, in the late 19th century. The building was enlarged and has mostly been used as a commercial building throughout the 20th century and into the 21st.
According to an article by paranormal investigator and writer Jamie Pearce for Historic City News, the building houses several spirits including a spectral cat. Pearce states that, “the last time we investigated, five members of my team heard two distinct ‘meows’ inside the store, a store with no cats.” Other spirits, including two possible children, are known to occasionally raid the refrigerator and play with toys. The store’s owner captured video of the refrigerator door opening and closing on its own accord.
Pearce, Jamie. “Make some paranormal friends on Aviles Street.” Historic City News. 24 August 2014.
Randall, Elizabeth. Haunted St. Augustine and St. John’s County. Charleston: History Press, 2013.
Beauvoir 2244 Beach Boulevard Biloxi, Mississippi
In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, many of the homes along Beach Boulevard—which look out to the Gulf—sustained extensive damage with some being swept away completely. Beauvoir, the last home of Jefferson Davis, the former president of the Confederacy, sustained terrible damage. Some outbuildings were swept away and others damaged severely while some 35% of the museum’s collections were lost. By 2008, the 200th anniversary of Davis’ birth, the house had been restored and reopened to the public.
Even after the hurricane’s extensive damage, the spirits have remained. While paranormal investigation groups have lobbied unsuccessfully for years to investigate the estate, a recent shakeup in the museum’s administration finally allowed Mississippi Gulf Coast Paranormal (MGCP) to investigate over a weekend earlier this month.
According to articles regarding the investigation, paranormal activity is a very common occurrence at the stunning antebellum home. One paranormal investigation team member stated that while full-body apparitions are a rarity elsewhere, they’re quite normal here. They continued saying that a staff member in the house “sees Jeff Davis a couple times a week standing in the main hall.” In addition to the former president of the Confederacy, apparitions of Davis’ wife, Varina, and his daughter, Winnie, have been captured on film. In addition, a Confederate soldier is commonly encountered on the grounds by staff and visitors alike.
The MGCP investigation apparently captured a few occurrences the first night of the investigation including a rocking chair rocking on its own accord in Davis’ bedroom and many hits on the team’s K2 meters. It will likely be a few weeks before all the video and audio is thoroughly reviewed.
Ochs, Patrick. “Ghost hunters return for Round 2 at Beauvoir in Biloxi.” The Sun Herald. 9 August 2014.
Ochs, Patrick. “We ain’t afraid of no ghosts: Paranormal group investigates Beauvoir.” The Sun Herald. 7 August 2014.
T’Frere’s Bed & Breakfast 1905 Verot School Road Lafayette, Louisiana
I’ve previously covered the “Little Brother’s” House a few years ago when I started this blog. For background information, please see my previous entry here. I was delighted recently to see that an investigation of this house was recently carried out.
Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations, who has methodically investigated haunted places throughout the state of Louisiana, were granted access to investigate T’Frere’s recently after 9 years of trying to get permission.
Like the investigation at Beauvoir, a few minor things happened, the result will not be available for a few weeks.
Coen, Chere. “Ghost hunters search for inn’s oldest ‘resident.’” IND Monthly. 18 August 2014.
Ponseti, Valerie. “Ghost Hunt at T-Frere’s.” KATC. 17 August 2014.
Demopolis Public Library 211 East Washington Street Demopolis, Alabama