Street Guide to the Phantoms of the French Quarter—Burgundy Street

N.B. This article was originally published 16 June 2016 with Basin and North Rampart Streets. 

The French Quarter has been lived in and died in; human energy has been manifested continuously and freely for 250 years. Where we find presently a sedate restaurant, we would have found—20 years ago, 50 years ago, 100 years ago or more—a dry goods store, a grocery, a saloon, a coffeehouse, a patisserie, an apothecary, a gambling joint, a silversmith, a printer, a jeweler, a letter-writer, a whorehouse, a bank. They may have disappeared along with their proprietors, but they’ve left behind an aura that infuses the atmosphere.

–Andy Peter Antippas, A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). 2013.

New Orleans’ French Quarter—the Vieux Carré to locals—is among a handful of locales in the South that possesses a high concentration of haunted places. Encompassing nearly two-thirds of a square mile (.66 to be exact), the French Quarter has been said to have spirits in nearly every building and site. Even looking at the documented hauntings here, the number is quite impressive.

The French Quarter is generally defined as the section stretching from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue and from the Mississippi River northwest to North Rampart Street. This section of the city is where the city was originally founded by the French in 1718. With buildings and sites spanning three centuries, the French Quarter is easily the most paranormally active neighborhood in the entire city.

This series of articles is meant to act as a street by street guide to those hauntings. While some of these stories have gained quite a bit of notoriety in the literature, like Royal Street’s LaLaurie Mansion, and Bourbon Street’s Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, some stories have only been explored in the literature once or twice. This is an attempt to synthesize information from the many sources that exist on the French Quarter into a succinct guide.

For more haunted places in the French Quarter visit the main page for my series, “Phantoms of the French Quarter.”

Sources

  • Antippas, Andy Peter. A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). Charleston SC, Arcadia Publishing, 2013. Kindle Edition.

Burgundy Street

This street takes its name from Louis, Duke of Burgundy (1682-1712), who was the son of Louis, the Grand Dauphine, and father to King Louis XV of France.

Hotel St. Pierre
911 Burgundy Street

The Hotel St. Pierre, a motley assemblage of buildings, occupies the corner of Burgundy and Dumaine Streets and contains some of the oldest structures in the city. Standing in the carriageway of large building next to the hotel’s lobby, a liveried enslaved man has been spotted. He is believed to be the carriage master who worked here in the mid-19th century. He is seen throughout the day still waiting for a carriage to arrive. During an investigation in 1996, investigators saw this man standing in the carriageway. He was described as a black man “between forty-five and fifty years of age, medium build, wearing a royal-blue colored shirt and pants.”

Hotel St Pierre Burgundy and Dumaine Streets French Quarter New Orleans
The Hotel St. Pierre as seen from across Dumaine Street. The spirit of the carriage master is seen in the large brick building with the red facade on the far right. Photo by Rafal Konieczny, 2004, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Guests staying in one of the hotel buildings just across the street from the lobby have reported encounters with a gray-clad figure, believed to be a Confederate soldier. One guest had an encounter with a spirit that changed channels on the room’s television and later sat on the edge of the bed, chilling the guest’s feet under the covers.

Sources

  • Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. Gretna, LA: Pelican, 2016.
  • Montz, Larry and Daena Smoller. ISPR Investigates the Ghosts of New Orleans. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2000.

Cosimo’s
1201 Burgundy Street

Several spirits are believed to occupy this cozy neighborhood bar at the corner of Burgundy and Governor Nicholls Streets. Established in 1934, this bar is supposed to be haunted by two entities: a woman who has been seen in the bar wearing a robe and slippers, and a man who is known as “Uncle Joe.” The apparition of the woman may be the spirit of a former resident of the building. Uncle Joe is believed to be the spirit of a former patron who continues to imbibe in the afterlife.

cosimo's bar french quarter new orleans louisiana ghosts haunted
Cosimo’s 2009, by Infrogmation. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Sources

  • Smith, Katherine. Haunted History Tours Presents: Journey Into Darkness…Ghosts and Vampires of New Orleans. New Orleans, LA: De Simonin Publications, 1998.

Morro Castle
1303 Burgundy Street

For decades, this structure on the corner of Burgundy and Barracks Streets has been the focus of legend and mystery. Even the 1938 WPA guide to the city describes it as a “so-called rendezvous of ghosts.” Jeanne DeLavigne’s monumental 1946 book, Ghost Stories of Old New Orleans, further cultivated the building’s legends. Those legends speak of this building as having been built during the Spanish occupation of the city between 1763 and 1801 and it being used as a garrison for troops. Some stories claim that the building was also used as a prison where many were tortured and kept in abominable conditions.

