Haunting Legislation–West Virginia

West Virginia State Penitentiary
818 Jefferson Avenue
Moundsville, West Virginia

N.B. According to this article from WTOV, the language in these bills covering the leases on the WV Penitentiary has been removed and the leases will remain in place in their current forms.

The biggest news in the Southern paranormal world in the past few days has been two pieces of legislation currently wending their way through the West Virginia state legislature. The bills, House Bill 4338 and Senate Bill 369, would terminate the current lease of the West Virginia State Penitentiary in Moundsville held by the Moundsville Economic Development Council (MEDC). Furthermore, it would restrict leases to five years and allow the state to terminate a lease at any time. This threatens the use of the prison for tours, events, paranormal investigations, and seriously damages tourism in the northern region of the state.

The West Virginia State Penitentiary as seen from atop the Grave Creek Mound, 2016. Photo by Rhonda Humphreys, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The stern, Gothic edifice with a commanding view of the Ohio River has dominated the literal and economic landscape of the region for more than a century and a half. From its construction following the end of the Civil War, through years of housing the most dangerous inmates in the state and 94 executions, prison breaks, riots, and finally decommissioning in 1995 the Moundsville prison has been a major economic driver for the area. After the prison’s closure damaged the local economy, the Moundsville Economic Development Council signed a lease with the state department of corrections to employ the massive sandstone fortress in the tourism industry.

The MEDC opened the site for tours and eventually rolled out the red carpet for those wishing to explore the darker, paranormal side of the building. Paranormal television spread the gospel of the tremendous activity found throughout the building. Over the years, hundreds of investigators have walked among and interacted with the numerous spirits that continue to roam the halls of the West Virginia Penitentiary. In short, the site has become a paranormal mecca.

Several books have been written about the haunted prison including two excellent books by West Virginia investigator and writer Sherri Brake, and several articles by local paranormal blogger and investigator Theresa Racer. It should be noted that few hauntings become as well-known as to garner a single book, much less more than one book and numerous articles.

Despite all this interest, and the work conducted by MEDC to bring people to this often ignored region of West Virginia, legislators have not provided a reason for the inclusion of this action in the bills. In fact, there are a couple legislators who are working to remove the language regarding the prison from the bill. The bills are necessary to reform the state department of corrections, which is woefully in need of change; however, this change needs not have such a detrimental effect on the tourism industry in Moundsville.

Theresa Racer’s coverage of the WV State Penitentiary on her blog, Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State.

Sources

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Alabama Hauntings—County by County, Part II

One of my goals with this blog is to provide coverage of ghost stories and haunted places in a comprehensive manner. One of the best ways to accomplish that is to examine ghost stories county by county. So far, researching in this manner has been difficult. In my 2015 book, Southern Spirit Guide’s Haunted Alabama, I wanted to include at least one location for every county, though a lack of adequate information and valid sources prevented me from reaching that goal. In the end, my book was published covering only 58 out of 67 counties.

Further research has uncovered information for a few more counties and last Halloween, Kelly Kazek published an article on AL.com covering the best-known ghost story for every county. Thanks to her excellent research, I’ve almost been able to achieve my goal for the state.

See part I (Autauga County-Cherokee County) here.
See part II (Chilton-Covington Counties) here.
See part III (Crenshaw-Franklin Counties) here.
See part IV (Geneva-Lawrence Counties) here.
See part V (Lee-Monroe Counties) here.
See part VI (Montgomery-Sumter Counties) here.
See part VII (Talladega-Winston Counties) here.

Chilton County

Refuge Bridge
County Road 32 over Walnut Creek
Clanton

Stories of this rural, one lane bridge being haunted have spread across the internet for years. The only published source on this bridge, Rich Newman’s 2016 Haunted Bridges, appears to draw from these unverified reports. Visitors to the bridge at night are supposed to encounter ghost lights and a malevolent spirit that has been known to pursue those who dare to step out of their cars.

Sources

  • Newman, Rich. Haunted Bridges. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn, 2016.

Choctaw County

Tombigbee River
Near Pennington

Year after year in the early spring, law enforcement near Pennington receives calls about a boat burning on the river. There was a boat that burned on the river near here in a spectacular fire in 1858, the famous Eliza Battle. The river had begun its annual journey outside its banks when the Eliza Battle set its course from Columbus, Mississippi to Mobile loaded with cotton and many passengers. Mrs. Windham describes the journey as starting on a gay note with a band playing as the ship steamed out of Columbus. As evening descended, fireworks were launched, but the weather soon deteriorated.

