Superlatives–Virginia

Berry Hill Resort and Conference Center
3105 Berry Hill Road
South Boston

Even the ghosts of Berry Hill are spoken of in superlatives. In fact, the ghosts have found their way into the august pages of the New York Times, a place where even some of the most famous ghosts have yet to tread. In a 2002 article, the Berry Hill Resort is described as “bucolic” and as having, “ghosts. Lots of ghosts.” The reporter spoke with a local paranormal investigator:

“There are three ghosts upstairs,” said Francis Hunt, a local entrepreneur known as Biggy whose hobby is “dowsing,” or ghost hunting. “Malcolm, James Coles, and a lady. Three ladies are in the nursery; four slave ladies and three free black ladies are in the slaves’ quarters.” That adds up to an unlucky 13. Also, he says, 20 or so “immature” ghosts (of babies and children) haunt the main foyer, under the elaborately carved mahogany staircase.

staircase Berry Hill Plantation South Boston Virginia
The magnificent double staircase inside Berry Hill. Taken for the Historic American Buildings Survey, no date. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

The author continues:

Here at Berry Hill, rumors of celestial squatters have abounded for centuries — tales of phantom horses, mussed sheets, cold-air pockets, rearranged tools, people being “touched” on the shoulder or arm, and apparitions (especially of a young boy) in windows.

While the atmosphere of Berry Hill seems to be seething with “celestial squatters,” an investigation with the reporter and a local paranormal team produced few results. Though, one investigator reported that as they drove home their car inexplicably filled with the aroma of pipe or cigar smoke.

Berry Hill Plantation South Boston Virginia
The front facade of Berry Hill with one of its dependencies. Taken for the Historic American Buildings Survey, no date. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Berry Hill’s origins are impressive. The property, once owned by William Byrd of (haunted) Westover Plantation, and later statesman and planter Isaac Coles, was inherited by businessman James Coles Bruce from his father. Bruce, whose fortune had been made through a chain of general stores, was considered the wealthiest man in the country at that time, being worth an estimated $4 million. His wealth included some 3,000 enslaved who would work what would become the largest plantation in the state.

Undertaking the task of renovating the plantation’s original home in 1839, Bruce hired architect John E. Johnson to build this impressive manse. The home’s design borrows from the Parthenon of Ancient Greece to create a sense of awe. As one of the greatest examples of Greek Revival architecture in the country and possessing “the purest style of Virginia’s surviving Greek Revival houses,” the house has been named a National Historic Landmark. When he died in 1865, Bruce escaped witnessing the collapse of the Southern economy and the downfall of the planter aristocracy, though his spirit may be one of the throng that watches and stirs for the guests and staff of the hotel and conference center that now occupies the house and grounds.

While the New York Times reporter did not witness anything supernatural during her investigation, a reporter from the local South Boston News & Record participated in a different investigation in 2010. Starting at the plantation’s Diamond Hill Slave Cemetery, considered the largest of its type in the South, the group interacted with a number of spirits. To the investigators, the atmosphere seemed “welcoming, inviting, and restful.”

Berry Hill Plantation South Boston Virginia
Berry Hill in 2007. Photo by User: B from Wikipedia. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

As the group spread out among various locations on the plantation grounds, they found the spirits to be “social and positive.” In addition to a few EVPs, the group collected several photographs that seemed to show odd figures and shadows within the house. One of the investigators told the reporter that she couldn’t “personally can’t say that Berry Hill is haunted. It’s very possible that there is something there.”

So it may be that even with its dearth of spirits, Berry Hill may not live up to its superlatives in terms of hauntings, but perhaps further investigation will help it to eventually do so.

Sources

  • Ellin, Abby. “Business Travel; A Hotel Stephen King might find just right.” New York Times. 23 July 2002.
  • Rose, Sullivan. “Just in time for Halloween, a ghost hunt at Berry Hill.” South Boston News & Record. 28 October 2010.
  • Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Berry Hill. 25 April 1969.

South Carolina Haunt Briefs

Needing a project to carry me through this quarantine, I’ve decided to return to some original blog roots. Just after establishing this blog in 2010, I created a series of articles highlighting ten haunted places within each of the 13 states that I cover. Over time, these articles have been picked apart, rewritten, expanded, and used elsewhere. When I moved this blog, I did not move over those articles. Because I have a backlog of incomplete articles and bits and pieces that haven’t been published I’m creating a new breed of these articles during this quarantine.