The truth, however, is far more interesting. Historian Stanley Arthur proved that the structure dates to the 1830s and was used during the city’s occupation by Union forces.

When once again, war arrived at the city’s doorstep in 1862, it came in the form of a blue-clad former resident, Admiral David Farragut, with a fleet of Yankee ships and troops. The city’s defenses were easily overcome, and the Confederate forces fled leaving the humiliated city to the mercy of the Union. General Benjamin Butler took charge of the city imposing martial law with an iron fist.

Morro Castle Old Spanish Garrison french quarter new orleans louisiana ghosts haunted
The Morro Castle, 2011, by Reading Tom. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The city’s military government took over this building for use as a prison and the city’s ardent Confederates found themselves confined here along with local citizens who rebelliously heaped indignations on their Union occupiers. Conditions were notorious and likely led to many of the tales that have circulated regarding this building.

The Morro Castle was divided into apartments many decades ago and has been off-limits to the prying eyes of the public, providing even more fodder for the fanciful fables of ghastly spirits roaming the corridors. Victor C. Klein includes the tale of the Old Spanish Garrison in his 1993 New Orleans Ghosts, basing it on DeLavigne’s version of the story. Six years later, he corrected his original story after talking with a resident of the building. That resident noted that the activity did not live up to the horrifying tales, and only had “the earmarks of a classical ghost story. He [the resident] alleged that cold spots, noises and ghastly odors occurred without all of which were without rational explanation.”

Sources

  • DeLavigne, Jeanne. Ghost Stories of Old New Orleans. Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 2013. Reprint of original 1946 edition.
  • Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration. New Orleans City Guide, 1938. Reprint by Garrett County Press, 2009.
  • Klein, Victor C. New Orleans Ghosts. Metairie, LA: Lycanthropy Press, 1993.
  • Klein, Victor C. New Orleans Ghosts II. Metairie, LA: Lycanthropy Press, 1999.

Street Guide to the Phantoms of the French Quarter—North Rampart Street

N.B. This article was originally published 16 June 2016 with Basin and Burgundy Streets. 

The French Quarter has been lived in and died in; human energy has been manifested continuously and freely for 250 years. Where we find presently a sedate restaurant, we would have found—20 years ago, 50 years ago, 100 years ago or more—a dry goods store, a grocery, a saloon, a coffeehouse, a patisserie, an apothecary, a gambling joint, a silversmith, a printer, a jeweler, a letter-writer, a whorehouse, a bank. They may have disappeared along with their proprietors, but they’ve left behind an aura that infuses the atmosphere.

–Andy Peter Antippas, A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). 2013.

New Orleans’ French Quarter—the Vieux Carré to locals—is among a handful of locales in the South that possesses a high concentration of haunted places. Encompassing nearly two-thirds of a square mile (.66 to be exact), the French Quarter has been said to have spirits in nearly every building and site. Even looking at the documented hauntings here, the number is quite impressive.

The French Quarter is generally defined as the section stretching from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue and from the Mississippi River northwest to North Rampart Street. This section of the city is where the city was originally founded by the French in 1718. With buildings and sites spanning three centuries, the French Quarter is easily the most paranormally active neighborhood in the entire city.

This series of articles is meant to act as a street by street guide to those hauntings. While some of these stories have gained quite a bit of notoriety in the literature, like Royal Street’s LaLaurie Mansion, and Bourbon Street’s Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, some stories have only been explored in the literature once or twice. This is an attempt to synthesize information from the many sources that exist on the French Quarter into a succinct guide.

For more haunted places in the French Quarter visit the main page for my series, “Phantoms of the French Quarter.”

Sources

  • Antippas, Andy Peter. A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). Charleston SC, Arcadia Publishing, 2013. Kindle Edition.

North Rampart Street

Tile North Rampart Street marker New Orleans
Tile North Rampart Street marker, by Infrogmation, 2007, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Rampart Street is named for the old city wall, or ramparts, that once stretched along this street from Fort St. Jean at the intersection of North Rampart and Barracks Streets to Fort Bourgogne at the intersection of North Rampart and Iberville Streets. Throughout the early and mid-20th century, Rampart Street was the center of an important African-American commercial and entertainment district. Notably, many of the clubs along this street were influential in the evolution of jazz music.

Sources

  • Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration. New Orleans City Guide, 1938. Reprint by Garrett County Press, 2009.
  • Rampart Street. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 30 July 2019.