Tombigbee River below Moscow Landing in 1888, near the site of the Eliza Battle’s demise. Photo by Eugene Allen Smith.

The New York Times notes that a fire broke out around 2 AM on March 1st among the bales of cotton in the ship’s cargo hold. Spreading quickly, the fire severed the ship’s tiller rope rendering the vessel rudderless. As it burned, the boat drifted into the submerged forest along the banks of the river. Some of the passengers were able to grab onto the branches of the submerged trees while many others jumped into the frigid waters. Locals near the river were roused by the screams of the passengers and quickly organized to offer aid. The exact number of lives lost is still not known, but it estimated to be between 25 and 50. However, the burning Eliza Battle still reappears accompanied by the panicked screams of its passengers to remind us of the tragedy.

Sources

  • “Area rich in ghost stories, folk lore.” Demopolis Times. 30 October 2008.
  • “Burning of the Steamer Eliza Battle.” New York Times. 12 March 1858.
  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Ward, Rufus. “Ask Rufus: Ghosts of the Tombigbee.” The Dispatch (Columbus, MS). 25 October 2014.
  • Windham, Kathryn Tucker and Margaret Gillis Figh. 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama, 1969.

Clarke County

Mount Nebo Cemetery
Mount Nebo Road

The Alabama Ghost Trail website lists this rural cemetery as being haunted, though it seems that it may just be especially creepy. This cemetery features four unique gravestones created by local African-American inventor and “brilliant recluse” Isaac Nettles. In these gravestones for family members, Settles includes a “death mask” of the deceased and, in the case of his wife’s grave, the visages of their daughters. These faces, made from impressions done while the subjects were alive, appear to press through from inside the concrete markers. These markers are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and are at the heart of the folk art tradition in this state.

Sources

  • Ghost Trail.” SW Alabama Regional Office of Tourism and Film. Accessed 25 May 2015.
  • Semmer, Blythe and Trina Brinkley. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for the Isaac Nettles Gravestone. 24 August 1999.

Clay County

Hudson House (private)
Ashland

This abandoned farmhouse is not unlike the quietly decaying abandoned homes and buildings that line Southern byways, except that it is the only well-known haunting in this rural county. Constructed in 1905, this home was built by Charles and William Hudson for their brother, John. Visitors to the home have encountered the sounds of a baby crying, growling, and odd sounds emanating from within the empty house. While the address of this home has been widely publicized, please note that visiting this house without permission of the landowners does constitute trespassing.

Sources

Cleburne County

Bald Rock Group Lodge
Cheaha State Park
19644 AL-281
Delta

Nestled within the state’s oldest continuously operating state park, the Bald Rock Group Lodge was constructed as part of several park features built by workers of the New Deal-sponsored Civilian Conservation Corps in 1939. This historic structure was probed for paranormal activity by the Oxford Paranormal Society in 2007. The group captured some audio and video evidence including a replace lighting up mysteriously. Members of the investigative team also witnessed a door opening and then slamming shut by itself. This door was found to be dead bolted when the team examined it moments later.

Sources

  • Oxford Paranormal Society. Paranormal Investigation Report for Bald Rock Lodge—Mt. Cheaha. Accessed 21 May 2015.
  • Ress, Thomas V. “Cheaha State Park.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. 6 April 2010.
 

Coffee County

Old Coffee County Jail
329 Putnam Street
Elba

By their natures, jails and prisons often hold negative energy. As places of confinement, these places absorb the negative energy and attitudes from the criminals held here. The suicides and murders that sometimes take place within the walls of these facilities add to the negativity that accumulates. The Old Coffee County Jail has been the scene of several tragedies including suicides and the murder of the county sheriff here in 1979.

Built in 1912, this building served Coffee County for many decades until a flood in 1990 led to its closure. On the morning of March 1, 1979, as Sheriff C. F. “Neil” Grantham arrived for work, a young man approached and shot him three times, killing him just outside the building. The shooter was later apprehended and originally sentenced to death, though he was able to get his sentence commuted to life imprisonment.