Aiken County Courthouse
109 Park Avenue, Southeast
Aiken

Aiken South Carolina County Courthouse haunted
The Aiken County Courthouse, 2007. Photo by Festiva76, courtesy of Wikipedia.

A number of spirits are believed to flit through the rooms and corridors of the 1881 Aiken County Courthouse. One of the spirits is thought to be the ghost of a young girl whose body was once held in the basement morgue of the building. Legend holds that her body changed position after being deposited in the drawer. Supposedly, she continues to roam the building giggling. A male spirit is known to whisper, “hey!” in the ears of employees, while another female spirit sometimes demonstrates her disapproval of the court’s decisions by moving chairs, rattling papers, and sending pens and pencils flying off desks.

Sources

Beaty-Spivey House (private)
428 Kingston Street
Conway

Beaty-Spivey House Conway South Carolina ghosts
The Beaty-Spivey House, 2010. Photo by Pubdog, courtesy of Wikipedia.

A tragic tale has been told about the Beaty-Spivey House, known as “The Oaks,” since the death of young Brookie Beaty in 1871. Thomas and Mary Beaty had five children, four of which passed before they reached adulthood. After her son fell ill, Mrs. Beaty was greeted by a vision of several angels in the form of her deceased daughters. The angels revealed that they had been sent to retrieve their brother. Rushing into her son’s room, Mrs. Beaty discovered that he had just died.

Sources

Blakeney Family Cemetery
John Blakeney Lane
Pageland

Irish-born John Blakeney served in the American Revolution under General Francis Marion. When he died at the age of 100, he was interred in this rural family cemetery where he joined many members of his family. According to online rumors, those family members regularly appear to roam amongst the headstones, though the veracity of these stories is questionable.

Sources

Brown House
328 Greene Street (private)
Cheraw
 

Known for many years as the “Brown House” due to its unpainted exterior, this now white early 19th-century farmhouse has activity that have led locals to believe it may be haunted. That activity includes the furniture on the front porch being rearranged by unseen hands.

Sources

Carolina Country Store & Café
11725 South Fraser Street
Georgetown
 

The main road from Charleston to Georgetown, U.S. Route 17, passes through many small communities including one called North Santee. This ramshackle general store and gas station has been serving travelers and locals since 1929. As well as selling food, drinks, gas, and souvenirs, this small business also features a ghost. Called Mary Jane by employees, the spirit tends to rattle doorknobs, fiddle with the knobs on the crockpot, call employee’s names, and sometimes appear as a shadow.

Sources

  • Carmichael, Sherman. Legends and Lore of South Carolina. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2012.

Enfield
135 McIver Street (private)
Cheraw

When Union troops invaded the town towards the end of the Civil War, General Sherman took up headquarters in the Hartzell House, while General Oliver Howard set up in Enfield next door. Local lore preserves a story that one of Howard’s officers shot a young enslaved girl when she fumbled with the reins of his horse. History does speak to the veracity of this story, though the spirit of this woman is supposed to haunt the home.

Sources

Florence National Cemetery
803 East National Cemetery Road
Florence

In late 1864, the Confederate government open a prisoner of war camp on the outskirts of Florence. Known as the Florence Stockade, the prison held nearly 18,000 prisoners in miserable conditions. During its operation, nearly 2,800 prisoners died and were interred in trenches outside the prison walls. Following the war, these burials were incorporated as Florence National Cemetery.

Florence National Cemetery South Carolina
Florence National Cemetery. Photo courtesy of the National Cemetery Administration.

Among the graves is that of Florena Budwin, a female who fought in the Union Army alongside her husband. Her grave is believed to be the first burial of a female in a national cemetery.

Investigation by author Tally Johnson reveals that Mrs. Budwin and her comrades may not be resting peacefully. He observed an orb hovering over her tombstone as well as hearing moans and groans from the trenches holding the many other soldiers who died imprisoned.

Sources

  • Florena Budwin. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 3 July 2019.
  • Florence Stockade. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 3 July 2019.
  • Johnson, Tally. Ghosts of the Pee Dee. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2009.

Gurganus-Collins House (private)
902 Elm Street
Conway

In 2012, the family occupying the 1862 Gurganus-Collins House revealed that their 12-year-old son encountered the spirit of the home’s builder, William Gurganus, sitting on a bed one morning. The apparition “turned and smiled at him,” which prevented the young man from sleeping upstairs for six months.