Haunted Museum & Spirit Shop
826 North Rampart Street

In 2006, tragedy was visited on this typical Creole-style cottage. Death visited the young couple living in the upstairs apartment with the young man strangling his girlfriend and eventually dismembering her body. After he committed suicide some days later by jumping off the top of the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel on St. Louis Street, the mutilated remains were found by police in the kitchen of the apartment, some of them cooking on the stove while other parts were stored in the refrigerator. Locals began to refer to the cottage as the “Rampart Street Murder House.”

North Rampart Street Murder House New Orleans
The infamous Rampart Street Murder House (on the right), 2015. Photo by Roman Eugeniusz, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Recently, Bloody Mary; a local Voodoo priestess, psychic, and tour guide; has opened a haunted museum with patrons touring the upstairs apartment. However, this museum has been the focus of criticism from friends and associates of the young couple who accuse Bloody Mary of exploiting the heinous events.

Through the aftermath of the murder-suicide, some have been left wondering if the young man’s actions may have been influenced by supernatural elements around him. Apparently, the building was known to be haunted prior to the tragedy, and part of the downstairs storefront housed, and continues to house, a Voodoo temple. Dana Matthews writes in a Week in Weird article detailing the building that the priestess who operates the temple is well-respected and blameless in what unfolded in the upstairs apartment.

According to Matthews, a “dark, oppressive force…seems to emanate from the very building itself.” In addition, locals have had a sense of being watched and heard disembodied voices both within and without the home. The house was featured on a 2017 episode of Paranormal Lockdown, where investigators Nick Groff and Katrina Weidman experienced uneasy feelings and strange noises while locked into the apartment over the course of 72 hours.

Sources

Olde Victorian Inn
914 North Rampart Street

According to Terry Smith and Mark Jean’s detailed history of this property, this house was constructed in 1852 for wealthy sugarcane plantation owner Lucien Mansion. In 1883, the property was deeded to a woman who was reportedly his mistress. After that time, it may have been operated as a brothel.

The home was purchased in 1940 by Leo Marchand and his wife who occupied the house for many years. Mr. Marchand, or “Uncle Leo” as he was affectionately known, passed away in the dining room in 1977, and Smith and Jean attribute the hauntings to his spirit. Several guests have reported encounters with the spirit of an elderly man. One guest awoke to find a man sitting motionless in his room. When he alerted the innkeeper of the mysterious man’s presence, he pointed to a picture of Uncle Leo saying, “that’s him.”

Rampart Street protest 2017 New Orleans
A protest on North Rampart Street, 2017. The Olde Victorian Inn can be seen on the far left with the rust red wall behind the palm tree. Photo by Infrogmation, courtesy of Wikipedia.

A maid cleaning another room was startled when the door slammed shut. After the door refused to open, the innkeeper had to summon a contractor to remove the door from its hinges to release the frightened maid. No explanation was ever discovered.

According to Yelp, the inn has since closed.

Sources

  • Smith, Terry L. and Mark Jean. Haunted Inns of America. Crane Hill Publishers, 2003.

1870 Banana Courtyard Bed & Breakfast
1422 North Rampart Street

A video on YouTube produced by Haunted History Tours covers their investigation of this bed & breakfast. The video includes interviews with the owners, Mary and Hugh Ramsey, recounting that they have had “numerous comments from guests about ghosts.” Mary continued, “We’ve had too many responsible people who have visited us numerous times say that they felt a presence, so I’ve got to believe now that there’s something going on.”

One of the more interesting reports came from a male guest who was napping in his room while his wife was out. He was awakened by the feeling of a warm breath on the back of his neck and a woman whispering in his ear. When he realized it was not his wife, he jolted awake to find himself alone in his room.

The home was built in the 1870s and during its history reportedly served as an upscale brothel and a funeral home. Perhaps lingering spirits from these uses remain.

Sources

Haunted History Tours. “Haunted News Orleans! Haunted B&B – Banana Courtyard.” YouTube. 8 March 2010.

Street Guide to the Phantoms of the French Quarter—Basin Street

N.B. This article was originally published 16 June 2016 with North Rampart and Burgundy Streets. 

The French Quarter has been lived in and died in; human energy has been manifested continuously and freely for 250 years. Where we find presently a sedate restaurant, we would have found—20 years ago, 50 years ago, 100 years ago or more—a dry goods store, a grocery, a saloon, a coffeehouse, a patisserie, an apothecary, a gambling joint, a silversmith, a printer, a jeweler, a letter-writer, a whorehouse, a bank. They may have disappeared along with their proprietors, but they’ve left behind an aura that infuses the atmosphere.

–Andy Peter Antippas, A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). 2013.