Tragedy still haunts the halls of the jail which have been investigated by R.I.P. Investigations. Investigators have caught EVPs within the building as well as communicated with spirits through the use of a Spirit Box. One investigator encountered a malevolent entity which left three long scratches on his back.

Sources

Colbert County

Colbert Ferry Park
Natchez Trace Parkway Milepost 327.3
At the Tennessee River
Cherokee

As the Natchez Trace passed through the territory of the Chickasaw, a pair of native brothers and chiefs, George and Levi Colbert, set up “stands” or inns and a ferry across the river to provide for travelers. Later, the brothers’ surname would be used to name this county. The site of George Colbert’s stand and ferry is now Colbert Ferry Park.

Fire destroyed the stand many years ago, and nothing remains but spiritual activity. Here visitors have had their hair and clothing tugged, and they have heard disembodied voices. Author Bud Steed and his wife experienced some of this activity when they visited in 2011. Around the site, the woods continue to stalked by native spirits, and spectral canoes have been observed on the river.

Sources

  • Crutchfield, James A. The Natchez Trace: A Pictorial History. Nashville, TN: Rutledge Hill Press, 1985.
  • Steed, Bud. Haunted Natchez Trace. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2012.

Conecuh County

Castleberry Bank Building
Corner of Cleveland Avenue and West Railroad Street
Castleberry

Those who have been inside this building in the small town of Castleberry remark that there is a heaviness in the air. Lee Peacock, a local reporter and blogger, noted that the building gave him and the investigative team with him a sense of “claustrophobia.” Perhaps the feeling of dread and terror felt by a bank president during the Great Depression still pervades this place where he took his life.

The scent of cigar smoke and the low, muffled voices of men talking still cling to the air here. Originally constructed as a bank and serving later as a post office and town museum, the building is currently closed.

Sources

Coosa County

Oakachoy Covered Bridge site
Covered Bridge Road
Equality

Travelers on the road from Rockford, the seat of Coosa County, to Dadeville forded Oakachoy Creek here for decades. To aid travelers in crossing the creek, a small covered bridge was built here in 1916 and carried traffic across the creek until vandals burned the picturesque bridge in 2001.

While the bridge still stood, legend spoke of an African-American man being hung on this bridge. As a result of this heinous act, odd things would happen to vehicles parked on the bridge including door handles being shaken and engines dying inexplicably. With the loss of the bridge, this activity has expanded to the land around the bridge site and may include a shadow figure making its way through the forest.

Sources

  • Newman, Rich. Haunted Bridges. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn, 2016.

Covington County

Old Covington County Jail
Behind the Covington County Courthouse
101 North Court Square
Andalusia

In contrast to the grace of the grand, Beaux Arts-style Covington County Courthouse, the building that once housed the jail is severe and linear, perhaps belying its residents’ fall from grace. The building is angular with a few Italianate touches to soften its harsh lines. The jail’s construction followed the completion of the courthouse in 1916. Among the many people whose shadows darkened the threshold, is country singer Hank Williams, who spent a few nights.

The old jail is now primarily the haunt of spirits. The Alabama Paranormal Research Team, led by Faith Serafin, probed the building twice in 2009 obtaining some interesting evidence. The group captured the distinct sound of cell doors closing and disembodied voices as well as observing a shadowy figure in an upper cell. When asked if she thought the building was haunted, Serafin told a local reporter, “That place is haunted beyond a shadow of a doubt. There’s too much evidence, and it’s haunted by more than a few ghosts.”

Sources

  • Conner, Martha A. & Steven M. Kay. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Covington County Courthouse and Jail District. 28 January 1988.
  • Nelson, Stephanie. ”Ghostbusters.” Andalusia Star- News. 10 July 2009.
  • Serafin, Faith. Haunted Montgomery, Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.

Alabama Hauntings—County by County, Part I

One of my goals with this blog is to provide coverage of ghost stories and haunted places in a comprehensive manner. One of the best ways to accomplish that is to examine ghost stories county by county. So far, researching in this manner has been difficult. In my 2015 book, Southern Spirit Guide’s Haunted Alabama, I wanted to include at least one location for every county, though a lack of adequate information and valid sources prevented me from reaching that goal. In the end, my book was published covering only 58 out of 67 counties.