Sources

Hangman’s Tree
Saints Delight Road (US-17 ALT)
Andrews

Looming over this two-lane road outside of Andrews, this ancient cypress’ story is told in its gnarled trunk and limbs. On the outskirts of the community of Lamberttown, this tree, as legend holds, has been the scene of many hangings since the American Revolution. After the Civil War, several people were lynched from this same tree. Sources indicate that some locals are reticent to pass by the tree late at night. Travelling northeast on Saints Delight from the intersection with Walker Road, the tree is roughly a mile on the left.

Sources

  • Floyd, Blanche W. Ghostly Tales and Legends Along the Grand Strand of South Carolina. Winston-Salem, NC: Bandit Books, 2002.
  • Huntsinger, Elizabeth Robertson. More Ghosts of Georgetown. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1998.
  • Orr, Bruce. Haunted Summerville, South Carolina. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2011.
  • Summey, Debby. “The Hanging Tree.” South Strand News. 29 January 2013.

Hopsewee
494 Hopsewee Road
Georgetown 

Created as a rice plantation around 1740, Hopsewee was the birthplace of Thomas Lynch, Jr., one of the four signers of the Declaration of Independence from the South Carolina Colony. Along with his father, he served as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress, the only father and son within the body. When the Declaration was signed, Lynch’s father was too ill to make the journey, so only his son signed the document.

Hopsewee Plantation Georgetown South Carolina
Hopsewee in 1971. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

Hopsewee was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1971, and the house and grounds are open to the public as a historic site. In addition to the watchfulness of the current owners, it seems that Thomas Lynch, Sr. may remain here watching over the grounds. Some years ago, a neighbor and his son watched as a man in colonial dress and carrying a lantern walked down a road near the house and disappeared into a swamp.

The spirit of the indomitable Thomas Lynch, Sr. may have once revealed his distaste for immodesty. While a crew was filming in the house, the film’s costumer took photographs of the actresses in their costumes. A group photo was taken of the young ladies in their period underclothes. When the picture was developed, a prominent white streak covered all of the women from their necks to just below their knees.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted South. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.
  • Snell, Charles W. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Hopsewee. 4 June 1971.

Lamar High School
216 North Darlington Avenue
Lamar

School ghostlore is often the product of overactive young minds, and that seems to be the case here. According to author Tally Johnson, a student athlete at Lamar High School was killed in a tragic automobile accident during her senior year. In her memory, the school retired her number and enshrined a picture and her shoes in the school’s trophy case as well as establishing a scholarship in her name. Supposedly, the young lady returns to the school gym on the anniversary of her death.

Sources

  • Johnson, Tally. Ghosts of the Pee Dee. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2009.

Lincoln Village Apartments
712 South 8th Street
Hartsville

The end of this small apartment complex came ignominiously with a small fire in one building in 2015. Two years later, the City of Hartsville chose to demolish this blighted property. A local resident who lived across the street told a reporter for WMBF (the Myrtle Beach NBC affiliate) that the complex—which was abandoned in 2000—brought down the morale of the entire neighborhood.

Perhaps the decaying state of this property aroused ghost stories, but the idea has been bandied about online for a number of years. A small cemetery is supposed to exist on the site, though the graves are unmarked. Legend speaks of some of the buildings having been built over graves, though there is nothing to prove this.

Stories speak of residents experiencing “babies crying and adult voices begging for help in otherwise empty apartments.” Tally Johnson spoke with a sheriff’s deputy who said that law enforcement had been called to the property several times by reports of lights on and people inside the abandoned buildings. There is no word if the demolition has ended these urban legends.

Sources

Lower River Warehouse
206 US-501 BUS
Conway

For nearly two centuries, the old Lower River Warehouse that sidled up next to the Waccamaw River served as a main shipping point for goods being brought to Conway by many of the town’s best-known families. A few years ago, the building housed a haunted Halloween attraction, Terror Under the Bridge. While employees were working to manufacture scares for their guests, they were being frightened by actual paranormal activity. An employee working the fog machines in the back of the building fearfully noticed that the fog was blowing against the draft created by an open window and door. Footsteps were sometimes heard in the empty building as well.

Sources

  • Carmichael, Sherman. Legends and Lore of South Carolina. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2012.

Lucas Bay Light
Near Gilbert and Little Lamb Roads
Conway

Along these country roads near the community of Bucksport is Lucas Bay. The bay is not a typical large body of water, but a “Carolina bay,” an elliptical depression in the landscape. Occurring all over the east coast, these bays hold special significance geologically and ecologically, while this particular bay is also a part of the landscape of legend.