New Orleans’ French Quarter—the Vieux Carré to locals—is among a handful of locales in the South that possesses a high concentration of haunted places. Encompassing nearly two-thirds of a square mile (.66 to be exact), the French Quarter has been said to have spirits in nearly every building and site. Even looking at the documented hauntings here, the number is quite impressive.

The French Quarter is generally defined as the section stretching from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue and from the Mississippi River northwest to North Rampart Street. This section of the city is where the city was originally founded by the French in 1718. With buildings and sites spanning three centuries, the French Quarter is easily the most paranormally active neighborhood in the entire city.

This series of articles is meant to act as a street by street guide to those hauntings. While some of these stories have gained quite a bit of notoriety in the literature, like Royal Street’s LaLaurie Mansion, and Bourbon Street’s Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, some stories have only been explored in the literature once or twice. This is an attempt to synthesize information from the many sources that exist on the French Quarter into a succinct guide.

For more haunted places in the French Quarter visit the main page for my series, “Phantoms of the French Quarter.”

Sources

  • Antippas, Andy Peter. A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). Charleston SC, Arcadia Publishing, 2013. Kindle Edition

Basin Street

Basin Street, or Rue Bassin, was named for the canal turning basin that was once located nearby. This portion of the Carondelet Canal provided a large area for ships to turn around and was filled in in the 1920s when its use declined.

Basin Street New Orleans Storyville
Looking “down the line” of bordellos along Basin Street, probably around the turn of the century. This view is from Iberville Street looking towards St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In the mid-19th century, Basin Street was one of more prominent residential streets which was overtaken in the 1870s when the many fine homes were converted to use as bordellos, saloons, and music halls. The street formed the edge of the famous Storyville, the city’s most prominent red-light district. Basin Street was immortalized by Spencer Williams in his jazz standard, “Basin Street Blues.” Dr. John’s 1992 cover of the song includes a particularly interesting lyric, “I’m tellin’ ya, Basin Street, that’s the street/Where all the ghouls from Storyville and the St. Louis cemetery meet.”

After Storyville’s demise, the fine homes were demolished and replaced by the Iberville Projects.

Sources

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1
425 Basin Street

Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1, the first of three such named cemeteries in New Orleans, is the oldest extant cemetery in the city. When it opened in 1789, after the St. Peter Street cemetery was closed due to overcrowding and a year after a disastrous fire swept the city. Initially, the dead were buried underground, though this was found impractical after those graves were swamped because of the high water table. Above-ground vaults were found to be the most practical, and the cemetery grew from the ground up.

Basin Street New Orleans entrance gate to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 ghosts haunted
Basin Street entrance gate to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Photo by Infrogmation, 2007, courtesy of Wikipedia.

These vaults proved especially useful for holding generations of family members. After a loved one was interred within a vault, the vault would be opened after a period of time and the human remains cast into a crypt at the bottom of the vault while the coffin was usually burned. With this method, many thousands have been buried in this one block cemetery.

Since its opening, the cemetery has come to house a parade of both illustrious and ignoble New Orleanians. Among some of the best names are the great chess player, Paul Morphy, who is associated with the haunted Beauregard-Keyes House; Benjamin Latrobe, architect of the U. S. Capitol Building among many other famous structures; and possibly, Madame Delphine LaLaurie, the infamous mistress of the famous haunted residence on Royal Street.

Perhaps the “Voodoo Queen,” Marie Laveau, is this burial ground’s most famous resident. Believed to have been buried in the tomb of the Glapion family, her grave remains a focal point for paranormal activity, rituals, vandalism, and curious tourists. Tradition holds that Laveau may grant the wish of someone completing a ritual at the tomb. After drawing an X on the tomb, the person is supposed to turn three times, knock on the tomb, yell out their wish, and return if the wish is granted. The X is supposed to be circled and the recipient expected to leave an offering. Thanks to this, the tomb is covered with many X’s and has received other vandalism.

tomb of Marie Laveau Basin Street New Orleans St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 ghosts haunted
Tomb of Marie Laveau, 2007, by Infrogmation, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Visitors to the cemetery have reported seeing a woman wearing a “tignon,” or a seven-knotted handkerchief, near this tomb and around the cemetery, who has been identified as Madame Laveau. Tour guide Katherine Smith reports that a guest on one of her tours placed her hand on Laveau’s grave to pray. As she did, she heard a woman’s voice speaking to her. Believing it to be the voice of Laveau, she left an offering and took some photographs. The photographs taken at the tomb were blacked out, despite all the other photographs on that roll of film being fine.