Further research has uncovered information for a few more counties and last Halloween, Kelly Kazek published an article on AL.com covering the best-known ghost story for every county. Thanks to her excellent research, I’ve almost been able to achieve my goal for the state.

See part I (Autauga-Cherokee Counties) here.
See part II (Chilton-Covington Counties) here.
See part III (Crenshaw-Franklin Counties) here.
See part IV (Geneva-Lawrence Counties) here.
See part V (Lee-Monroe Counties) here.
See part VI (Montgomery-Sumter Counties) here.
See part VII (Talladega-Winston Counties) here.

Autauga County

Cross Garden
Autauga County Road – 86
Prattville

An odd collection of signs, crosses, and rusting appliances dots two hills along Autauga County Road 86; this is W. C. Rice’s Cross Garden, a testament to the South’s enduring religious fervor and one man’s personal religious devotion. After he was saved and healed of painful stomach issues in 1960, Rice began a journey to save those around him from eternal damnation. Created in 1976, the Cross Garden was maintained by Rice until his death in 2004.

Listed among Time Magazine’s “Top 50 American Roadside Attractions” in 2010, the Cross Garden has attracted a following fascinated with this place’s spiritual ambiance and the paranormal activity that supposedly permeates the area. There is a pair of visitors who claimed to have had their car held in place by an odd force. Others have heard strange sounds coming from some of the old appliances used in the display. Faith Serafin notes that in 2008 a man in a white robe seen stalking through the woods here.

Sources

  • Crider, Beverly. Legends and Lore of Birmingham and Central Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2014.
  • Cruz, Gilbert. “Miracle Cross Garden, Prattville, AL: Top 50 American Roadside Attractions.” Time Magazine. 28 July 2010.
  • Serafin, Faith. Haunted Montgomery, Alabama. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.

Baldwin County

Bay Minette Public Library
205 West 2nd Street
Bay Minette

Bay Minette Public Library, 2013, by Chris Pruitt. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

It is believed that the spirit of Bay Minette Public Library’s first librarian, Mrs. Anne Gilmer, is still on duty. A recent librarian encountered Mrs. Gilmer’s spirit while shelving books when she observed a book slowly pulling itself off a shelf and tumbling to the floor. This book was joined by others falling, by themselves, off the shelves. The librarian realized these books had been mis-shelved, and she returned the books to their proper places.

After her long tenure at the library, Mrs. Gilmer’s portrait was removed from its position above the library’s main desk. After some time, the portrait was returned to its original spot and employees began to notice the smell of roses. This same odor returns whenever something good happens in the library; perhaps as a sign of Mrs. Gilmer’s happiness. When the library was moved to the old Baptist church across the street, the librarian issued a verbal invitation for the ghost to join them in the new building just before workers moved Mrs. Gilmer’s portrait. When the elevator began to act strangely, librarians knew that Mrs. Gilmer was continuing her spectral duties in the new library.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. The Haunted South. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2014.

Barbour County

Kendall Manor
534 West Broad Street
Eufaula

Crowning the hill of West Broad Street, Kendall Manor, with its white Italianate architecture and cupola resembles the front of a grand steamboat. It is certainly an architectural masterpiece among the hundreds of stately homes in Eufaula. The house, completed just after the Civil War, was constructed for James Turner Kendall, one of the few merchants and planters in the area whose fortune survived the war. A story circulated among the servants about a spirit that appeared near the house as a harbinger of bad luck. The Kendall family thought nothing of it until James Kendall’s manservant saw the spirit of a man in a gray uniform astride a white horse. Reportedly, James Kendall passed away the following day.

Kendall Manor, 2014, by Lewis O. Powell IV. All rights reserved.

For many years, this grand house served as a bed and breakfast with a unique staff member. A spectral nursemaid, known as Annie, is apparently on duty and has often been spotted by the children in the house. One family member told of seeing the specter wearing a black dress and starched white apron scowling at him as he and his siblings raced their tricycles on the home’s veranda. It seems Kendall Manor has returned to being a quiet, private residence in recent years, so please respect the home’s occupants.

Sources

  • Floyd, W. Warner. National Register of Historic Place Nomination form for Kendall Hall. 24 August 1971.
  • Mead, Robin. Haunted Hotels: A Guide to American and Canadian Inns and Their Ghosts. Nashville, TN: Rutledge Hill Press, 1995.

