‘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 of 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continues to operate while the jail is vacant, save for tourists, spirits, spirit-hunters, and memories, having been replaced by a new facility in 1984.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

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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