Legends dating to the 1930s speak of cab-drivers avoiding the cemetery for fear of picking up a disappearing hitchhiker who appeared outside the cemetery. It seems that St. Louis No. 1 is home to many restless spirits who are seen walking through the labyrinth of above-ground crypts. One spirit of a man is even said to stop visitors and inquire as to the location of his grave.

Unfortunately, the vandalism of graves and crime in the area has led the Catholic Diocese of New Orleans to make the decision to close the cemetery to individual tourists. Only licensed tour groups can now enter the cemetery.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. The Haunted History of New Orleans: Ghosts of the French Quarter. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2013.
  • Christovich, Mary Louise. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. April 1975.
  • Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans, Revised Edition. Gretna, LA: Pelican, 2016.
  • Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration. New Orleans City Guide, 1938. Reprint by Garrett County Press, 2009.
  • Ghosts of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.” Ghost Eyes Blog. Accessed 11 January 2011.
  • Marie Laveau. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 29 July 2019.
  • Saint Louis Cemetery. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 29 July 2019.
  • Smith, Katherine. Haunted History Tours Presents Journey Into Darkness…Ghosts & Vampires of New Orleans. De Simonin Publishing, 1998.
  • Taylor, Troy. Beyond the Grave: The History of America’s Most Haunted Graveyards. Alton, Illinois: Whitechapel Publishing, 2001.

Turnpike Terror—West Virginia

West Virginia Turnpike—Interstate 77
Between Princeton and Charleston

N.B. Part of this article was originally published 22 December 2014 as part of my article, “13 Southern Haunts You’ve Probably Never Heard Of.” This article has been revised and expanded.

If there was ever a place for a ghost, it’s that two-lane holocaust.
–Terry Marchal, “Always on Sunday,” Charleston Mail Gazette, 12 September 1971

The West Virginia Turnpike was plagued with problems from the very beginning. In the early 20th century the very mountains that made “The Mountain State” unique also cut off much of the state’s population from the outside world. To rectify this, the state looked into a major north to south thoroughfare between two major cities.

After a route was chosen, construction involved literally moving mountains at tremendous cost. By the time it opened in 1954, the project’s price amounted to $133 million—around $1.5 million per mile—over two years. But, the staggering statistics do not stop there; construction required the movement of 33 million cubic yards of earth, 16 million pounds of dynamite, 60% of excavation through rock, 116 bridges within the road’s 88 miles, and, sadly, five lost were lost during the project.

As it opened, some even deemed the highway “88 miles of miracle,” though that positive image did not last. Criticism followed with the two-lane road being called “the road to nowhere” by The Saturday Evening Post. As it became packed with the increased traffic brought to it by the Interstate Highway System, even more scorn was heaped upon the highway.

West Virginia Turnpike 1974
A two-lane section of the turnpike in 1974. Photo by Jack Corn for the EPA.

With the traffic and congestion also came a sharp increase in deaths on the road. Terry Marchal’s 1971 quip about the turnpike being a “two-lane holocaust” was apt considering the huge death toll. By 1975, the toll stood at 278 fatalities.

During the late 1970s and into the 80s, the road was expanded into a four-lane highway, which has eased some traffic woes, though congestion remained a problem. Another issue that arose—although the state government could not have foreseen such a thing—was ghosts.

congestion on the West Virginia Turnpike
Modern congestion on the turnpike in Raleigh County, 2006. Photo by Seicer, courtesy of Wikipedia.

By 1971, tales had been told for years about ghostly hitchhikers along the road’s route, when an article appearing in the Martinsville Bulletin of Virginia stirred some interesting commentary among West Virginia newspapers.  The article reports that the Associated Press reported that a West Virginia radio station reported (many people are reporting on others’ reporting in what might be a classic example of the telephone game) that witnesses have encountered a ghostly hitchhiker on the turnpike.

Columnist Bob Wills in the Raleigh Register (in Raleigh, West Virginia) pointed out this farcical reporting in his column on September 20, 1971, describing it as “another case of ‘I know a man who etc…’” Wills reprints the original Martinsville Bulletin article to show how ludicrous it is. The original article in the Martinsville Bulletin takes a humorous turn with the author suggesting several “answers to the mystery of the vanishing hitchhiker,” including “Anything can happen in West Virginia…and will on the West Virginia Turnpike.”

Despite the article’s skeptical tone, it seems that the story itself may still bear a kernel of truth, especially when compared to more recent stories from the turnpike. Wills reprinted the entire Martinsville Bulletin article in his column of which this is the most interesting part, my own notes are provided in brackets:

According to the AP, as reported by a West Virginia radio station, 22 motorists on the turnpike between Princeton and Bluefield [this is the southern end of the turnpike] have reported they picked up a hitch-hiking man who later vanished from their cars. [I can find no evidence of the Associated Press coverage of the hitchhiker, though this may simply be due to the fact that many papers from this period are not yet available online.]