Bibb County

Brierfield Ironworks Historic State Park
240 Furnace Parkway
Brierfield

Founded by a group of local businessmen in 1862—as the Civil War was ramping up—the Brierfield Ironworks quickly attracted the attention of the Confederate Government which was interested in the high-quality pig iron produced here. During the war, the ironworks saw the production of about 1,000 tons of pig iron per year. Later in the war was Union General James H. Wilson swept through central Alabama, destroying targets of military importance, Brierfield was targeted and destroyed. Production resumed here after the war and continued until the ironworks was closed in 1894.

The ruins of the Brierfield Furnace by Jet Lowe. Photo taken for the Historic American Buildings Survey, 1993.

In 1976, the county heritage association turned the ruins into a heritage park. Two years later, the state took over the park, moving several historic structures here including Mulberry Church, which arrived here from its original site near Centreville. Built in 1897, this church is where tradition holds that the daughter of a moonshiner eloped despite her father’s disapproval of her fiancé. At the completion of the couple’s vows, the bride’s father appeared, firing his gun into the church door. The bullet struck both the bride and her new husband who was standing behind her. As a reminder of this tragic incident, the bullet hole remains in the door while the living have encountered the specter of the young bride at the site of her death.

Sources

Blount County

Old Garner Hotel
111 1st Avenue East
Oneonta

Built in 1915, the John Garner Hotel was built to accommodate guests arriving in town via the train depot located nearby. The building now serves as home to several businesses that occupy the first floor of this three-story building. Southern Paranormal Investigators spent an evening in the building in 2007 and were awed by the “findings and activity detected” within. Occupants had reported the smell of brewing coffee and tobacco smoke while the sounds of furniture moving and papers shuffling have also been heard here when the building was empty. The paranormal investigation team captured a few EVPs and photographic anomalies leading them to conclude that possibly three different spirits are present in this old hotel.

Sources

  • Blount County Heritage Book Committee. Heritage of Blount County, Alabama. Clanton, AL: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1999.
  • Southern Paranormal Researchers. Paranormal Investigation Report on The Lobby. Accessed 29 November 2012.

Bullock County

Josephine Arts Center
130 North Prairie Street
Union Springs

The old Josephine Hotel is now home to the Josephine Arts Center. Built in 1880, the Josephine Hotel was a social center here in rural Southeast Alabama. Phantom odors of cigar and cigarette smoke are often encountered in this building along with the sounds of revelry from former patrons.

A 2012 investigation revealed some paranormal activity. At one point during the probe, members of the paranormal team witnessed an orb of light moving through a hallway which they captured on video.

Sources

  • Alabama Paranormal Research Team. Paranormal Investigation Report for the Bullock County Courthouse. Accessed 29 November 2012.
  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Tour of Union Springs.” Union Springs, Alabama. Accessed 25 January 2013.

Butler County

Consolation Primitive Baptist Church and Cemetery
Oakey Streak Road
Red Level

On the morning of February 16, 2015, this historic church was lost to a fire. Local officials suspect that the church’s status as a haunted place led vandals to torch the small, rural building. Legend speaks of this place being the scene of a panoply of paranormal activity including demon dogs, or hellhounds; a banshee; and apparitions.

Organized in the 19th century, the church has not had an active congregation for many years, though a few locals maintained the building and cemetery and defended them against the rising tide of vandalism that had begun to overtake it. Teens and amateur “ghost hunters” had damaged the building by burning candles inside, carving their names on the structure, breaking windows, and even painting a pentagram on the floor of the lonely church. The Andalusia Star-News reports that 13 people were arrested in 2007 for burglary and criminal mischief after the police investigated reported illegal activity here.

Local investigator and author Shawn Sellers visited the church with his team in 2013. Upon arriving, two carloads of teens also appeared at the site. The group found the church standing open and showing signs of vandalism. One group of teens brought a Ouija board and attempted to make contact with spirits (something I cannot condone or recommend). A short time later, a man with a flashlight accosted the investigators and mysteriously disappeared after they attempted to speak with him.