Stories tell of a mother in the area towards the end of the Civil War, when Union troops were advancing through the state. Hearing rumors of the approach of troops and worried about her infant, the mother hid the swaddled child underneath a bridge, while she returned home to secure her meager possessions. When a storm erupted during the night, the mother rushed into the rain and wind to find her child. Both mother and child were lost in the deluge.

Since that time, many have witnessed an odd light near Lucas Bay and the account of this mother and her child is retold. This story bears many of the hallmarks of the typical “Crybaby Bridge” legend, and, as is usually the case, there are no historical records to back up the story. Paranormal investigators have confirmed that the area is rife with spirits, though they cannot confirm the legend either.

Sources

  • Boschult, Christian. “Lucas Bay Lights-urban legend or true ghost story?The Sun News. 30 October 2016.
  • Brown, Alan. Haunted South Carolina: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Palmetto State. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2010.
  • Floyd, Blanche W. Ghostly Tales and Legends Along the Grand Strand of South Carolina. Winston-Salem, NC: Bandit Books, 2002.
  • Lucas Bay Light.” Phasma Paranormal. 12 April 2012.

Memorial Hall
Campus of Coker University
Hartsville

This small, private liberal arts college (which has just recently changed its name to Coker University) has a 15-acre campus, around 70 faculty members, about 1,200 students, and one resident spirit. A college history attributes the hauntings of Memorial Hall and the school’s former and current library buildings to a student, Madeline Savage, who attended the school in the 1920s. According to legend, Savage died on campus, but historical records only note her enrollment as a student from 1920 to 1921. Her whereabouts after that time are unknown.

Memorial Hall Coker University Hartsville South Carolina ghosts
Memorial Hall at Coker University, 2018. Photo by Jud McCranie, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Though she may have disappeared from the historical record, she has supposedly remained active in Memorial Hall, the oldest residence hall on campus. Students in this circa 1916 dormitory have had a variety of encounters with the other side. Madeline has appeared wearing a long, white gown, while she has been heard crying in empty rooms.

Sources

Upper Long Cane Cemetery
Greenville Street
Abbeville

About 2 miles north of the town of Abbeville, the Upper Long Cane Cemetery serves as a resting place for about 2,500 souls. According to local folklore, the first burial on the site occurred around 1760 when John Lesley buried a young girl who was either a relative or visitor to his home. The girl had succumbed to severe burns she received while making lye soap. With her burial, the family established the spot as a family cemetery. Over time, the cemetery became a prominent cemetery for locals.

Upper Long Cane Cemetery Abbeville South Carolina haunted
Upper Long Cane Cemetery, 2012, by Upstateherd, courtesy of Wikipedia.

According to John Boyanoski, the cemetery was investigated by the Heritage Paranormal Society from Georgia. While there were no stories of activity in the cemetery, its age led them to believe that there might be something. During a review of photographs taken during the investigation, members of the group were shocked to see the image of a balding man wearing a blazer in one of the photos. When the photo was taken, a living person was not seen walking through the frame.

Sources

  • Boyanoski, John. More Ghosts of Upstate South Carolina. Mountville, PA: Shelor & Son Publishing, 2008.
  • Power, J. Tracy, et al. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for Upper Long Cane Cemetery. 29 October 2010.

Woodburn
130 History Lane
Pendleton

A former resident of Woodburn, which is now a house museum, reported several encounters with a little girl in the house. Since that time, a photograph has been taken that seems to show the figure of a young girl in the window of the nursery. Police have also seen a figure peering at them from the same window.

Woodburn Pendleton South Carolina ghosts
Woodburn, 2009. Photo by KudzuVine, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Woodburn was constructed around 1830 as a summer home for Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, a son of the prominent Pinckney family. Named for his uncle who was one of the authors of the U. S. Constitution, Pinckney was a prominent lawyer, politician, and planter.

Sources

  • Hornsby, Ben. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Woodburn. 15 October 1970.
  • Staed, John. “Does Woodburn Historical House still hide some secrets?” Anderson Independent. 29 June 2010.

Southern Spirit Guide Video–The Legend of the Talbot County Werewolf

I have been meaning to create some videos for some time. Now, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s a great time to begin making videos and telling ghost stories.

I wrote this version of the legend of the Talbot County werewolf to be presented at the Georgia Library Association Convention in 2018. While some of the details of this legend are fact, my setting adds scenes and dialogue for effect.

Talbot County Werewolf Grave
The gravestone of Emily Isabella Burt (1841-1911) bearing the image of an open gate. Photo by Denise Roffe, courtesy of Find-A-Grave.

As always, I must provide a source list.

Sources