You read that correctly. The man just vanished from their vehicles—in some cases while they were traveling at 65 miles an hour.

Some motorists even reported the car seat belt was still hooked together on the front seat after the man disappeared.

According to the radio station, the neatly dressed man got into the cars when motorists stopped, but said nothing.

But in cases he later spoke one sentence—“Jesus is coming.”

And with that he vanished.

Earlier that month, Bob Wills reported on a message the newspaper received on its reader tip line:

This is Charley Jackson, City Councilman at large, Beckley, West Virginia. Something happened to me not too long ago and people have been asking about it since. Also, it was announced on the radio that I was one of the witnesses that could explain it…it happened on the West Virginia turnpike…Well, this is it:

I was going down the Turnpike and I saw a hitchhiker. I picked up this hitchhiker and I had reached the climax of 60 miles an hour when this gentleman said to me, he said, “Jesus is coming soon.” And then he disappeared. Where he went to, how he left, only God knows. But I do know that it is mighty strange. There were no witnesses, no warlocks, no magic; but something is going on. There is a change that should be made in everyone’s life—and that is my story.

Wills says that the reporters who listened to the recording were well familiar with Councilman’s Jackson’s voice and the voice on the recording was not his.

While they also noted that the story was “a thin tale with an evangelistic bent” the story does seem to bear the hallmarks of more recent stories from the turnpike. In the intervening years, several state troopers have reported experiences here including one who discovered a little girl who appeared lost and wandering on the side of the road. After picking up the unusually quiet child and putting her in the backseat of his car. During the drive the trooper glanced in his rear-view mirror and was shocked to discover the child had vanished.

Another trooper encountered a pedestrian along the turnpike and arrested him as pedestrians are forbidden from walking along the road. Placing the handcuffed man in the back seat of his patrol car, the officer headed back to headquarters. At some point during the drive, the trooper looked in the rear-view mirror to find the back seat was empty. The pedestrian simply vanished leaving the handcuffs on the seat.

ghostly hitchhiker haunted West Virginia Turnpike
West Virginia Turnpike as it passes through Fayette County. Photo 2006 by Seicer. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Blogger Theresa Racer writes in her blog of her own experience. She and her mother were traveling along the turnpike when they passed “a scraggly looking young man wearing dark clothing and carrying an olive green army-like sack” standing in a particularly lonely area of the interstate. After passing him, they looked in their rear view mirror to see the figure had vanished. They turned their car around and did not see anyone along that same lonely stretch of interstate.

Folklorist Dennis Deitz posits in his The Greenbrier Ghost and other Strange Stories that the road cuts across two creeks where tragedies have occurred. Along both Paint and Cabin Creeks there were many mines where miners were killed in accidents. He also notes that both creeks have experienced flooding that has killed residents in the area. During the turnpike’s construction in the 1950s there were also a number of old cemeteries that were moved, perhaps these hitchhiking spirits are trying to find their way back to their earthly remains?

For further stories of ghostly hitchhikers in West Virginia, see my article on Fairmont’s Old Grafton Road, and  WV Route 901 in Berkeley County.

Sources

  • Deitz, Dennis. The Greenbrier Ghost and Other Strange Stories. South Charleston, WV: Mountain Memories Books, 1990.
  • Gavenda, Walter and Michael T. Shoemaker. A Guide to Haunted West Virginia. Glen Ferris, WV: Peter’s Creek Publishing, 2001.
  • Monday, Christopher R. “The West Virginia Turnpike: “88 Miles of Miracle.” West Virginia Historical Society Quarterly. Volume 11, No. 2.
  • Racer, Theresa. “WV Turnpike.” Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State. 2 March 2011.
  • “West Virginia Turnpike History.” West Virginia Parkways Authority. Accessed
  • Wills, Bob. “The Turnpike Ghost turns up on tape.” The Raleigh Register. 14 September 1971.
  • Wills, Bob. “Virginian enlarges TP ‘Ghost’ tale.” The Raleigh Register. 20 September 1971.

A host of stories—Georgetown, South Carolina

Heriot-Tarbox House
(formerly Harbor House Bed & Breakfast, private)
15 Cannon Street

N.B. This article was originally published as part of my 2011 article, “Ghosts of Georgetown, SC.”