Legends surrounding the church include the appearance of a banshee who wails as an omen that someone in the church will die. The grounds of the church are supposedly the domain of red-eyed “hellhounds,” as well as Confederate soldiers, two ghostly children, and a haunted outhouse where those who enter may be locked in. In 2012 reporters from The Greenville Advocate investigated the grounds and encountered nothing. In an article about the investigation, reporter Andy Brown suggested that the stories about this location are merely urban legend. I would like to speculate that if there is paranormal activity here, it may have been drawn by irresponsible use of Ouija boards and rituals being performed here by amateurs attempting to summon spirits.

It is unknown if the loss of the church building has affected the spiritual activity here. Visitors should be warned to use extreme caution when visiting this location and to respect the site and the cemetery.

Sources

  • Bell, Jake. “The Church.” Shawn Sellers Blog. 18 January 2013.
  • Brown, Andy. “Butler County church haunted by tall tales.” Greenville Advocate. 5 October 2012.
  • Edgemon, Erin. “Church said to be haunted burns in Alabama.” com. 17 February 2015.
  • “Fire wasn’t first brush with vandalism for historic church.” Andalusia Star-News. 17 February 2015.
  • Higdon, David and Brett J. Talley. Haunted Alabama Black Belt. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2013.
  • Peacock, Lee. “Bucket List Update No. 165: Visit Consolation Church in Butler County.” Dispatches from the LP-OP. 28 July 2014.
  • Rogers, Lindsey. “Haunted Butler County church destroyed by fire.” WSFA. 16 February 2015.

Calhoun County

Boiling Springs Road Bridge
Boiling Springs Road over Choccolocco Creek
(This bridge is permanently closed to traffic)
Oxford

Known locally as “Hell’s Gate Bridge,” local lore related that visitors to this bridge at night could stop in the middle of the bridge, look back over their shoulders and see the fiery gates of Hell. Other lore tells of a young couple who drowned in the creek here. A traditional ritual said that stopping your car in the middle of the bridge and turning o the lights could summon one of the two people who drowned here. A sign of their presence would appear in the form of a wet spot left on the back seat of the car.

This wooden-decked, steel truss bridge was constructed between 1890 and 1930 and closed permanently in 2005. The Oxford Paranormal Society investigated the bridge in January 2007 and encountered an armadillo that was very much alive; no paranormal evidence was captured. When visiting this site, use extreme caution as the bridge is no longer maintained.

Sources

Chambers County

Oakwood Cemetery
1st Street
Lanett

Within this relatively modern cemetery stands a child-sized brick house complete with a front porch and chimney. The grave of Nadine Earles is among the most unique grave sites in the region. When four-year-old Nadine became ill with diphtheria just before Christmas in 1933, the child’s father had been building a playhouse as a gift for his daughter. After the child passed away on December 18th, the decision was made to erect the playhouse on the little girl’s grave. The playhouse has been well maintained ever since and remains filled with toys.

While not officially haunted, a recent interview with a friend revealed that she had a hard time photographing the grave when she visited. Using a smartphone camera, my friend’s attempts to photograph the grave resulted in black photographs. However, once she stepped away from the grave, the camera functioned properly.

Sources

  • Interview with Celeste Powell, LaGrange, GA. 23 July 2015.
  • Kazek, Kelly. “Alabama child’s playhouse mausoleum one of nation’s rare ‘dollhouse’ graves.” com. 5 June 2014.
  • Rouse, Kelley. “Little Nadine’s Grave.” Chattahoochee Heritage Project. 16 December 2011.
 

Cherokee County

Lost Regiment Legend
Lookout Mountain
Near the Blanche community

Extending from Chattanooga, Tennessee, through the northwest corner of Georgia, and into Alabama, the ridge of Lookout Mountain has played a prominent role in the history of the region. During the Civil War when its flanks were crawling with military activity, the mountain bore witness to several major battles and many skirmishes as the Union army attempted to extend its reach into the Deep South.

During this dark time, legend speaks of a group of Union soldiers getting lost in the mountain wilderness after a skirmish near Adamsburg, in DeKalb County. After retreating, the soldiers attempted to survive in the dangerous terrain. Fearful locals and enemy soldiers picked off a few of the men while others did not survive the harsh mountainous conditions. The last of these survivors was seen near the Blanche community in Cherokee County. Even decades after the disappearance of these soldiers, tales still circulate of sightings of the “Lost Regiment.” Others have discovered bootprints in the snow that suddenly stop, as if the men have vanished into thin air.

Sources

  • Hillhouse, Larry. Ghosts of Lookout Mountain. Wever, IA: Quixote Press, 2009.
  • Youngblood, Beth. Haunted Northwest Georgia. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2016.

Silver Spirits–Virginia

Silver Thatch Inn
3001 Hollymead Drive
Charlottesville, Virginia

It’s always exciting to find a new haunted location, especially one with a haunted history that has not been previously documented. Set among the pastoral landscape in the Virginia countryside just north of the bustle Charlottesville, the Silver Thatch Inn resembles many other historic Virginia homes with an original house and a series of additions extending from it.  Guests of the seven-room bed and breakfast have been reporting possible paranormal activity in their rooms for years, though the owner has never had an experience herself. The dearth of stories recently spurred the owner to invite members of the Twisted Paranormal Society to investigate.

The home’s history certainly qualifies it to be haunted. A two-story log cabin was constructed here—supposedly the site of a Native American village—by Hessian prisoners of war in 1780 during the dark days of the American Revolution. In the early 19th century, an addition was added and the house was converted for use as a boys’ school. After the Civil War, the house returned to use as a farmhouse, becoming the main house for the 300-acre Hollymead Farm. For nearly 30 years, the house was the home of the Dean of Men at the nearby University of Virginia before the farmland was sold for development in the 1960s. The home became a bed and breakfast in the latter part of the 20th century.

In a 1983 article for the Baltimore Sun, Geoffrey Fielding reported on a former Baltimore couple who purchased the Hollymead Inn, as it was then called. Interestingly, the article refers to the spirit of a Hessian soldier that guests had encountered while staying the night. The reporter even blamed the spirit for a missing wallet. Apparently, the ghost has not been reported on until now.

Hessian soldiers as rendered by Charles M. Lefferts, before 1923. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

During recent investigations of the inn, investigators encountered a large, looming shadow figure in the attic. The first group of investigators encountered a figure described as being about “seven feet tall, just standing behind [one of the other investigators]”. Assuming that the entity did not want the investigators there, the group exited the space. A second group also encountered the shadowy form. The inn’s owner remarked that after the investigators left, “we did see a shadow figure appearing to crawl across the floor at the top of the stairs.” Perhaps this is the spirit of Hessian soldier?

Investigators from Twisted Paranormal are convinced that the inn is haunted and the owner is preparing to host more paranormal events in the coming months.

Sources

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Sawmill Specter

Newspapers in the 19th and early 20th centuries often printed ghost stories. This comes from an 1896 edition of the Atlanta Constitution. David Lake is located east of Mount Vernon, Alabama, in northern Mobile County, and feeds into the Mobile River. I haven’t been able to determine exactly where the sawmill in this article was located.

Please note that this article is typical for its period in its regard for African-Americans and uses language that would be considered racist today.

Atlanta Constitution
20 September 1896

GHOST OF DAVID’S LAKE

An Alabama Sawmill Made Worthless by a Spook

From The St. Louis Globe Democrat.

In the bottoms of the Tombigbee river, a few miles above its confluence with the Alabama, is a deep, lagoon-like lake, locally known as David’s lake. On the western shore of the lake are a shingle mill and a row of a half dozen shanties, intended as houses for the mill hands, all the property of the Seaboard Lumber Company, at Fairford, a few miles away.

The mill has been idle for some time and the shanties untenanted, owing to a depression in the market for cypress shingles. It has been necessary, however, in order to preserve the validity of certain insurance policies to keep a watchman constantly in charge there. Up to a short time ago the watchman was a certain crippled negro named John James.

A sawmill in Covington County, Alabama, circa 1911. Courtesy of the Hoole Special Collections Library, University of Alabama.

John James’s job was a negro’s ideal of a soft job. All the work he had to do was to light a lantern in the mill at dark, blow it out in the morning, and never under any circumstances to leave the mill unguarded. The company paid him $10 a month, furnished a dwelling, a mule and a plow, together with just as much land as he might want to cultivate. The lake was full of fish, toothsome and easy to catch.

Therefore, John James was much envied by his fellows. But on an unlucky evening about sundown he paddled his boat out in the lake to set some lines for big catfish. His wife saw him start, and when she looked again a little later there was the upturned boat, but no John James. The neighbors were hurriedly called and in the gathering gloom they dragged the bottom with grappling irons and brought to the surface the downed body of the watchman. How he happened to lose his balance or why he made no outcry will in all probability never be known.