Atop a bluff overlooking the Sampit River is the Heriot-Tarbox House topped with a distinctive red roof that can been seen from Winyah Bay. Constructed around 1765, the house was the home of Dr. Charles Fyffe, a Scottish-born physician and planter who also constructed the brick warehouse across the street. Just past the house is a small marina that was created by him as well.

Heriot-Tarbox House Georgetown South Carolina ghosts haunted
The Heriot-Tarbox House from Cannon Street. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

During the dismal days of the American Revolution, Dr. Fyffe remained loyal to the British crown and oversaw a loyalist hospital for refugees in Charleston. After the British surrender at Yorktown, the doctor faced deportation for his loyalties. In his appeal, he argued that he had treated wounded Patriots as well. He was allowed to stay, though his estate and property was seized. Remaining loyal to the Crown, he made his way to Colonial India where he served as a physician before succumbing to madness. He was committed to a mental asylum in Calcutta (now Kolkata) where he lingered until his death in 1810.

A couple years after Dr. Fyffe’s death in India, his former home and docks became entangled in another legend. In December of 1812, the lovely Theodosia Burr Alston, the wife of the newly sworn governor of South Carolina, Joseph Alston, may have stayed in the home before boarding the schooner, Patriot, headed to New York to visit her father.

Theodosia was the daughter of the disgraced former Vice President Aaron Burr. Serving under President Thomas Jefferson, Burr was suspected of treasonous acts and was arrested in the wilds of the Alabama territory. He was carried to Richmond, Virginia where he was put on trial. Though he was acquitted of the charges, Burr sought refuge in Europe for several years before returning to New York in 1812, just before the outbreak of war between the Americans and the British.

Theodosia Burr Alston painted by John Vanderlyn.
Contemporary portrait of Theodosia Burr Alston painted by John Vanderlyn.

Burr’s daughter, married to wealthy South Carolina planter, Joseph Alston, remained in America during her father’s exile in Europe. Theodosia waited until December, after her husband’s inauguration as governor, to travel to New York to see him. After the birth of her son, Aaron Burr Alston, Theodosia’s health had deteriorated, but that was worsened with his death from malaria in June 1812 at the age of 10. Therefore, travel for Theodosia would be difficult on her health, not to mention the risks of travel. While the two-week carriage ride from South Carolina to New York would be extremely taxing, travel by sea also proved dangerous, especially now that the country was at war with Britain. Indeed, stormy winter seas and the threat of pirates also presented their own dangers.

As Governor Alston could not leave the state during wartime, he engaged a friend, Dr. Timothy Greene, to accompany his ailing wife on her journey. Passage was secured on a schooner, the Patriot, which had been working as a privateer, in other words, the vessel carried guns and was authorized to attack British ships.

Before her departure on New Year’s Eve, 1812, Theodosia, accompanied by her husband, Dr. Greene, and servants, traveled to Georgetown from her husband’s plantation, The Oaks, on the Waccamaw River. Local legend tells that the group was feted at the Mary Man House (528 Front Street) that evening. Where the group stayed the night, however is a matter of speculation, and stories point to them staying at Dr. Fyffe’s former home.

The next morning, she boarded the Patriot at the docks just outside the house for her journey. The ship sailed out of Winyah Bay past the Georgetown Light on North Island into oblivion and legend. Whatever became of the Patriot and Theodosia after leaving Georgetown is unclear. Stories abound as to the fate of the Patriot and its passengers often involving romantic hallmarks like piracy, plank-walking, murder, wreckers on the North Carolina coast, and suicide. According to Richard N. Côté’s Theodosia Burr Alston: Portrait of a Prodigy, recent research has uncovered facts relating to a severe storm off of the North Carolina coast just days after the departure of the Patriot from Georgetown.

Since her disappearance, tales have swirled about her tragic figure making appearances in spiritual form from the Charleston Battery, up the coast to North Carolina’s Outer Banks. In Georgetown, these tales are rife, with Theodosia supposedly making appearances at the Mary Man House, where she may have been feted the night before her final journey. Legend holds that she also makes appearances in and around the Heriot-Tarbox House as well as being seen near Charles Fyffe’s brick warehouse across the street.

Heriot-Tarbox House 1963 HABS Library of Congress
Heriot-Tarbox House in 1963, taken for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

The house, however, also hosts another legend involving the daughter of a later resident. This young lady, which sources do not identify, like so many other local ladies, fell in love with a sea captain. As fathers of this period were wont to do, he disapproved of the relationship. His daughter did find a way to communicate with her lover by placing a lantern in one of the top floor windows of the house.

Though the couple never married, the woman continued to hang the signal lantern hoping for her lover’s return. By the time the Civil War, the woman lived alone as a spinster surrounded by a pack of loyal dogs. She used the lantern hung in her high dormer to signal to blockade runners after the Union bottled up the bay. Not long after the war, she grew more and more reclusive. One evening after her dogs were heard baying through the night, concerned neighbors broke into the house to find her body surrounded by her beloved dogs. Her wraith is still supposedly seen followed by spectral dogs while the light still appears in the dormer window.

Heriot-Tarbox House 1963 HABS Library of Congress
The river elevation of the house. The ghostly light is supposed to appear in one of the upper dormers. Photo taken 1963, for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

According to author Elizabeth Huntsinger, the high dormer was later used during Prohibition to signal to rum runners at work in the bay. Part of me wonders if perhaps the story of the lantern in the dormer window is an invention of those smugglers. Certainly, it is a reason for locals to not question the odd light. Ghost stories are sometimes used to keep the curious at bay; perhaps this is at work in this house on the bay.

For further ghosts of Georgetown, see my article, “Ghosts of Georgetown, South Carolina.”

Sources

  • Côté, Richard N. Theodosia Burr Alston: Portrait of a Prodigy. Mount Pleasant, SC: Corinthian Books, 2002.
  • Huntsinger, Elizabeth Robertson. Ghosts of Georgetown. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1995.
  • South Carolina Picture Project. Heriot-Tarbox House—Georgetown, South Carolina. Accessed 10 July 2019.
  • Theodosia Burr Alston. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 8 July 2019.
  • Zepke, Terrance. Ghosts and Legends of the Carolina Coasts. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 2005.

The scarab’s sting—Georgetown, South Carolina

Cleland House (private)
405 Front Street
Georgetown, South Carolina

N.B. This article was originally published as part of my 2011 article, “Ghosts of Georgetown, SC.”

Standing proudly on the corner of Front and St. James Streets among the oak and moss shaded residential section of Georgetown, the Cleland House is among the oldest houses in town, having been built in 1737. From this corner it has witnessed the whole panoply of American history, some of it even passing over its thresholds.

During the American Revolution, the Prussian General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben; French generals Baron Johann de Kalb and Gilbert de Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette; made visits to the house while they were giving aid to American forces. Later, Vice President Aaron Burr stayed at the home while visiting his daughter, Theodosia.

Cleland House Georgetown South Carolina ghost haunted
The Cleland House, 2011, by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The story behind this house reads very much like an old-fashioned ghost story. Anne Withers, possibly related to John Withers who is listed on the historical marker in front of the house as one of the owners, fell in love with a dashing sea captain. After one of his voyages he returned to Georgetown, and presented his fiancée with a rare gift, an ancient Egyptian bracelet, which featured a series of scarabs.

The scarab, an Ancient Egyptian amulet representing the common dung beetle, is found throughout the ancient world. Some scarabs were used as ornaments, while others were used as seals. During the era of the New Kingdom (1535-1079 BCE), scarabs began to be included in the wrappings of mummies. To the ancient Egyptians, the lowly dung beetle symbolized resurrection and new life as it laid its eggs within animal dung which it rolled into a ball. In the ancient religion, the beetle, personified as the god, Khepri, was believed to roll the sun into the sky.

Ancient Egyptian Scarabs
A selection of Ancient Egyptian Scarabs in the Bibel + Orient Museum, Freiburg, Switzerland. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Anne Withers, the blushing bride, saved the bracelet to wear on her wedding day. After putting on her wedding gown, she placed the bracelet on her wrist and carried on with her other preparations. Just as she was about to descend the staircase of the Cleland House, the bride let out a scream and fell down the stairs. By the time she tumbled to the floor at the foot of the stairs, she was dead.

Rushing to her side, her family discovered blood dripping from underneath the bracelet. When it was removed, the scarabs were found to have tiny legs that had dug into the bride’s pale flesh.

Leaving Georgetown soon after his fiancée’s death, the heartbroken took the bracelet to London where it was examined by a chemist. He discovered that the legs on the scarabs had been rigged to open by the warmth from human skin. Each leg contained poison that would be injected into the hapless victim. He surmised the bracelet had been made to afflict the person who stole the artifact from a tomb.

Ever since Anne Withers’ wedding day death, her form, still wearing nuptial white, has been seen in the gardens of the Cleland House.

A search of cemetery records on FindaGrave.com does not bring up a burial for Miss Withers.

Sources

  • Huntsinger, Elizabeth Robertson. Ghosts of Georgetown. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1995.
  • Roberts, Nancy. Southern Ghosts. Orangeburg, SC: Sandlapper,1979.
  • Scarab. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Accessed 6 July 2019.