Of course, the company over at Fairford regretted the affair, paid the widow John’s back salary, at once sent another negro as watchman and things seemed to move along about as before.

In a few days a company official chanced to go to David’s lake, and was surprised to find the new watchman gone, and also the company’s mule. The animal was found later at a station over on the railroad, where the operator stated it had been ridden early morning by a greatly agitated negro, who had left on the first train.

This thing mystified the company and was vexatious, because if the mill should burn in the absence of a watchman no insurance could be collected, and unguarded buildings have an unfortunate way of catching afire in that country. Another negro was at once sent down to the lake as watchman, and informed that if he wanted at any time to quit his job to give notice, so there would be interregnum. No. 2 went to David’s lake, and next the news came that he, too, was missing. Neither he nor his predecessor ever called for salary due them, nor has any trace of either been found.

At this the power that ruled the company held a serious conference. Something was scaring the negroes away, and it must be put an end to. So William Potlatch, one of the company’s most reliable negroes, was sent to the shingle mill with a six-shooter, which he was instructed to use should anything bother him.

William returned the very next morning. He was the worst scared negro in the state of Alabama. He told a confused story that no one could make heads or tails of about ghosts and John James. There was no confusion in his statement that no money could ever induce him to go back again.

Meanwhile stories began to float around to the effect that John James’s ghost was haunting the mill and lake. Of course, the company officials scorned such an idea, but for all its absurdity there was a serious side to the matter. If the place ever gained the reputation of being haunted no negro would work there and the mill would have to be torn down, as negro labor is the only available or possible to be procured. The company determined to lay the ghost at once and forever, and to that end sent down a party well equipped with all proper material for exorcism. The party was composed of Tom Smith and Henry McIntosh, white men of known bravery and coolness, also two negroes, whom the presence of the whites might induce to stand firm in the presence of danger. All were armed and carried a supply of food and whisky [sic].

They reached the mill at David’s lake in the afternoon, taking possession of the shanty next to and almost adjoining the one formerly occupied by John James. After supper, when the dark came, they lit a lantern and all sat out on the little gallery of their quarters. There they gossiped, told tales and drank whisky [sic] until they were in a proper mood to defy the natural or the supernatural. After the supply of tales had run out they took to shooting craps down on the floor.

It must have been near midnight.

One of the negroes was praying energetically to all the powers controlling fortune that he might throw a nine-spot, and thereby win the mean to buy his gal new shoes, when suddenly the door of John James’s shanty opened and shut violently. The players looks up at once. A piece of a moon over in the far west gave dim light. One of the negroes exclaimed:

“Lamb o’ God, looky yondah.”

From out of the shadow in front of the James shanty came the form of a man, walking as though lame and carrying a long pole. Both the negroes at once broke for the woods. Smith and McIntosh stood their ground like the nervy men they were. The shade neither looked to right nor left, but hobbled straight on across an open space and toward the lake, where several skiffs were moored. As through with one impulse and movement, Smith and McIntosh fired at the thing, but with no more apparent result than if they had shot at the stars. There was only the plunge of their bullets heard out in the lake.

“Spook or no spook, I’m going to run that feller down,” said Smith, and as he started McIntosh followed him.

They saw the ghost loosen one of the skiffs and paddle out into the lake. Its motion had seemed to be a slow walk, and yet, running hard as they could, they did not catch up with it. They, in their turn, jumped into a skiff and paddled fiercely after. About where John James’s body was found the first boat stopped, and its mysterious occupant began to shove the long pole down into the water. The pursuers drew nearer and nearer, until there was barely a boat length between them and their object. All at once they heard a terrible, awesome cry, shrilled and piercing. Simultaneously each man felt a shock as though from an electric battery—a shock so severe and overpowering that they collapsed and fell unconscious in the bottom of the skiff.

It was daylight when they revived. They had floated at least two miles below the mill. They were so weak and nervous, so numbed and dazed, they had barely strength to paddle to shore, nor has either one fully recovered to this day.

Now, for one who doubts these things, or who is curious about them, here are the lake and the mill, and the Seaboard company anxious to assist investigation. Also, the position of watchman is open. Who wants it?

LONG LEAF.

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